At first glance, you might assume that Paisano’s Pizza ‘N Pasta is just your average, neighborhood Italian eatery. Well you’d be wrong. It’s slightly below average.
I’ve driven by this place a million times and never stopped in, so I figured it was time I gave it a try. The outside of this St. Petersburg restaurant is coated in red, white, and green because they don’t want you to forget what kind of food you’re eating. Also, Italian restaurants who display the most red, white, and green win. Walking to the front door, I felt like it was Christmastime at the North Pole. Tone it down Paisano’s.
The decor inside is just as unfortunate. The color palette is dominated by a deep red and a brown color usually reserved for depicting a specific bodily function. They seemed to have ticked all the boxes on the Tacky Italian Eatery Checklist while designing the place.
Black and white framed photos on the wall: check.
Some sort of faux muralistic archway (in this case, an unfortunate wine bottle in archway wallpaper that ran around the perimeter): check.
Random statues: check.
Fake vineyard greenery: check.
The only thing missing was the three foot tall, resin, portly Italian chef.
Rounding out the dining room area was one sad television who lost its display battle with the purple side long ago, hanging glass and wooden light fixtures freshly arrived from 1972, Michelob Light beer lamps, and tabletops covered in old, faded, and horribly designed local business advertisements.
The dining room, where I sat, only constitutes one half of Paisano’s. The other side is The Lounge. The Lounge side features more televisions, a bar, and a couple of video game cabinets.
The restaurant was nearly empty when I arrived for lunch but quickly filled with up with families and old people. The noise from The Lounge steadily grew as more people piled in, and the half wall, featuring horribly ugly latticework and the aforementioned vineyard greenery, did little too filter out the noise. What lunch would be complete without a bellowing mother threatening her child with some sort of punishment involving her hand and the bathroom?
For lunch, I ordered a calzone with sausage and mushrooms, a side of French fries (a standard food by which I judge many a restaurant), and a Cherry Coke. My bill came to 13.22 after tax.
My calzone was a bit of a mess. The crust, the heart and soul of a good calzone, was not very good. It was really thick around the edges and too thin on top. So thin in places, in fact, that the grease from the filling of the calzone seeped upward through the top of the crust. The ingredients inside were cheap: generic canned mushrooms, a crumbly sausage that didn’t have much to say for itself, grainy ricotta, and lackluster mozzarella. Everything worked together to create a completely muddled, aflavorful, glob. The side of marinara sauce was also exactly average in every way. I shudder to think what the pizza tastes like.
The fries were pre-packaged, decent, and exactly what you would expect them to be. But my basket did come with a surprise of two 8-inch uncooked spaghetti noodles. Truthfully though, I think I enjoyed the fries more than the calzone.
My waitress was nice and professional but not overly friendly and certainly not chatty. She did check in on me frequently and kept my soda filled. I applaud her. She was easily the bright spot of the whole dining experience.
Paisano’s 30+ year run is beyond me. There is no accounting for taste. People love medicority. Just ask Charlie Sheen.
If tacky decor and loud children are your thing, then by all means stop by. For everyone else, skip it. You can find better.
Paisano’s Pizza ‘N Pasta
6000 4th St
St. Petersburg, FL 33703