Friday, June 18, 2010

Home Is Where the Pizzeria Is (Was)

I'd like to convey a note of remembrance for a great Des Plaines institution that closed its doors a year ago this month.

In my opinion, one of the most important establishments in any kind of town or city is a good local pizzeria. I suppose this stems from the fact that I grew up in Topton, PA, which had a population of just 2,000 people yet had two pizzerias: both were named Tony's, were owned by the same people, and were right around the corner from one another. To me, this unusual anomaly was always the principal factor that made Topton unique, but it also provided something else: a community center-point. I have many fond memories of going to Tony's after Little League games (it was a block or two blocks away from the baseball field, depending on which one you went to), or running to grab some pizzas for the cast and crew of the Drama Club when we had a break in between dress rehearsals in high school. In fact, while providing my mother-in-law with a recent whirlwind tour of Pennsylvania (she'd never been there before), we stopped and ate at Tony's. There, I bumped into a couple old friends (and their new kids) who had moved out of town as well but were back eating at Tony's.

"A place where everybody knows your name" may sound trite, but there's a reason why that phrase is oft repeated (besides the many epsiodes of "Cheers"): a local pizzeria offers familiarity, and with that comes peace and comfort. It also helps if the food is good, too.

When I started working at the library a few years ago, I didn't know Des Plaines very well. However, it only took me a little bit of time before I found the local pizzeria just down the street from the library: Depot Pizzeria at the Sim's Bowl & Lounge. The people there were extremely friendly and made their customers feel welcome. The pizza was great, and it was twice as better on Wednesdays due to it being half the cost.

What made me happiest, however, was seeing families with kids in little league uniforms coming in to the Depot during the summer. The time and location may have changed, but I was glad to see people still held the core values of fun, family, and food. I understand it was a long-standing establishment in the heart of downtown Des Plaines, and I feel lucky to have experienced a part of its tradition. While we are not sure what the future may hold for that particular spot of real estate, I wanted Depot Pizza to be recognized and remembered for the spot that it held in the heart of many Des Plainians. You are missed.


Karen said...

The Depot's pizza was delicious and I loved the small-town, vaguely crazy atmosphere there. I feel partly to blame for its demise as my other favorite pizza place in Des Plaines closed as soon as I started working here and the Depot 2.5 years later. I feel like I'm leaving a trail of pizzas in my wake.

BW Des Plaines said...

The just-opened Roselli's Pizza on Lee near Algonquin reminds me a lot of the Depot.

David Whittingham said...

Now I am hungry! Pizza is still often at or near the center of events. At last weeks' teen Battle of the Bands, the Des Plaines Teen Center brought 40 pizzas to give away to kids at the event (and it all got eaten).

Btw, I love Little Villa!

Lynne said...

I have great memories of the Depot. Members of the library's circulation staff shared many enjoyable lunches there. Good food, great service, and a sense of belonging are what make local spots like the Depot unforgettable.

Jeanne said...

Little Villa is still the best pizza in DP, but I am sad for the loss of the Depot. It was a great lunch spot for DPPL employees!

Linda K. said...

Karen, you're not the cause of the demise of restaurants in Des Plaines. Ken and I are the cause! It seems like everytime we find one we really like... it's gone. Luckily the curse hasn't extended to Giuseppe's. We've been going there since 1968 (when it was called Nick's)and they're still going strong. Last week we were there and their family matriarch was visiting and still remembered us. The place is now run by the nieces and nephews of the former owners. Unlike Joel I can't remember a pizza place in my old Chicago neighborhood. Every corner had a tavern, but no pizza places!

Karen said...

The pizza place in my old neighborhood, Hillside, IL, is still going strong. It's called Q's and it totally has that old school pizza joint vibe - I LOVE it and go back often, bringing new friends with me just to have the experience. If you've been to Q's, you know exactly what the surrounding community is like.

Abbondanza Mangiare said...

I agree Joel. Two things bind society: pizza and libraries. You're a wonderful advocate for both.

Lauren said...

I can't believe its been a whole year its been gone. I have good memories of meeting my mom (a library employee) and some of her co-workers, who became my friends as well, for lunch with my son when he was a baby. The Depot was awesome. :(

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