Archived Story

Write Again … Basketball and pizza pie — Buono!

Published 6:04pm Monday, May 28, 2012

There were several of us. Maybe four or five. Perhaps six. Memory doesn’t allow me a certainty after so many years.

We were up in the big town. Raleigh. All of us were from right here. Little Washington.

And we were all in our mid-or late teens. Young men. We were “cool,” of course.

Why were we in Raleigh? We were there for a big basketball tournament. The Dixie Classic. As big and as good as it gets.

All the games were being held in William Neal Reynolds Coliseum, on the campus of N.C. State. Big-time college basketball. Pure heaven.

We all went to get a bite to eat between the afternoon and evening games (there were four games each day for three straight days).

We walked from the Coliseum over to Hillsborough Street, and then across the street and just a couple of doors down a side street, at right angle to Hillsborough.

Our destination was Players Retreat! This was the most renowned restaurant and tavern in the college age sphere. Everybody in this demographic knew about Players Retreat, and probably just about everybody went there during their college days in Raleigh.

So. Where else would we teenage lads from the banks of the Pamlico even consider? Where else, indeed.

We knew what we were going to order even before we went in. I mean, who would even consider anything other than a pizza pie?

Yes. That’s right. A pizza pie. That’s what we called it. Such a culinary delight was foreign to those of us who came from down east.

Oh, you might hear it mentioned in a movie or TV show but pizza pie simply wasn’t available in our town.

Our next move was to have one of us muscle through the mass of humanity in the establishment and place our order. We’d worry about finding a table or booth later.

It was Bunk who took the initiative to be the one to place the order. I managed to work my way through the standing room only crowd, and to stand almost next to Bunk when he finally got the attention of one of the employees behind the bar.

With pad in hand he asked Bunk “What’ll it be?”

Bunk replied, “We want a pizza pie. A big one.” (Well done, friend.)

It was then that the process got a bit sticky.

“What do you want on it?” Well. That sort of “threw” Bunk. He gathered his wits, and said, “We’ll take it with cheese. Yeah. Cheese.”

The fellow with the order pad replied, not really impatiently, either, that “They all come with cheese.”

Bunk was then a bit befuddled. He looked at me. I wasn’t any help. I mean, after all, I’m a teenager from Little Washington. Nobody at home “did” pizza pies.

Not to be deterred, Bunk, rather boldly I thought, said with a bit of mustered confidence: “We want it all the way!”

I mean, heck, Bunk probably felt that since a hot dog or hamburger was best when it was “all the way,” then why not a pizza pie. Made sense to me.

Now, I don’t recall what toppings were put on ours, but I’m sure we all enjoyed it. Probably it was not too many years after our Players Retreat experience that most of us learned that it was not necessary to add “pie” to the name of this delightful Italian food.

In fairness to us, however, Dino Martini (Dean Martin) sang back in those days “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore…”

As a footnote, I might add that my level of pizza taste sophistication grew to really love anchovies on it.

If that doesn’t impress you, then I don’t know what will.

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