NY, NY IV: NYC-Style Pizza

pizza-webMy mother gave me a call a few weeks ago, “I heard you vaz gonna be in town tomorrow. You vant to go to the Buffet?”

“Actually, I’m not passing through Piscataway, Anyu. I’m heading straight to New York City to see my friend’s gallery show.”

“Oh, noooo! New York is dangerous!”

“I’ve been to New York a zillion times. I’ll be fine.”

“Didn’t Anita get mugged last time she was in New York?”

“First of all, that was TEN YEARS AGO. And you are incorrect. She was in Piscataway at the time.  See? I’m safe in the City while all you scaredy cats in the suburbs get held up for your hoagies.” (read about the mugging here)

“Make sure you vear your glasses so you can see if somevon is mugging you.”

“Anyu, I can see perfectly fine without glasses, I wear contacts.”

“I hate dose tings! Your eyes need to breathe more. Promise to vear you glasses.”

“Fine, I’ll wear my glasses.”

“Vell, just be careful. Are you brinking a man vit you for protection?”

I groaned.

The next day, my friends and I took the train in to New York and I could not stop thinking about delicious New York City-Style pizza, where the slices are huge, the crust is thin, and the sauce is perfectly sweet. We walked for blocks and blocks and could not find a single “mom & pop” pizza shop.

“How is it possible that we can’t find a pizza place in NEW YORK?” my friend asked.

“Because weird, annoying, and inconveninent stuff always happens to us,” I replied.

Just as we were about to give up our search and grab some Chinese, we saw a sign for NYC-Style Pizza. The rickety sign and crumbling brick facade was nothing to write home about, but it was the warm, garlic-scented air that lured us inside (Editor’s Note: Although my family is from Transylvania, I have no qualms about  garlic. That’s a rumor).

“How is your food?” the Owner asked as we took our first bites.

“Oh, my gosh, it’s awesome. We live in Philly, so I really miss New York Pizza,” my friend said.
“It’s actually a home recipe, the way my Nana made it for the last 50 years.”
“Wow, that’s awesome!” I replied, “Your Nana is a good cook!”
“Well, sadly, she died a few years ago. But I love my Nana and her recipes so much that I opened a business in her name. See, it’s her picture here on the menu!”
He pointed to a sweet old lady smiling in some type of cheesy clip art grape leaves with caricatures of little Italian men tossing pizza on both sides of her.
I smiled. “Oh, that’s SO sweet! It’s good that you are keeping her recipes alive! You know, if you have funny stories about your Nana, I write an online series that’s all about old family recipes, stories from your childhood…you should really share some of your tales.” I handed him my card.
“Oh, THANK YOU! Yes, I do have stories. Well, there was this time-“
The owner was momentarily distracted as a pizza boy armed with three platters of pasta rushed past us.
“Excuse me for a second…”
He ran over to the waiter and stopped him in his tracks. He pointed down to the platter of food he was holding.
“What is this? WHAT IS THIS?!”

“Spaghetti and meatballs for Table 2,” he waiter replied blankly.

“He asked for a little bit of spaghetti with ONE meatball. Not this! This is three god-damned meatballs!”

“No, I thought he orderd-”

“No, no, NO! I know what he ordered, I was RIGHT THERE! They come in here ALL the TIME and he NEVER orders three meatballs. Are you freaking CRAZY? Maybe if you payed some damned attention, you might have noticed what my customer freaking ordered before you bring him three freaking meatballs when he said he only wants ONE!”

The pizza boy silently walked to the back of the restaurant with his head hung.

The Owner looked back at us. 

 “Sorry about that, folks. I just don’t know what to do with kids these days. They just dont listen. Not like my time. When Nana ran a restaurant, people paid attention and cared about their jobs. Not these days. They’re all BUMS.”
He paused to reflect for a moment. We looked at him in stunned silence.
He continued, “I loved my Nana so much, it hurts.”
“Yes…” my friend said, “It really shows.”
This incident leaves us with an important lesson: Even though life doesn’t always dish out the right amount of meatballs, you should be greatful that Nana left you the recipe. Sometimes you’ve gotta “stop and smell the pizzas” before it’s too late.
The Owner never did contact me to pass along the Nana stories. If you are reading this, Pizza Guy, I sincerely hope you are not offended that I included you in this humble blog. Sometimes I want to wear a shirt that says, “Careful what you say around me – I’m a writer!”
I will be waiting for those Nana stories, but in the meantime…can someone pass me another slice? This story made me hungry.
(to be continued)