Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 48
 
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
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SPORTS SPECIALTIES: “This is not a traditional sports bar. It is a sports bar in a traditional restaurant. We wanted to offer a mix. We have an extensive selection of bar food, but also some higher end cuisine. It’s very eclectic.” Joseph Carnevale (left), Paul Toto, and John Procaccini are delighted with the success of their recently-opened Princeton Sports Bar & Grill.

Nassau Street’s Princeton Sports Bar & Grill Is “The Only Game in Town” for Many New Fans

Watch every quarter, period, inning, round, or set! You don’t have to miss a moment of your favorite team or player in action. With the opening of The Princeton Sports Bar & Grill (PSB&G) last July, sports fans and foodies alike can combine their love of the game with their love of good eating.

The new establishment at 128 Nassau Street is the latest incarnation of Princeton’s long-time favorite, The Annex (opened in 1948), which became Sotto Ristorante in 2004.

Both had their devotees, but as the economy and eating habits changed, the owners (brothers and cousins, Joseph and Richard Carnevale and John Procaccini) came to realize that one crucial element was missing in this University town.

“There was no sports bar. There is nothing like this in the area,” points out owner and chef Joe Carnevale. “It’s really filling a need, and we’re getting lots of Princeton University students, as well as a complete range of other customers.”

Special Favorites

“We had a corporate sponsorship with Princeton University for the Princeton-Harvard game,” adds manager (and cousin) Paul Toto, who had owned a sports bar in southern New Jersey. “We gave out 3000 cups filled with free appetizers before the game, and we’ll also do a similar promotion for basketball games. It was a real success.”

“We want to be able to market to more people,” points out John Procaccini. “Every University town has a sports bar. But with ours, we incorporate fine quality dining and pull it into a sports bar format, and we are priced competitively. We have kept some of the favorite special dishes of Sotto, including pasta dishes and the popular garlic knots, but we have the burgers, nachos, wraps, pizza, and fries, so popular in a sports bar.”

The new PSB&G has also kept much of the decor of Sotto (which had been substantially renovated from the days of The Annex), with its grotto-like ambiance, including natural stone and Venetian plaster walls. And the additions are impressive: a new hardwood floor, a second bar, a juke box, trivia video games, and 17 big TV screens, including a gigantic 105-inch projection screen.

“We have every sports package there is. More than 300. You can see any game there is,” says Mr. Toto. “Games that you couldn’t see at home.”

They opened in July in time for the World Cup, and soccer fans descended on PSB&G. Then, people came to watch their favorite baseball team, with the only downer that neither the Yankees or Phillies made the World Series.

Now, it’s football, of course (also, basketball and hockey), and both fans of college and professional teams come regularly. “It’s everyone,” says Mr. Carnevale. “Not just guys, but families with kids, and single women. We attract people from two to 80! We also have a lot of corporate appeal. It really appeals to a wide spectrum of people.”

Happy Hour

“Many come Sunday before the game so they can get the table they want, near the screen that will have the game they want to see,” adds Mr. Procaccini. “The games go on for three hours, and people will come for lunch, stay right on through the game, and maybe another, and then have dinner.”

“Happy Hour” is another popular event every Monday through Friday, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. $5 Happy Hour food, along with discounted drinks brings in customers, as does $7 “Late Night” fare. Buffalo Wings, nachos, cheese steak, mozzarella sticks, cheese quesadillas, pizza, and specially-seasoned, hand-made burgers are all favorites.

Beer is the drink of choice, and there are many microbrews available. Mixed drinks are also popular, and the ubiquitous martini is always on hand.

“The Jersey Boardwalk fries are a big hit,” adds Mr. Carnevale, “and our appetizers also include something more upscale, such as Ahi tuna bruschetta and Prince Edward Island mussels.”

Entrees include a variety of pasta dishes, the special PSB&G Signature steak (16-ounce Angus filet mignon, wrapped in soaked applewood bacon), “Old Nassau” short ribs, and “The Big Cannon” (seasoned and grilled double-cut pork chop), as well as shrimp, crab, and chicken dishes.

“Tiger” Hot Dog

Traditional thin crust pizzas are available with many toppings, and there is a variety of sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads. The specialty burger includes a half pound of premium Black Angus beef, served on a Kaiser roll with Jersey Boardwalk fries, and pickle. In addition, a foot-long “Tiger” hot dog is served with chili and onions.

Prices are competitive, note the owners, with appetizers from $6, soup and salad from $4, sandwiches from $8, and entrees from $15. Pizzas start at $9.

The owners and Mr. Toto are pleased with their new sports bar and its warm reception. “The thing for us is to have fun,” says Mr. Carnevale, with a smile. “Everyone enjoys it. The employees come here on their days off! We find that former Annex customers are coming back, and we’ve kept many of the Sotto customers, and added new ones. It’s a real mix. Also, at night, after 10, we dim the lights, and it’s more like a nightclub.”

“Some people also come just to eat, not necessarily for the sports,” adds Mr. Procaccini. “They like the food and the ambiance, which is very friendly and welcoming. There’s a lot of energy and activity. We’re like the old ‘Neighborhood Bar’.

“I’m really looking forward to the Super Bowl. It will be tremendous!”

PSB&G offers gift cards — a nice holiday remembrance. Reservations are available only for parties of 10 or more. Hours are Monday 4 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday 11:30 to 1 a.m., Sunday noon to midnight. (609) 921-7555. Website: princetonsportsbar.com.

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