Vancouver is a pizza city. Pizza-by-the-slice joints speckle the streets like neon-glowing beacons in the chronic rain. They exude the friendly smells of fresh bread and cheap elastic cheese.
Dirty slice pizza. Shops the size of closets. It runs you a buck-fifty to walk out clutching a floppy(more) triangle, ubiquitous thin paper plate folded over to absorb some of the grease.
$2 with a pop, sweating-cold from the cooler.
Bums gather outside, grateful for a mouthful of warm food they can afford. Girls emerge, purses in one hand, curling their tongues to catch the toppings sliding from the slice they hold in the other.
I prefer the place by the downtown library. For the coins in my pocket my appetite's put on hold until I can make my way home for real dinner. All the pigeons gather there, beautiful if dirty, waiting hopefully for crusts.
Everyone eats pizza, no one will spend more than $3 on a piece, and we all have our favourite haunts. We quibble and even turn up our nose at certain places, insistent that one dirty slice joint is better than another right beside it that looks practically the same, the same neon lights and grease-speckled hot lamps, the same smudged squeeze-bottles of hotsauce and ranch, the same rough brown napkins, and the same harried-yet-somehow-smiling pizza clerks.
Megabite puts sesame seeds on their crust - which toast deliciously...
UncleFatih chops their veggies too uniformly small.
Fresh Slice has no real flavour but Pizza Garden slices are big and always piping-hot...
When I first arrived in Vancouver, broke and young, fast food was unknown to me. When I saw the pizza bargains posted everywhere, on sandwich boards and across steamy windows in bright grease-pencil, I knew I could survive. That is, at least I would not starve.(less)
Back when I lived in Queens, there was this little pizza shop across the street from my elementary school. I'd go to it nearly afternoon; a plain slice of cheese was only one dollar. I'd pay the guy behind the counter and then stand by the broken pac man(more) machine watching the cooks kneading fresh dough with their flour-coated knuckles. I was always fascinated by the way they spun the dough around their fists until it became the perfect pizza size. It seemed like hard work. But despite the beads of sweat forming on their foreheads, the guys were always whistling some tune.
There were booths in the back full of older kids and their watery glasses of Coke. I'd listen to them laughing and cursing until my pizza was thoroughly heated. My cousin would collect his too, and cover the cheese with a sprinkling of those red pepper flakes. Then we'd squeeze past the growing line of customers and out the door. It was always the same thing, but strangely I never wondered what the spinach pizza tasted like, or whether the place sold any drinks to go. I never wondered how clean the tables in the back were or how many people had played that pac man game before it broke. It was always the same thing, but strangely, that was okay. (less)
Our waitress announced that she would be "taking care of "us last Tuesday. She offered to slice and serve our pepperoni pizza She did so with a smile and a flair. Unfortunatley, the slice slid right off of her spatula on to my white cargo pants, sauce side down. The manager(more) arrived with club soda, an apology and the bill.(less)
I grew up in Minneapolis, and Cossetta's (in St. Paul) was the best pizza ever. There was also a deep-dish Chicago style place we'd go to when we visited friends and family in Chicago that was amazing. Cossetta's is still there, about ten times as big as it was(more) when we started going there (I don't think I'm even exaggerating!), and still excellent. I'd bet that place is still there in Chicago, too--I should ask my mom (like, for example, what was it called?).
Then I was in upstate NY for undergrad (at Bard College, in the Hudson Valley), and discovered what pizza is to New Yorkers. I also discovered the calzone. Yay, excellent. Then in New York City, I learned more about "the slice" and the calzone. I was in Seattle for a bit--I don't remember any pizza experiences in Seattle--and in Portland for a bit, which has American Dream, pizza unlike any other I've ever had: huge slices on a flazy sourdough crust, amazing but not quite what I think of as pizza. Then back in NYC, and I got used to "the slice" (man, I miss Joe's!) and didn't eat so many calzones, though the calzone had been such an important part of my Bard experience.
Eventually I made it back to Portland, and now I'm settled in my house, in my neighborhood, in Woodlawn, in NE. I'm right by an excellent pizzeria--Good Neighbor--okay, honestly, I'm not so crazy about their slices, but they make a fabulous calzone. & American Dream is still around, and while I can't eat their pizza very often, once in a while, it's lovely.