We're sitting around on a perfect Friday afternoon on the eve of Independence Day weekend and thinking about getting a pizza.
This is always a difficult decision in the Lipshez household. It's a decision that forces us to weigh quality versus distance. Here's how it goes.
There's some decent pizza in the immediate area. We'll do one at Joey Garlic in Farmington on Route 6 once in awhile, or maybe Naples near Farmington center on Route 4. They'll do in a pinch but you must remember I'm a New Haven boy.
New Haven boys take their apizza seriously. No typo there. If the 'a' is out front you're reasonably sure it's an Italian-style pie. As a Jewish boy growing up among many Italians, you learn that the word is pronounced "ah-beetz."
When you're talking pie in New Haven, you're talking Wooster Street -- Little Italy -- and with all due respect for Sally's, Pepe's is the king. The original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napolitano is celebrating its 85th year making their signature tomato pie in a coal-fired brick oven that reaches temperatures that no regular oven can match. The result is a crust that is ultra thin and gives special meaning to the word crispy.
The place is legendary. People traveling between New York and Boston on I-95 will often stop and get in the long line that snakes out the door and along Wooster Street. I've stood in that line for 45 minutes in the rain waiting for a pepperoni pie.
I went through grade school with a happy-g0-lucky guy named Francis Roselli and his cousin Nancy Pepe. They're Frank Pepe's grandchildren. The only times I've seen Francis since those carefree days were at the restaurant on Wooster Street. To the best of my knowledge, he's still helping run things. I tried emailing him through the website, pepespizzeria.com, but I've never heard from him.
Anyway, the Pepe's people decided to spread their dough a few years ago. They opened a place in Fairfield County, and then in Manchester across the street from the Buckland Hills mall. That's where we usually go.
The atmosphere isn't like New Haven but the apizza is amazing. And there are some great photos on the wall. Ronnie Reagan making his way through the crowd for his pie. Bill Clinton trying to wrap his lips around a steaming slice. You don't see guys like that having pizza in New Britain or Farmington, do ya?
So we're thinking, do we go to Manchester and battle the holiday weekend traffic for the best, or do we go down to Southington for the reasonable facsimile that Randy's Wooster Street Pizza puts out.
"It's up to you," sez Lisa.
"We're going to Manchester," sez I.
Well I don't know all the reasons why but there was no rush-hour traffic. We made in to Buckland Hills in about 20 minutes, not a whole lot longer than it would have taken to cruise to Queen Street in Southington.
Mozzarella and sausage throughout, 'shrooms on half and peppers on the other half. Baby, it doesn't get any better than that, except damn I missed my pepperoni. They make their own, you know, more spicy and flavorful than any other pepperoni on the planet. I could have done bacon, too.
Well, there's always tomorrow.