Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pizza Pilgrims in the Bronx: Louie and Ernie's Pizza

Yesterday was a major day of Pizza Pilgrimage. Louie and Ernie's Pizza, on Crosby Avenue in the east Bronx, was the pizza of my earliest memories. My brother Ron - who makes his living as a chef based on his memories of growing up in the Italian east Bronx - admitted that he couldn't really remember the actual place where he first encounted pizza, so off we went. Bob Godfried, an old musician friend who is a living, walking encyclopedia of everything pertaining to Bronx history and anthropology, piled us into the Godfriedmobile for this most holy of events. We rolled through the streets blasting Macedonian brass band music as we passed through the growing Albanian neighborhoods of the Bronx. The Best Pizza in the World. The smell hit us on entering. It hasn't changed in the last thirty years. Compared to other pizzas, this is the King of Tomato Sauce, obviously made with imported whole canned Italian tomatos. Crispy crust, just the right amount of cheese. Thick mushrooms. Cooked thick mushrooms. Raw mushrooms tossed on a pizza is a bad sign.We decided to check in at our old address on Coddington Avenue. This is the house where we grew up before moving out in late 1966. As you can see below, it has not changed much at all since 1958, when this photo was taken. The street is still populated by descendants of the families I grew up with. Italians, German, Irish, Greeks, and Latin Americans. Nobody moved away. This is the old Bronx - hard new York accents, people who rarely leave the borough. I offered to send a copy of some of my photos to the present owners of this house. They don't have email. That is really quite refreshing in these times. In the Bronx they don't use email. The east Bronx is one of the heaviest Italian neighborhoods in the city of New York, with a preponderance of southern Italians from Naples, Sicily, Calabria and Apuglia. Bob took us over to Arthur Avenue at 187th st to visit the last real "Little Italy" in New York. The Arthur Avenue neighborhood near Fordham University is one of the last undiscovered - read uncool - ethnic neighborhoods left in the city. You can buy fresh pasta, baccala, amazing breads, salamis and cured meats that are simply not available anywhere else in North America. Mr. Italian Meat, Chef Ron, with Italian meat. A supremely Italian Meat moment. These were taken less than 24 hours ago. We staggered out of there with a huge load of sausages, salamis, and fresh ravioli. They are all gone now. All gone! So sad. Have to go back and get more...

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