Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Remembering the Italian Village on State Street (and wondering where Purgolders ate pizza in the 1960s)

Spring is here. That means budding trees, sunny daffodils, April showers, tornados, and construction season. Walk down State Street and you'll discover the reason the 25th Crazylegs Classic runners are using a different route this year. The 300 and 400 blocks of State Street are torn up for the summer. Among other things, this means many restaurants won't be able to offer alfresco dining.

Construction isn't the only sign of change on State Street. The homogenization continues. Small, local businesses continue to be replaced by national chains (and not everyone thinks that's bad).

Long gone are local favorites such as Good Karma, the Ovens of Brittany, Petrie's, the Caramel Crisp Shop, Renenbohm's (not small, but definitely local), The Penny University (right off State Street on Fairchild), the Uptown, Stemp Typewriter, the Ethel Woods corset store, Ella's Delicatessen, Hill's Department Store, and Weber's Restaurant.

Today, State Street is littered with names such as Starbucks, The Gap, Taco Grande, and now the restaurant that dares you to say its name aloud: Fuddruckers.

The 25-year old chain that claims to create "the world's greatest hamburger" (and doesn't have an apostrophe in its name) recently moved into 651 State Street. Sure it's cool to try an ostrich burger, but the novelty of eating big bird burgers wears off soon -- and if you've dined on fresh ostrich in CuraƧao, you'll be really be disappointed with this semi-fast food version. UW students may be excited by the sidewalk sign that's been out in front of the restaurant announcing that it will soon stay open until 4 a.m. on weekends, but there are other places I'd rather spend my time on weekends. And any organization with a website that downloads at a tortoise-like pace is definitely more interested in flash than providing substantive information about its menu.

I used to eat pizza at 651 State Street, but that was long ago -- back when this was the location of the Italian Village, a restaurant that served great food without resorting to gimmicks. The Italian Village was where many students from Central headed after a home basketball game or school dance. There were other places for pizza back then, including the old Paisan's on University Avenue by Lorenzo's, but I think because they were a few blocks further away, they tended to be frequented by university students, not high school students. Feel free to challenge (or supplement) my recollections, however.

Reminiscing about pizza in the 1960s also brings back memories of Lombardino's on University and Highland, not far away from West High School. Lombardino's is still there, but clusters of plastic grapes no longer dangle from the ceiling. It's under new ownership, and the menu has been updated, but Lombardino's still serves great pizza (although the recipe has definitely changed and the choices are limited).

Thinking about pizza past and present has raised a question I cannot answer: Where did Purgolders eat pizza? I can't remember any pizza places near East High School in the 1960s. Perhaps, someone can fill in the gap. Or maybe we'll discover the Purgolders preferred hanging out at the Ice Cream Shop or some other local spot to late night pizza.


Marlene said...

The pizza place that I recall going to after basketball games was Casa Da Pizza. It was on State right across from the Carmel Corn Shop on the same side of the street. I loved to go there on Fri. nights. I had to order either cheese or shrimp pizza because of my Catholic upbringing. Jo Ann Benell and I would chow down shrimp pizza while others ate sausage, etc. We would walk there directly from the games at Central. Of course, we walked everywhere in those days :) Good Times!!

Nadine said...

Janet sent me an email advising pointing out an error in my post, so I've made a correction. It wasn't the Caramel Corn Shop, it was the Caramel Crisp Shop.

D Strand said...

That explains, Marlene, why you and Joanne were always so straight laced!
When I lived one block from East in the Summer of '61, I hung out at The Ice Cream Shop. It was great. I always had a marshmellow sundae with chocolate ice cream!
But, your post was right on, Nadine. The IV was the best and the others were too far for Centralites! Thanks for the picture of the IV. I had forgotten what it looked like!

Marlene said...

We may not have been as "straight laced" as you thought we were :)

D Strand said...

That's probably a GOOD thing. I mean that I "thought" you were straight laced! I remember there was no close dancing at Noon hour dancing. If Mr. Harris couldn't put a chair between you, you were in trouble!

Marlene said...

Truth be known.....we were pretty straight laced :). But that's the way we wanted it. Don't get me wrong, we had a lot of "yuks", but all in good, clean fun. I would get Jo Ann laughing so hard on the way home from school she would just about pee her pants!!! Maybe she did :). God, I hope she reads this!!!!!!!

D Strand said...

Give us a comment, Joanne. Did you
pee your pants??

D Strand said...

I guess I remember Joanne best from Spanish. She was pretty good in it as I recall! She could conjugate, pronounce, remember, etc. The yearbook says she was in Spanish Club all three years which is pretty impressive to me. That would have been Mueller and Panke.
Bob Fox was another one who was very good in Spanish.
Tell me, Joanne, if you read this, did you ever use your Spanish?