Don’t pillory me but I have to admit that I am confused about how I am going to write this blog post. I am aware that this is not an aspicious way to start an article. The problem is that I have a few, compelling but competing lines of thought about why this visit to Red Moon Pizza came about and why I am pushing it further forward and choosing to write about it.
It may be that Stan Parish writing in the New York Times on Sunday is a virtuoso on selling a place in print. It may that I am at best gullible and possibly too intrigued by a deal. At a minimum, I can say that I read selectively. At the worst, I may have to face the fact, that I am seeing a generally positive food experience through jaded eyes, and more frighteningly, eyes jaded about good pizza. Perhaps its all four?
So here is what happened. This past Sunday, Mrs. P Chef, Granny Mrs. P Chef & I read the Gray Lady, The New York Times, as 2 little P Chefs squabbled, played and were generally cute and endearing around the big wooden kitchen table. We saw a blurb on Red Moon Pizza hidden in the back of the paper, describing a secret gem of a “Joisey” pizza joint. Enticing, right?
Who wouldn’t want to see a “Pizzeria From Another Era,” where Sicilian emigrant brothers, Salvatore and Gaetano Spera (Sal & Guy) have been slinging pies for 30 years made from daily fresh dough? Who wouldn’t want to try that place at a premium price, never mind for a pittance of $2 a slice? I was sucked in, picturing swarthy, acccented brothers with dark, waxed handle bar mustaches working in linen togs and greeting the customers with a joyful “Buon Giorno” as they kneaded another batch of their famous dough. Maybe a Corleone would stop by, or a Soprano? I had to see.
Upon arriving, I realized that I must have glossed over some words in Stan Parish’s article. Words like “To step inside is to be aesthetically transported to the early 1980s. The booths are unforgiving orange plastic, and the wall art seems standardized for pizzerias of a certain age” and “The plain slice ($2) is the epitome of by-the-slice pizza, the sauce sweet and faintly tangy under just enough stringy mozzarella cheese,” jump out at me now after my visit.
I was hanging out happily in East Coast Pizza places in the 80’s. I’d seen the hair styles, heard the music and watched the Trans-Ams flash by but I am not sure I want to go back. It was a literal golden age of youth for me, and that invigorated, vibrant part I personally cherish but independently of the clothes, the slang and the whole “80’s” feel.
Since I was in college for much of the 80’s, I also know that epitome means “a perfect example of something,” though I was lulled by its more usual useage to mean a perfect example of something good like “elegance” or “charm.” I read Stan Parish’s line with embedded word and jumped to my own happy conclusions. I failed, at the time to consider that “epitome” could, almost by definition, mean “average.” Similarly, I did not dwell on the fact that “Another Era” did not necessarily mean another “fabulous” era.
If the preceding paragraphs sound therapeutic, they were. I think I needed to sift and organize the thoughts to see that my experience at Red Moon is clouded by bias, both personal and…, well mostly personal, and that I should probably recuse myself from any further commentary.
But I can’t. Was I wrong to expect a Robert De Niro look alike (in period Little Italy costume) to be my new favorite pizza maker? Was I wrong to expect a pie, either NY Style or Sicilian to even come close to the storied pies of my college years at Caserta’s Pizzeria on Federal Hill in Rhode Island? Well was I?
I guess I was. And admitting it, I can see my issue here, the one at hand at least: expectations clouded by nostalgia.
What I should have chosen to see, was talented people working hard to be of service to their community by offering good food at a very fair price. Mea Culpa.
And though the sauce was not my perfect cup of tea, as served, it was good and easily doctored with the red pepper, oregano and garlic salt sitting on the table. They were not just catering to me but to every diner. A slice can be spiced up but not down. I understand the larger choices. Both slices spiced up Sicilian very nicely.
Now freed up from a petulant fog of expectations, I can say that the crust on the Sicilian Pizza at Red Moon is a new favorite. It is chewy and delicately crispy in just the right measure.
I will visit Caserta’s again, or maybe order a Fed-Ex pie, but for now Red Moon is closer than Rhode Island and closer than 1985.
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