Trenton Makes (Pizza) and I Take

I'd put off going to De Lorenzo's Tomato Pies in Trenton, NJ, for a few years now. I'll get there, I thought. What's the rush? 

Then it turned out the rush was on, as I read in the Star-Ledger last month that De Lorenzo's, open in its current bathroom-less location since 1947, was going to close its doors on January 15, 2012. OK, no problem. Still no need to rush. 

Then came the holidays and shopping and I had other things on my mind. Then it was Christmas. Then it was 2012. And then it was January 12 and I thought, hmmm, maybe I should get on this. 

And after reading an excellent tribute in the Star-Ledger on Friday, I started to put the wheels in motion. Prior research indicated it was walkable from the train station (underrated thing to see in NJ:  the art running from the Hamilton station to the Trenton station on the Northeast Corridor line, which starts with a giant sculpture of people sitting in conversation and concludes with an impressive Amy Winehouse graffiti memorial mural), so I mulled it over, with the final stumbling block being a potentially demoralizing trip to the Nassau Coliseum for Pat Flatley Night. Mr. Flatley is my all-time favorite Islander, and his name is on the back of my first circa-1990 Islanders jersey (signed a few years ago), so though I knew it would be cool to see him inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame, I feared that the current Islanders would muck it all up and come out flat after the ceremony. And that, and the long, sad ride home from Long Island, might make me less likely to get up early on Sunday.

But, hooray, Islanders win! (it helped that the Sabres looked flat, but a win's a win, and, on a side note, I hereby publicly apologize to any children in my section who heard my vulgarities when the Sabres were awarded a penalty shot with less than two minutes to go and a call that I'm gonna say here was questionable and that I said was something else from my seat at the Coliseum). So, I left Long Island happy and woke up early Sunday morning to print out directions and layer up (six!) for the likely two-hour wait in the cold to get into DeLorenzo's (they open at 4 and close at either 8 or 9, and only seat around 50, so it was going to require some early arriving). 
When I arrived, after a brief walking detour through lovely downtown Trenton, at around 2:30, there weren't too many people in line (and those that were brought their own camping chairs). But that was a bit deceptive, because there were also a few people huddling up in cars while their spots in line were held (the first group was about 20 people strong). Still, I wound up being about 25th in line when the "Pizza" light came on at 4 p.m. and the door opened for the last time to the public. 

I got some ordering tips from Danny, one of the leaders of the big group in line, who asked where I'd come from and seemed impressed that I'd made the trip down from Jersey City, I decided to keep it pretty basic, ordering a large, half-garlic and then, on Danny's recommendation, getting a "half-baked" to take home. 

There isn't a ton of space in the De Lorenzo's oven, and I was a few tables behind in line (several of whom were bringing it home with style, ordering four or more pies for a four-person table), so I soaked in the sights. The cash register is the most famous non-edible feature of De Lorenzo's, and rightfully so. And the rotary phone (whose receiver was taken off the hook, was a nice feature, too. 

The owners, Gary and Eileen Amico, looked like they were keeping it together, though someone at the table in front of me mentioned that Eileen was crying as a customer jumped up on his seat to give a speech thanking Gary and Eileen for bringing so much joy into his life and creating pizza and a pizzeria that was just about a religious experience. Eileen hugged the customer after the speech, and we all applauded. 

And, a little while later, my heavenly pizza arrived. 

Yes, I ate the whole thing myself. And I am proud of it. I even got my own round of applause from the table of folks across from me. Danny and his booth seemed proud of me as well. 

After having my picture taken by a photographer for some newspaper (I'm guessing), which, with any luck, will not make it into print anywhere, I layered back up, settled the bill (Danny bought me a birch beer, after I graciously declined his offers of beer and wine), grabbed my half-baked, and headed back to the train station, thought not before a woman who said she'd been going to De Lorenzo's since she was a girl (I believe she said she was now in her 60s) and I talked about family businesses and places that just do one thing and do it well without any fancy trappings. Those kinds of places disappear more and more every year, so it's sad to see places like De Lorenzo's go. But I'm glad I had my one visit.

And I'm also full. Thanks, Gary, Eileen, and crew for making it possible. My condolences to all of you who never made it there.

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