Tag Archives: Arlington

Best pizza ever

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.

nicola

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.

mary and nick

The best darn piano teacher in Arlington… VA

When Hannah was a little girl, we enrolled her in Keys for Kids, a group piano class. The program, created by a marvelous, innovative woman named Inga Magid, requires that each child be accompanied by a parent who sits with them at one of the electronic keyboards and works with them at home. For years, Andrew and Hannah participated in the program, moving through the entire curriculum from Mini Keys, to Kinder Keys to Super Keys. When Hannah began individual lessons with Miss Inga her enthusiasm waned. I suggested we get a new teacher and Andrew wailed, “But I love Miss Inga.”

“Then you should take lessons with her,” I replied. He did, and that’s a story for another time, but it left us without a piano teacher for Hannah. Then, in one of those rare coincidences that makes you believe in angels, I found a business card stuck in our screen door. On it was a picture of a piano with local contact information for a teacher of same. I called, and a few days later we met Candace Cleary.

Inga trained in the classical Russian tradition. She is an exuberant, out-going Latvian, who scolds and cajoles in equal parts. Candace is from Canada and got her music degree at a university there. I do not know what her own training was like, but she developed a teaching style that is warm and encouraging. She is gentle, and earnest, and soft-spoken.

Candace lived in the center of town, and taught in her apartment. At our first meeting she served us lemonade and cookies in her impeccably clean, simply decorated living room. She had us at hello.

New to the area, Candace was just beginning to build her clientele. Before long I had recommended her to my sister and a friend, each of whom brought two new students to her, and it wasn’t long before Candace had a schedule full of dedicated students, and grateful parents. She found music that appealed to each individual, teaching some popular music, others classical or jazz. Under her guidance, the students developed confidence as well as skill. She encouraged Hannah’s interest in improvisation and another student’s interest in composing. There was nothing cookie-cutter about Candace.

For years Hannah had been happily taking lessons from Candace and we were thrilled. Many kids give up on music once they enter high school, but here we were, in Hannah’s junior year, and she was still going strong. And then, Candace told us that her husband had gotten a job in Washington and they were moving to Arlington, VA. I was devastated, as we all were.

It was such a joy to introduce people who were searching for a piano teacher to Candace. I’m hoping that residents of Arlington, VA will google for “piano teacher, Arlington, VA” and find this blog post. It would give me great pleasure to help Candace find students in her new home. But she only needs one to get the ball rolling; after that word will spread fast because a good piano teacher is hard to find. And now the best darn piano teacher in Arlington is in Arlington, VA. You can contact her at candace_cleary@icloud.com.

I’m sure I speak for all of Candace Cleary’s former students and their families when I say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

02476

I wrote this for a contest for Zip Code stories that Radio Boston co-sponsors with The Drum Literary Magazine. I read it during the open mic portion of an evening that celebrated the February stories. The winner was my friend, Lisa Rogers. You can hear a snippet of the evening, and a few of my sentences, here.

02476

I moved to Arlington because I wanted a house that was close to the city, in a town I could afford. I didn’t check out the school system or compare MCAS scores to surrounding towns. I didn’t inquire about the town’s tax base, or whether or not they were responsible for plowing sidewalks. When I moved in I was single. I didn’t get the local paper and I didn’t vote in local elections. I only knew my immediate neighbors by sight, and I couldn’t name a single person on the Board of Selectman.

About a year after I bought my house, I met a man. He moved in, we got married and had a baby. I started pushing the baby carriage around the neighborhood. I met other people pushing strollers, walking dogs, working in their gardens.

I subscribed to the local paper, and joined a town email list. I discovered that while I wasn’t paying attention, Arlington had become sought after by people being priced out of Lexington and Cambridge. I volunteered for a “Vote Yes for the Override” campaign. More time passed. I joined the Board of Directors of our pre-school, and then moved on to the PTO at my daughter’s elementary school. I went to School Committee meetings and worked on another override campaign.

After vigorous debate, liquor stores came to town, and restaurants began to serve alcohol. Arlington became a dining destination. We rebuilt several of our elementary schools. My work on the overrides helped make that happen. Recently, several small, boutique shops have moved into town. I worry about whether they’ll be able to make a go of it in our still shaky economy, but if everyone shops locally, they should be okay.

My daughter takes a town bus down Mass Ave to the high school and my husband takes the bus to work. When I have meetings in Boston, I catch a bus around the corner from my house that takes me to Alewife where I can hop on the T. Our Subaru is over a year old and it has less than four thousand miles on it. I applaud the plan to make Mass Ave more bicycle-friendly, and intend to lobby the MBTA to preserve our bus routes.

I’ve lived in Arlington for over twenty years now and I’m fully invested in it. My roots have grown deep. Today, when I meet someone who is thinking about moving to Arlington, I tell them about the bike path, the restaurants, our schools and yes, our MCAS scores. I explain that we don’t have much industry in town so our tax base is limited, but that our population has a very high percentage of people who work in non-profit sectors so we have a lot of heart. I tell them that Arlington is a wonderful place to raise a child and that if they move to town, I guarantee, it will grow on them.