What wonderful memories John Mariani’s article “‘Everybody Likes Italian Food’” (December 1989) brought back! In 1932 I was a freshman at New York University’s Heights campus in the Bronx, New York. One Saturday a fraternity brother of Italian descent asked me if I would like to have some “ahpeetz.” I had never heard of pizza, but when he described it as a big tomato pie with buffalo-milk cheese, I agreed to try it.
Off we went to Mario’s at 2342 Arthur Avenue, south of Fordham Road. I remember the pizzaiolo kneading the dough, flipping and twirling it in the air. This was part of the process, not showmanship as it is today. I remember the paddle on which the pizza was put into the big brick-lined oven and the wonderful aroma of the plum tomatoes, cheese, and oregano when the finished pie was brought to the plain wooden table. This was the first of many, many visits to Mario’s over the next five years.
In 1937 I moved to Oakland, California. Another Italian-descent friend from Yonkers, New York, who had often enjoyed Mario’s pizza had moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he could not find pizza. He visited me and we went to San Francisco, where after a long search we found a restaurant that served pizza as a sort of sideline. The owner said this was the only place one could find pizza west of Chicago. How things have changed!