Then again, maybe brains are over-rated in this economy. Exhibit A: Donald Trump. But of course, he has his good looks, too, which only accentuate his charm.
None of that has anything to do with what follows, which is a commentary on a neighborhood restaurant that I’ve been haunting rather regularly, meeting weekly (weakly) with a famous blogger for lunch. It’s our version of the European salon: a relaxing meal spiced by hilariously witty conversation on arts, culture, politics, and fart jokes. Actual farts, too, as we’ll get to.
When Guido and I first established ourselves in eastern Hollywood (a/k/a Davie-by-the-Sea), we searched for a neighborhood pizzeria, as it was just such an establishment back in South Philly where our courtship blossomed. Marra’s Pizza on Passyunk Avenue was 2 blocks from her tiny row house, walking distance even in bitter cold winter. On Saturday night I’d drive down from my northern suburban hovel, park the ancient rusty Buick by the fireplug in front of the corner Italian Club, and knock on her door. Depending on how horny we were, we’d either go for pizza first then come home and fuck, or fuck first, go for pizza, and fuck afterwards. Aah, youth. Aah, great pizza. With Rolling Rocks, one of the best pizza beers ever.
We can’t get pizza that good here in Florida, and Rolling Rock ain’t like it used to be, but the sex still works pretty good. Even if double-headers are a fond, distant memory.
Anyway, Napoli’s on Federal Highway was just a bit far for walking, but we gave it a try. The pizza was bland — French Canadians seemed to like it, which sets off a warning bell, and the menu actually offered one of those mutant barfables with pineapple and Canadian Bacon. However, we found the ghastly green/red/white décor, cheesy statues, gold plastic frame pictures, paper place mats, and awful music rather soothing for a while. Until the really bad pizza drove us away.
Napoli’s endured for years, but finally went under. Like many Federal Highway businesses between Johnson Street and Dania Beach Blvd, the building stood vacant, turf for druggies, stray dogs, and hookers of mysterious gender. But several months ago it was reborn as El Paso II, and started drawing a decent lunch crowd. (As far as we can tell, there’s no El Paso or El Paso I.)
New owners changed the menu and quite little else. The tables, décor, cutlery, layout, and even color scheme are all preserved in their gaudy splendor. But what cracked me up most is what I photographed: they painted the horrid statue of Christopher Columbus, transforming him into some sort of dusky Mexican peasant to greet diners on their way inside.
“It’s the story of America, south Florida, and the demographics of the 21st Century,” solemnly observed my companion. “And singularly bad art.”
True dat. But it feels right. And the pollo is ‘way better than the pizza ever was.