The only pizza place in town was a little take out joint called Gloria’s Pizza. The pizza that was produced here was to be the standard by which all other pizzas would be judged. It was the benchmark, baseline, and foundation against which all future pizza makers would be compared. My memory is not perfect, but I can assure you that no pizza since that time has ever been able to reproduce the magic that was the Gloria’s Mushroom Pizza.
I don’t know who Gloria was, as we never saw a woman there. The only way you were going to get a Gloria’s pizza, was to order it by phone, drive to the tiny hole in the wall that was located on the north end of town, pay for it with cash (no credit or checks accepted), and cart it home. Professional pizza delivery doods had not been invented yet. Had I known what was to come, I would have patented the pizza delivery dood and sold licenses for use of the technology.
The only guy that I ever saw at Gloria’s, was a gruff, Orc-ish looking man with a tomato nose. When I say “tomato nose” I am not talking about a dainty little cherry tomato. The honker on this guy was the size of a tennis ball, pock marked, and fire engine red. Later in life, he would move into an apartment across the street from my grand parents. It was at that time that I would learn that his last name was Ruggerio and that he spent the vast majority of his life sitting on the front stoop of his apartment sipping cheap booze, when he was not serving up the Picasso of Pizzas to the poor and downtrodden of my home town.
Since Mister Ruggerio was the only guy that I ever saw there, I always wondered if he was secretly Gloria, and that in fact he was the maestro of mushrooms. There were probably Keebler Elves in the back room that were really doing the work. It’s hard to believe that one man could produce enough pizza for an entire town. Especially if he spent 50% of his waking hours sauced on Old Mister Fred’s Vodka.
The other product that Gloria’s produced was homemade Italian bread. That bread was similarly a feast to the culinary senses. When I turned 12, I was allowed to be a paper boy and deliver the Leader Herald to the ignorant masses. My paper bundle got dropped off at Gloria’s, which was across from DeMarco’s market. I’d wait with all of the other 12 year olds for the delivery of the bundles. So, whilst waiting for the papers to get dropped off, we would spend some of our hard earned cash to get a loaf of bread from Gloria’s and a can of Coke from DeMarco’s. We didn’t eat no stinking bread crust, and would instead scoop out the warm doughy center and wash it down with mouthfuls of Coke – mmmmmmmmmm!!! Pretty sure that I shortened my life by a few years.
Gloria’s pizza was so delicious and sought after, that you did not want to waste one bite. My mom would bring it home for dinner and we would all descend on it like piranha. There was almost always a few left over slices, as the old man didn’t touch the stuff. I can recall no better breakfast treat than cold pizza. My mother did not refrigerate anything that we got as take out, so the pizza was always left out over night on the counter like a petri dish in a high school science experiment. No one died and I currently live a pretty healthy life, which I attribute to these pizza vaccinations.