Shrimp Paesano: A San Antonio Italian tradition

Shrimp Paesano

If there’s a classic dish that exemplifies San Antonio dining, it’s Shrimp Paesano.

It’s a favorite in this city. And when you mention it to longtime diners, especially those who grew up here, it inspires sighs and maybe even a few swoons.

 

I think it’s good. But just good. Not great, not holy-cow-this-is-amazing, but good. Better than fine, but not at great.

It starts with lightly breaded and sautéed shrimp, covered with a creamy lemon-garlic-butter sauce. The appetizer portion is just the shrimp, while the lunch and dinner includes pasta.

I get that Shrimp Paesano, is as much a piece of San Antonio comfort food as a well-made breakfast taco. And if you visit almost any locally owned Italian spot in town, it will include its own version of Shrimp Paesano.

The heritage of that dish goes back to in 1968, when a young Joe Cosniac moved to San Antonio to work at HemisFair. The following year, he and then-business partner Nick Pacelli opened the original Paesanos on McCullough Avenue. The restaurant quickly caught on. It grew into an empire of three locations, plus several other restaurants in the Paesanos Restaurant Group.

Visit any location and wait in line with with regulars and visitors who quickly turn into regulars. I get the reasons for its success: Fast, friendly service, big portions, lively atmosphere and an accessible wine list that still offers a few options for oenophiles. But I’m just as happy visiting several other places.

And when it comes to dishes, I prefer the pork osso bucco much more than the Shrimp Paesano. But with its history and several generations of happy customers, I’ll offer my respect.