Mama’s has the best pizza in Santa Barbara. We sit on opposite sides of a little table for two with a red and white checked tablecloth. I take a book of matches out of my purse and light the blue candle in one of those chianti bottles wrapped in straw. It flickers between us and gives his skin a golden glow. A waiter brings the pizza and sets it on a circular metal stand in the center of the table. He moves the candle over to the side. The pizza is gorgeous–thick, bubbly mozzarella cheese studded with chunks of Italian sausage and fat mushroom slices. We lift big pieces onto our plates. Mmmmmm, thick chewy crust, like fresh-baked Italian bread. For a long time we don’t speak. We just savor big juicy bites. It’s not something you can nibble at–it’s the sort of food you inhale. It’s “died and gone to heaven” pizza.
Sunday Scribblings – Food
Prompted by Sunday Scribblings: Dinner
Dinnertime for the dogs is serious business: lots of anticipatory chop-licking and jumping for joy when the bowls are being filled. I taught them to leap high in the air instead of jumping all over me, so it looks like the most joyful cavorting you can imagine. Then I set down the bowls. Each dog checks to make sure the other one didn’t get more. It’s the same with treats, and if a piece of jerky should fall out of Kieran’s mouth (he’s clumsy and not too bright), Jilly snatches it before he even realizes what happened.
When Joel and I were university students, we’d have dinner at Mama’s, an Italian restaurant right out of the movies with red-and-white checked tablecloths and candles in chianti bottles dripping wax all over the straw holders. We’d begin with antipasto–cold cuts, cheese slices, peppers and olives–while we waited for the pizza. At last it would come, round, hot, and succulent with bubbly melted cheese, sliced unevenly with an equal number of slices but some pieces bigger than others. Like a couple of dogs, we’d eye the pizza and try to grab the biggest slice first. Sometimes I won; sometimes he did. Mama’s pizza was wonderful, meant to be savored, but we bolted it like dogs, racing to get to the last slice before the other person could. Joel always got the last piece; I just couldn’t eat fast enough. Dessert would be spumoni, green and pink ice cream full of candied fruit. We each had our own bowl to linger over and enjoy, and it’s still my favorite ice cream.
Besides fighting over pizza, we found countless other ways to be unkind to each other until I moved to another state, found someone else, and had a child. Joel was killed in an accident. I still think of him when “49 Bye-Byes” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash comes on the radio; it was our song. How we could be best friends, lovers, and utterly horrible to each other all at the same time still pains me, but now, years later, the best-friends part is what remains.