Twenty years after opening, Pallotta's Italian Grill continues to engage Oak Ridge North residents with both traditional and distinctive Italian food.
Formerly known as Sghettie's, Pallotta's was established by former owner George Pallotta in Oak Ridge North in September 1994. Today, the restaurant continues to serve traditional Italian fare under owner—and former employee—Phil Nicosia, who purchased the restaurant in 2009.
"In the worst economy I have ever seen, 2009–10, we took the place over and felt the hardships [as a result of] what the economy was like, but we put back into the business where it was needed," Nicosia said. "We have taken what was a consistently good restaurant and added to that by implementing all sorts of new things but carrying on the tradition of what we have always had."
Nicosia said a strong customer base and continuous investment into the restaurant has helped Pallotta's remain successful.
"We have been consistent for 20 years, and that is extremely important in this business," he said. "We don't treat the guests as a number, we treat them as an extension of our family. Without them, we would not be here."
The staff at Pallotta's Italian Grill has also remained consistent, Nicosia said, with most employees having worked at the restaurant between four to 12 years.
Even though Pallotta's continues to serve traditional meals like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna bolognese and chicken Parmesan, Nicosia said the restaurant continues to put a fresh spin on its menu with unique monthly specials.
"During crawfish season we do a thing called the Nawlins pasta with
crawfish tails, Cajun seasoning and sauted shrimp," Nicosia said. "It is going really well. We are finding if somebody comes in, orders it and loves it, then they are going to come back to get it again. So it increases business in that regard, and it gives the guest a reason to come back here and get that dish again."
In order to maintain a distinctive flavor, Pallotta's also makes its own sauces including its own spin on traditional marinara sauce, known as their top tomato sauce, and Alfredo sauce, known as Pavia sauce, Nicosia said.
"We make at least 10 different variations of our Alfredo sauce," Nicosia said. "We have the traditional dishes like any other Italian restaurant, but we have so many unique dishes that so many can't find anywhere else that sets us apart."
Pallotta's also added a 65-seat banquet room next door to the restaurant about two years ago and is considering adding live music for customers to listen to during special events.
Owner's favorite dishes:
- Shrimp brochette: Butterflied Gulf Coast shrimp stuffed with garlic and cheese, wrapped in peppered bacon and grilled. The dish includes fettuccine with Pavia sauce and a side of garlic bread. ($19.99)
- Chicken Parmesan: Two breaded chicken cutlets with seasoned Italian bread crumbs, topped with tomato sauce, melted mozzarella cheese. The dish is served with a side of spaghetti with tomato sauce and toasted bread. ($15.99)
- Spaghetti with meatballs: The traditional pasta dish includes meatballs that are marinated for 24 hours in tomato sauce and is served with toasted bread. ($10.49)
- Lasagna Bolognese: A smooth-textured meat and cheese lasagna topped with tomato sauce. The dish is drizzled with Pavia sauce. ($10.69)
- The Benjamin: The linguine pasta dish features cayenne pepper-flavored Pavia sauce, grilled gulf shrimp, spicy Italian sausage crumbles, mushrooms and tomatoes. ($11.99)
Pallotta's Italian Grill, 27606 I-45 N., Conroe, 281-364-9555, www.pallottasitaliangrill.com
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m.