The family-owned Pizza Oven, a small pizzeria at 80th and State Line, has closed. The restaurant's website puts it very simply: "Closed for business."
When the restaurant opened, in December of 2008, owners Kevin and Chris Ferrel were optimistic about their mom-and-pop pizza parlor, even if the location had a lousy track record: Before the Pizza Oven took it over, the storefront had been home to two unsuccessful Philly cheesesteak joints and a short-lived Asian restaurant.
The Pizza Oven remained opened longer than I predicted. Sure, the location was lousy, but honestly, I never thought the Ferrel's pizza and sandwiches were all that memorable. I have friends, however, who were fiercely loyal to the restaurant.
There are only so many hours in the day, and restaurateur Victor Almo -- owner of the four-year-old Art of Pizza in the Crossroads and the nine-month-old restaurant of the same name in Westport -- has simply used up too many of them. Last week, Almo put up a "closed" sign in the window of the Westport location and locked the door.
"I just don't have the stamina or the desire to work that hard anymore," Almo says. "Even before I opened the Westport location, I was working 85 hours a week in the Crossroads. And then, suddenly, I'm working over 100 hours a week. I'm over 50 years old -- I'm no spring chicken anymore."
The new pizzeria on the Country Club Plaza, Coal Vines Pizza & Wine Bar -- this week's Cafe review -- made me wonder how many Fat City readers can remember the first time they ever tasted pizza in a restaurant?
I can, because I remember -- and I was a child of the 1960s -- how different a hot, bubbling restaurant pizza tasted compared with the frozen discs or the Chef Boyardee "pizza mix" that my mother would bake at home. There wasn't such a thing as "gourmet" pizza in those days. In fact, many Midwestern Italian restaurants offered their pizza not as the main event but as something more like a side dish, something to eat with lasagna, garlic-broiled steaks or pan-fried chicken.
|Blue Grotto's Panne Frattau/Photograph by Angela C. Bond|
Yeah, this sounds pretty outrageous, doesn't it? The ideal candidate
to make this judgment is the man or woman in Kansas City who
has eaten at least one slice of every single specialty pizza prepared
and sold in the city. That would not, mercifully, be me -- though I've
eaten a hell of a lot of Kansas City pizza over the past 25 years.
That number would include a popular pizza variation that I had successfully avoided for decades: one topped with pineapple and Canadian bacon. The very idea of it was repugnant to me, since it had absolutely no connection to the Neapolitan roots of this dish. Pineapple? Ham? A few weeks ago, I was tricked into tasting a piece of Canadian ham-and-pineapple pie. Not bad, but I'd never have it again -- or add it to a list of favorite pies.
I have friends who still insist that the best pizza they ever tasted was that doughy, greasy square slab of cheese-topped garbage that they were served in their high school cafeteria. Although, thanks to years of therapy, I've effectively blocked out almost every possible memory from my high school days, I can still remember that horrible pizza. I could never have eaten anything quite so visually unappetizing.
But I did, come to think of it. Before the modern plague of tasteless frozen pizzas infested grocery freezer cases, there was Chef Boyardee's make-it-at-home boxed pizza "kit" that was sort of a less-greasy variation of the crappy product sold in high school. It looked and tasted pretty awful, too.
ICEEEEEEEEEEBERGSIMPSON! was off the chain!
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