Concerning Pizza

Posted on September 21, 2010


During the middle of the summer, I wrote to the staff at Donadio & Olson, Inc., a literary agency I was fortunate enough to have an internship at, and I updated them on my life (as I promised I would).  I mentioned a site I had been using to catalog my experiences working at a pizzeria, since I had not found anything of the sort online.

Tequila Tuesdays, and sometimes Saturdays

My old boss, Neil Olson,  replied and jested: “When you’re famous as Anthony ‘The Pizza Blogger’ Nicaj, don’t forget us little people.”  And I liked that title, so I started using it on my old site.

Now that I’ve been writing for Homeland Security NewsWire Publications full-time, my pizzeria boss hasn’t been able to squeeze me into the schedule.  It’s either full days or weekends, and I like my weekends.

I’d like to fill the rest of this entry with nostalgia, with the descriptions of one particularly grueling day at the pizzeria in a post titled “Five Pies for a Funeral”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I come home and my parents see how dirtied I am. My mom literally gasps when she sees all the soot on my once tan crocs. A catastrophe, truly–and not one of them says a thing about my goatee, even though something has always been said about a spontaneous goatee.  Mom doesn’t like that I work at the pizzeria.  She sees it as a lowly thing, an experience her college-educated son shouldn’t experience, and I see it differently.

Yesterday morning, while preparing the daily assortment of pizzas, Edwin mentions my developing beard and asks me if I’ve ever sported a goatee, and I tell him how my Mom (odio) hates it, and he tells me I would look good with it. So I carve it out of my face the following morning.

According to Mary-Anne, (two daily slices, garlic powder and oregano,) I look 25 with the goat.

This morning, a woman on the phone tells me she needs five pies for a funeral by 11:45 AM with desperation in her voice and I find out from the man who picks them up at 11:50 AM that those pies are really just for a party.
An original collage featuring some of Gino’s slices, in “reading” order: Taco, Marinara, Grandma, Chicken Parm, Penne alla Vodka, and Chicken Marsala

The Hunger hits hard today and I don’t know it until it’s too late, until after I drink a Yoo-Hoo with great abandon, triggering a formidable stomach ache. The Hunger is the effect of being in front of food for long periods of time that you don’t really want to consume–making you feel hungry when you’re not, pitting logic against instinct.

Mama-Bird surprises me when I see she’s brought a geriatric friend along, whose name I catch between their deliberating–Edna.

Above: A surreptitiously taken photo of  “Mama-Bird,” named as such for her eating habit of regurgitating the ricotta cheese from her calzone.

Even though I’ve got the concentration of a hawk while taking down their orders, I still find them more complicated than probability. My scribblings, arrows pointing to meals and turning back on themselves thanks to indecision, all sloppy and doubly-so thanks to the carbon copy. I can’t help but feel like I’m drawing a Sensosketch, to put it in Cranium terms. There’s my endorsement, Hasbro, buncha bitches.

Lentil soups before the salads and sausage slices cut down the middle and metal fucking utensils. After watching Mama-Bird regurgitate an eggplant parm hero and tossed salad, it reaches a surreal climax when I pass her her second sausage slice, and I turn away and she calls for my attention using her quick accent

“Uh, yah gonna hate me, but there’s a hair on my slice.”

And I do hate her, but mostly I hate this moment, and I find myself upset because either the wind graced us with its serendipity or Mama-Bird/Edna planted it there.

I pick the hair off the slice and examine it closely, almost in awe over how there’s no oil on it, it’s just a thin and short black hair, no longer than three inches.  With Mama-Bird and Edna staring, and more eyes channeling in on my bewilderment, I toss the hair and reluctantly make another sausage slice.

And then the haggards depart, like Titans taking their leave of a battlefield, and Neris describes in very vivid detail how he would strangle her to death, allowing her to have one good last breath in between the horror of it all, and then finishing it.

There’s a calm that settles in after the dinner Rush, and we take our time cleaning up, serving a random slice here and there, but ultimately preparing to close shop, and even though nobody jinxes our divine break, the day ends violently, with such a torrential shit-storm of orders that it seems personal, a vendetta against the tired and miserable.

Moods are worsened by each ring of the telephone and each customer walking through the door, triggering the motion sensor

someone’s here


turn around

“Give me an ice, pal”

Sure, what flavor.

* phone *

“Hey bud, two buffalo chicken slices”


* phone *

“One pie, regular, to go, please”

Let me get a ticket.

“Don’t burn those pies, Anthony.”

Chande’s eyes widen, more alert under his black baseball cap, a segue to his thick wavy hair.

I race between the kitchen and the counter and I watch Edwin seethe at the new orders and tap at his leg with the sharpest knife I’ve ever used.

But it’s all over eventually, and then you just shut the radio off, then the lights. And it’s another night.
Foreground: Alex, or “Chande,” for the sound at the end of Alexander, and in the background baking, Neris.

Posted in: Reminiscence