UNion 9-2800

Growing up in Wilmette, Illinois was pretty idyllic for my brother Kenny and me.  Life was small-town and carefree.  But there was one cloud that loomed over our sunny, Mayberry existence.

Our mother was terribly phobic.

Dogs, airplanes, elevators, cabs, downtown Chicago…if I went on to list the things of which she was deathly afraid there would be no room for this post.  Kenny and I took it in our stride.  We completely ignored her mishegoss and did everything and anything we wanted to.  We never internalized this nonsense, thank goodness.

But for some unknown reason, my mother’s Phobia To End All Phobia’s was- the pizza delivery man.

She was paranoid about strangers and she felt that any guy who came to your house when you called him would turn out to be, not to put too fine a point on it, Richard Speck.

Thus Kenny and I were strictly FORBIDDEN- under pain of death or permanent grounding- to ever order in pizza.

(And as we called our house “The Locker Room” and tried to be there only to change clothes, strict confinement to quarters was death.)

But, as I said, we simply bypassed her nutty edicts and the minute my folks were out of the house on Saturday night, my always-hungry little brother would be diving for a phone.

His pizza/ribs window of opportunity was small.  Our folks never stayed out much past eleven and he needed time to:

1. Order

2. Wait the (endless) hour that the delivery always took

3. Eat

4. Dispose of the evidence

Every step was fraught with danger.  Time was of the essence, and back in 1965 there was no Grub Hub app to get your food at a moment’s (and cell phone’s) notice.

There was Tonelli’s in Glenview and The Spot in Evanston.  These two joints served as Kenny’s cheese and sausage dealer/baby back connection every Saturday night.

(By this time, I was dating and out to dinner with some favorite beau on Friday and Saturday nights. Poor Kenny was left at home most of the time- driver’s license-less and ever-hungry.  But I had a Birdseye bird’s eye view on all of this, trust me.)

If the wait was agonizing, the garbage disposal process was tricky too.  All traces of rib bones, sauce containers, paper napkins, plastic forks, slaw cups and pizza boxes had to be completely erased.

With so much riding on it, Kenny was always justifiably anxious when it came to cleanup.

The garbage disposal was out.  (What if it jammed on a Spot rib bone?)  Ditto the garbage cans.   What if our mother took a good look inside the one in the kitchen some day?

And the same held true for the big, silver metal ones kept outside the back door.  We could not risk a verboten Tonelli’s pizza box turning up in there, either.

We couldn’t dice with death.  So what do you do if you’re a car-challenged little kid?

Easy.  Jump on your bike, ride like hell and then dump all the evidence over the bushy fence onto Edens Highway.

And although Steve Gersten and Jimmy Edelstein used to tease us both non-stop that they knew where we lived just from the detritus of pizza boxes and rib bones piling up along the roadside, my brother gave new meaning to the word “recycling.”

Kenny’s system was not always fool-proof.

There was an ugly rib bone incident when Jimmy, returning me home to meet my very strict curfew,*** casually gnawed on one he commandeered from Kenny and then absent-mindedly laid it down on the counter next to the sink.

Luckily Kenny spotted it the next morning- just before my mother clapped her eagle eye on it.  Quick as a flash, he covered it with his hand.  His well-known great hand-eye coordination had saved the day.

And our collective asses.

(***Another one of my mother’s groundless fears.  She felt that you were safe on the streets of Glencoe until 11:59 but promptly at midnight you’d be raped and murdered so I had to be home.  No matter what.  This also led to some very interesting, high-speed drag races to beat her clock.)

Then there was the time that our neighbor Mrs. W. innocently asked our mother how she had enjoyed her pizza last night.

Her query was met with a blank look- and then an alarm bell went off in her head and Mom went to ambush Kenny.

Fast thinking was required on his part- but he could always outwit her when it came to food.

“Did you order a pizza last night?” she pop-quizzed him suspiciously.

“Oh that wasn’t me.  A  delivery guy stopped here looking for the same street address.  In Skokie.”

“Hmm.”  My mother was not entirely convinced, but then again she had no hard evidence (see the section on “Garbage Disposal”) to convict with.

But the closest we both came to life in prison was during a wintertime.

My folks had taken off to Deerfield to see some friends.  As quick as you could say “large cheese and sausage please,” Kenny was dialing The Spot.

Mission Accomplished.  Houston we had lift-off.  Our pizza would be in our hot little hands in an hour.

And then my parents came home.

A bad snowstorm had closed the roads and they had sensibly turned back.  Their safe arrival triggered a Def Con Ten Red Scramble No Go No Go Pizza Alert.

This was not a drill!

“What do we do?” I asked Kenny- panicking as I saw before me my carefully-crafted social life cut off forever.

“You stall ’em upstairs while I call and cancel the order downstairs.”

Roger that.  And I manfully made my way up the stairs, and kept my mother trapped in her bedroom as I regaled her with some nonsensical gibberish about school or something.

As I filibustered, I could hear, out of the corner of my ear (is that an expression?) my brother PLEADING with the guy on the other end of the phone.

“You’ve got to cancel that order.  I don’t care if it is in the oven.  You can’t deliver it.  I’m begging you.”

Finally, after an eternity, I heard him hang up.

I hastily wound up my conversation with my mother and ran to find him.

“What happened?  What did he say?” I asked terrified.

“It’s okay.  He said that he’d cancel the order.  But he also said never to call there again. From now on, we’re on The Spot blacklist.”

Whew.  I could live with that.  We would never ever have their pizza again but me, Kenny, and my social life would live to fight another day.

But guess what?  I was idly trolling the Internet and I found The Spot.  After it closed down in Evanston,  it didn’t die.  It just moved to La Jolla.

The Spot’s new Cali number is (858) 459-0800 and though their number may have changed, I can see by the menu that they still have our fave pizza and ribs.

I’m calling Kenny.  We go out to San Diego on occasion, and after all, it has been forty-eight years.  I bet we’ve outlasted the statute of limitations on their blacklist by now.

Just keep it under your hat.

I don’t want to get grounded.

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14 Responses to UNion 9-2800

  1. Ken Roffe says:

    Great memories and this made me hungry and scared. What do I do if Mother reads this?????? Can I still get in trouble??? Whatever. I know what I’m having for dinner tonight!

  2. Arnie Rubens says:

    Odd how we were similarly raised quite differently…. Had speed dial been around when we were growing up, the first number would be ID3-0354….and it would have been programmed into the phone by our mother. That was Il Forno on Roger Williams in HP. Il Forno helped absolve our parents guilt for being out every Friday and Saturday night!!! We had it at least once a week, and quickly saved the twelve attached coupons for a free medium….
    After getting ready for going out, our dad would trek to Ravinia as our mom finished dressing. He didn’t want pizza sitting in the delivery guy’s car getting cold all the way from Ravinia to Glencoe, or maybe he didn’t want to incur the $1.00 delivery charge. Irregardless, we always had hot Il Forno…… Maybe that’s why our friends always wanted to get together at our house!
    Il Forno is now on Osterman in Deerfield and tastes exactly the same. It’s still the best! Great memories I haven’t thought about for years. Thanks for stirring up happy thoughts.

    • Ellen Ross says:

      I forgot about the attached coupons. Remember how hard they were to rip off the stapled paper cover? They always tore. Thanks for this great addition to the post, Arnie. Your parents sounded like living dolls to me. And let’s all go to Il Forno- or The Spot- one night. I’m hungry!

      • Arnie Rubens says:

        Think we paper clipped a stack of those always torn, but most intact coupons and kept them in the kitchen junk drawer. John’s Pizza was inventoried in the downstairs freezer for back up. Yes, our parents were great. Think we even appreciated them when growing up. Our dad used to joke that he gave his sons a choice between camp or college and we chose both. Also remember once in conversation, we told him that combined for the three of us, he paid for over 20 years of Ojibwa tuition…. He said something like,”you know how to hurt a guy”, then gave a nervous chuckle. His father could have well afforded to send him, but never did. Although we loved it, think we would have been banished to Meta Lake Road, Eagle River Wisconsin, whether we wanted to or not.

        • Ellen Ross says:

          You are my pizza maven, that’s for sure. I will have to go to you for al things Napoli in the future. Your family sounded like so much fun. How fabulous -and how lucky you were.

  3. Steve Lindeman says:

    It is funny how our Moms reacted to certain things when we were growing up. Living in Wilmette was certainly “Leave it to Beaver like.” My mom was not a believer in pizza other than the cardboard kind in the frozen department of the A&P. Anyone remember John’s pizza? However my problem with Mom and Dad was getting rid of the beer can evidence that myself and my buddies created on some weekends. Most of the time we were successful because we had an alley off of Prairie Avenue where we would ditch the cans. This worked for us most times except for one tragic weekend when my folks came home earlier than advertised. With no other option, the cans were thrown under my bed and everybody scattered when we heard the car pull up. All was well…….until the next morning when Mom came into my room and the dog (Mitzi) was under my bed where she slept every night. As soon as Mitzi heard my Mom’s voice she started wagging her tail and beer cans went clanging and flying. Of course this all ends with Beaver (in other words me) being grounded for life. At least it seemed like a life sentence for a senior at NT. I did recover however, never to have another party at my house until I had my own place and could order pizza!

    • Ellen Ross says:

      I certainly do remember John’s pizza! Haven’t thought about it in years. And Gino’s pizza rolls. OMG. Can’t believe we ate that stuff. Thanks, Steve. This is a good story. Flying beer cans make our pizza boxes look tame.

  4. Love this story! I have to admit, the pizza is worth the risk. Ribs too. 🙂

    My family bought THE SPOT from the original owner when he moved out to La Jolla in 1978. There were actually two original business partners who ran the shop in Evanston and for a short while both were in operation at the same time. We are now celebrating our 35th anniversary here on the West Coast (economy be damned).

    Thanks to Ellen for sharing the article on our Facebook page. Hope more people see it.

    We’ll see you next time you’re out in San Diego! We promise to help you dispose of all evidence of your visit.

    Doug T
    General Manager

    • Ellen Ross says:

      Thanks for the kind words and the update, Doug. This is very good Spot chatter and we are thrilled to know that you’re there when we need you. Please have all your Cali friends read this. I’ll take care of everyone out this way. Does this mean we are off the blacklist?

  5. Ellen kander says:

    So sorry my mom almost blew your cover! Nosey wasn’t she?? I would have hid the evidence for you!!!! You should have asked! Thank goodness your mom didn’t raise kids in this day & age!!! Pizza deliveries would have been the LEAST of her problems

    • Ellen Ross says:

      So true, dear friend. I don’t even want to imagine what my kids hid from me. Nick kept a tattoo secret for at least two years. But if you read the comment by Doug T. the good news is that we are finally off the blacklist! (Maybe we should meet in La Jolla for our lunch instead?)

  6. ALLAN KLEIN says:

    I love it. When we moved to Glencoe in late 1956 one of the first dinner out was to a relatively new place called Tonelli’s, I don’t know if I’m spelling it right but never the less with one son 11, the next 9, and the baby all of 6, we were promptly told by our waitress
    that the next time, leave them home. She became our favorite waitress til the time of her retirement. Your bit on the pizzas brought back that wonderful night. Long time ago. Allan

    • Ellen Ross says:

      Thanks, buddy. I’m pleased that this one brought back happy memories. I like that waitress’s style. We got banned from Barnum and Bagel when Nick was a toddler. They said he was too messy!

      As always, I appreciate your input. And good news. The Spot just informed me that Kenny and I are now “on probation” and if he pays up for that long-ago fraudulently-cancelled pizza, we can return!

      (They were kidding. Doug T. the manager is funny.)

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