The Block Island Times

Change will come to Papa's Pizza, slowly

By Lily O'Gara | Jul 01, 2014
Photo by: Lily O'Gara

There aren’t any obvious signs of change at Papa’s Pizza. The restaurant is still housed in the same grey, shingled cape. The red and white striped awnings still hang over the windows, and the colorful wooden signs advertising pizza and calzones remain fixed above the doorway.

It’s not immediately clear that the restaurant has changed hands, and new owner Jim McElderry likes it that way, at least for now. McElderry, who bought the pizzeria in November 2013 and opened for business in mid-May, didn’t change any of the restaurant’s aesthetics, or even the menu items. McElderry said that, at least until the end of the season in mid-October, he wants to keep things as simple as possible. The first year is transitory, he said, and the name and image of Papa’s Pizza has been out there for the past five years.

McElderry’s sister, Claire, has lived on Block Island for the past 14 years, so he’s no stranger to the island. He’s been visiting off and on throughout that time span, and had been looking to purchase a business on the island for quite some time. In the words of general manager Jesse Springer, Papa’s Pizza “fell into his lap.”

McElderry owns two restaurants in Florida, which is where Springer hails from as well. McElderry’s restaurants, the Sunset Tiki Bar and Grille and the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, are both in Key West. He found his way into the restaurant business four years ago, after working in insurance for 11 years.

“I decided to make a change,” McElderry said, “and this is part of it.”

There were also a few minor changes made in the kitchen. Though the menu remains the same, the recipes have been altered. Springer said that the ingredients have been simplified; in fact, Springer said that “simple and fresh” is what he’s going for. With the help of a newly installed Italian mixer, the kitchen staff produces the pizza dough, which is a basic mix of dough, water, salt and yeast, in house. The sauce is made from tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, and Pecorino Romano cheese is used on all of the pizzas as well.

Papa’s Pizza also sells beer and wine, as well as Del’s Lemonade. McElderry said the lemonade is extremely popular, especially since Papa’s is the only vendor right near the beach to sell it.

“We have a great location,” Springer said.

In terms of food items, Springer said the most popular orders seem to be pepperoni and cheese pizzas, the restaurant’s Italian grinder and calzones.

“It just keeps getting busier,” McElderry said.

Luckily, the staff of 12, several of whom are international workers, seems up to the challenge.  The restaurant is even open for late night dining on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, “until the food runs out.” Springer and McElderry said that this option has been very popular with late night partiers who are looking for food after the bars close.

McElderry said that he will reevaluate the menu and business as a whole next season but, for now, it’s smooth sailing.

Papa’s Pizza is located on Corn Neck Rd. The number is 401-466-9939.




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