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Respect the Pizza Parlor

February 25, 2010

First thing is first: Happy birthday All Over Albany!  I am very excited about helping them celebrate this evening.  No amount of snow will keep me away.  Hope to see you there.

It was because of All Over Albany that I was writing about pizza so extensively last fall.  And there was one comment from October that I never really properly addressed.  If memory serves, Mrs. Fussy was getting tired of editing posts about pizza, so my response just had to wait.

Here was the bit that got me:

I have been going to Pasquale’s since it opened over 5 years ago and it has always been a trattoria, serving simple Italian dishes and pizza by the slice, but NEVER just pizza because it is not a “pizza parlor” with paper plates or bar with beer and darts.  If you want fast food go to Burger King. If you want beer and wings go to a bar. But if you want to take your family, girlfriend, or neighbor out for a nice quite meal, go to Pasquale’s.

That was when it dawned on me that I needed to write more about the institution of the pizza parlor, and make sure that it gets the respect it deserves.

If you want fast food, go to a pizza parlor.  Do not stop at McDonald’s.  Do not collect your $2.99 value meal.

And for the record, if your pizza parlor is using paper plates, it risks being dismissed as pretentious.  A true pizza parlor will slap your slices down on a sheet of wax paper and send you on your way.

Sure, there may be some kind of narrow ledge for you to top your slice with shakey cheese, crushed peppers, garlic powder, or herbs.  Perhaps you’ll even stand there and eat your food.

I suppose in cities where the rents are a bit lower, some pizza parlors actually have the luxury of putting in seats and tables.  And it would not be fair to discriminate against them just because they exist in a place where real estate is cheap.

But counter service is mandatory.

Ideally it should be a bit surly.  I would be surly too if I was selling some of the greatest slices in town to an under-appreciative stream of customers.  Every pizza parlor believes it has the best slices in town, and you have to love them for it.

There is no need for polite discourse when ordering a slice of pizza.  This is one of the few occasions where talking is barely even necessary.

Counter guy: [looks at customer and raises eyebrows]
Customer: Slice [holds up 1 finger]
Counter guy: [punches it into register]
Customer: [pays amount on register, and waits for slice to be heated]

That’s not to say that eating at the pizza parlor has to be a solitary activity, especially if they happen to have tables and chairs.  While Holly may think it’s unreasonable to take your family, your girlfriend or your neighbor to a pizza parlor for a nice meal I roundly reject that notion.  Perhaps she just has the wrong family, girlfriend and neighbors.

Pizza is good food.  It’s bread and cheese with a little extra umami thrown in for seasoning.  Good food doesn’t always have pretty surroundings and genteel service.  Good food doesn’t have to come on plates either – think barbecue.

But if you are surrounding yourself with people who care about eating super-tasty things, they will be happy to put up with almost any indignity to get the good stuff.

In my opinion Pasquale’s would be a lot better served if it played to its strengths and committed to being a pizza parlor.  The best pizza parlors are marvelous places that serve incredible handcrafted food.  For what it’s worth, I have never seen anyone in the restaurant order something other than pizza.  So instead of occupying some weird middle ground between pizza parlor and trattoria, they could commit to doing the thing they do best, and be that thing.

Maybe I’ll be able to swing by for a slice after the party tonight, and ruminate yet again how odd it is that their pizza is served on porcelain plates.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 10:03 am

    Growing up in CT, our classic pizza parlor’s were a combo of slices-to-go (sometimes a separate entrance but universally its own counter) and red checkered table cloth places with usually great, thin crust pizza; pitchers of beer with those classic 8 or 10 oz pilsner glasses; and decent old-school Italian-American dishes (sausage and peppers, chicken/veal parm, etc.) And absolutely NO DELIVERY. Frankly, when I eat out at pizza, that’s what I miss. A place to sit, let our daughter run around, and consumer fresh, cheap, delicious food and beer. Harvest and Hearth out Rt. 29 east of Saratoga Springs on Fish Creek tries to get there, but just not quite. Popes is probably they closest thing in the Saratoga area that I can think of that’s like that. There’s also a place out west past Rock City Falls, but it’s name escapes me.

  2. Ellen Whitby permalink
    February 25, 2010 12:27 pm

    For great pizza with an atmosphere like the one you describe, you should go to that place on S. Pearl St. whose name escapes me. It has come up a few times here. People have recommended it in addition to/instead of Pasquales and The Fountain, both of which I have been to, neither of which impressed me enough to want to return.

    This place – yes, it’s called Sapienza’s Pizzeria – was doing a booming business at lunchtime on a recent Friday afternoon. Not quite a date location – the lights weren’t dim, the tables weren’t private, but the pizza was really great. Heated well while I waited for my slice, the crust was crunchy, the sauce was well-seasoned and just the right amount of cheese. The first bite was on the hot side…I should have waited a bit longer but it was delicious. The tables were full but most people ate their food and moved along. Not too many lingered.

    If you need romantic for a date, I’d suggest starting here with pizza and moving on to Savannah’s down the street for a drink and some music.

    Have you been to this place, Profussor? It should definitely be on your list.

  3. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    February 25, 2010 1:02 pm

    Addie’s Dad, I believe you’re thinking of Village Pizzeria in Galway, although that is more of a full-service restaurant than pizza parlor. I think you’d like Mama Mia’s in Saratoga.

    • February 25, 2010 4:04 pm

      Mr. Sunshine: We love the pizza at Mama Mia’s, and we often get take-out from there, but to venture into Fussy territory, I’m not wild about the location. Yes, Village Pizza is the one I’m thinking of, and has the bocce court, which is fun.

  4. beck permalink
    February 25, 2010 1:55 pm

    For what it’s worth, I have ordered other dishes at Pasquale’s (chicken something or other – can’t remember now) and they’ve all been good. I live right around the corner from Pasquale’s, more-or-less, so it’s a good dine-in option when we don’t feel like driving anywhere but we don’t feel like cooking, either.

    I grew up in Orange County, New York, where pizza is considerably different than pizza of the Capital Region. Think more like the New York City style, very thin crust pies, not the medium crust, lots of sauce style that is common here. Pasquale’s is among my favorite slice I’ve found locally, but it’s not always perfect, and I think their prices by-the-slice are a bit high.

    Daniel, I think I know what you mean about the pizza parlor style. My fiance is from Staten Island and he loves the atmosphere of the I Love New York (I think?) pizza on Central by the Big Lots/Price Chopper because it’s bare-bones, with ugly prints of the NYC skyline and garlic shakers on every table. (Yes, they do have a few tables, but it’s counter service only.) It reminds him of home, although the pizza is only so-so, to me.

  5. February 26, 2010 10:40 pm

    Like beck, I’m also used to Pizza from Orange County. That said, after having lived in Texas, even some of the shittiest pizzas up here is amazing in comparison to the crap down there. I say that with some exception of course.

    I fondly remember going back there for and grabbing a slice with a friend to be waited upon by someone I’d gone to middle school with. And by waited, I mean ‘anxiously plopped a slice of pizza in front of’. Long live the parlor and all of its facets.

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