Peculiar is an intriguing term to describe food, but add to that delicious, innovative, exciting and unique when speaking about the culinary creations of Chef Gene Philbin, owner of Peculiar Culinary Company in Avoca. Winner of the Best Chef category in our Sunday Dispatch Best of Greater Pittston readers’ poll, Philbin is not only changing the way people feel about trying different foods, but is supporting local businesses and farmers by using locally-grown produce when supplying menu items showcased at local events. In business since 2012, Philbin has almost two decades of experience in the food service industry and enjoys sharing his passion for food and tempting local diners with delicious fare.
Choo Choo’s Ice Cream
It was just three months ago when Choo Choo’s Ice Cream opened its doors on Main Street in Dupont. It didn’t take long for Sunday Dispatch readers to notice, as Choo Choo’s picked up the Best Ice Cream award. The new business is the brainchild of the Banellis family of Pittston. The frozen treat establishment offers everything from soft and hard ice cream to ice cream cakes, milk shakes, smoothies, yogurt and much more. The owners — Angela Banellis, along with husband Paul Banellis and Paul’s brother Bob Banellis — started working on the idea several years ago. The lot was home to Paul’s trucking business prior to its conversion to the ice cream parlor.
CUP OF COFFEE
The Purple Squirrel Pastry Co.
Known for delicious cupcakes and treats, The Purple Squirrel Pastry Co. is also the place to go for the best coffee in Greater Pittston. Owner Cindy Pape said the coffee is locally roasted by Cafe Fresco in Jenkins Township and is delivered to Purple Squirrel the day it’s roasted. “It’s good stuff,” she said.” Purple Squirrel Pastry Co. is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The storefront is located at 8 N. Main St., Pittston.
Valley Meat & Deli
Bill and Ginger Renfer have owned Valley Meat & Deli at 629 Main St. in Avoca going on six years and they haven’t raised their prices on hoagies and subs. That’s one of the reasons they won the reader’s choice for Best Hoagies/Subs in Greater Pittston. “We really pile on the meats and cheeses,” Bill said. “Our service is really what separates us as well.” Bill said the eatery is faster than anyone in the Valley, while maintaining a cheerful and friendly customer service. After all, they are best known for their delicious, uniquely-named hoagies. Bill mans the meat counter preparing choice cuts of meat for their many customers.
Sunday Dispatch readers voted Agolino’s as the best place to have breakfast with typical foods such as bacon, eggs and toast or something fancier such as French toast sprinkled with sugar and topped off with bananas and strawberries. Be warned, breakfast is no longer served after 11 a.m., so get there quick!
Taste Food Emporium
Chef Carl Menyhert and his mom, Christine, opened Taste Food Emporium not too long ago. It didn’t take long for Sunday Dispatch readers to recognize his superb food. Menyhert likes to offer foods with which people are familiar, maybe a pasta salad, grilled chicken or pastrami on rye, as well as less typical dishes. Adventurous tasters might choose the “let Carl design your plate” option. The chef, who lives in Tobyhanna, used to operate restaurants in Kingston, New York and Aspen, Colo. Located on Wyoming Avenue near the Wyoming Borough building, Taste Food Emporium will fill your appetite.
Booyah! Burger & Bites
Booyah! Burgers & Bites opened its doors Aug. 1 and quickly established itself as having the best burger, as voted by Sunday Dispatch readers. The restaurant is located at 2022 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Established in 1966, Tony’s Pizzeria in Pittston has been selected as having the best pizza by Sunday Dispatch readers for the past several years.
Pizza L’Oven, which has been located on Wyoming Avenue in Exeter since 1982, offers several wing sauces to accompany its fried fowl, including mild, hot or “hooters,” a spicier sauce.
The recipe for Bobby-O’s cheesesteak sandwich is definitely Greater Pittston’s choice as best. At Bobby-O’s, located at 300 Main St., Dupont, sandwiches are made to order and customers can request onions, peppers and various other toppings. The ’50s-themed restaurant carries a wide variety of steak sandwiches and a wide variety of other menu items, but recommends customers enjoy one of their numerous flavors of milk shakes along with their order.
Valenti’s on Wyoming Avenue in Exeter has been in business since 2000 and offers fresh Italian cuisine. According to the business website, many recipes, including a variety of sauces, created by owner Michael Valenti and his grandmother, Antoinette Ciampi, “form the backbone of Valenti’s menu.”
Italian cuisine at Marianacci’s Restaurant goes all the way back to Italy. The restaurant started with a 30-seat space in 1972, and operated as a neighborhood bar and restaurant. Now, the restaurant is a 140-seat full-service restaurant and catering service.
A smile that can brighten anyone’s day, a friendly attitude and just an overall bubbly person is what led Sunday Dispatch readers to vote for Carol Hilenski as the Best Food Server in Greater Pittston for the second straight year. She can be found at the Pittston Diner, located at 335 Laurel St. in Pittston, where she’s been serving food and smiles for the last nine years. Hilenski said she enjoys seeing the same, and different people every day, and she enjoys talking food. “I’m honored and I appreciate what the readers have done for me,” she said.
Napoli’s Pizza on South Main Street in Pittston offers a variety of take-out foods, including several varieties of pizza, chicken wings, cold and hot subs, sandwiches, appetizers, stromboli, calzone and pasta dishes. “We try to do the best we can to accommodate everyone,” said Antonio Costagliola, owner. “We make everything fresh.”
Cooper’s Seafood Waterfront
Cooper’s on the Waterfront on Kennedy Boulevard in Pittston can boast of winning Sunday Dispatch’s readers’ nod for best seafood once again this year. Located along the Susquehanna River and with a nautical theme, its atmosphere seems especially appropriate for such foods like lobster tail, scallops, crab cakes and all things seafood.
From soup to salad and everything smoked in between, the B3Q Smokehouse in West Pittston has been chosen as the best barbecue for the fifth time by Sunday Dispatch readers. Homemade sauces add to the delicious selection of pulled pork, beef brisket, baby back ribs and chicken. B3Q is also available to cater events.
RESTAURANT ATMOSPHERE DECOR
Callahan’s Cafe and Coffee House
With neutral colors, warm lighting and thoughtful decor throughout, diners feel at home while at Callahan’s Cafe and Coffee House in Pittston. Sunday Dispatch readers think so, too — the restaurant was selected as having the best atmosphere and decor this year. According to the restaurant’s website, “Callahan’s is big city taste and style. You’ll see it in every aspect of the dining room and in every ounce of coffee.”
Grico’s in Exeter offers private booths with curtains to create a unique and intimate atmosphere for diners on a date. With several wins under the restaurant’s belt throughout the years, Jim Guasto, general manager, said, “It feels great to keep the tradition going.”
Comfortable booths and multiple dining areas were enough for Sunday Dispatch readers to vote for Agolino’s as the place to go for casual dining. If customers aren’t fans of the tables and booths, can also sit at the bar right next to the kitchen.
The word “Pazzo” means crazy in Italian. It fits because of Pazzo 315’s crazy good food. The restaurant on Route 315 was voted for the Best Fine Dining. Pazzo, owned by Sam, Corrinne, Lisa and Joey Agolino, considers patrons of the restaurant not as customers, but as guests. “We are truly grateful and very honored,” Corinne said. “We’re truly a family owned and operated business and this is truly a tradition for us.” The menu includes antipasto, pasta, cene, insalata and contorni. In August, Pazzo started to renovate and reopened on Wednesday, Sept. 7. The Agolinos said they updated the dining room with new decor, aesthetics and colors.
The Purple Squirrel Pastry Co.
Cindi Pape, owner of The Purple Squirrel Pastry Co. on North Main Street in Pittston, believes it’s the company’s dedication to homemade goodness that sets their desserts apart. “We use all natural ingredients — we don’t use artificial anything, and we use local fruits when possible,” she said. “We make all our fillings from scratch, so if you have a lemon filling, it’s from lemons that we squeezed ourselves.”
Philbin takes home the award this year for Best Caterer, as voted by Sunday Dispatch readers. He started Peculiar Culinary Company in 2012 with his wife, Miranda, and the two have been found catering multiple events. “It’s pretty exciting,” said Philbin on the award. “We’re a Pittston-based company and to have the love and support of the locals between the food truck and catering means a lot. I’m just trying to do something different, have fun and push the boundaries. It’s exciting to see the local embrace we’ve gotten from the community.” Philbin also appeared on “Guy’s Grocery Games,” hosted by Guy Fieri on the Food Network in 2014. He won the holiday episode, “Dashing Through the Isles.”