by Blake herzog
The owners of Papa’s Uptown Italian Restaurant in downtown Prescott have retired after 15 years of earning a loyal following with their family recipes and dedication to quality food and service.
Donna “Mama” Bobadilla, her daughter Andrea Barattini and son-in-law Greg Swigut purchased the former Little Papa’s pizza restaurant in 2007, and on May 1 handed the reins to new owners Jason and Vanessa Perkins.
Prescott LIVING: When did you come to Prescott; how did you come to buy Papa’s?
Donna Bobadilla: This restaurant is in honor of my Grandma Benedetto, who taught me all the recipes, told me all the stories.
This is not my first career, I sold real estate before and had retail shops, put on my bucket list 20 years ago, plus, I said, “Gee, I’ve always wanted a little restaurant.” And my daughter and son-in-law said, “Well, yeah, we’ll help you.”
And that originated in Tucson and was called Contessa’s Italian Buffet. We had that for five years, and then moved to Prescott, took a year off after that, and we purchased Little Papa’s on White Spar Road.
Andrea Barattini: Five years later we had to move because they were putting in a bike path. We had to kind of scramble, and when this beautiful space came up, we peeked in the windows and said, “Ah, Grandpa Benedetto, Grandpa Benedetto!”
Mama’s grandpa had a spaghetti house in Auburn, New York, and this location is reminiscent. Even the way the bar looks, it’s eerie. It was a big leap for our family, a bit intimidating coming from 12 tables to tripling that space, but it just became an absolute incredible destination.
Prescott LIVING: What has been the key to Papa’s success?
Donna Bobadilla: Papa’s is a feeling. The food’s got to be good, but Papa’s is a feeling. It creates a nice, warm fuzzy for the people who have memories of a time. And the decor and the feeling of the restaurant is like Italy, or it’s like New York. It’s not Prescott. So it’s a separate reality. And they come in and have their dinner and they feel like they’re transported to the Amalfi Coast.
Andrea Barattini: And our team is incredible. We are very blessed to have them. Some of them we inherited from the old Little Papa’s, and they’ve been with us for over 15 years. My brother Eddie, the bartender, is staying on and my son Jacob will come back when he’s not in school at Northern Arizona University.
Prescott LIVING: All the recipes originated with Grandma Benedetto. What was it like for you to be able to keep her legacy alive?
Donna Bobadilla: These recipes are hundreds of years old. They’re casual Italian, family, comfort food and made in the style that our family from Naples and Sicily, how they cooked and created.
It’s truly a gift. It’s a very emotional thing for me, because it was my prayer for all these years to honor Grandma. And I’m sure she would be proud right now. It’s difficult to pass it on, but yet I know it’s in the right hands.
Andrea Barattini: It couldn’t go to a better family. These folks have been our customers for almost 15 years, and now they’re bringing up their little children, as we did with my son. They remind me of us 15 years ago.
Prescott LIVING: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Andrea Barattini: I mean, to win best in Yavapai County is such an honor. We’re thrilled to be passing this to the new owners, being No. 1 in Yavapai County. And we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and just feeling so blessed and grateful.
So, with gratitude, thank you, Prescott.
Papa’s Italian Restaurant
129½ N. Cortez St.