In true Catholic fashion, I have a confession to make. I’m a fish fry skeptic. I realize that in Western Pennsylvania that statement is virtually sacrilege. But I’m reluctant to tackle massive crowds of people gathered in noisy confinement, even for a good fish sandwich, to which I am partial.
So, no one will be more surprised than me when I say that I really liked the St. Thomas More fish fry, cleverly titled MoreFish.
The featured attraction is delicious. The savory fish was perfectly flaky, so as to need the soft Italian hoagie roll to keep it together and not so thick that biting in was a strategic event: an artistic balance not every fish sandwich achieves.
For dessert, both the Oreo creme cake and strawberry cheesecake are excellent choices.
The overall quality of the food is such that longtime attendees cannot agree on the best item. While Jim Marraway is a traditionalist and insists the fish sandwich is the best choice, Emma Murillo is a fan of the pizza (made onsite), and Kaitlyn Musillo recommends the mac and cheese.
Portions are generous. “I can’t eat all that!” says Kathy Warburton, who is so loyal to MoreFish that she’s never attended another fish fry and works at this one each year. The numerous volunteers, ranging in age from teens to septuagenarians, keep the process effortless under the direction of Maureen Rhoades.
The presence of the church’s school children kept the atmosphere jovial and comfortable, a process facilitated by aisles big enough for strollers and for wandering among friends.
Marylou Dressman-Conroy, a kindergarten teacher at the parish school, agrees that the children are a key part of the atmosphere.
“A lot of my students come through, and it’s fun,” she says, while ringing a cash register. “They get a kick out of seeing me do something different.”
The church’s spacious facilities allow for a busy event to be pleasantly bustling, rather than over crowded.
Numerous registers and self-service order forms kept wait times between walking in and actually eating minimal.
The church’s multiple parking lots and informal overflow parking at nearby businesses meant that even the exterior traffic was flowing.
As I was leaving, a woman who I have only previously seen from a distance in a pew at Mass waved to me and called out, “See you next year.” Surprisingly, I think she will.
St. Thomas More
126 Fort Couch Road
Ash Wednesday and Fridays, 4:30 to 7:30
BASICS Takeout and online orders are available, but the online option isn’t available until after noon on Fridays. This process allows diners to jump the line and pay at a register dedicated to online orders. Such orders are pre-packaged and waiting for pick up.The price is $12 for adults and $5 for children under 10. However, for those looking to heap up their plates multiple times, the all-you-can-eat pasta with marinara is $14. Dine-in meals include water, lemonade or tea. Desserts are separate from the main price at $3 for cake or pie and $1 for cookies. Pop or alcohol are available for an additional fee.
EXTRAS Gluten-free options include baked fish, chocolate cake and pasta (available upon request).
PLUSES Takeout and online orders include thoughtful packaging. The kitchen staff packs the fish in a foil bag to keep it warm and sends the 9-inch roll home separately, so it doesn’t become soggy. Portions are generous enough that two adults can make a nice meal out of one order, which also comes with two sides.
MINUSES Even with the best organization, there is a short wait for takeout, the portion of the kitchen with the least space to work with. One customer complained about the 10-15 minutes he waited, but the service remained friendly in the face of his disappointment.
ODDS AND ENDS In addition to the traditional raffles and food, an extensive Sabika display is available in support of the church’s Appalachian Mission trip. Without the pressure of a house party, attendees can try on pieces and consider purchases at their leisure. Fran Ruppen, the sales consultant managing the fundraiser said that last year more than $1,000 was raised toward the trip through the sale.