Shop, Then Drop In… for Dinner at The Greenery
For an oasis of calm and comfort after all the hustle and hype of holiday shopping, you don’t need to head home, dog-tired, to cook dinner. Just schedule your shopping for Boscov’s Department Store East, in Exeter. The Greenery Restaurant there has long been a favorite for lunch-goers, but it also offers a dinner experience not to be missed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
On these nights, executive chef Roger Papilla prepares his specialties right in front of guests, confidently stirring Shrimp Scampi or creating Chicken Milanese and other innovative entrees for his guests. A native of the Philippines, but also a U.S. citizen and longtime Berks Countian, this congenial chef clearly enjoys his calling, serving up homestyle favorites (fried chicken, roast turkey and the like) as well as global cuisine with equal fervor. He laughs about how his regular customers freely call him up and tell him what they’d love to eat before they arrive — and Papilla can’t wait to place their platters in front of them.
For starters, The Greenery’s appetizer sampler allows everyone to try the crispy mozzarella sticks, poppers, juicy hot onion rings, and bright orange, toasty, waffle-cut sweet potatoes. The mozzarella sticks are scrumptious dipped in Papilla’s signature marinara sauce. In fact, everything is good in that sauce; it’s robust, long-simmered, and perfectly full-bodied in thickness and herbs.
Drinks are simple, and include a refreshing pink lemonade or raspberry iced tea.
There are soups, too, and if New England clam chowder is something you crave, make it your choice: it’s a standard bearer, excellent any day.
The salad bar is extensive and varied, a solid reflection of the restaurant’s name. For a super-healthy tossed salad, go for some broccoli, baby spinach leaves, romaine, chickpeas, walnut bits, fresh-sliced mushrooms, mixed spring greens, cukes, sliced hot peppers, artichoke hearts and tomatoes, and try the House Dressing — a sweet ’n sour. It’s light and satisfying.
Cooking up Berks Favorites
When Roger starts the burners on his long table in the middle of the dining tables, enticing aromas permeate the air. Every first and third week of the month, from 3 to 7:30pm, Asian flavors dominate, from Beef with Cashews (served over jasmine rice) to stirfrys and Chicken or Pork Chop Suey, made the old-fashioned way. On the second and fourth weeks of the month, you’ll see Panko-encrusted tilapia, Steak Diane and pork chops over a puree of apricot, rounded out by a baked potato and mixed veggies.
Chef Roger stays responsive to his guests’ preferences, abandoning offerings that don’t appeal to a Berks crowd and highlighting oldies but goodies such as salmon cakes and high-grade hamburgers on a sesame bun with large pickles, as well as some newer items like paninis, which are served with a side of French fries.
For a twist on a Philadelphia classic, the cheesesteak panini is a uniquely delightful choice with or without the fixins (fried onions and hot peppers). Melted, mellow provolone cheese blankets the juicy chopped steak, with a crispy-fresh panini bread holding the combination together.
If you really want to excite some taste buds, though, go for the Italian panini. The crunchy bread combined with succulent and flavorful Italian meats — grilled capicola and hard salami — plus provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and mayo creates an effervescence in your mouth that you can't duplicate. That is unless you go back and order it again.
Whenever you go to Boscov’s East, don't forget to check out the specials that Roger dreams up. (Isn’t that the mark of a creative chef? You absolutely never know exactly what might land on the menu.) Sometimes The Greenery offers a Specialty Burger menu, including bleu cheese burgers, bacon and Swiss, and more. Also, keep an eye open (and a mouth open) for a local favorite — the Jewish Deli day held once a month at the Boscov’s Exeter location, featuring such classics such as liverwurst, potato latkes, pastrami, gravlax and more.
Whatever you do — even if you have to set food aside in doggy bags and slow yourself down — ask, “What’s for dessert?” Although there are a few desserts “imported” onto the menu, take dead aim at the homemade ones, which make up 90 percent of this sweet menu. There’s toasted coconut pie, cheesecake and carrot cake. But hands down, The Greenery’s own Rice Pudding cannot be matched. Without being overly sugary or too heavily creamy, it’s a smooth, satisfying, pretty bowl of rice-n-dairy goodness that gently invades your senses; if you like cinnamon, the waitress will serve yours with spirals of whipped cream and dashes of savory cinnamon. Smooth, cold, outstanding. Beloved by babies and grandmas alike, and everyone in between.
And then there’s the Deep-Dish Apple Pie. Thick, copious, unpretentious, all-American apple chunks are layered then baked (with no gooey, syrupy gels to mask the natural flavor), then topped with some vanilla ice cream to deliver tart-sweet counterpoints of flavor. With a cup of coffee, consider yourself well fueled, body and soul.
Oh, and yes—that familiar-looking man having supper at a nearby table is, in fact, Mr. Boscov, accompanied by his lovely wife, Eunice.