The Queen of the realm and the younger Prince Midget were off at college orientation today. The older Prince Midget was off doing some work with his cousin. So I did what I do. Stopped at Roma’s II Pizzeria to order a small white pizza and have a couple of Peroni’s while I waited. Not having planned ahead for this side trip, I had no reading material of my own and I’m not one to just sit there and wait. Gotta have something to occupy the old noggin.
By the way, Roma’s has been filling my gut for 30 years. From the days with ex-psycho girlfriend and roommate Jon and our orders of a large pepperoni and extra mushrooms to my discovery of their white pizza and a whole lot of other goodness in between. They are one of those comfort food places that withstand the inevitable test of time. But that’s not my memory…
In Sacramento, we have an alternative weekly that has been around for decades. Sacramento News & Review. While the quality and depth of the reporting has gone down significantly over the years, there typically is still enough content to give me something to read for the 20 minutes it takes for Roma’s to make me a pizza. And Roma’s typically has a stack of the News & Review by their front door. And publication date is Thursday. And this being Thursday, it’s a fresh, new issue.
So, I ordered. “Small white pizza.”
“That’s it,” Maria, the owner, asked.
“Yep. Nobody else is at home.”
“Okay,” she replied. “You want a Peroni. One or two or three.” She smiled.
I sat at the bar and opened the News & Review and a frosted glass of Peroni showed up in front of me. I read here and there and got to this:
I used to wish I was Italian, and now I can pretend that I am by eating my way through Corti Brothers. My favorite item lately is the Store Sauce, a richly flavored tomato and meat sauce labeled “for ravioli and spaghetti.” They make it in-house as they have for over 50 years, with chunks of ground meat, vegetables, herbs and tomato paste. The recipe was adapted from the ragu made in the Corti home. Serve it with Corti’s beef and spinach ravioli — possibly the oldest food product produced in Sacramento (since 1947) — and taste the result of generations of Sacramento flavor.
Corti’s is an old fashioned grocery store that has served East Sacramento for decades. It’s the kind of place where you get your meat from the meat counter and none of it is prepackaged. There’s a deli counter that serves the best sliced meats and cheeses and other assorted deli treats. I have never been there when there hasn’t been a line at the deli counter. It probably has one of the best selections of wine and beer in town. And it has those raviolis and that sauce.
I remember the raviolis and sauce from my childhood. The raviolis in a cardboard box, heavily dusted with flour, in perfect form. The sauce in a small tub. We had this when I was a child. I have always remembered the box and the logo and words on the front. Only thing is that my mother doesn’t remember ever serving their raviolis and sauce. So she doesn’t have the memory. But I do.
As an adult, I have tended to skip Corti’s. It’s expensive, compared to the usual grocery store. But lately, as our financial situation has improved every so slightly, I’ve made my way there every now and then. Maybe to buy a couple of steaks that are more expensive and better quality than the neighborhood Safeway. Maybe to get something from the deli counter. And, yes, a few times over the last year or two, I’ve got the raviolis and the sauce.
It’s a memory. A connection to something I remember fondly from the “old days.”
I wonder sometimes in a world of corporate chains that cover every corner, of homogenized food that is the same here as it is over there, where we all seem too distracted by technology to even really notice some of these things anymore … whether our kids and their kids will have these kind of memories in the future. Seriously, can you imagine anybody decades form now recalling fondly … Chipotle. The produce section of Safeway. The smell of a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Any of that.