The Time Warp Twins

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris February 09, 2024 19:15 in Dining Diary

When the kids were little, we went regularly to a humble pizza joint buried deep into a strip mall in north Covington. The Pizza Man of Covington had been around since the 1970s, when Paul, a transplant from Minnesota, set up shop to make pizza for families.

It’s a fun place with no frills. Large pizza boxes adorn the walls, the artwork of a wonderful waitress who was friendly and fun, and extremely efficient, running the entire dining room herself.

The place was always packed with families, adults talking to other adults, and kids standing on the step by the big picture window where the pizzas were tossed. It was a show, with Paul occasionally throwing a bit of flour against the glass, to the surprise and delight of his smaller patrons. More engaged parents would join the fun. It was definitely a family affair.

Even gourmet Tom loved the place, mainly because of the “Board Special.” It was a gourmet pizza for the time, consisting of spinach, capicola ham, garlic, olive oil, onions, fresh mushrooms, and feta cheese.

The “Board” was one of a few special pizzas that they offered. Most of the pizzas were ones you craft yourself. And there were a few salads to round out the small menu. 

This was all adequate and manageable for Paul and his assistant in the kitchen.  All of the pizzas at The Pizza Man had a few characteristics in common. They were all very good. They all included premium ingredients. And they all had a soggy crust.

That was the only downside to the pizza at The Pizza Man. He used the slamming door ovens, and a screen separated the dough from the pan, I guess to allow air to firm up the crust, but they were always a little soggy. Nevertheless, the pizza was delicious.

We always started with one of the oily salads, followed by a “Board Special” for Tom, and a pepperoni pizza for the kids and me. Now and then I’d get a pizza with “everything” just because I grew up loving those. 

Adding to the charm of this scene was a jukebox that constantly played “Puff the Magic Dragon” which always made me sad, reminding me that the days we are now living would come too soon, as they have. 

We spent countless hours with the kids at this very special place, in communion with other families on the north shore out for a night with the kids. Kids with parents, kids with sports teams, kids in Scout troops, school groups, it was all about the kids. At one time or another, we were part of a bigger group from all these categories. Such fun!

Across the lake in Metairie, a similar thing was playing out. The Tower of Pizza on Veterans Highway is about the same size and is also stuffed into a strip mall. It is busier than The Pizza Man because it is in the heart of Metairie. The phone doesn’t stop ringing at either place. But it is easier to order at The Pizza Man. At The Tower of Pizza, every table is full all of the time, its red and white checkered plastic tablecloths almost invisible with pizza pans and other items from the small menu.

The pizza at The Tower of Pizza is not as good or as imaginative as The Pizza Man of Covington, but there is more on the menu, like meatballs and spaghetti. Pizza comes on the same kind of pans out of the same style of slamming door ovens, There is no screen here to aerate the dough, but it is not soggy.

All of this comes out of a kitchen on display to customers just like at The Pizza Man It is enclosed in glass, but there is no show. No flour is thrown at the glass wall, and no kids are standing on a step. There isn’t room or time for any of that here. 

The clientele is different too, not nearly as many families as at The Pizza Man. There are a lot of couples here, some dates of people who probably came as kids and large groups of extended families. I can’t imagine sports teams here, but I’m sure they come. There is barely room to walk without them.

And there is no jukebox playing “Puff The Magic Dragon” or anything else. There is a menu posted on the wall in the dining room that looks like it has been there since the 1960s. I’m sure it has.

Everything takes a while here. It takes a while to find a seat, a while to order, and a while to get the food. Madness abounds. The food here does not command such a crowd of regulars. They are here for the nostalgic vibe.

We have picked up pizzas here and eaten in. It’s more fun to eat in because it is a fun scene. We ordered one of those Italian salads almost identical to the one served on the north shore at The Pizza Man. The version at The Pizza Man was much better. Both are extraordinarily oily and made with ingredients from yesteryear. Iceberg lettuce and a little tomato, sprinkled with artichoke hearts. The vinaigrette dressing has a strong oregano flavor and the oil and vinegar completely coat everything. The salad at the Tower of Pizza is very similar, just a little less good all around.

The Tower of Pizza has a few more things on the menu, like a plate of meatballs and spaghetti, with that mid-twentieth century thick, smooth, sweeter red gravy. There are more people in the kitchen to execute all this.

None of this is better than just ordinary, but that will do for a scene such as this, bursting with nostalgia for simpler times. Better times, when expectations weren’t higher than tolerance for little imperfections.

Both of these restaurants are more than restaurants. They are communities. They are comforting. They are time warps. And they are fun.