A little local pizza history story; bootleg pizza

Filet Mignon
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2005/01/06 23:55:33 (permalink)

A little local pizza history story; bootleg pizza

It's a little thing, really, but somehow I like this story.

Today I had customers, Aniello and Renee, who own an absolutely GREAT Italian restaurant here in Hazleton, Alta. They are just the greatest people, so warm, and so friendly, and so generous. Anyhow, Neil is from Italy, and Renee is a hometown girl.

We shared a lot of talk about the different styles of pizza here in northeast PA, from Hazleton bar pizza (served cold) through the wood pizzas, and about the Old Forge style, and talking about how different restaurants cook different dishes differently (Alta makes an absolutely KILLER chicken dish, Pollo Alta, with boneless chicken, onion, garlic, black olives, peppers, etc; it's been a few months since I had it, I'm not going to get the ingredients right). Anyhow, Renee told me this story about Hazleton bar pizza.

"Bar pizza" has been around for a while in the area. It is a soft square shell covered with a thick sweet sauce and sharp romano cheese, baked and then allowed to cool. It is then cut into squares and either boxed or individually wrapped in Saran wrap, and sold, served, and eaten cold.

Anyhow, Renee told me that back in the '70s, Senapes would make and bake the pizza after midnight, to have cold for the next day. Around 3AM, teenagers would line up outside the bakery and up the stairs to the bakery, because that was when they could get the pizza hot and fresh. It was kind of like going to a Speakeasy, or a place that sold wine to teenagers; pizza out the back door. They called it "bootleg pizza". They would either eat it right there, or take it home to have for lunch the next day. And, you didn't want to get there late, or be near the end of the line, because you ran the risk of getting up to the door and seeing the sign "no more bootleg pizza".

It's a little story, but there's something about it, a place, a time, a feeling. Kids at the end of a night of fun knowing to go to Senape's back door at 3AM for bootleg pizza; "Hey, lets get some bootleg!" Kinda cool. I can feel what it was like.

If you're crossing PA on Rt 80, you can probably get a couple slices of Senape's or Longo's right off the White Haven exit, at the western end of the Poconos. At the exit go north on 940 about 100 yards. The UniMart on the right usually has it wrapped in Saran wrap next to the cash register. It's really good.


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