Sharing a parking lot with a gas station and next door to a package store, Pappadella’s Restaurant is in a quiet section of Danbury a ways from downtown and the city’s main commercial hubs. It is the type of place you can drive by hundreds of times — which I have — without thinking, “Wow, that looks like a great place to eat.”
But in this case, looks are deceiving.
Since I started dining at the restaurant a few months ago I’ve been stopping in for take-out multiple times a week, addicted to the spot’s signature, big-portioned, bold-flavored, old-school Italian-American, family-style cuisine.
Opened in 2009 by chef Andres Madina, Pappadella’s has survived thanks to the quality of its offerings and word of mouth. One must-try specialty is the house-made pasta. There’s thin capellini, thick, tube-shaped rigatoni, and pappardelle, large, flat strips of pasta that inspired the restaurant’s name.
129 Padanaram Road, Danbury
Hours: Tue.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 4:30-8:30 p.m., Closed Mon.
The pastas come topped with a variety of rich sauces, from red marinara to several white sauces. The broiled shrimp scampi features butterflied jumbo shrimp sautéed with a garlic and lemon sauce served over capellini. The chicken parmigiana is also served over capellini, but this time with marinara sauce instead of white sauce, and is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, says William Rivera, the manager who has worked at Pappadella’s since 2011.
“We use an organic chicken breast,” he says, noting, “Nothing with the chicken parmigiana is pre-cooked; everything is from scratch.”
He adds they pan-sear the breaded chicken instead of deep frying, creating a gentler, tastier cutlet.
If you’re looking for something on the heavier side, try the rigatoni pastorella, a combination of sweet and hot Italian sausage, with white wine sauce, peeled tomatoes, shallots, and a hint of creamy ricotta cheese, which gives the dish a savory quality.
A solid accompaniment to the meal, Pappadella’s pizza is doughy in a good way with a crust that has a medium thickness. It is less greasy than some pizzas, Rivera says, because they use a combination of regular and low-fat mozzarella cheese, which creates the right flavor-to-grease ratio.
Beyond pasta and pizza, a whole section of the menu is devoted to meats and fish (carb addicts need not fear, many of these items come with a side of pasta). The stuffed Alaskan salmon is a good fish choice, and meat options include several veal dishes and cuts of steak.
Madina is a native of the Dominican Republic, but has been making Italian food for more than 30 years. In the 1980s he worked at the legendary and now-closed Danbury Italian restaurant Bella Italia. He was the chef at La Fortuna in Bethel for many years before opening his restaurant.
For those who eat at Pappadella’s, there is a nice dining room and selection of wines and spirits.
If you enjoy old-fashioned, straightforward Italian cuisine, don’t wait eight years, as I did, to try this spot.