A natural wonder and iconic pizza in Paterson had us second-guessing ourselves
Paterson, New Jersey is not exactly a place you would expect to draw a whole bunch of tourists, visitors, curiosity seekers. Driving through the city gives a pretty good glimpse into why things have gotten a bit out of hand, why the city is often in the news, and the biggest part of the news is that things have gotten so bad, that the State’s Attorney General’s office had to swoop in and take over the local police department.
So why did Melissa and I venture into the city limits not once, but twice? We love National Parks and we love pizza. And there are two places in Paterson that will satisfy both urges – the Paterson Falls and Patsy’s Tavern.
The Paterson Falls, more formally known as the Great Falls of the Passaic River is a 77-foot waterfall on the Passaic River. Located at 72 McBride Avenue Extension in Paterson, the falls and surrounding area are a part of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service.
We had gone to the Paterson Falls some time ago and while we were impressed with the Falls themselves, everything else about it was disappointing, discouraging, and a shock considering that it IS a part of the National Park Service (NPS). Every other place we have visited that is a part of the NPS is well-kept and immaculate. This area…was not.
Perhaps being within the city limits of Paterson is a reflection of what the community sheds upon it? There was garbage all around the trail leading to the area where you could see the Falls. There were a lot of people in the viewing area the day we went. Although the weather was a bit inclement, there was a street fair on the adjacent streets. There were musicians, and there were a lot of young people doing photo shoots for Instagram and videos for TikTok (I am surmising here).
Not only was there garbage on the trail, but there was garbage in the water at the base of the Falls being thrown up against the rocks over and over and over again…a whirlpool of waste. Wonderful.
We just wanted to get out of there that day. Fast forward…uh…almost two years (That’s how long it took for me to convince Melissa to go back there…) and Melissa wanted pizza and a new place to go. We have been working at getting to places on our “go to” list and Patsy’s has been on it for a long time. It always seemed like we were trying to get there on a Sunday and…well…they are closed on Sundays so any hike on a Sunday up in the northern part of the State could not be followed up by a slice at Patsy’s. But it was Friday, and so we decided to go.
Patsy’s Tavern and Restaurant opened in 1931, almost 100 years ago, and is located at 72 7th Avenue in the heart of Paterson. Its exterior appearance is reminiscent of the old neighborhood corner bar you might see on a residential street. And when you enter, you walk through the dark bar area to the restaurant area.
The NEIGHBORHOOD leaves a bit to be desired. I was VERY leery about leaving my car parked out there on the street, less than 50 yards from the door of the place.
Melissa: I’m telling my mother you brought me here and she is NOT going to be happy.
If you don’t fear for your safety, and if you love nostalgia, you will absolutely love this place. Given the décor, I would guess that there has been no update since the 1970’s, perhaps the 1960’s. The walls are adorned with wood paneling and there is still an old phone booth right before the rest room.
Patsy’s is a full-service Italian restaurant with a pretty large selection as well as daily specials. But we were there to evaluate the hype, so we ordered a large pie to see for ourselves. But we also wanted to try a beer.
I asked the woman waiting on us if they had any local beers because we try to sample whatever is local to the eatery or drinkery.
Alan: What beers do you have?
Server: We have Coors Lite, Amstel, Budweiser
Alan: Do you have anything local?
Server: What do you mean?
Alan: Local brewed beers?
Server: I don’t know WHERE they come from.
Alan: OK…the water will do.
We sat waiting about 15 minutes for the pie. When it came, we were not disappointed at all. Typical bar-style pie but better than most we have tried. The thin crust was thin but not too thin that it was falling apart. It held up well, holding a good amount of really good sweet sauce and just the right amount of cheese and NO GREASE!
I can definitely understand why people rave about the pie. But getting there…
I was not exactly comfortable sitting there wondering if my car was going to be on blocks when we left and Melissa had one foot out of the booth while swallowing her slices.
We were in and out in 30 minutes.
The people there, the servers, the owners (we saw them talking to the other patrons) are EXTREMELY nice and attentive. The prices are very reasonable – the pie was $16.75.
It’s very family-oriented, and clearly a lot of the patrons were regulars…or at least eat there often.
There are limited hours…and they are closed Sundays and Mondays. It’s a good idea to make reservations because the place IS very popular. They don’t take credit cards and only accept cash so bring your appetite and a wad and pray that you don’t get rolled on your way in or on your way out.
It’s a shame…Paterson get your act together. There are some hidden gems in your city. Because the Great Falls, Patsy’s Tavern, and Larry Doby all deserve better.