Pino’s Pizzeria in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been in business since I was about eight or nine years old. When I was in grade school at PS200 a few blocks away, I would walk there with my friends to have lunch on Fridays, the one day a week that we all went out for lunch. The place would be absolutely packed with school kids, and though I can’t recall precisely, I think you could get two slices and a Coke for around $1.25. Yikes. Am I that old?
Throughout the years, there have been only three different owners, and the food at Pino’s has remained excellent throughout. You can keep your designer pizza. As far as I’m concerned, there are only three places in the world you’ll ever get good pizza: Brooklyn, Staten Island and Italy. Anywhere else, all bets are off. Manhattan? Meh. And that includes all of the “original famous-named” joints.
Pino’s is located down the street from my studio, and for a time it was the de-facto lunch or dinner destination (sometimes both) when I’d have sessions. It’s even been mentioned in the production credits of one or two of the projects recorded there.
The pizza at Pino’s slipped a bit around a year ago (though the rest of their menu didn’t) but seems to have come back up to snuff recently. I’m really happy about that because, if Pino’s had a frequent flyer card, I’d easily have earned Executive Diamond Grand Cheese status. I visit there two or three times a week, travel schedule notwithstanding.
That is, until the pandemic hit, at which point I stopped going anywhere unless it was absolutely necessary. Sorry to say, Pino’s was one of the stops I had to take off the schedule.
Today, while eating a slice from Pino’s for the first time in months, I started thinking about all of those places near the venues I work that must be suffering from COVID-19 fallout, places that would feed the crews working at a venue, supply after-show food for the bands, or would field the 6:30 p.m. pre-show and 10:30 p.m. post-show rushes from patrons attending an event at a nearby theater or club.
John’s on Bleeker Street in Manhattan; Niramish down the street from the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta; that hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Paso Robles near the State Fairgrounds; the guys in the kitchen at Slim’s in San Francisco who always took such great care of us. Many of those establishments thrive on walk-in business. Some are surviving by providing delivery and pickup, but others have been forced to close, at least temporarily.
I’m hopeful that most of these places will still exist when I return to those locations because it would be a shame for them to close shop—not just because I like the food, but because many of them are neighborhood fixtures and are important to their respective communities. In the meantime, I’m cautiously optimistic that, like Pino’s, they’ll find a way to survive.