Thursday, November 9, 2000
When I was 9 years old, I used to walk up the hill to the avenue to Regina''s Pizzeria. There was a local gentleman who used to sit on a backwards chair and welcome all who came along with a nod of his oversized head. He weighed about 450 pounds and carried a carcass so large that the chair he sat on disappeared from view like a walnut which is folded into a wad of cookie dough. I would order a slice, "not too hot."
A few years later, when I was about 12 and had expanded my territory a bit, I discovered Three Boys of Italy on Burke Avenue. Almost simultaneously I was introduced by my future brother-in-law, Ralph, to a phenomenal pizza parlor which was also on Burke Avenue, about a block and a half away from Three Boys. The name of this place I cannot recall even a little bit.
One day--I believe it was summertime, the daylight was bright and the temperature was shirts only--I was sitting in that pizza joint when all of a sudden, out of the blue, whatever-was-his-name the proprietor, launched himself out from behind the counter. Now, he was an impressive sight, about 6-foot-2, with long curly hair (as was the custom), and with the physique of a man in his late 20s who had worked all his life.
It seems a couple of teenagers had decided to try to steal from our aforementioned proprietor of the pizza parlor with the forgotten name, and were now running for their lives. He was wielding that special instrument that pizza guys use to reach into the oven and spin the pizzas. You know the one, with the yard-long, solid stickball bat handle attached to the rounded-off guillotine blade. Imagine one in the hands of a very highly testosteroned Italian-American male who has just been robbed.
I, who am not really squeamish except for the usual stuff, was wishing that what-was-his-name would definitely not catch those young hooligans. Fortunately, he did not.
The only reason I sat there was for the incredible Pizza Burger. He used to put a really good hamburger atop a slice of the realest New York-style pizza. I hate to sound like the typical, quintessential, ugly, obvious, fruit-forward New Yorker, because I am not. I''m really sensitive, I express the ultimate qualities of my zodialogical sign, Aries, and I always read a lot. When I was in junior high school, I used to play hooky and go to the public library to hang out. And what the hell can you do in a library but read?
Even though I haven''t lived in New York in eons, I retain memories of perfectly crisp, delicious pizza dough, ladled with top-notch tomato sauce and covered completely with good mozzarella, baked at just the right temperature in a brick or stone pizza oven by some Italian guy who was trying to win the neighborhood title for best pizza. Plus, believe it or not, the water in NYC is the best tasting. That''s the primary reason why their pizza and bagels are so much better than everywhere else''s (sorry Chicago, but that deep dish doo-doo doesn''t cut it). Until I get to visit that great pizza parlor in the sky, I guess I''ll be stuck here in my own personal pizza purgatory.