Pizza lovers and fans of Pal Joey’s restaurant and bar are celebrating the recent move back to its original riverside setting on North River Street in downtown Batavia.
The beautiful stone building is home to striking interior spaces for dining, including a glassed-in sun room, and the bar’s lounge. The restaurant sits near the riverbank below street level, but a ramp makes access easy, including to one of the spectacular amenities, a spacious outdoor patio with bar, perched above the bike and walking trail on the east side of the Fox River.
That’s where we found ourselves on a recent afternoon, arriving early enough to ensure a seat just off the water. The vistas are lovely, such as the pedestrian bridge to the north that bears its welcome message in giant letters: Peace on Earth. And to the south is the Wilson Street bridge, with giant, hanging pots of blooms setting the stage for the public artworks adorning the crossing. In front of us, ducks dived, their bright orange feet paddling furiously, and heron found nearby perches. In a first, we spotted a fisherman mid-river accompanied by his canine pal.
The patio has fire tables to light up the evening, and schedules live music Fridays and Saturdays. An umbrella helped shade us from the impending sunset; brimmed caps also were helpful.
We opened with an appetizer of chicken wings, picking the honey barbecue sauce. The crispy skin of the tender and meaty wings was slathered in the tasty sauce that balanced sweetness with a hint of heat.
A side salad prepared with romaine lettuce, crisp julienned carrots, black olives, tomatoes and savory croutons hit the spot with a highly tangy Italian house dressing.
For entrees, we both agreed it would be the pizza, described on the Pal Joey’s menu as award-winning.
My dining companion went old-school Chicago with a request for stuffed pizza, prepared with sausage, mushrooms and spinach. It featured a thick, rich tomato sauce, generous mozzarella and delicious toppings for a highly satisfying pie in an appealing deep-dish crust.
I opted for the gluten-free, topping it with green pepper, onion and green olives. The tasty thin crust stayed crisp, and made one forget the appetizing pizza was gluten-free.
We couldn’t resist a cheesecake finale, and enjoyed splitting a creamy New York-style slice drizzled in berry sauce.
In addition to soups and salads, Pal Joey’s offers signature Italian dishes, as well as American classics and sandwiches. Its sister location is in West Chicago.
Before summer disappears, the riverfront dining setting is sounding a siren call to return soon.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Pal Joey’s
WHERE: 31 N. River St., Batavia