Hidden Gem

Best-kept Italian secret in San Antonio suburb will whisk you away

Best-kept Italian secret in San Antonio suburb will whisk you away

pizza CROP
The menu at Papa Dante's ranges from pizzas and pastas to specialty sub sandwiches, burgers, and crab cakes. Courtesy photo

Papa Dante's Italian Restaurant is a classic neighborhood eatery in suburban San Antonio. Converse, to be exact. Located in an unassuming building at Toepperwein Road and FM1976, the family owned and operated restaurant has been satiating area residents' appetite for Italian since 1979.

Papa Dante's offers comfort food in an inviting, casual, family-friendly atmosphere. The interior is punctuated with vintage memorabilia all over the walls — and we do mean all over the walls, even crawling up to the ceiling. Photos and posters of celebrities, many of whom are long gone, are found here, as well as humorous signs, knick-knacks, newspaper clippings — you name it. The place strives for a retro ambiance from front to back.

The menu runs the gamut of Italian cuisine, from personal and 12-inch pizzas and a variety of pasta entrees to hot and specialty sub sandwiches and even Black Angus burgers and crab cakes. The menu also has a list of offerings for those with smaller appetites.

Over the decades, many regulars have developed favorites on the menu at Papa Dante's. The shrimp fettuccine alfredo, garlic bread, baked mostaccioli, and eggplant Parmesan are among the most popular items.

One of the hot sub sandwiches, named the Frank Sinatra, with meatballs, ricotta, provolone, and mozzarella cheese is a particular hit. So is another sub, the Italian War Hero, with double ham, pepperoni, salami, provolone and mozzarella cheeses, lettuce, onions, peppers, and Italian dressing.

There's a compact, decent stock of house and premium wines on hand, and the cheesecakes are a consistent hit among desserts. Italian sodas were introduced a few years ago as well.

Papa Dante's is developing an 8,400-square-foot event center behind the main restaurant, slated to open in April 2017. The new event space will have enough room for 350 to 400 guests and will host banquets, wedding receptions, family reunions, corporate activities, quinceañeras, holiday parties, and even indoor bocce ball. With the addition of a wine cellar, Papa Dante's plans to have periodic wine tastings. The venue will also have a full bar with a daily happy hour and a wishing-well water feature, according to the owners.

Generations have come and gone, but Papa Dante's remains a reliable hidden gem for Italian comfort food just northeast of the hustle and bustle of San Antonio.

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