G & G Pizza House in New Rochelle, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, and Churros and Arroz con Leche at New Rochelle’s El Trigal Mexican Bakery
While writing this month’s Westchester Magazine cover story, "Pie-Eyed," found myself thinking about all of my childhood pies. There were a few, I’m afraid, as I was a strangely food-fixated child. Though skinny (and tragically be-braided), I lurked in scores of pizza parlors. The ones that stick most vividly in my memory were the slightly left-of-center joints, like the Pelham pizza place that was attached at its kitchen/bathroom hallway to next door’s gloomy bar. The pizza was cardboard-y (and the cook/owner was German), but if you were a kid dropping by for an after-school slice, you could peek around the corner to watch old men drink whiskey in the afternoon. I’m not sure anyone would have noticed if I’d sat down and joined them.
My all-time favorite pizza memory is of G & G Pizza House at 580 North Avenue, which was not in my own neighborhood, but a longish walk from home. The pizzas in this joint (which was smack in the middle of the Iona bar strip) were unlike any that I’ve seen before or since. They were baked in straight-sided, black-iron pans that looked exactly like cake pans and were piled in tall stacks next to the boxes stored on top of the deck oven. After use, the oily pans were simply returned to the top of the oven, having never been spoiled by water. The dough was light yet chewy, and about ¾” thick. The cheese was an opaque, milky white that contrasted nicely with the pie’s sweet, garnet-colored tomato sauce.
G & G pies were seriously oily, so oily that the thick, puffy crust crisped in the pan. You could look on the bottom of each slice and see—under an oily sheen—a golden, cratered, almost-deep-fried-looking surface. And they were small. In an unusual move for the time, G & G Pizza House sold personal pizzas, about 10 inches in diameter, which were served cut into six absurdly tiny triangles. I later associated these miniature slices with White Castle’s pinchable “rat burgers,” lately trendy as sliders. In my day, the small G & G pie cost $5.50, which made G & G an expensive pizza stop, but some locals remember when the pies cost only $3.
Most of our immediate neighbors opted for the huge, flat, orange, judiciously oiled pies offered at Vincent's or Cannone’s. G & G’s black pans were weird; the small pie was weird; and people said rude things about the oil (most memorably, that the restaurant’s Gs stood for “grease”). Also, it was owned by a dark, mustachioed Greek man, George, who sold the first gyros I’d ever seen, along with cheap, oniony burgers that reminded everyone of the Saturday Night Live “Cheeburger Cheeburger” skit. Worse, because it was stuck on The Strip, G & G’s clientele of drunk high school and college students made the place louche after sundown; if it were a Thursday or Friday afternoon, the louche-factor soared about 4 pm. This was because, in the bad old days, North Avenue bars had laissez-faire admission standards and “Free Keg” parties starting at 3:30 on Thursday and Friday afternoons. By about 7 pm, the crowd at G & G Pizza House was almost unanimously blitzed on cheap, belchy beer.
G & G’s demise was inevitable when the New York State drinking age was raised to 21 years. Actually, it only became really critical for G & G years later when the town started closing the North Avenue bars for serving underage customers. G & G Pizza House closed without fanfare at some point when I wasn’t living in town. The space was briefly occupied by a soul food restaurant and now the storefront stands empty and forlorn.
Thinking about G & G Pizza House, I did as anyone would and Googled it. In one of those incredible internet moments, I found a Facebook page devoted to G & G Pizza House. Among the page’s short collection of posts, you find loaded photos of G & G memorabilia. Someone had kept a “V. I. P. Gold Club” courtesy card on which not one of the ten boxes were punched—which kinda tells the story. The same man had loaded an image of George the pizza man, straight outta 1979, standing by his deck oven. Behind him, you can make out a sign that says, “Glass of Wine, 70¢.”
The Facebook page airs rumors that George’s cousin owns Jimmy’s Pizza, 808 Mamaroneck Avenue (914.698-5804), and that Jimmy’s pizza is exactly the same as G & G’s. Or that George himself owned a now defunct pizzeria in Norwalk, CT, which casts Google shadows as G & G Pizza House, G & G Pizza & House, or just G & G Pizza. Of course, I tried all of the numbers but couldn’t reach a live person on the phone—which leaves an aching, nostalgic sadness that can only be soothed by a greasy G & G pie.
Get Your Dialing Fingers Ready: Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Approaches!
March 18 - 31
Lunch $20.95 per person, exclusive of tax, tip, and beverage. Dinner $29.95 (ditto, ditto, and ditto).
We are getting very spoiled in Westchester with all these great local restaurant weeks. Yonkers Downtown International Restaurant Week ended last night, New York City Restaurant Week is still running, and Darien Restaurant Week runs from February 6 through February 10th. But the Big Mac Daddy of restaurant weeks is about to come our way. We’re talking about Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, which runs from March 18 through March 31.
Look, I’m only telling you this because I like you: you’d better dial up those rezzies now. Tables at X2O, 42, Crabtree’s Kittle House, and Restaurant North won’t wait around for you get off your butt. For a full list of participating restaurants—and breaking news as it happens, when it happens—visit the handy HVRW site. And, PS, if you don’t tip well, I will hear all about it. I’m looking at you, Ms. Joan Raymond-Frehly, 27 Windemere Lane, Armonk, New York.
Arroz con Leche and Churros at El Trigal Mexican Bakery in New Rochelle
It’s cold, it’s clammy, and we still have to get through the bleakness of February. I suggest that you console yourself with carbs for at least another month or two. After that, you can go on one of those trendy maple syrup diets; you can get colonic irrigation, or if all else fails, go surgical with staples and lipo—but for now, you need to survive February with warm and comforting calories. A good bet in that vein is the phenomenal arroz con leche at El Trigal Bakery; it’s a hot, thick, rice pudding-like drink that’s like the best oatmeal that you ever ate. Pair it with a shatteringly crisp churro, the ridged Mexican doughnut, and you have enough sugary carbs to last through the entire nasty end of winter.