We walked into the joint and my eyes darted left, my gaze fastening on the man behind the counter, Plexiglas separating him from the patrons. High above his head, a pizza dough spins several times before coming down and landing deftly on his fingers. High into the air it rose again, spinning before landing once more on his hands. Flour seasoned his dark hair gray. His eyeglasses are speckled with flour as well. The dough is spread out onto a large silver pan and is soon covered with rich tomato sauce perfectly seasoned with a blend of Italian spices. Coarsely chopped cheese covers the sauce before the talented hands toss massive chunks of spicy Italian sausage, thick, mouthwatering slices of pepperoni, and various other toppings onto the pie. A blast of heated air escapes the massive oven as the door is opened and the pie is swept inside.
My dad corrals my sisters and me to a table, but our gazes remain with Vincent, our favorite pizza maker. We wait. Not always silently, either. But, we wait. Finally, the waitress delivers a massive pizza pie—so large it makes other places’ larges look like mediums—and sometimes smalls. Dad hefts a slice onto my plate and I attack it with a knife and fork because it’s way too big and too hot for my little hands. Juices from the pepperoni rolls down my chin, but I don’t care. The taste explosion taking place inside my mouth has my undivided attention. Life doesn’t get any better than this.
And that’s how it was when I was a kid. My dad would take us to Vincent’s Pizza Park and we would have—by far—the most fabulous pizza to be eaten on the face of the earth. My dad used to quip that his daughters teethed on Vincent’s pizza crust. Then he used to brag that his three daughters could put away more of a Vinnie pie than any three boys could.
Vincent’s was my father’s absolute favorite pizza parlor. The place itself was nothing spectacular. The walls were lined with Frank Sinatra memorabilia—including his prison record. The tables were non-descript Formica with run-of-the-mill dining chairs. The place was always packed, but the main attraction—outside of the fabulous pizza—was the parlor’s owner and resident pie maker, Vincent. He always amazed me with his ability to toss dough, shape it on the catch, and toss it again. He was an artist of the pizza-making type.
My family gathered at Vincent’s on the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. My sisters and I were there to remember the man who’d help to shape us into the women we’d become. We were there to celebrate the man who’d first introduced us to a Vinnie pie. And we were there to eat pizza in his honor.
Whenever possible, I try to go back to Vincent’s for a large half pepperoni/half sausage pizza and a soda. The drive is a little longer as I now live 160 miles round trip away from Vincent’s, but it’s always worth the trip and the traffic!
Vincent’s is touted from Pittsburgh to Timbuktu as being the premier place for pizza. People travel far greater distances than I to get a taste of home. If you’re ever in Pittsburgh and have a hankering for pizza, travel to Vincent’s. You won’t be disappointed.
These two photographs were taken at my last visit in December. You might want to get a paper towel out to catch the drool before you look at them! The pizza was as good as I remembered, and so worth the wait and the travel.
Until next time, may there be pizza-flavored memories in your life!