There’s nothing quite like playing beach volleyball when the majority of people you know are freezing to death back home. While most of my friends were complaining about the cold snap over New Year’s holiday, I was fortunate enough to be vacationing in Florida. I should mention that I’m a big foodie, so when I go anywhere I prefer to find local spots to fill my belly with new experiences. One night during my sojourn, I found myself craving pizza and I asked the friend I was staying with if there were any local pizza places. His answer was no, which wasn’t really surprising given that we were in an area of the country that has a large population of retirees, but I must admit that his disconsolate face harshed my party buzz. What is a fellow to do?
Undaunted, I set out with a small group of determined friends to drive around and scout the area. We had barely started when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted what looked like an old Wendy’s building with a temporary sign reading, “Old School Pizza, Now Open,”draped across the front. The flashing neon “OPEN” sign indicated that the tarp wasn’t just a holdover from a time long past. We spun a wide U-turn in the shaggin’ wagon and headed back to see if the promise of a local pizza oasis was true. Sure enough, we were rewarded with a partially filled parking lot and an open door. In the foyer, prominently displayed, was a neon ATARI sign lit in bright blue. I got excited.
The experience just got better from there. As I looked around the place, I realized that the “old school” influence was actually my childhood. There were NES controller decals plastered on every table. Posters of Excite Bike and other 8-bit games lined the walls. The hallway to the bathroom was even painted in life-size graffiti style, with pipes, magic mushrooms, and goombas. It took a second to notice, but the menu was tastefully Ms. Pac Man themed, with sections of food items separated by lines of pac pellets from the famous arcade game.
I could tell that the loving attention to detail and design meant that whoever owned the joint actually felt a connection to the same things I did. The owner clearly didn’t have any hang-ups about growing up with Mario and his magic mushrooms. At the same time the pizzeria also didn’t feel as though it were “cashing in” on eighties nostalgia. No, these retro stylings were a part of the owner’s personal history. Still, the real test of a restaurant is the food, not the décor.
Generally, when trying a new place, I go for the item that is named after the restaurant. In this case, I pushed my buddies to order the “Old School Special.” Essentially a supreme pizza, which happened to be what I was craving, this pie didn’t disappoint. When the pizza arrived on the plate, it took me back to my childhood. The pizza was thin crusted with plenty of toppings. The very center was just underdone, causing the tip of each slice to hang heavy with the weight of the onions and sausage. It was real, classic, pizza-house pizza and I loved every bite. It really did live up to the “old school” moniker.
Finding Old School Pizza was a chance of fate, but fate has given me some of my best adventures. This restaurant is the real deal, folks. If you’re ever in the Melbourne area of Florida, give this place a look-see. It’s not pretentious, nor is it ridiculous. It is an honest sports bar deserving of some praise and I can’t wait to see what they do to continue renovating the old building by the time I again make it back down that far south.
– by Kurt Klein