May 29, 2008
THE PIZZA PARLOUR
I like to eat Pepperoni Pizza. I eat it with more vigor and more frequency than any other foodstuff in the cosmos. It is a raging passion of mine. I was schooled in the art of pizza enjoyment at a very young age. My classroom was a place— a hut actually, designated solely for pizza eating. It was called the Pizza Hut.
My extensive lessons taught me that the pizza eating environment is a key factor (yet often overlooked) in a fruitful dining experience. In its heyday, our Pizza Hut adhered to the same decorating trends that were prevalent throughout the nation's pizzerias. These surroundings made pizza consumption feel like a primal ritual. The eateries were cave-like; low lit dens, often arranged around a central fireplace, where families could gather and feed on their pizza wheel peacefully and free from the threat of predators. Engirdling walls of brick and wood paneling further provided a sense of security and comfort. This kind of atmosphere has grown scarce in these days of the chilly, florescent carry-out lobby where those forced to dine-in are silently pitied by the eternal line of customers.
Occasionally I encounter a pizza joint that faintly echoes my golden years of pie-eating. I was recently introduced to such an establishment— Pizza Parlour of Fort Smith, Arkansas
The road sign exhibits two more architectural motifs that go hand-in-hand with proper pizza feasting: the black wrought iron brings to mind the power of a medieval armory while the arrow of light bulbs contributes an air of kinetic excitement. These elements, along with a portly, mustached pizza chef and a zesty, hand-lettered logo combine to make a hefty promise to the potential patron. But could this restaurant possibly live up to it? Let us continue...
Before you cry "ex-Pizza Hut!" I'm told by several reliable sources that this place has always been a "Parlour" since its construction in 1980.
The primary corridor offers glimpses of the dining hall through blanks in the brickwork pattern. Transversely, the wall of textured plexiglass struggles to keep the legions of pre-assembled pizza boxes at bay.
Next we stroll past the universal sizing chart and the all-important pizza incubators.
The chef reappears to proclaim a solitary commandment.
There's that soothing wood paneling, and note the stack of red cups to the left. These are the archetypal fountain drink tumblers for the ideal pizza meal; perfect in size, texture, and color.
The booth is essential to a complete pizza experience. Pizza Parlour gets bonus points for the hunger-inducing red vinyl, and note that there are no unsightly rips. Nothing is as unappetizing as a booth gash spilling over with dirty flakes of foam cushion (and the coinciding saggy seat). Some places dare to aid this with a grotesque patchwork of tape which inevitably peels at the edges leaving gray, sticky residue on your pants. This is equally offensive. The only thing I would add to the setting above is a standard red and white checkered tablecloth and one of those candles in bulbous colored glass, wrapped in plastic netting.
Yes, there is a monstrous stonewall fire pit with a wraparound chainmail screen.
On the left you can see the entrance to the restrooms. The light fixtures on either side are by far the greatest facet of the interior design...
These two glass boxes sport a variant of the excellent logo and somehow rotate in perfect unison.
In a brilliant move, the sides alternate between the name and the hungry chef.
But of course, all of this is meaningless without good pizza. Well, the pizza at Pizza Parlour (and I can only speak on behalf of the Pepperoni because that's all I care about) was just right. Crisp crust and ample, tasty toppings. Simple as that. Somehow the cuisine even possessed a "classic" sensibility to it. I was reminded of the pizza of my childhood. And equally pleasant was our friendly and ever-present waitress.
Completely satisfied, I proceeded to the checkout counter. When the cashier announced my total I attempted to correct her.
"Oh, I had a drink with that too."
"It's included in the price of the buffet." she said with a smile. I feel the need to type that once more...
The drink, my Diet Coke with multiple refills, was included in the price of the all-I-could-eat buffet of tasty pepperoni pizza in the comfy vinyl booth. So did you catch that buffet price on the sign in the earlier photo? Five dollars, forty-six cents.
I'm still amazed.
I hope you're reading this Pizza Parlour; you are a wonder of the modern pizza world. My sole suggestion is that you should consider replacing those water stained ceiling tiles. Better yet, swap 'em all out for black ones, but such things are petty on a full belly of delicious, inexpensive pizza goodness.
Thanks Pizza Parlour for embracing the essence of American pizza.
(Here's a map to the place.)