Papa’s Ranch House Restaurant
Wadsworth eatery and jack-of-all-trades venue places priority on food, family, and feeling good.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY ERIC CACHINERO
Dean Martin serenades me through the stereo speakers as I drool over the menu at Papa’s Ranch House in Wadsworth. The table I’m seated at is surrounded by an eclectic collection of sports memorabilia, historical photographs, and paintings. Aromas of pan-seared artichoke hearts and fresh-baked pizza crust fill the room.
“All of our pizzas are 18-inches, with thin, New York-style crust and heavy mozzarella cheese,” says owner Bryan Eidem, with unmistakable pride in his tone. “None of that American yellow stuff.”
The bodybuilder/small-business owner/chef/environmental agent/entrepreneur/veteran/author/announcer/personal trainer has good reason to be proud of his lineup of authentic Sicilian-American cuisine—it’s delicious—and even more reason to be proud of his restaurant.
By looking at the place, you’d never know that just several months prior, Papa’s Ranch House had first opened its doors. In what proved to be unfortunate timing, the restaurant and bar opened on March 1, and was forced shortly thereafter to close onsite dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost from the get-go, the business was required to transform into a take-out only operation, which was a challenge for a restaurant that had just opened. Despite the challenges, Bryan—who works as an environmental agent when he’s not at Papa’s—managed to adapt and thrive, and continues to do so.
Papa’s Ranch House Restaurant isn’t just an eatery, though; it’s much more than that. With his background in professional bodybuilding, Bryan assembled a wheelchair-accessible on-site weightlifting gym behind the restaurant, where he works with and trains children in the sport of bodybuilding, even training children with quadriplegia and other disabilities. He agrees to train any child for free, with the condition that they must compete in youth bodybuilding competitions.
“The gym is the whole reason I bought the place,” Bryan says. “In the past I had been cooking for wealthy clients to get the money to pay for the kids’ training.”
Now with his restaurant and gym at the same location, Bryan can pay for the kids’ training and doesn’t have to travel to cook. A percentage of each sale at Papa’s helps pay for the training for the children, as well as their entrance fee into the competitions.
Bryan’s interest in bodybuilding also became an interest of his son, Joseph, who began competing in bodybuilding at age 5. Today, Joseph helps his father operate the restaurant, and his interest in history makes him the resident history buff.
The venue also hosts live music each Saturday night in its outside courtyard, where guests can dine and listen under strings of bistro lights. Feel like staying the night? There’s one hotel room onsite.
Bryan also has big plans for the future of Papa’s. At the time of our visit, he is getting ready to open the onsite antique shop to the public. The shop is lined with various knickknacks, clothing, and treasures that he has collected over the years. In addition, Bryan is working to open a drive-through coffeeshop, which will serve Lighthouse coffee, smoothies, and other treats.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, the building is said to be haunted, so of course, Papa’s hosts ghost tours.
Bryan’s food proves to be as incredible as his list of accomplishments. Megg and I start with Nana’s artichoke hearts, which are served up lightly breaded and pan seared in vegetable oil. The golden tender chunks offer just the right amount of crispy crunch. They’re served with a dish of Sugo (authentic Italian tomato sauce), and I proceed to absolutely drown my artichoke hearts in the succulent sauce.
The pizza is constructed with the same attention to detail as the appetizer. Available pizza toppings include salami, linked sausage, meatballs, pepperoni, red and yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, pepperoncini, jalapenos, and artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and pineapple, or any combination thereof. Megg and I choose the mushrooms and meatballs because, well, I’ve never had meatballs on a pizza before.
We’re so eager to try the pizza when it arrives at our table, that we each pick up a slice and dig in, before embarrassingly realizing that we have forgotten to photograph the creation. After getting the shots we need for the magazine (minus two slices), we dig in. The crust comes crisped to a nice deep-golden brown, and Bryan wasn’t kidding about the cheese—it’s served piping hot and incredibly gooey. The meatballs are lightly crispy on
the outside and add a wallop of meaty flavor to each bite, and are complemented well by the mushrooms.
For dessert, we’re treated to a traditional Italian cannoli, which offers a crunchy chocolate-lined shell that’s overflowing with thick and creamy filling. The almost-bite sized (depends who you are) desert is a first for me, and it proves to be the perfect last bite.
Papa’s also serves up a host of different hoagies, salads, and calzones. I’ll be back to try more, because as Bryan puts it, “When you come here, you’re not just buying a pizza, you’re helping a kid earn a medal.”