Beer and pizza are a tight and dependable couple. These days, their marriage is perhaps the only certain one in America--which is why we should care about them.
Harvard Square has beer more or less covered, although in this bastion of Puritanism the last ale to be found at any counter comes at two o'clock ante meridian--and alas, this is only possible at The Crimson Sports Grille and The Spaghetti Club, two establishments known neither for their good beer nor their puritanical behavior. The quainter of our pubs--Shay's, The Cellar, Grendel's and, for our yuppier compatriots, Grafton Street--all shut their taps at one in the morning.
But whether you are strolling out of Shay's or stumbling out of the Grille, you are in search of your better half: your better slice.
In the interest of relative sobriety, the early closing times of our bars seems reasonable, but our pizza parlors betray us night in and night out. Il Vicoletto? Closed. Pinnochio's? Sometimes, but never after 1:15. The Tasty? No pizza and you ought to hope you find yourself a comfortable bar stool no later than 8:30. And so we all make our way to Tommy's House of Pizza. Seemingly with self-respect, but really because it doesn't matter at that point, Tommy's, with its sesame crust, schizophrenic music superimposed on top of a close-captioned for the hearing-impaired rebroadcast of the Montel Williams show and unseemly Mortal Kombat video-game junkies, seems to be the only (and necessary) option, now. You and your friends actually have to struggle to be heard over the mass of people who have flocked there to call out, "two slices, please."
When the sun rises with a new day, however, and the haze of the previous night's antics clears, one thing becomes painstakingly clear: Harvard Square's pizza option after one a.m. sucks.
During the day, Tommy's is suspiciously empty, except for some stragglers who thought they had walked into Siam Garden, but decided to stay for a game of pin-ball. And it is no wonder why. We desire pizza, but we have other options before one in the morning and therefore need not stoop to Tommy's. Beer aside for a moment, we desire pizza on all days of the week, whether we are making our way back from Lamont or rehearsal. And miraculously, Tommy's is busy every night until closing at three a.m. No self-respecting sober person frequents the Tasty, and Store 24's offerings are limited to Hostess cupcakes and Doritos. So we flock to a rat-hole where the workers make the pizza, handle your money and smoke cigarettes all at the same time.
"Can I have some parmesan, please?" I have asked before. "Sure," one of the oh-so cheerful severs responds as he sticks his bare hands into a vat of cheese and shoves it into the little container. One friend ordered a pizza and upon biting into it, his tooth fell out having hit a piece of rock salt. (He got a $10 gift certificate as compensation.) Another friend ordered a slice, which stuck to the side of the oven door despite the employee's attempt to remove it from the reheating oven; she shrugged and served it up hot--and it was eaten happily.
What inspires this apparent masochism? It cannot be a love of dirty pizza; rather, it is an act of desperation. Without pride, we go to Tommy's and inhale its pizza because we have no choice.
Perhaps it isn't fair to ridicule Tommy's Hole of Pizza in this way since I go more often than most of you probably do, but I'm not proud of that fact. I am simply resigned to the idea that you and I are destined to a collegiate life of unsanitary pizza in the wee hours, as I have no plans to open up a clean pizzeria or to suggest anything rash (except perhaps, for Pinnochio's to get a bloody three a.m. license).
Thus we are left with an ultimatum: eat like sloths at Tommy's or don't eat at all. The solution is to pay extra respect to the holy union of beer and pizza, and remember to have another round before you go.
Daniel M. Suleiman's column appears on alternate Wednesdays.