Owner closes PaPa J's in Downtown Pittsburgh

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PaPa J's Centro at 212 Blvd. of the Allies, Downtown, has closed for good, owner Michael Troiani confirmed.

The closing was prompted by a gas leak in the building Nov. 11 during the Veterans Day parade. Although Mr. Troiani told the Post-Gazette he had planned to reopen once the leak was repaired the following weekend, he has since changed his mind.

Mr. Troiani and his siblings inherited the building constructed in 1860 that was allegedly a stop on the Underground Railroad, followed by a second life as a brothel until 1937.

Mr. Troiani's father, Julius Troiani, who died in 2010, opened PaPa J's in Carnegie in 1988 as well as PaPa J's Mercato in the Strip, which closed in the '90s.

The Troiani family got its foothold in real estate through Downtown parking lots. They joined the restaurant business with the opening of the Musketeer Lounge, which is where PPG Plaza is now; the Mon Wharf's Pilot House restaurant on converted barges; and Guili's Landmark restaurant on Fourth Avenue.

The current building was a boarding house following its tenure as a brothel until 1979, after which it was Tramps Restaurant followed by PaPa J's Centro in December 1994.

The Madame's Blood E. Mary cocktail was named for Madame Dolly Cavanaugh, whose headboard was the centerpiece behind the front bar. Lore states that a false ceiling in her bed chamber yielded a black book of power broker clients.

Veteran bartender for 18 years, Frank Wazny has since moved from the Downtown location to Carnegie. "I will so miss the building and all the people I've gotten to know. I've watched kids grow up and get married," he said. "It's killing me not to be there."

Mr. Wazny said he never saw a ghost during his tenure but that many customers reported seeing an apparition of a woman upstairs or in the women's room that used to be a bedroom.

"That was where a man shot his wife," he said. "The room gave a lot of people the chills."

Melissa McCart: 412-263-1198 or on Twitter @melissamccart.

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