Jim Raykie

Jim Raykie

We live in a great area for many reasons. One of them is pizza. From my days as a kid, watching my grandparents make it, pizza has been one of my favorite foods. Come to think of it, pizza might be at the top of that long list.

Here’s the great thing about pizza — it’s good any time. Out of the oven piping hot, with extra cheese that burns the roof of your mouth, or cold the next day. I always ate cold pizza for breakfast, and to this day, I like it as well as the hot stuff, probably more.

If homemade pizza wasn’t on the menu at my house, we had our choices in Farrell. We had the Hilltop Inn on Roemer Boulevard (Basilone’s today) and we had Luigi’s on Idaho Street next to Sunset Lanes. We had others, but Hilltop and Luigi’s were our favorites, especially after Farrell High football and basketball games.

If we were walking down Roemer, it was Hilltop at the takeout window in the alley. If it was the more direct route to Emerson Avenue on Idaho, it was Luigi’s. When we ventured into Sharon, which was often, it was Tony’s on Stambaugh Avenue and the defunct Bello’s on East State Street, today the home of Domino’s.

My goodness, the Shenango Valley and neighboring Brookfield had tons of pizza places and most were outstanding. These happened to be our favorites. Since good things die hard, I’ve been going to the likes of Luigi’s, Basilone’s and Tony’s all of my life.

We still have lots of good pizza shops. When you consider Plaza Pizza and Aldo’s in Hermitage, Ferrara’s in Sharon, Hometown in Sharpsville, and restaurants like Chiccarino’s and other bars and pubs, we have so many places that serve great pizza that I can’t name them all.

But strange as it may sound, we have a generation or two of younger folks, some of whom have never been to any of these places. Unlike when we were young, many of these kids have been weaned on chains, such as Pizza Joe’s, Domino’s, Four-Star, Pizza Hut and others. They weren’t around when we were growing up.

And by the amount of business that the chains garner, no doubt their pizza is popular and very good. Some of us at The Herald will order out from time to time from various places, and Pizza Joe’s is one of them. The pizza is excellent, but much different than ones produced by the long-standing ovens that have been family-operated for decades.

Pizza shops sprinkled throughout all parts of Mercer County were tributes to our heritage as a melting pot for different ethic groups. While the area has changed drastically in the last 40 years, the craving for good pizza remains strong, and one should never be at a loss for a place to buy one.

I have been vacationing with my family in Clearwater Beach every summer for the last 27 years, and one of the things that the island never has had is a family-run shop like the ones that we have in Mercer County. For the longest time, you couldn’t get a good wing or a good pizza in Clearwater Beach. The Lube took care of the wings when it opened a franchise in Pinellas Park, a short drive from Clearwater. No such luck on the pizza front.

My daughter Jamie brought home some leftover Tony’s Pizza Saturday night. The trademark red and white box has been the same for decades. She planned on having the leftovers for lunch. I got up to let the dog out early Sunday morning, and much to her chagrin, I got to it for breakfast before she did. Cold, of course.

Since I had pizza on my mind when trying to post a new poll question on The Herald’s Web site, I stayed with the theme. The poll asks: “Pizza is one of the favorite foods in the Mercer County area. Who, in your opinion, makes the best pizza — chain shops or local shops?” As of Sunday night, the question got 256 responses in a short period of time.

The local, non-chain shops have roared out of the gate. Nearly 81 percent of the respondents said they favor the likes of Luigi’s, Tony's and others, while 19 percent favored the chain shops like Domino’s and Pizza Joe’s. It’s a fun question, and we’ll keep it posted for a while.

To vote: www.sharonherald.com

Jim Raykie is the editor of The Herald and writes this column on Monday's. You can e-mail him at jraykie@sharonherald.com


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