The statements made on this website are the personal opinions of Laura and Diane. If we feel that a restaurant visit is not up to par, please remember it is our opinion. If you disagree with us, feel free to write us at info@newenglandbites.com.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pa Raffa's Restaurant

2857 Acushnet Ave.
New Bedford, MA 02745
(508) 995-7711

Date visited: 7/14/08

I know that Fall Riverites and New Bedford residents aren’t supposed to get along, but Mom and I just adore some of the restaurants that are offered in The Whaling City. After taking a quick visit to Can King Redemption on Tarkiln Hill Road (love that place), Mom and I were trying to narrow down somewhere to have lunch. Since I just started learning where certain New Bedford roads connect to each other, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we were very close to Pa Raffa’s – one of our favorite Italian restaurants. Once I clued Mom in, we soon found ourselves pulling into a parking space at just around 3 p.m.

One of the things that Mom loves about Pa Raffa’s is that they let you seat yourself. Since it wasn’t really a busy time for the restaurant, Mom and I pretty much had our choice of seating. We chose a table on the top level (there is a sunken area with booths) right in between two windows. We were soon greeted by a waitress, who left us with two plastic covered menus and took our drink order – two Diet Cokes. They soon arrived in plastic glasses. I was really in the mood for pizza, but Mom decided to get one of the Italian dishes instead. This worked out well because I could choose any pizza topping I wanted! When I share with Mom, I always make sure that the topping is to her liking. What a martyr I am. She’s not a fan of green peppers, olives, or any kind of veggie on her pizza. When the waitress returned to take our order, I ordered a spinach pizza ($7.95) while Mom chose the chicken parmagiana ($11.75), which came with soup or salad. She chose the minestrone soup, which arrived along with a basket of warm bread and butter. Mom said that the soup was piping hot, full of vegetables, and had a really tasty broth. The bread was also very good - served warm with little packets of butter to spread on the slices.

As we waited for our food to arrive, we took a look around the dining room. It may not look like much from the outside, but Pa Raffa's is actually a really cozy restaurant. With lots of dark wood paneling, faux plants, and dim overhead lighting, the atmosphere really makes you feel right at home. I often see large parties and families with children visit Pa Raffa's for their terrific food and large portions. They offer several specials daily (written on a chalkboard) and do an extremely large take-out business. They actually have an entrance just to retrieve food to go, which is what we did when we ordered a large antipasto for a holiday one year. Let me just stop for a second to talk about this antipasto. It is amazing. Just the individual size alone would feed at least two to three people. Covered in shredded mozzarella, Pa Raffa's antipasto consists of only the freshest vegetables and the finest Italian meats. It is accompanied by a bottle of oil and water, and several empty plates for sharing. People visit Pa Raffa's just for this salad. It's unbelievable. Other delicious items on the menu include several varieties of pizzas ($6.95-9.90), hot grinders and sandwiches ($5.55-6.80), salads ($5.58-12.24), lasagna or ravioli ($7.55-11.70), spaghetti or macaroni ($5.10-9.20), and various side orders like meatballs or garlic bread ($1.10-12). If you're looking for something a little heartier, there is a long list of dinners such as homemade manicotti ($9.50), baked ziti ($6.50), and eggplant parmagiana ($11). Pa Raffa's also sells their tomato and meat sauces and their minestrone soup in pints and quarts ($3.80-6.90). Since everyone is being really frugal these days, Pa Raffa's has cleverly come up with two "money savers" - a dozen meatballs for $12, and a bucket of spaghetti (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday only) for $6. Also, for people who don't have time to sit in the dining room, they offer their own speciality pizzas in "take and bake" form. That's right! They make it, you bake it (at home). The only complaint we have is that Pa Raffa's seems to be very "generous" with their sauce, i.e., sometimes the food is drowning. Mom and I ordered an appetizer of fried meat ravioli a few visits ago, and they were swimming in sauce. I was hoping that the chef eased up on today's meal.
When our food arrived, I could tell right away that Mom's plate was too saucy. However, she thought that everything was great. The chicken was in a dish by itself, which was unusual. The bottom of the oval crock was covered with chicken pieces, then covered with a layer of thick sauce and gooey cheese. There was so much topping that Mom had trouble finding the chicken, but when she did track it down, she thought that it was fantastic. The chicken was very tender, moist, and cut into little chunks so that each piece was perfectly done. It was worth digging through the sauce to find. The other plate had the spaghetti, which was served piping hot like the chicken pieces were. Although very tasty, the star of this meal was definitely the chicken. Mom said it was one of the best chicken parms that she's ever had.

I loved my spinach pizza. It really had a lot of flavor and you could tell that all the ingredients were very fresh. I ate the entire thing, and I know that sounds piggish, but the pizza has a very thin, crispy crust and just goes down very easily - and quickly. Believe me, I didn't want to move after eating this, but it was worth every mouthful.

It was at this point that Mom and I began to discuss whether or not we should bring something home for Dad's dinner. She was originally going to make him something at home, but since we were at Pa Raffa's, and he enjoys Italian food as much as the next person, we figured that we'd just grab him one of their delicious hot subs to go. When I raised my head to try and spot our waitress, who had been very friendly during our visit, I noticed her walk by with her purse, as if she were heading out the door. Once she spotted me spotting her, she slowly walked back to the kitchen area, put her purse down, and trudged over to our table. Still being very polite, she asked us if we would like anything else. I saw her face fall when we told her that we would like to order a meatball torpedo with cheese and peppers to go ($5.55). Since she had already brought over the bill (in hopes that we wouldn't want anything else), and wrapped up the rest of Mom's chicken parm to go, she slowly walked back to the kitchen to put in our order. Now, we're not saying that she wasn't friendly because she was. It was just a little uncomfortable to know that she was in such a rush to leave. I felt bad about holding her up, but couldn't someone else fill in for her? It was only one meatball sub.

While the food was still being prepared, I decided to use the ladies' room. It was very clean and organized, as was the entire dining area. When Dad's food was ready, our waitress brought over the sub in a box and started rewriting the bill. She was very frenzied, as if she were now very late for something, and asked to borrow my pen. Good thing I had one! I let her figure out the bill, and when she was done she returned the pen and sprinted back toward the kitchen. The total came to:

2 Diet Coke - $3.90

Spinach - 7.95

Chicken parm - 11.75

Subtotal - $23.60

Tax - 1.18


Meatball sub - $5.55

Tax - .28


1st total - $24.78

2nd total - 5.83

GRAND TOTAL = $30.61

I was starting to pull out my wallet to make change with Mom for the $36+ I was going to leave her. I laid some money on the table, but it wasn't the correct amount yet. Before we knew it, the waitress was flying over to our table and almost walked off with half the payment! We had to stop her and tell her that we weren't ready. "OK," she said hurriedly. Mom and I raced through our wallets to find the correct amount plus the 20% tip we were leaving, despite her frantic state. Once we had all our ducks in a row, she appeared again (she had to have been standing nearby) to take the money right out of Mom's hand and rush off, wishing us a good night.

As Mom and I left the restaurant with the rest of her chicken parm and Dad's sub, we commented on how rushed the waitress was. We hadn't even arrived at our car yet when we heard footsteps very close behind us. We turned around - and there was our waitress! She smiled at us and hurried to her car, jumped in, put it in drive, and sped out of the parking lot. Mom and I hadn't even buckled ourselves in yet. I really hope that she wasn't late picking up a kid, or anything, but seriously - I think someone could have covered for her. The place wasn't that busy.

Before I got my license, my friend Tammy used to rave about how good Pa Raffa's was and how I should go one day to try their fantastic food. Now that I've been several times over, and I've never been disappointed, it's funny to think back to the days when I couldn't just get in my car and drive to Pa Raffa's. Like I said before, I know Fall River and New Bedford are rival cities, but this is one place that everyone - no matter what town they're from - should try at least once. Can't we all just get along?

Pa Raffa's Restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

PS - Dad loved the meatball sub (where else can you get a sub that big for $5.55), and he also enjoyed the rest of Mom's chicken parm. He did, however, agree that there was a bit too much sauce over everything. Good sauce, but too much of it.