Friday, March 26, 2010

Memories that clog the arteries

(EDITED to add a couple of links to photos.)

We're considering a brief overnight trip next week somewhere, since The Family Unit will all have the same weekend off. One destination we mentioned was Pittsburgh, so I spent some time Googling attractions down there. My family actually originally hails from Pittsburgh; my parents lived there their whole lives except a couple of years in the 1960s (around the time my sister was born), and I was born there. We've always had relatives there, although those have dwindled as time has gone on; I'm down to a single aunt living in Pittsburgh now and a couple of cousins. (Five cousins total, but I'm honestly not sure at all where any of them live.)

My sister also went to college in Pittsburgh, so for many years, Pittsburgh was pretty dominant in our lives in many ways. Once my sister graduated college and started attending grad school in Buffalo, our attentions shifted up here for good. When we moved from Portland, OR to Allegany, NY in 1981, we started a period where we would go to Pittsburgh for one reason or another at least a dozen times a year. After sometime around 1988 or 1989, our reasons for going dried up, and since then, I've been in Pittsburgh probably half a dozen times, total. The Wife and I did an overnighter of our own there back when she was still The Girlfriend; and when my in-laws lived for about eighteen months in West Virginia, Pittsburgh made a logical halfway-between meeting place for day trips. That's it, though; we haven't been there in nearly ten years.

So I was Googling attractions in Pittsburgh -- the Carnegie museums, the Macy's downtown store (formerly Kaufmann's), that kind of thing -- and I remembered a restaurant we used to eat in. Or get food from. Something like that.

It's a place called Vincent's Pizza Park, and as I recall, it's...well, it's a dive. The place is no-frills to the extreme, crowded, tiny, hot, and the place served some of the best pizza I ever had. It was pretty unique pizza, thick crusted and even more thickly cheesed; partisans of New York style pizza would probably recoil in horror at the sight of a slice of a Vincent's pizza. It was also the greasiest pizza I've ever encountered, the kind of pizza that left behind pools of grease deep enough to drown small animals. Like chihuahuas.

The place was actually run by a guy named Vincent, whom I remember as a tiny Italian guy who sat on a stool making pizza. My memories are probably faulty, but I recall the guy looking ancient the last time we ate there, more than twenty years ago. The joint's been open for decades, and my father used to tell a funny story from the early days of his marriage to my mother, when she was at home and he was at Vincent's and he called home to tell her he was going to be a while because some poor slob had managed to get himself locked in Vincent's bathroom and was screaming his head off because the bathrooms there are legendarily disgusting and Dad wanted to see how it all ended. Funny tales from before the days of routine health inspections, huh?

Anyway, Vincent's Pizza Park still exists, and apparently it's still dumpy. Some recent reviews I've read suggest that the quality has gone downhill somewhat since Vincent himself retired some years ago. And then I discovered that Vincent actually died earlier this month. Turns out he opened his restaurant in 1950 (when my father was 11 and my mother 9), and he ran it himself until 2005. Fifty-five years of making gooey, heart-stopping slabs of pizza. Not a bad way to spend a life, huh?

Wherever you are, Vincent, I hope the bathrooms are clean!

UPDATE: Well, you should all be able to see what a pizza from Vincent's looks like, right? Here's a whole pie in all its glory. Note all the butcher's paper. One detail I recall, which seems to still be the case, is that Vincent's doesn't use pizza boxes. Instead, they put the pizza into a cardboard tray and then wrap the whole thing with butcher's paper. Here's a different one, a medium double pepperoni one. I love me some pepperoni, but damn, that's a lot of it on there. And here's a Vincent's pizza with everything on it, after a couple of slices have been consumed. Note the grease. Yowza! How gross! And how I want one!

1 comment:

Kerry said...

Yep, you need to go to that pizza place, just from the looks of that first photo. Do it for pregnant chicks everywhere, man.

Also, I hear this place is cool -- Church Brew Works. Kids are allowed.