The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

ON COMFORT FOOD

After last night’s disturbing rest and nightmare I decided that I would treat myself today to some comfort food.  I’ve found that nothing makes a nightmare go away so quickly as dousing oneself in some of those childhood foods which always helped me feel secure and safe.  Besides, I was entitled to be happy as there is a lot of that entitlement thing making the rounds.

At first I considered going to a place that offers a wonderful comfort food dinner – things like pot roast, fried chicken, meatloaf and turkey pot pie.  All of these make the top ten of my list of comfort foods.  But much to my surprise as I planned my excursion I consulted their menu on-line and found that these items are dinner only items.  Most of their luncheon menu was burgers and wraps – and while I like those that was not what I craved.

The very first item on my list of comfort foods is pizza.  Growing up in New York City I remember that after the stress of completing a school examination there was nothing more re-assuring while waiting for the results than stopping into the local pizzeria where slices or whole pies were available.  Ah, the wondrousness of New York City pizza.  I still miss it.

I guess we all think that the foods with which we grew up were prepared “the way” that they were supposed to be made.  For that reason I still think that New York City has the best pizza pies in the universe.

I have had hotly contested debates with friends and acquaintances from Boston or Connecticut or New Jersey, places where large waves of immigrant Italians lived and opened pizzerias who hold that their childhood pizzas are the best.  While we might disagree, we do generally accept the fact that it’s hard to find a good piece of pizza west of the Hudson River.  In the ten years I have lived in Las Vegas I have had no reason to alter that opinion.

I have tried practically all the pizzerias on the west side of town.  By pizzerias I am talking about independent stand-alone mom and pop stores.  I gave up on the chains years ago and update that antipathy about twice a decade.  I mean, things can change – but I haven’t found that there has been much improvement in the mass produced pizza industry.

Well, whether the crust was too soggy or too dry; the sauce was too plentiful or too sparse; too spicy or too bland; the sausage too greasy or too crumbly; too much or too little cheese; I haven’t found a pizza out here in which I could drown my need for comfort.

About a month ago someone mentioned that a new pizzeria, Dom DeMarco’s had come to town.  It was a New York pizzeria that had expanded west.  (Yeah, I’ve heard this song before).  So I decided to give it a try.

I later learned that President Obama, when he was in town, had ordered pizzas from this establishment.  Had I known that I wouldn’t have bothered with this new place.  I mean what do people from Hawaii or wherever who toss pineapple on pizza really know about the stuff?

But ensconced in my ignorance of this future event I went on-line and found their menu.  I thought that $30 for an 18” pizza with Pepperoni, Sausage, Meatballs and Ham was pretty pricey – but based on the rave reviews I had heard I decided to order it anyway.  (This was one of their “specials pizzas” but having it my way with the exclusion of several of these and the addition of others would have been yet more costly).

I called, placing my order for a 7:30 p.m. pickup.  I emphasized the time to make sure that the young lady who took my order could hear me over the noise in the background.  I arrived for my pickup at 7:20.

As I walked in I went to the front desk to see where I should pick up my pizza.  The young lady who came to meet me asked for my phone number.  (Yes, we’ve all been reduced to numbers of some sort or other).  Fortunately, I remembered it or I might have gone hungry.

She then reached under her front desk counter, pulled a box out and plopped it on the counter together with my bill.  As I lifted the box I noticed that the bottom was almost cold.  It certainly hadn’t just come piping hot out of the oven and I wondered when during the one and one-half hours from the time I had phoned in the order and arrived to pick it up it had actually been produced.  But I paid for it and eagerly took it to my car and then home.

Since the pizza was only lukewarm I put it in the oven which I had pre-heated before I left and tried to bring it back to life and warmth.  I pulled out the two slices I had decided to consume for dinner and was only moderately unimpressed.

The crust – perhaps as a result of being reheated was extremely dry.  The sauce, however, was excellent.  But the toppings were extremely sparse.  I couldn’t find a single piece that contained all four of the featured ingredients.  Alas, yet another failure in my never-ending quest to find a really good pizza west of Secaucus. 

As it happened during one of Gracie’s and my daily morning visits to the dog park, the little group that assembles regularly at 7 o’clock was having a conversation when the two of us came over to wish them a good morning.  The subject was an Italian restaurant which one of our morning group had started frequenting.

He went on to say that he had eaten three or four meals there and raved about the quality of the food, the excellence of the service and the affordability of his meal.  My ears perked up. 

“By any chance, Freddy,” I asked, “do they have pizza on the menu?”  He said the name of the place was “Uncle Angelo’s Pizza Joint.”  It was located in an independent casino in North Las Vegas called Jerry’s Nugget.  Obviously, they had pizza – but Freddy hadn’t tried it.

Today I decided to go there for luncheon.  I walked into the casino which people who have been here for many, many years tell me has been there forever.  It’s in what has become a sort of seedy and clearly impoverished area of North Las Vegas.

I quickly found Uncle Angelo’s and waited a moment or two to be seated.  The young lady who came to the front desk quickly whisked me to my seat asking whether I would prefer a table or a booth.

When I was seated she handed me the menu and took my drink order for an iced tea with lemon which she quickly brought back to me.  I reviewed the menu to get an overview of the fare but I quickly found the pizza I wanted.  It was a 20” “Nugget Special.”  (Obviously, I planned on bringing most of it home so that in the days following I could continue to be comforted).

The combination for this pizza included pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, onions, ham, black olives, mushrooms and fresh garlic.  When my server, Glenn came to the table to take my order, I asked if we could skip the black olives and do a little extra garlic on the pizza.  “Not a problem,” he replied.  I love olives of all descriptions – but generally I don’t care for them on pizza.

During the fifteen minutes I waited for my freshly made pizza to arrive I looked around the restaurant.  It was simply appointed with some nice Italian-style prints neatly framed on the walls.  The place was nicely lit and in the background some traditional Italian songs were being played.  This inevitably included some oldies but goodies that were recorded by Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.

I sipped on my iced tea taking in the place’s ambiance.  It was basic but comfortable.  Then Glenn came to the table and placed a large tray next to my table.  Could the arrival of my pizza be far behind?

A few minutes later, my monster pizza arrived on its metal tray and was placed next to my table.  Glen took the large pointed pizza spatula and made two incisions in this masterpiece which bubbled happily as it looked forward to comforting me.  He placed a slice on my oversized pizza plate and I began to eat. 

It was fantastic.  Great crust, great sauce, loaded with toppings and cheese and piping hot.  I tossed on some oregano and some crushed peppers.  I was in hog heaven.  I had found an incredibly great pizza!  I ate that slice and a second and a third (can you say “oink”) and Glenn boxed the remaining five pieces for me to take home.

When I got my bill I noticed that I hadn’t been charged for my beverage and I brought that to Glenn’s attention.  He told me that it was their policy that beverages were included in the price of the meal – which, incidentally, was $17.  This was $13 less expensive for a larger and far superior pie than the one I had gotten from Dom DeMarco’s.

I left Glenn a 25% tip and asked to speak to the manager – but he was unavailable.  I did call later to talk with him to let him know how impressed I was with the service, his restaurant and their pizza.  I know that he appreciated the compliment.  I will definitely spread the word about this fine establishment.  Well, I guess in writing this I have already started doing that.

I have a few more comfort meals coming out of this adventure and I have finally reached my goal of finding a great pizza out west.  Now that that is out of the way, I guess I’ll turn to my other goal which is to find the solution for finally achieving world peace.

It’s just a thought, but I wonder if we assembled all of the world’s leaders and sent them to have a meal at Uncle Angelo’s Pizza Joint it might just improve their attitudes. 

And in that, we could all take comfort.

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Comments on: "ON COMFORT FOOD" (8)

  1. Thanks a lot! Now I’m starving!

  2. Improve the disposition of world leaders? Well it’s worth a shot and I’d be happy to contribute from my limited means if that could be achieved. I think it will take more than pizza to do that though. I’m an Asian food person, though once in a while a good pizza is welcome. But you sure are paying too much for it in New York.

    • I believe that pizza has curative powers for all that ails us. (Of course that might only apply to normal people and not the political aristocracy). And there are several Asian items on my comfort food list. (I learned to use chopsticks before I could handle a fork).

  3. Glad you were able to find your comfort food! Of course, here in Chicago people might say you’d have no problem in finding the perfect pizza, and they may be right. I’m no pizza expert, so I wouldn’t like to officially make that claim, although a former Mayor regularly used to wager Chicago pizza and hot dogs on the success of our local sports teams.

    • I spent most of my life in Hyde Park so I became acclimated to Chicago-style pizza (and I actually can make a pretty good impersonation of Uno’s and Due’s deep dish). N.Y. style is still my favorite.
      As to hot dogs – well, that meant a good Nathan’s famous with mustard and sauerkraut only. I never could bend my will to eat a frank with ketchup or relish or pepperocini on it. And as a season-ticket holder for several seasons for the Bears, Richard J. must have made a lot of payoffs! Thanks for writing.

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