From its two fire-engine red wood-fired ovens, Bar Pazzo offers guests a mouthwatering peek at its pizza prep.
The eatery — located at 131 N. Washington Ave., Scranton — is a collaboration between restaurateurs Sam Agolino and Corinne Agolino Salko, who also own and operate Pazzo 315 in Pittston, and Chef John Tabone, formerly of Glenmaura National Golf Club. Patrons can find a menu infused with Tabone’s rustic, fresh cooking style and curated based on the season. Bar Pazzo also offers a full wine menu, more adventurous trendy cocktails, and a variety of domestic and craft beers that change with the season.
Chef’s Table chatted with Tabone about how he brings his creative twist to the downtown restaurant that opened in May 2016.
Q: What is the history of the restaurant?
A: After Sam Agolino’s food and wine tour of Italy in 2014, he was ignited with a vision of an authentic, wood-fired Italian eatery in Northeast Pennsylvania. Soon after uniting with me, Sam, Corinne and I put our heads together and started working on a business plan. We wanted to create something unique to the area. Understanding that the last thing NEPA needed was another Italian-American restaurant, we started with the importance of a unique ambiance: an environment that would attract all walks of life, something classy yet approachable, a dining experience that was vital and fun. During this planning stage, Sam was set on the downtown Scranton area. Having a city feel and great community support are two factors that a concept like Bar Pazzo needs to thrive. Downtown Scranton’s colleges, local storefronts, restaurants, courthouse, medical school, hotels and community events all allow constant foot traffic, which is so beneficial to a chef casual restaurant. Next was the furnishing and the wow factor. All of Bar Pazzo’s major equipment is imported from Italy, including two fire engine-red Mugnaini wood-fired ovens. A semi-open kitchen and pizza bar seating allow guests to see the action of the kitchen.
Q:What type of food do you serve?
A: My style is rustic, fresh and simple. Modern Italian cuisine with my own creative twist.
Q: What’s your specialty?
A: We believe our staff is a “specialty” of the restaurant. Having a hospitality-driven and knowledgeable staff enhances the dining experience of the guest. Personally, growing up in an Italian-American family and being around scratch-made food has allowed me to be very comfortable with that style. Most people don’t realize the diversity of Italian food. Like the United States, where food is drastically different from region to region, Italy is much the same. Cuisine and culture in Piedmonte is much different than the food and culture of Sicily. At Bar Pazzo, I wanted to express my appreciation of all Italian food, not just the South. I like to think my personal specialty is what’s on the feature sheet that service.
Q: How did your menu come to be?
A: With growing up in the industry and working with some of the best cooks in the area, I recognized very young the importance and the business side of menu development. Never forget who you’re cooking for. We highlight wood-fired, Neapolitan-inspired pizza; house-made gelato; and hand-crafted pastas — all items that are very approachable. I wanted to build the menu from that mindset, using the freshest ingredients available to us, applying the best cooking techniques for those ingredients and, of course, sprinkling in some of my creativity. Finding the balance of profitability, creativity, variety and execution, especially when the place is packed, has always been one of my favorite aspects of the food service industry.
Q: What are your most popular dishes and drinks?
A: Two dishes come to mind. First is our Pizza Margherita, and the second is our signature Polpette (house-made meatballs).We grind approximately 200 pounds of meat a week to make Polpette happen. As far as drinks, we are extremely proud of our all-exclusive organic Italian wine list. Having been to these wineries with Sam and knowing the wine makers on a personal level is such a feeling of camaraderie. Spending time in Italy and seeing the whole process, from the viticulture to the strict practices carried out in the wineries, really makes me proud of the varietals we carry. One of our goals early on was to make Bar Pazzo the premiere wine bar of Scranton. Since the opening of the restaurant, I studied the world of wine and passed my sommelier certification intro exam. In addition to the wine list, Bar Pazzo has trendy craft cocktails and a variety of domestic and craft beers. These lists change seasonally also.
Q:What type of seating do you have?
A: Bar Pazzo offers dining room seating, bar area and bar seating, and a seasonal outdoor patio. In addition, we have seating at our pizza bar. Watch the kitchen in action and interact with the chefs.
Q: What kinds of entertainment and specials do you offer?
A: Bar Pazzo is very involved with the local art scene with a fresh installment every First Friday of the month featuring local and sometimes national artists. Most of these pieces are for sale. We will feature local musicians on First Fridays, themed Third Thursdays and occasionally for special Sunday events. Our themed Third Thursdays have really gained quite the following. This in-house pop-up has been a lot of fun. During my tenure at Glenmaura, we would do events like this, and it was a great time for not only the guests but the employees. We try and take it as far as we can with the decor, music and uniforms. Some of the past themes that come to mind have been Church Bizarre, Carnival and Fair, Take Me Out to the Ballpark, “Game of Thrones,” Pop Culture Diners, Roman Street Food, Seafood Night and the Trailer Park Boys. Bar Pazzo also has lunch and dinner specials daily.
Q: Do you offer catering, event space, etc.?
A: Although, we don’t do much catering, Bar Pazzo features a unique private room that can accommodate up to 14 guests. Decorated with a wall of recycled glass windows and a custom, hand-made wooden table, this room is a hot commodity for all unique gatherings. Sundays at Bar Pazzo are often used for “hands on” cooking classes. These interactive classes are taught by myself and are very well received. The students love the format and being in the kitchen at Bar Pazzo. We want you to cook and think like a chef. We conclude each class with a family dinner. Look for more of these in the future.
Q: Where do you see the restaurant headed in the future?
A: I feel the future is NOW. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about anything right now, but collectively we need to put our positive energy into the present. With the pandemic and the disastrous effects it has unleashed on small businesses, everyone is confused and uncertain. What I am certain about is that we must support each other. As a consumer, it starts with that. Think “small business.” This is our chance to unite and help one another get back on our feet. Being responsible and clever in these times is crucial. With that mindset, which I believe is shared with my colleagues, I’m confident that together we can navigate through these difficult times.
Q: Are you currently offering takeout, curbside pickup or delivery?
A: We are offering all three. We have our own delivery people for the greater Scranton area. Our current hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays from 3 to 9 p.m. Now with the summer approaching, we plan on expanding our hours.
Address: 131 N. Washington Ave., Scranton
Established: May 2016
Owners: Sam Agolino, John Tabone and Corinne Agolino Salko
Cuisine: Authentic Italian
Current Hours: Wednesdays through Saturdays, 3 to 9 p.m. for patio dining (reservations strongly recommended) and for curbside pickup.
Laura Rysz is the features copy editor and calendar editor at The Times-Tribune and runs the Talk of the Times column, which focuses on local fundraisers and other events. She also writes Chef’s Table that profiles restaurants around the region. Additionally, Laura curates events online on AccessNEPA.com. Laura is involved in the special Mother’s Day edition and curates occasional features Marry Memories and Times Travelers. She is a graduate of Haddonfield Memorial High School, New Jersey, and earned an English professional writing degree with a minor in mass communications from King’s College, Wilkes-Barre. She also earned a certificate in Social Media Marketing from Rutgers Business School. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5228.