Alright, alright alright! Let’s hear it for cheese pizza! When I saw this day was coming, I told Lola and her initial reaction was not one of joy. I think it was because I told her about it the day after we had just feasted on a giant cheese pizza. She was hoping that our indulgence would carry over and count as the holiday celebration. But I’m a purist on this quest and I still felt that I needed to celebrate the holiday on the day of the actual holiday. We both left the discussion without resolve as we realized we were not going to see eye to eye on this one.
The pizza we ate was from a place in Providence called Fellini’s. We stopped there after an appointment in Providence and ordered up a Margherita Pizza to take home with us. Not that I am an authority, but the pizza there is probably some of the best I’ve tasted anywhere. Fresh ingredients, nice chewy dough and always cooked to perfection. It’s a special place and although it’s on the pricer side ($25 for a large), it’s worth it. We got stuck in some traffic on the way home and when there is a fresh pie in your car wafting its delightfulness throughout the vehicle and you are hungry, you do what’s natural and eat a slice . . .or two. I could feel the other cars around us raging in jealousy as Lola and I feasted on the best fresh pizza you could ever want in the middle of rush hour traffic. Perfection (except for the stains on my shirt from the pizza juice – a small sacrifice).
But that wasn’t National Cheese Pizza Day. Today was. I thought about how I would celebrate. Not that Lola isn’t into celebrating, she had just had her fill of bread and cheese lately and needed to take a break. My thought would be that I would order a small cheese pizza to go and enjoy it at home. But where should I order from? For cheese pizza locally, Lola likes Martino’s (formerly Carmello’s). It’s great food there and Lola loves the sauce – there is a sweetness to it that she is fond of. I tend to lean towards North End, which has a thicker crust and is cooked in a conveyor pizza oven. It took me a while to realize this, but I’m a fan of that kind of pizza. Cherie, a pizza expert having worked at a few pizza places throughout her career, opts for Steve’s. I have only been there a few times but it’s always been pretty good (and apparently they have great gyros too). It’s twice as far away as the other spots though. I also hear great things about West Main pizza, but that’s on the whole other end of town. It’s funny how convenience affects your pizza selections. It’s also funny how many pizza places there are in this town.
I was trying to decide where and when to order when I got a text from my brother (and a missed call). My mom was on her way to the hospital. My mom has been going through a rough couple of months. Back in May, she fell in the middle of the night and ended up breaking her neck. She was in the hospital for while and then a few weeks in a rehab facility. Since then, she has been pretty much confined to her home because her mobility has been so restricted. She missed a whole summer at the beach which must have been so depressing for her – that’s the place she dreams about to get her through the winter. It has been a slow recovery to say the least. Today she developed a sharp pain in her leg, sharper than she has ever felt, and couldn’t put any pressure on it without being in severe pain. My sister, who was in Vermont and probably felt helpless, convinced my Mom to press her Life Alert bracelet to call the paramedics. So she did, and now Mark was calling me to tell me what was going on. He didn’t have many facts, but he said he was going to head to the hospital. I asked if he wanted company, so shortly there after, we were both on our way to see our Mom in the hospital.
We arrived about five minutes before MB did – a pretty good response from three kids who were all over two hours away when the call came in. My Mom was still in the Emergency Room and the doctor’s were perplexed. There were no visible breakages or strains, no signs of blood clots or circular issues, and not many other clues. Her blood work was off however and that was causing some concern or at least enough reason to keep her overnight for more tests (that and she couldn’t stand up). I’m not sure if my mom is a good patient or not. She’s an old nurse and that always comes out in attitude whenever she is talking to the the staff. She seems to answer all their questions knowledgeably and in their lingo and she sounds amenable to their solutions. But she’s also stubborn as a mule, so she can be a bit defensive if the doctors suggest something she doesn’t want to do. Plus, when she’s back at St. Raphael’s (the very same hospital where she trained and worked for many, many years), she gets upset over the new style of nursing (can you imagine have a cart in the middle of a hallway?!). All in all, I think she’s pleasant for the medical staff – she speaks their language.
We sat around her bed in the little curtain cubicle for most of the afternoon. Emergency rooms are not well designed for having visitors. Nonetheless we managed to have some laughs which helped to raise my mom’s spirits. As the day went on, we were all starting to get hungry and that’s when I realized that I had just traveled to the city (New Haven) with the best pizza in the world on National Cheese Pizza Day. Well that’s fortuitous. My mom was getting anxious for us to go home too. She hates feeling like she is a burden to us. While she is completely comfortable in a hospital (really comfortable), it’s still hard to leave not knowing she’s settled in and safe. But she was getting insistent about us going home, we were hungry, and there was not much happening – she was going to be admitted, but we had no idea when. We decided to go get some pizza. We said our farewells and left my mom who looked comfortable enough and seemed happy to see us go.
Our first choice for New Haven pizza would have been Modern, but they are closed on Mondays. Apparently that’s a thing – pizza places being closed on Monday. Fortunately, Pepe’s was open which just happens to be the kingpin of all New Haven pizza places. MB had called her husband Doug and he and Zack were going to join us there too. He got there first and let us know that there was about 30 people in line ahead of him (that’s kind of typical for Pepe’s – it moves faster than you think). I’d say it took us about 20 minutes before we got to sit down at a table – not too bad.
MB and I went the holiday route and split a cheese pizza. Mark and Doug went the pepperoni route. Zack had his special Cheese and Dough only pizza (he actually had a real cheese pizza). We also got some Foxon Park sodas too – a classic New Haven pizzeria staple. The last two times I have been to Pepe’s the service has been a little off. We always seem to be left at the table for a long time before the waitress takes our order. When this happens, you inevitably see people that came in after you placing their order and all you can do is simmer in anger and hunger as your server seemingly avoids you. But that feeling dissipates as soon as you place your order.
The food comes out pretty fast – the brick ovens get the job done. The crust of New Haven pizza is probably what sets it all apart. It’s thin, but not too thin, and it gets charred around the edges too, so when it combines with the sauce and cheese, you get something close to perfection. At Pepe’s, the pizza gets served on large square sheet pans which actually makes it easy to divide and conquer (despite cluttering the table). It’s great pizza. I never realized how good the pizza was in my home town until I moved away. In fact, growing up, I never liked pizza. But now that I do and I’ve tasted pizza from all different parts, I realize how spoiled we were to have had that kind of pizza growing up. Makes you miss the hometown.
The most disturbing part of the whole day came moments after the pizza came and I looked to my left where Mark was eating his pizza with a knife and fork. Apparently he was worried about burning the roof of his mouth which he could control somehow by putting a piece of pizza on a fork. The rest of us managed to to avoid any burns while only using our hands. Just when you think you know someone. I was worried we were going to be kicked out.
We finished up around 8:30 and Mark and I had a 2 hour ride back to RI ahead of us. MB went back to the hospital to make sure my Mom got into her room safely and was comfortable. MB is really a great daughter (and sister) because she has been stuck with a lot of the burden of my mom’s illnesses and she gets it all done (despite my Mom’s somewhat critical attitude with her). I’m grateful she is there. Plus she’s a good person to share a pizza with. So while it was not the Cheese Pizza Day Celebration I had hoped for, it was still a pretty good one. All it needed was some time with family in the best pizza city in the world.
Next Up: National Read a Book Day