Sunday, July 18, 2010

It’s the slice of life

Yes, doctor, I’ve been told I should see someone about my favorite…obsession. I won’t keep you in the dark: It’s pizza. My wife has mapped out my brain, you see, and pizza forms the biggest part. No, she’s not a scientist, doctor. And you are, yes, of course I’ve noticed your certificates; you positioned the couch so I’d face them. So—cheesy. But that’s what I mean. And it’s gotten worse, as I’ve been pining for a long-lost pizza place.

Let me stop you there, doc…. Where I come from, the word “pizzeria” might be on the sign, but nobody who grew up in Flushing, Queens, a generation ago used that word to describe a business that made and served pizza. It’s a pizza place, Bub. Okay, okay, Doctor Bub. Not a pizza parlor, shop, or restaurant. And certainly not “ristorante” unless you want tomato slices in place of sauce.

Yes, doc, I know I have just an hour, but it’s my dough. So...back to my obsession. I don’t often make it down to Flushing these days. But I’m plotting to go back. To a pizza place I’ve never visited. To have another slice or two of the best pizza I ever ate.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I can explain. My brother Vinnie tells me that Gloria Pizza opened a year before I was born, and it’s among my earliest memories. It was on Main Street in Flushing, a block from where the 7 line ended, and it had a narrow storefront whose customer space wouldn’t fit a fat man—ironic considering how many Gloria must have created. Judging from that belly, doc, I’m sure you have a favorite place of your own! Anyway, its counter was on the right. It ran front to back plus a street-side window that also sold ices. The left wall was all mirrors, and along it ran a shelf for eating what you bought: just pizza and soda in those early days. In between, no matter when you went, it was wall-to-wall people.

Tender and gooey, with sauce that had just a hint of sweetness, the pizza was always fresh out of the oven. In the mid-sixties, a slice cost 20 cents; a cup of soda, a dime. But you could get both for a quarter, something you with your fees could appreciate. It’s a pizza that other people, not just me, talk about on lots of websites, including this one—take it down, Doc. You have room in the margins of that crossword puzzle you’re doing. It even has its own Facebook fan page. Pretty good for a place that closed down in the ‘90s, huh?

But even though my favorite pizza place is long gone, I suppose I’ve been looking for that taste ever since. When the kids were small, I remember paying close attention during those pandemoniac birthday parties. Not to our kids but to the stacked boxes of hot, steaming pizza that some local pizza place would deliver. If the pizza showed up and no one made a move to serve it, I was prone to get agitated. Weren’t they…? Didn’t they see…? Shouldn’t someone…? And if any pizza was left once the kids were done, well, those bite-sized half-slices went down pretty quickly. Which was a good idea in case one of the little buggers came back for more.

Before I go on, doc, the seven-letter word you want for 8 Down is “anchovy”—yes, I can even smell pizza questions. And I thought something was fishy in how seldom you were spouting the requisite “uh huhs.” Not that I’ll eat pizza with any old thing on it. In fact, doc, if people ordering for a crowd with me in it plan to get that so-called pizza with broccoli, radicchio, artichoke hearts, pineapples or other such nonsense, they’d better also have plain-cheese slices around, or it won’t be pretty. You might think it’s more efficient to have your salad and pizza at the same time, doc, but I don’t see a single certificate on this wall for good taste.

Okay, doc, I know I’m talking in circles; if I liked Sicilian pizza, I’d talk in rectangles. So back to Gloria Pizza. That little hole-in-the-wall business is long gone, but apparently the pizza itself never quite did. No, I’m not getting all supernatural on you. My best friend, Jack, just told me that members of the same family that ran Gloria for years apparently have been running another pizza place, in a different part of town, since I was a teenager. Jack recently went back to Flushing to learn if it was indeed the same stuff he and I grew up on. He couldn’t just walk in; the line went out the door. But one slice, one soda, and he was back in time. So you think I have to go there, too, doc? Not quite.

Oh, you’ll want to answer that buzzer—they’re right on time. Stop your little clock and maybe you can have a slice.


  1. Bring me back a pie if you go! I'm HUNGRY now!!

  2. Sure! Soon as I can make my way out of this straightjacket....

  3. Eddie, you mean Jack went there and verified that it's the real McCoy? Even though I live in NJ, it'll be worth checking out! I can't say too much for the "Pizza Places", around here, although they're heavily touted by habitues who are hardly "conoscenti", but overly polite, far too tolerant and never demanding. As a result, I'm afraid that in many ways, today's generation has lost its true taste. So far, the only pizza that fulfills my own tough criteria is my own, that is whenever I get ambitious enough to make it, which isn't too often, given the time required to do it ample justice. So, I'll check this place out soon!

  4. Eddie, that last comment was by me, Vinnie. I forgot to put in my name. Sorry.

  5. Somehow, just somehow, I knew it was you, Vin! Thanks for the comment. And yes, it's Amore Pizza in the Pathmark Shopping Center, near Whitestone Lanes. I'll get down there soon myself!

  6. Great post, Ed. Pizza is my favorite food. The pizza parlor--that's what we called them in Bayonne when I grew up--I just all others by is Pompeii Pizza on Broadway:
    It is still open and still the same. Might be worth a road trip for you.