Nostalgia Tastes Like Pizza

Tom and I were born, raised, met, married, and had our son in Marshall County, West Virginia, in the northern panhandle of the state, the “upper Ohio Valley,” though we haven’t lived there since 1984.

For those who grew up in the area, one thing is deeply ingrained in our culinary culture.  DiCarlo’s Pizza. This small local chain was a staple of date nights, before or after sporting events and dances, weekend parties, or anywhere hungry people happened to be.

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It’s hard to explain to non-natives. It’s simple, plain, and doesn’t appear to be anything special. If you feed it to a friend, they’re likely to reply, “Yeah, it’s okay. Um…it’s pizza.” They just don’t understand why we rhapsodize over this no-frills delight.

Though the hometown restaurants and the franchise locations now starting to pop up outside the Valley have seating and various menu options, I’m not kidding when I say the DiCarlo’s of the 1970s and 80s was no-frills. The building in Glen Dale, the location we frequented, looked like this. This photo is a different location (couldn’t find the original Glen Dale building…it’s since moved to a slightly larger brick building next door to the old location), but this is what it looked like.

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Cement block and metal siding, narrow customer counter across the whole width, no seating, most of the work space taken up with the wall ovens and tables for cutting the huge trays of pizza into squares. On a Saturday night, the front of the store was packed solid with people waiting for the next tray to come out of the oven.

And forget having a wide variety of toppings from which to choose. Aside from sauce and cheese, there were a total of two options. Pepperoni…or no pepperoni. Easy-peasy. Back in the day, it was 35 cents a slice, meaning a guy and his date could easily fill up for under $4, which was critical, because you definitely didn’t want to cut into your beer budget too much.

Now, this is the part where we lose most outsiders. This pizza is made “Ohio Valley style.” The crust and sauce are baked–without the cheese on it. When the piping hot trays come out of the oven, they’re placed on the work table and the cheese is scattered over the whole thing, and pepperoni added after. Your chosen number of slices are put in the cardboard boxes, and by the time you get to your car or home or other designated pizza-eating location, the cheese has mostly melted and the pepperoni is warm.

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That is DiCarlo’s.

So, why is this delicious nostalgia on my mind today? Well, a franchise recently opened in Myrtle Beach, by an Ohio Valley ex-pat, and Tom was down that way visiting family on Friday, and he brought home two trays.

Let me be clear. He brought home the baked crust and sauce slices, and separate bags containing the signature cheese blend and pepperoni. Any other way would be blasphemy. Whenever his parents come to visit, they almost always bring us a tray or two in a cooler, but since this new location is not too far from his brother’s house, whenever he goes to see them, he can detour and get it for us himself.

Yesterday we had pizza, beer, and era-appropriate movie day. At first, I couldn’t figure out why he kept telling me “not yet” whenever I went to put the pizza in the oven, but it turned out it was because he bought beer, and didn’t want to start beer-fest too early in the afternoon.

He posted this picture, saying we were being 17 again. Yes, at 17 in West Virginia in the early 1980s, beer was most definitely part of the picture. I make no apologies. 😉

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So, I made the pizza, and it was perfect. We had beer. I forgot how much work it is to drink beer, being more a mixed-drink-with-kick person. You have to drink…a lot of it. And this results in frequent bathroom visits, which makes me think how much time I must have spent peeing in the bushes in my youth.

We started the movie portion of the day with The Jerk. Then, in honor of the royal wedding, moved on to King Ralph, and wrapped up with Shaun of the Dead, which isn’t exactly the right era, but neither was King Ralph, and it’s too funny not to watch when you have beer.

It was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday. Though if we wanted to be 100% authentic, we should’ve probably headed out and had the beer and pizza parked on a dirt road somewhere.

Do you have a hometown food that makes you feel like a kid again every time you have it?

A Long Time Ago, In A High School Far, Far Away

I have a two-fer for you today! February 4 is a very significant day in the canon of Tom and Lori Lore, and ten years ago I commemorated it on Fermented Fur. The following is that recycled (upcycled? repurposed?) post, somewhat edited to include current timeline and removing some of the over-sharing parts because apparently at some point in the last ten years I developed a semi-functional filter.


Today marks the 36th anniversary of when Tom asked me out for our first date. (Pause for applause.)

Where: Our small Catholic high school in northern West Virginia

When: February 4, 1982

Who: Two 17-year-olds, one a junior (me), one a senior (Tom)

Why: Hormones or Fate…maybe both

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Bishop Donahue High School, where it all began. Sadly, BDHS closed at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

I’d recently broken up with a guy I’d been dating for a few months. Going out with him at all had been a stupendously bad idea, but my first real heartbreak had happened in September, and I was clearly not thinking straight. My mom hated him, and my mom never hated anybody.

Basically, The Creep (my mother’s pet name for him) was just the most recent in a long series of examples of my bad judgment. Something about that last experience finally began to penetrate my thick teenage skull, and it dawned on me that I needed to look at who I actually liked, not whoever was currently available on the high school “most eligible guys” list. You’d think something like that should be obvious, but very little is obvious when you’re a teenage girl.

I was odd in high school. Still am, but in a more specific way. While I got along with nearly everybody (except girls a year or two older than I was, who all hated me for some reason), I wasn’t particularly popular in a “prom queen” sort of way, due to the fact that I didn’t like to go out and socialize with everyone on the weekends. I guess you could say I was pretty, smart, and popular, but not the prettiest, smartest, or most popular.

Everybody liked Tom. He was every guy’s buddy, every girl’s “sweet guy friend,” a good athlete, and just insane enough to always be the one doing something goofy to bolster team spirit. (Ah, the genius of a tether ball with eye holes cut out and worn on one’s head at a pep rally!)

I’d been spending a fair amount of time hanging out with him and a small group of mutual friends at basketball games, mainly to heckle the officials and torment the visiting team. Then, after I’d finally split with The Creep, I was talking to some friends and said, “Hey, know who I’d really like to go out with?” Tom. This revelation was met with universal approval, and the wheels were set in motion.

Tom and two of his friends had taken to riding along on the girls’ volleyball bus, because his best friend’s girlfriend was on the team and he was insanely jealous. They served as the equipment guys and statisticians, to give them a legitimate reason to be there. My friend Suzy, who was also Tom’s friend and a volleyball player, told him on the bus one day that I wanted to go out with him. A typical high school conversation ensued.

“Lori wants you to ask her out.”

“Nuh-uh. You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m serious. She told me yesterday in algebra.”

“She wouldn’t go out with me.”

“Yes, she would, you dumbass. Ask her!”

“You’re just messing with me.”

And so on.

Finally, Suzy persuaded him that she wouldn’t jerk him around about something as critical as asking a girl out for the first time. Suzy was a very determined girl, and Tom never really stood a chance. Plus, he totally wanted to ask me out.

But it’s never really that simple, is it? Such a momentous occasion requires just the right setting. Namely, he needed me to not be in the middle of a group of girls between classes so he could ask me. He tells me this took a few days. At long last, I was alone, and a very nervous boy approached. He asked me to go to the Valentine’s dance, which was scheduled for February 13. I said (and this is an exact quote), “Sure. We’ll have fun.” He agonized for days over that? He’s just so damned cute!

I don’t think most people knew what to make of our couplehood. On the surface, we seemed like a very odd match. He was so friendly, outgoing, popular, everybody’s friend. I was quieter, had had several questionable boyfriends, was a bit of an outsider (one of the bathroom smokers, actually), and often overlooked by the guys, or despised by jealous older girls who didn’t bother to get to know me.

We went out on an unofficial date that weekend, after a basketball game. We went to Pizza Inn, despite the fact that I’d already been out for pizza before the game. When you’re a teenager, there is no such thing as too much pizza.

The next basketball game after that, we held hands, and I wore his letterman’s jacket. How adorable is that?

I mentioned this was a small Catholic high school. We had fewer than 200 students, which resulted in not enough tickets being sold for the Valentine’s dance, and it was canceled. My new sweetie announced that we were still going out, and he named a very nice (for the area) restaurant. I was a little freaked. That was kind of a lot of pressure for a first date. Plus, we would be double dating with his best friend and his girlfriend.

The night arrived. I wore light brown pleated dress pants, a brown and cream plaid short-sleeve blouse, and a cream-colored corduroy blazer. I also burgled my mom’s diamond cluster ring to wear. I have no idea what he wore. It was 1982, and February, so I’m thinking something velour, shirt-wise.

They picked me up, and he presented me with a large stuffed Smurf (which I still have), and a funny but perhaps slightly inappropriate card (which I also still have). There might have also been a bottle of illegally-purchased Riunite wine, but if that happened–and I’m neither confirming nor denying–one can assume it did not survive the evening.

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This is what a 36-year-old Smurf looks like. He needs a bath, but I’m afraid he’d disintegrate. Also, he’s probably stuffed with asbestos dipped in lead paint.

The evening was an odd one. The nice restaurant, in a hillbilly-like attempt at culture, had a belly dancer performing, dancing and gyrating and finger-cymbal-ringing among the tables. I am not even joking. This, naturally, led to our date-partners having a huge fight. Tom and I, however, got along great. Our evening ended with some very fun smooching on my couch.

His female friends didn’t know what he saw in me. His male friends figured they knew what he saw in me, but most were smart enough not to say so out loud. But what nobody really understood was that although we might have appeared mismatched, there was something between us that was beyond high school comprehension.

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Seriously, how adorable were we?

I knew I’d found something special. I’m glad I was at the right point in my evolution to see that, before someone else snatched him up. Here was this adorable guy, pretty blond feathered hair, sparkly blue eyes, and yummy muscles. He was sweet, kind, and funny, and liked by everyone he met. He treated me like a princess, spoiled me rotten, and he had the cutest bouncy strut when he was walking along, holding my hand. After dating guys who never stopped keeping one eye open for someone higher up on the high school popularity food chain, he saw only me.

And that was the beginning. The next weekend, I got his class key and class ring. We went to the prom. He went on vacation with my family that summer. This was followed by a pre-engagement ring that Christmas, and a wedding ring the next September.

Thirty-six years ago today. Wow. We’ll celebrate our 35th anniversary this September. Has it always been easy? Hell, no. I am still an idiot, and he is still the strong, wonderful man who pulls me through it and reminds me what I should be, and what we are together.

For a stupid 17-year-old, I sure did one thing totally right.