There’s no dearth of pizza places in Arlington, and they all have their supporters and detractors. Ask “Who has the best pizza?” on our local email list and you’ll spark a thread as lively as the most heated political debate.
Before I moved to Arlington I lived in Waltham where I was a regular at a joint called Anna’s Pizza. Anna’s made Sicilian pizza, the large square kind with a thicker crust than your typical round pizza. And they were bigger, too. One Sicilian pizza could easily be dinner and lunch for two people. When my roommate and I decided to move to Arlington, we were afraid of what giving up Anna’s would mean in terms of our ability to feed ourselves, but luckily we discovered Nicola Pizza. It turned out that the two pizza places were related somehow (I’ve long since forgotten how). Nicola also made Sicilian pizza, and it was every bit as good as Anna’s. That made the transition to our new town much easier.
Then along came Andrew whose favorite pizza, Sicilian or otherwise, is Margherita. Margheritas have big chunks of tomatoes (which I abhor) and lots of garlic (which I adore).The taste of the garlic and the cheese almost make up for the icky-ness of the tomatoes, but to this day, whenever we share a Margherita pizza all my tomatoes end up on his plate. Because I love Andrew, we eat a lot of them.
Andrew and Nicola Pizza and I have been together happily for more than twenty years. Andrew and I are going strong with no end in sight. Nicola, however, ceased operations on June 23. We knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to say good-bye. After over forty years slaving over a hot oven, Nick and his wife, Mary, decided to close shop.
Over time, I expect we’ll find a reasonable substitute. I don’t think Nicola was the only place in town that made Sicilian pizzas, but then we never had to explore further than our own neighborhood once we found them. With a Celiac in the family now, it probably makes sense to try to embrace a place that will also make gluten-free pizza. There are a few, including one that is highly touted by members of the Arlington email list. Sadly, I’ve been singularly unimpressed by their pizza the few times we’ve tried it.
Even if we find pizza of equivalent quality to Nicola’s Sicilian, nothing will replace the people themselves, most notably, Mary. Anyone who has ever been served by Mary remembers her. She called all of us “honey” or “dahlin’,” but without any real affection. I often wondered if her contempt for her customers was real, or if she really was just being funny. It’s impossible to know, but I sometimes observed her muttering under her breath after a customer had left, occasionally drawing me into her monologue with a raised eyebrow or a chin jerk in the direction of the departed. I would never have dreamed of disagreeing with her. She stood between me and the best pizza in the world. And my family and I will miss them all.