A Tale of Two Pizzarias

Today I ate chicken and artichoke flat bread for lunch. I typically avoid pizza and similar foods since I am working toward a long term goal of weighing two hundred pounds or less. But there wasn’t much on the menu that looked good so I decided to give it a try. It was delicious and the portion was adequate but appropriate for my diet. It was delicious. It reminded me of the pizza at Gabatoni’s in Springfield, IL.

Gabatoni’s was a legendary spot from my childhood. I think I was six when we moved away so I must have been pretty young most of the times that we ate there. But I remember the flavor of the pizza sauce they put on their pizzas. It was secret blend of spices known only to the Gabatoni family. It set the bar high for my standards in Italian food.

The crust was also especially good. It was very thin and crispy except for the tenth of an inch or so right beneath the sauce and toppings. There it was soft and flavorful. And the cheese on top was always brown but never burned.

They cut there pizzas into trapezoidal pieces instead of the more traditional wedge shape. They were also smaller than the wedge shaped pieces but there were more of them. This made it seem like there was an endless supply of pizza to me.

Later, the summer before I was a Junior in high school, we moved from Paducah, KY, a town that didn’t have any notable mom and pop pizzerias that I was aware of, to Murphysboro, IL. Murphysboro was the county seat of Jackson County Illinois and as such was home to the County courthouse. Across the street from the courthouse was an establishment called The Jackson Bench. In spite of its overly clever name, it too featured extremely good, rectangularly sliced pizza. For quite a while, several months actually, we ate dinner two or three nights a week at the Bench.

At first the excuse was that we were still moving in, then it was that mom and dad were having a beer with the Spanish teacher at the high school, one of dads colleagues. It seemed strange that no one seemed to find high school teachers drinking in public scandalous. My dad didn’t drink because he was diabetic. My mom did drink because she wasn’t. The other couple were ten years or so younger than my folks, probably in their twenties. They both drank. It was a social context that I had never seen before. I enjoyed hearing the stories they told as we sat around a big table and shared a large pizza.

There have been other outstanding pizza places that I have known in my life but none made quite the impression on me as these two establishments did. I intend to go back to Springfield some time and see if the pizza at Gabatoni’s is as good as I remember. I’d stop by the Jackson Bench but it is nothing but a concrete slab.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.