They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. Honestly, I don’t know who they are, but they are definitely painting with a broad brush. Because the part of Broadway I traversed today was virtually neon free. Granted, there may have been a neon sign or two in the shop windows in the vicinity of the first or last stop—depending on which way one is headed—of the Number 1 train. But, really, even the contemporary retail light-up signs appear to be fast and furiously moving away from neon. Cheaper to buy and maintain, I guess.
The dearth of bright neon lights notwithstanding on that renowned thoroughfare, I was nonetheless pleased to patronize a certain pizzeria on Broadway. In the Bronx, yes—but still the same Broadway. One, in fact, that’s been more or less in the same locale since 1969—it moved a couple of doors down after a fire some years back but has since returned to its original address. It's been my alma mater's— Manhattan College—preferred pizza spot since astronaut Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man” and “one giant leap for mankind.” I cannot remember it not being there. In this day and age in New York City, that’s saying an awful lot. But it’s not just that this neighborhood pizza joint endures, and has through dramatically changing times and changing landlords reaching for the jugular. It’s that the very same family still owns and operates the place.
I ate at this establishment every now and then twenty-five and thirty years ago, but not recently because—let’s just say—it’s a wee bit off-the-beaten trail for me in the here and now. What pleasantly surprised me, though, when I walked into the shop late this morning—after all these years—was seeing the father of this father-son business behind the counter. I remembered him in that very guise from my college days in the 1980s, so I figured he’d be up in the years and long retired. But there he was in the flesh—looking a little older, naturally, but pretty much as he did when Ronald Reagan was president.
The slice of pizza was hearty with ample cheese and priced at New York’s current going rate, $2.75, the cost of a subway fare. It was somewhat on the bland side, I’d concede, but nothing that a topping like pepperoni or sausage couldn’t turn into a better-than-average New York slice of pizza. And as a footnote to this Bronx pizza tale: Italian-Americans run the place. That’s very unusual in 2016. Pizza and Italians are mostly a memory around here, even in Italy it seems. Of course, my favorite pizza of all-time was the culinary work of art of a Greek fellow named George, a.k.a. Sam, whose likes are getting harder and harder to come by in this extraordinarily cheesy business and more than extraordinary cheesy times in which we live.