Pleasant Cafe -
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Pleasant Cafe: a Fantastic Go-To, Authentic Neighborhood Restaurant and Bar
in Roslindale, Mass. Since 1937
Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz.
created on 4/7/2018.
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Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale, Mass. Photo credit: Joanie Morgan.
At one point driving north on Washington St. in Roslindale, Mass.,
beautiful views of the modern Boston skyline, soon followed by an
transformation of this densely-populated Boston neighborhood with its
new restaurants, boutiques, shops, renovated historic buildings and
appealing walkability factor in central Roslindale Square. Things
different here than even 15 years ago when closed stores and shuttered
buildings marred the innate charm of this working class urban village.
Near Bellevue Hill in West Roxbury, however, at the geographical peak
of Roslindale proudly stands a
traditional Italian-American restaurant that hasn't changed much since
opening in 1937
and still brings in the crowds that love the homey atmosphere and
delicious comfort foods that first
made them famous locally.
The Pleasant Cafe (first named Original Parkway
Pizza) plays every bit of that role. The iconic
old-fashioned marquee neon sign from 1949 (as seen in the picture
above) shines brightly out front at night above an inviting swirled
glass brick facade, regular brick front, slate tiles, a "Liquors" sign
in the right side of the window, "Fine Foods" and "Pizza" mentioned
more than a few times, and the name of the restaurant seen in five
different places on the exterior. That doesn't count the side of the
building where there is more mention.
Pleasant Cafe exterior.
Inside, the front-to-back front wooden bar with diner-like green
swivel stools and a long display of drinks against the wood-paneled
wall evokes like the kind of scene that your dad or grandfather might
looked forward driving to while listening to Sinatra or maybe Ned
Martin and Jim Woods announcing
Sox game through the Philco car radio in the old Chevy station wagon.
picture a dad or papa stopping by the Pleasant Cafe to
enjoy drinks alone, or better yet with neighborhood friends at the bar
-- thick Boston accents, stentorian voices, hearty laughs, strong
sports opinion, and all.
Bar at the Pleasant Cafe.
Dining area by the bar at the Pleasant Cafe.
Both the bar/dining area and standalone dining room have their own
entrances and, inside, are separated by small stair ramps under
separate dining room looks virtually unchanged from back in the day
with leather green booth seats and carpet runners, tan tile floors, a
drop ceiling, ceiling fans, plain-looking white blinds, old-style
restroom signs with 50s-style fonts, a take-out pick-up area tucked
away to the side, and
authentic wood-paneled walls with myriad framed
pictures lending a nice touch. Nothing phony has
been added to give the dining an artificially-created "new" old look.
The only sign of a 21st century bar and restaurant staple: a few flat
screen televisions, but they do not come close in size to the humongous
TVs that typically tend to oversaturate and overwhelm dining and
drinking areas. All in all, the restaurant's frequent use has aged
beautifully and gracefully without the need for the
building equivalent of plastic surgery. If there was ever a museum for
remarkable old school restaurant preservation, the Pleasant
Cafe would probably be the lead exhibition.
Separate dining room at the Pleasant Cafe.
Amazingly, the Pleasant Cafe has undergone only one ownership change
since its opening when FDR was inaugurated for his second term as
U.S. president and Amelia Eahhardt attempted to fly around the
world. The Iantosca family ran the restaurant for generations before
and Lynch families took helm in 1979. John Morgan, wife Joanie and
his mom, Joan, run the restaurant today in a true family sense,
including the local customers that the Morgans also call family.
frequent the Pleasant Cafe with fierce loyalty and a sense of
community, knowing that they can take solace against the complex and
often rushed 21st century lifestyles just outside the building.
Politicians have been part of the customer fabric, too, from the late,
popular Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Boston City Council legend Albert
"Dapper" O'Neil to current Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
locals also like another Pleasant Cafe feature that is rarely seen at
other Boston restaurants: free parking across the street in a large
Jack Morgan (John's dad), members of the Lynch family and former
bartender George Parelli (he worked at the Pleasant Cafe for nearly 70
years) who are no longer with us would certainly be proud of the
tradition being carried on at this vintage restaurant with loads of
charm, characters and a few characters along the way. It's
a local icon and appropriately named -- a family-friendly
place that almost feels like a second home away from
home. The food is fresh, simply served and incredibly delicious.
"It's really a good place that knits a
together," said Bill Carley, a Roslindale native who is in his 50s and
now living in
John Morgan, 52, has worked at the Pleasant Cafe since age 13 when he started
busing tables. With the exception of cooperative education student jobs
when he attended Northeastern University (and graduated), the Pleasant
Cafe has served as his sole place of employment. Morgan has virtually
done it all at the Pleasant Cafe -- to this very day -- and that
includes shoveling snow in
the winter (and, often in the fall and spring) to clear the way for
Englanders to arrive at his restaurant.
"I wanted to carry on the tradition and feel honored to do so," said a
humble Morgan, of owning the Pleasant Cafe. "To see the customers, the
regulars come in day-to-day
and to work with staff... yes, it is more of a lifestyle than a job."
John and his mom, Joan Morgan at the Pleasant Cafe. Photo
credit: Joanie Morgan.
Some of the kitchen and wait staff have worked at the Pleasant Cafe for
more than 20 years. Even a relative newcomer like waitress Kim Lore
takes on her job with a comfort, ease and personable, genuine nature
that belies her relatively short stint here of three years. Lore beams with excitement, in
a down-to-earth thick Boston accent, to one
customer that she brought extra sauce for the take-home pasta, while
enthusiastically recommending the chopped sirloin as one of her
favorites to a customer not sure what to order.
Kim Lore waitresses at the Pleasant Cafe.
The Morgan's son, Jack, worked at the Pleasant Cafe last summer and
enjoyed the camaraderie amongst family -- in this instance, with
Jack Morgan enjoys a moment with his grandma at the Pleasant
Of course, the comforting feel of the Pleasant Cafe would be nothing
without the phenomenal comfort foods featuring many of the recipes
being handed down the generations from the Iantoscas to Morgans.
Pizza remains the big draw here and is served from 3 p.m.-on every day
except Sunday when pizza is offered starting at noon. The thin-crust
pizza -- with pizza sauces and doughs made in house every day --
features a delicious three-cheese blend, a crispy crust, fresh-tasting
homemade tomato sauce and quality toppings that are
amply added to the mouthwatering mix. The recipe comes straight from
the Iantosca years and with no preservatives. It's beyond outstanding.
"The best pizza 'evah'!," said John Delcore, a retired Army colonel who
grew up in Roslindale. "I grew up eating at the Pleasant."
Pepperoni, pepper and onion pizza from the Pleasant Cafe. Photo
credit: Joanie Morgan.
"People seem to love the pizza and it's just not in this area, either,"
said Morgan, a West Roxbury native. "One guy from Texas loves our pizza
so much. He ordered
five pizzas to bring back to Texas. It's interesting what you see on
Facebook, too, like someone from North Carolina who said he would do
anything for a pizza from the Pleasant Cafe."
The Carley family would do anything for a pizza, too, and designated a
young Bill to walk what seemed to a virtual mountain to bring back
pizza for the family. He and his family found a go-to place the way
locals do, to this very day, at the Pleasant Cafe.
"My dad was the only one who drove and he was at work, so my mom would
have me walk uphill (a few blocks away) on Walworth Street and I would
walk as fast as I could home before the pizza got cold," said Carley.
"I'll tell you, it was much easier walking back home downhill than the
walk to the Pleasant Cafe. The Pleasant Cafe was a staple for us,
especially during Lent when it was either the pizza or mac and
cheese... Such a friendly place -- the waitresses would always call you
"hon." Before any of us had a car, my friends and I would go there,
too, on a cold winter night and go get pizza. It was a lot better than
hanging out on the streets...Very fond memories of the place."
Recently, NBC Boston 10 recently held its Boston
Madness Tournament with the Pleasant Cafe earning the number one
best pizza in the Boston area. That's noteworthy, given the
competition that includes local landmarks like Santarpio's, Regina
Pizzeria, Town Spa, and
the Lynwood Cafe. To see the NBC 10 Boston video of the Pleasant Cafe, click here.
"What an honor that was," said Morgan. "We never expected
that. We are a neighborhood place where we do our job every day and
when something like that happens, it is an honor. The place went
crazy with orders after the good news."
The signs out front hint, however, that the Pleasant
Cafe serves more than just pizza. The words "Fine Foods" becomes
validated inside with a fabulous offering of appetizers, chicken,
seafood, pasta, salads, homemade soups (try the New England clam
specials with prices that also seem
retro. Some other places in Boston charge twice the amount for some of
the items seen on the Pleasant Cafe lunch
menus. Very rare is it in the Boston area to see a full service
restaurant menu with sandwiches starting at $4.50 and dinners at $9.25.
Lunch menu from the Pleasant Cafe.
The chicken and veal parms, chicken broccoli and ziti, chicken
cacciatore, shrimp scampi, and steak tips have long-standing status as
some of the
signature dishes, as well as the weekly specials. Those specials
embody the best of comfort foods: Roast turkey dinner and roast prime
rib of beef on Sunday and Monday; Yankee pot roast on Tuesday; roast
loin of pork and broiled scallops on Wednesday; New England boiled
dinner and roast prime rib of beef on Thursday; fisherman's platter and
roast prime rib of beef on Friday; and roast prime rib of beef and
baked stuffed shrimp on Saturday. There are also additional blackboard
Blackboard specials from the Pleasant Cafe.
Recently, I enjoyed the veal parm off the lunch menu (it was more like
a full dinner) served with a nice crisp
salad, angel hair pasta with homemade tomato sauce and a locally-made
roll. It was every bit as good as anything this writer has experienced
in the North End
of Boston -- a destination known for its Italian food!
Veal parm from the Pleasant Cafe.
Angel hair pasta with tomato sauce from the Pleasant Cafe.
Salad and rolls from the Pleasant Cafe.
The generational family recipes combined with excellent choices in
sourcing help elevate the Pleasant Cafe well beyond typical
neighborhood restaurant and bar fare. The Pleasant Cafe has been
sourcing locally long before going local was trendy.
"We get our seafood from Jordan Brothers (Brockton) and Captain
Marden's (Westwood)," said Morgan. "Captain Marden's delivers seven
days a week to us, so that really keeps it fresh. Our burgers are also
and we get the beef from Daman (Newmarket Square in Boston). Our
veal comes from J. Carter (also in Newmarket Square)."
While the food brings crowds to the Pleasant Cafe, the drinks list also
serves as a staple at this unpretentious restaurant and
bar. The Pleasant Cafe has a full liquor license, offers many
cocktails, and more than 30 beers and 40 wines. For the non-drinker,
they feature Pleasant Cafe Soda including raspberry lime rickey, diet
and regular root beer, cream soda and grape.
Some of the drinks available from the Pleasant Cafe.
Add some homemade grapenut pudding for dessert -- a traditional New
England favorite -- and the overall experience adds up to a dining
experience so timeless and heartwarming. This old place never grows old
travelers and transplants and is definitely a go-to type of restaurant
in the Boston area with generations of customers to prove it.
"We do get a lot of people who came here with their parents and
grandparents and now they come here with their children," said Morgan.
"Mostly locals, but those who have moved out to places like Foxboro and
Mansfield find their way back to enjoy our restaurant. It's definitely
like family here."
Pleasant Cafe is
located at 4515 Washington St., Roslindale, Mass. Tel. 617-323-2111.
Web site: http://www.pleasantcafe.com Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pleasantcafe. Twitter address: http://www.twitter.com/PleasantCafe.
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