Vinnie Pie? Yes, Please! by Valerie J. Patterson

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.

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Until next time, may there be pizza-flavored memories in your life!

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20 responses to “Vinnie Pie? Yes, Please! by Valerie J. Patterson

  1. Now I’m hungry for pizza and it’s still morning. What a great way to celebrate your dad, brought a tear to my eye.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Hi Vicki! Did you satisfy that pizza craving today? 😛

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I appreciate it. Any time I’m at Vincent’s I automatically think of my dad and some memory from my childhood. I love it!

  2. My wife loves pizza, but not to many family members connected to it like you–this was a feel good read.
    frank

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Thanks, Frank! It was just such a big part of my growing up and my family. A lot of great times at that pizza parlor! 😛

  3. thanks a lot. Now I’m starving and NEED pizza. Your descriptive paragraph has me drooling all over my shirt.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      LOL! Jillian, your comment nearly made me snort cola! It was close, I tell ya! Did you satisfy your pizza craving? Man, wish you could have satisfied it with a Vinnie pie! 😛

      • I have not satisfied it yet but I’m planning on it. Yep, Ole Vinnie is lucky I didn’t arrive there with my drool-covered shirt.

      • Valerie J. Patterson

        It would give me great pleasure to meet you at Vincent’s Pizza Park, Jillian! I figure you and I could order a large with a couple of beverages, kick back and laugh! It would certainly be a good time! 😛

  4. I’m with Author/Jillian. I’m starving for pizza now and have to wait until Sunday, as we’re planning to enjoy pizza with friends during the NFC Championship Football game. (GO SEAHAWKS!). That crust looks amazing and I LOVE pizza crust.
    I was thinking I should tell my sister in Philly about Vincent’s, but it looks like Philly and Pittsburgh are too far away from each other.
    Valerie, I’m so glad you have this wonderful memory of your father. These are the things that soothe our hearts during the tough times, eh?

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Laurie, that crust IS amazing! The entire pizza is incredible. I have a difficult time eating any other pizza without comparing it to a Vinnie pie. 😛 Please do tell your sister about Vincent’s. Should she ever be over this way, she would not be disappointed were she to stop and eat.

      I love going to Vincent’s because being there and eating the pizza just brings so many good times to the surface with my dad. When my mom was in the hospital years ago, my dad and I would stop at Vincent’s on the way home from visiting and share a pie. I love recalling those special one-on-one dinners with Dad, and the conversations or the laughter we’d share. And yes, you hit it right…it soothes the heart.

      Enjoy your football get together! And I hope your team wins just to make the day extra special! 😛

  5. Yum, our family loves pizza and while we didn’t have a renowned pizza place we did have our favorite local (not a chain) one. For years we didn’t go any place but there. Then the owners retired and their son took it over and finally it closed. You’re post brought back memories of family get-to-gathers.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      I’m so glad the article brought you back to good times with your family at your favorite pizza parlor, Lavada! Family meals–no matter where they take place–are excellent memories to recall. 😛

      Hands down, independent pizza places generally offer better pizzas than the chains do, don’t you think?

  6. Awesome! Your write-up is spot on! I raised my children on Vinnie Pies. We live 600+ miles away, but we get back to Pittsburgh a couple of times each year. When we are there, Vincent’s is always on the itinerary.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      I love your comment, Ed! You’re proof positive that people will travel great lengths to have a Vinnie Pie! 😛 I’m so glad that you and your children have the same type of memories, too. Family meals around a Vincent’s pizza were always a good time. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate that! 😛

  7. Wow, Valerie. Now I want pizza! I wonder what’s the furthest folks have travelled to get that Vinnie Pie. UK anyone?

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      There is actually an online community for fans of Vincent’s Pizza, Tricia. I’ll have to pose that question and let you know. 😛

  8. Oh boy, am hungry now, even though I’m not a great pizza fan. Do we have an equivalent Vinnie’s in the UK, I wonder? Great post, Valerie. Thoroughly enjoyed reading, shame I can’t eat the photo! 🙂

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Loved your comment about not being able to eat the photo! My dad would appreciate that one! I tend to think you’d enjoy a Vinnie Pie even not being a huge pizza fan. 😛 Thanks, Kit!!

  9. I must say your article really touched my heart. What wonderful things to say about my dad’s pizza. I know he is smiling down at you and your sisters. He is probably sitting around chatting with your dad about it. It is customers and fans like you that carry on the Vincent’s legacy. Thank you.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Toni: Thank you so much for stopping by and reading and commenting. Your dad and his pizza are very fond memories for me. I love the idea that they are chatting about it! Thank you, too, for keeping your dad’s place open. When it closed, I was heartbroken, but then so relieved to hear it was temporary! 😛

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