By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
SATELLITE BEACH -- When you walk into Pappagallos restaurant on A1A, there is an overwhelming sense of welcoming comfort.
For nearly 24 years, Dave Rich has made serving the people of Brevard County the best Italian fare a top priority.
"We are extremely focused on pleasing our customers, focusing on a close, comfortable vibe," he said.
With gorgeous murals of gondolas making their way through Italian waterways and a clear view to the kitchen, where you can see Mr. Rich and his staff tossing freshly made pizza dough, Pappagallos is truly one of Satellite Beach's prize jewels.
And, of course, the food is absolutely out-of-this-world delicious.
"We started running a new pasta special, which is available for lunch and dinner," Mr. Rich said. "For just $8.99, diners can choose from five different pastas and top it with the sauce of their choice. You can even add a meat, like mahi, chicken or shrimp."
The "Create Your Own Meal" pasta dish allows Pappagallos patrons to first pick their favorite pasta -- spaghetti, ziti, farfalle, fettucine and rigatoni. Diners can then choose from several of the restaurant's famous homemade sauces -- meat sauce, Bolognese, piccata, cacciatore, veggie saporita and pesto -- each made in the Pappagallos kitchen every day.
"We wanted to provide this option to our customers because a lot of people like to customize their meals," Mr. Rich said. "So, this pasta special gives them more options, and it's a chance to serve up some different types of pastas we don't normally serve, like farfalle."
Bursting with pride in his menu, Mr. Rich and his staff prepare many menu items from scratch each day.
"We like to handle everything we possibly can," he said. "All of our sauces are still made from scratch. The chicken parm is all hand-breaded and trimmed here. The bread, of course, is still made here each day, throughout the day."
With plans to expand the Pappagallos menu with more health-conscious and gluten-free options, Mr. Rich and his wife, Tricia, said they are in the process of coming up with a healthy menu, similar to the new pasta special, in which people can select several items.
"As far as gluten-free goes, it's very hard for us to do because these products could get contaminated with all of the flour we use on a daily basis," Mr. Rich said. "We are experimenting with some gluten-free pasta right now, as well as some other items."
Mr. Rich further explained that he has not enjoyed some of the gluten-free food items he has tried.
"I want to make sure that each thing I serve on my menu are things that I enjoy, as well," he added. "I want to make sure everything is up to the high standard of Pappagallos."
Of couse, Pappagallos still serves up all of the menu items it is most famous for, such as its delicious, hand-tossed pizza and Mrs. Rich's favorite, the Chicken Pastagallo.
"I'm the whole reason it's on the menu," Mrs. Rich said. "It has a great woodsy, smoke taste."
The Chicken Pastagallo features penne pasta, tossed with chicken and a mouthwatering, homemade Alfredo sauce, topped with rosemary and bacon. The dish is then baked to perfection, with a thin layer of breadcrumbs on top.
With nearly a quarter of a century in the books for Pappagallos, Mr. and Mrs. Rich are deeply embedded in the beachside community.
"We have a lot of customized options for many of our regular customers," Mr. Rich said. "There are actually some options on our computer for specific customers."
For example, one of Pappagallos' regular customers has his order in the computer as "Mahi Mike," while another has his order in as "Andy's Chicken Sub."
"The cooks know exactly what it is," Mr. Rich added. "That's an advantage, and we enjoy doing it."
There are also many Pappagallos customers, who Mr. and Mrs. Rich may not know by name, but know by their order.
"There was a lady, who called last night, and she calls every week to place her pizza order the same way, with spinach under the cheese and sausage on top of the cheese," Mr. Rich said. "When she called, she asked to try our new pasta special."
Mr. Rich said that, when he saw the order, he actually called her just to make sure the order was correct, since he did not see her usual pizza order.
"This has happened with some of our other customers," Mr. Rich said. "We know them so well, so sometimes, when we call to make sure the order is right, they confirm it or add something else to it."
"While we may not always know them by name, we do know them by their food," Mrs. Rich added.
Mr. and Mrs. Rich have also been told by their customers that they feel very comfortable at Pappagallos.
"I had a woman, who is widowed, tell me the other day that she feels comfortable coming here by herself, because the environment is welcoming and our staff is very nice," Mrs. Rich said. "That's absolutely great for us to hear."
"We know who our customers are," Mr. Rich added. "We've seen families grow up for decades. I think the biggest thing is that we accommodate for all of them."
Pappagallos is located at 1769 Highway A1A, Satellite Beach.
Hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information, call (321) 773-7272 or visit www.Pappagallos.com.