Mystery Diner: Paisano’s in Princeton delivers classic Italian fare

Hand-battered chicken strips one of its featured items

If you’re looking for an appetizing take on regional Italian classics, look no further than Paisano’s.

The Princeton pizzeria is known equally for its handmade pizza and hand-battered chicken strip dinner, but it also serves up a whole host of classic go-to choices, including pastas, fresh Italian subs, appetizers and breadsticks. Each dish is fresh and has a home-cooked flavor that stands up to any local pizza place.

My gang and I decided to forgo pizza on this outing, opting instead to explore some of the other menu offerings, including double-layered cheese sticks, a chicken strip dinner, baked cheese ravioli, a beef roll, a sub sandwich and a house salad.

The cheese sticks, served with a side of meat sauce, and the beef roll, accompanied by au jus, hit all the right and expected notes, with a crispy, chewy, tender, pizza-dough crust, a large amount of melty mozzarella and tasty, thin-sliced beef. Both dishes are large enough to share as an appetizer for a group or as dinner for one to two people.

The cheese ravs, which can be ordered topped with melted cheese for an upcharge, was a large portion of heavily meat-sauced cheese ravioli. These weren’t typical small square ravs, these were monsters – dollar-sized pasta purses filled with slightly salty, creamy ricotta, which played well off the acidity and meatiness of the sauce.

The paisanwich, a supreme pizza riff on a sub, was a large crusty white roll stuffed with shaved beef, ham, mozzarella and a mix of green and black olives, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. The sandwich was delivered still warm and crispy, and again was large enough for a very hungry diner or to enjoy as a next-day leftover.

Paisano’s is known, for good reason, for its chicken strips, a half-dozen, hand-battered and perfectly fried chicken tenderloins served with battered fries and a side sauce that’s reminiscent of a tangy honey mustard.

The virtuous member of my party ordered a house salad, which, for only $3, was a nice surprise, consisting of a large, crisp iceberg lettuce salad with tomatoes, shredded cheddar and cucumbers.

My entire party filled up after spending just over $50, and had enough food left for everyone to get some of everything for the next day’s lunch. If you’re looking for traditional Italian comfort food, a large varied menu and reasonable prices for large portions, Paisano’s is just what you’re looking for.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.

Paisano’s Ristorante

1007 N Main Street

Princeton, IL 61356

(815) 915-8727