A Tenuous Trichotomy
The Original Pizza Palace (OPP) on Gainesville’s NW 13th Street is an Italian restaurant, a breakfast joint and a loaded kitchen sink. Let’s go through a hypothetical day of meals at OPP to be sure.
At 7:00 am the doors open for breakfast. You walk inside and immediately notice the bright yellow wall paint and green painted wooden support beams. The colors strike you as odd, tweaking your mood even.
Since you’ve never had an Italian breakfast (unless you consider cold pizza to be one) you are not sure what to expect until you look at the menu where everything appears to be normal. There are egg scrambles, biscuits and gravy, root vegetable hash browns, and, true to the restaurant’s name, breakfast pizza. The coffee is Gainesville’s own Sweetwater organic and the chalkboard above the kitchen features dozens of organic homemade juices from blackberry acai to carrot. Hell, you can even order a mimosa this morning. The breakfast is a winner and needs a marketing push. OPP has wireless so you enjoy the bottomless coffee and stay for lunch.
At lunch, it’s pizza time. You order a small pie for yourself topped with garlic, bacon and broccoli. The portion size is correct, the toppings are fresh but the pizza is lacking. It’s the dough, it’ spongy and underdone. You have it wrapped to go but are unsure if you will eat it at home. So, strangely, though a pizza palace, the best part of the food here is not the pizza, and though you appreciate the return of OPP you are now more inclined to take visitors to Satchels or even Blue Highway for a premium pizza experience.
But you do not give up on this joint, only for dinner you opt out of Italian and instead order one of the markerboard specials. You order a half-carafe of wine because the two craft beers they have decided to put on tap are unfamiliar. The markerboard specials are interesting. It would help to call ahead to find out the whim of the chef that evening. Tonight the chef has decided to offer a Tajine (Moroccan stew) as a special. You order it and it is delicious. (Oddly enough on the regular menu is slow cooked southern pork. Again, who would think to come here for this?) .
OPP fancies itself a bakery too, so also in the kitchen sink are fresh loaves of bread, granola, cookies and pies. You enjoy the coffee-buttercrunch pie but the slice is small. You end on the same Sweetwater coffee that greeted you.
As you leave OPP, that yellow wall paint still bothers you. An off white would look better—so would dimmer lights. The current environment is too bright to be intimate. But you will be back because the chef’s are dying to break out of the menu and the place has heart. OPP just needs to figure out a better way to market its tenuous trichotomy. Perhaps it should just call itself “The Palace.”