40 years ago, it was called “Bill’s,” and it was in the same location. Hasn’t changed much, same counter, same booths, now fairly worn, the faux leather brittle with age. The home-spun murals of scenes of Italy on the walls are fading.
But would the pizza hold up? Did we love it because it was great? Or because at the time, it was the only show in town?
My sophomore roommate was a guy from Chicago named Joe Szabo. Nice guy. Talented artist. Wanted to grow up to be a famous talented artist. Hope he made it.
Most college roommates experience the “either / or” phenomena, meaning that it’s pretty normal that one roommate has some money, and the other doesn’t. The cycle reverses on a regular basis.
In our dorm room, whoever had the money had the power to dictate toppings: Joe always got ground beef and diced onion; for me it was Italian sausage and sliced green olives. Neither of us minded the other’s selection.
There were a couple of great things about rooming with Joe. He had a car. And a very tasty morsel of a girlfriend. In a college dorm room, it’s hard not to become somewhat “familiar” with everything that goes on and Sara was, well (swoon).
One night Joe let me use his car (unheard of) so he and Sara could have a special “moment”. He flipped me a sawbuck, too, and said “go have a ‘za’, and take your time.
I started off down College Avenue, it was winter, there were patches of ice, I was very careful with Joe’s pride, a green Beetle. I stopped at the RR crossing for a slow moving freight, minding my own business, anticipating the ‘za, when WHAM! I got re-ended. As you probably know, the Beetle has the engine in the back, so a whack can cause serious damage.
No one was hurt, someone summoned the police, who informed me the drunk driver who just plowed into my roommate’s car was “so and so’s son”, and there was never, ever anything going to come of it.
And nothing did. I got a pizza all by myself, Joe and Sara had their special moment, and if Joe was ever pissed about the accident, he never let on.
So nearly 40 years later, I show up at Basil’s, order a medium of (my) sausage and green olive, and (Joe’s) ground beef and onion, to compare and contrast as it were, to see if this is great pizza, or just a glorified memory.
I did notice a couple things while the dude is making the pie, things that (for me) are critical for a good pie: 1) sliced cheese, not shredded, and 2) bulk sausage, pinched by hand, in nice sized pieces.
The old Baker’s Pride ovens had lost some oomph, it would take a full 15 minutes to bake, with the requisite occasional door opening, and paddle spin.
I took my hot pies back to my motel room. I tried one, then the other. Then the first, then the other. They were superb. Great melted cheese that clings to the crust, a cracker like crust, a big of tang to the sauce, and quality toppings.
Could I eat two mediums all by myself? Nah. But 40 years ago I could.
Basils Pizza Review