There’s no place like home… unless there is… but… what’s in a name?


When I was in high school, and for a bit while in college, I worked at a pizza place.

It was called Town Pizza, and I’m going to tell you not to look for it, because it’s no longer there. The owner sold the property twenty-five or so years ago. For the continuing history of the building, I know a disputed bakery moved in at one point—disputed for several reasons worthy of another story, at another time (almost definitely told by someone else)—but, even knowing the area very well, I honestly couldn’t tell you who has the keys to the doors these days. I don’t know what sign hangs outside, and changes to traffic flow in the area mean I rarely drive by even when I’m running around the city.

The times I spent there are fond memories. Probably the best job I ever had, with some funny moments and terrific people. Quite likely similar to a job or two you’ve had along the way.

But there is a somewhat strange twist to the Town Pizza story. It’s found in the name. As I recall, it wasn’t the only Town Pizza in the state of Rhode Island at the time. A quick internet search shows that Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts all have at least one place in operation right now called Town Pizza. There are dozens upon dozens more, but you probably already knew that (and we don’t need the official count to continue). Town Pizza… Village Pizza… pretty common places to see.

I tend to pay attention to pizza. If for no other reason than I grew up around good pizza, which was a requirement to stay in business if you ran a place based on that as a central part of your menu. At one point during my youth, there was a strip of road where, even today, I could name seven different pizzerias that existed within a two-mile stretch. All of them had their supporters and existed for several years. A few others appeared and disappeared along that run of road. Most have vanished over time.

I get critical of places, and have been surprised during moves over the years, by how many neighborhoods are missing out on pizza of even passable quality. It’s kind of depressing. That said…

One time, Terry and I lived in a town with a Johnny’s Pizza. It was ok. Not great. Barely good. It was, however, the most convenient source of pizza for us. We moved less than five miles away, where we would begin ordering our pizzas from a completely different enterprise known as Johnny’s Pizza. Having eaten pizza around the country, I would actually guess there’s a chance that the most frequently used name for a place focused on serving pizza is Johnny’s Pizza. It borders right up against inescapable. I would even extend that guess to a wager that the majority of people in the United States live within 50 miles of a place called Johnny’s Pizza.

Of course, the name itself isn’t necessarily a reflection of quality. I’ve eaten at many different Town Pizza and Village Pizza and Johnny’s Pizza restaurants over the years. For some, I’ve returned. For others, never again. A few, I wholeheartedly recommend to others.

The misty haze of all this is the stories. A Town Pizza location in Rhode Island is almost certainly not the same as a Town Pizza in Michigan. Same idea for any of your Village Pizza locations or Johnny’s Pizza locations. These are not national chains. These are family owned businesses. These are places heavily staffed by kids working their first or second jobs, if not just sons and daughters of ownership.

And when the kids move on and the parents retire… the lights are turned off, signs taken down, and another Town Pizza fades into history. The changing landscape of local business.

We could make jokes about the country. Base the punchlines on how all of us know the shopping plazas anchored by the two-sided presence of a home improvement store on one end of the parking lot and a super-duper-all-purpose store on the other. Still, I feel comfortable saying there are more family owned pizza places in the country than all of the Lowe’s and Walmarts and Home Depots and Targets combined.

Maybe you have a Village Pizza. Or a Town or a Johnny’s. My guess is that you do. Serves pizza. Maybe some subs on the menu (or grinders or hoagies or heroes or whatever the name for sandwiches is in your particular region). More importantly, some good people.

I miss my Town Pizza. Might be several like it if we compare generalities, but the reality is there’s nothing like it. I’d fill out an application today if I could go back in time and work another few shifts behind the counter. But more than anything else, I’d just like to place an order.


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