Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vincenzo's NY Pizza - Rest in Peace, Lillo

A while back my family had a coupon book. We also had a friend who was on a mission to visit small pizza and pasta joints, instead of eating at the chains. Happy coincidence brought us to Vincenzo's.
The heart of Vincenzo's.

The online reviews were great. They said that the owners, a husband and wife, treated customers like family.  They were right. Lillo was the cook, Joanne ran everything else and Joanne's mom sat at the table near the kitchen knitting. They were all very friendly. Joanne would stop by and chat before, during and after dinner. Lillo would talk from the strip kitchen, very often bringing out samples of dishes he was making. He had an accent that identified him as originating in Sicily. "Mom" didn't speak much English, but she was always there, smiling or making faces at my Squiggle. They would occasionally ask if they could give her something special to eat or drink.

They would even bring over a little pizza guy who sang a song when you pressed a button. Squiggle would press that button over and over. Nobody ever complained. She would look for it when we came in and they always brought it over. Even knowing that they'd be stuck listening to it non-stop until we left, or I took it away. Now I wish I'd never stopped her fun.
The pizza guy with another little girl. I'll always not regret getting a photo of Squiggle playing with it.

In December the place shut down temporarily due to a unspecified health issue. When it reopened it was being run by a nephew and a friend. They informed us that Lillo had cancer. We continued to go, to support them and the business the only way we could.

Last night we had some people over and had Vincenzo's pizza delivered. Today I read on Facebook that Lillo was gone.

We drove by the place tonight, but didn't stop by. It was open but we really didn't know what we would say or do. We went to IHOP where Squiggle sang a little song. The tune was her own, the only lyric was "pizza."
Squiggle and me with Vincenzo's Santa. The last time we saw Lillo.

I broke down. It may seem silly to feel that way over people that we never saw outside the restaurant. I might have thought that before it happened to me. But that is how special they are. Vincenzo's was a special place to eat a meal, and it was due to the love that they put into it.

We hope to go in later this week. I heard that they lost the business in order to pay for medical treatments. Jake said that last night may have been the last time we'd dine on Vincenzo's food. But the truth is, it's been months. The food hasn't been the same since Lillo was diagnosed. He was part of the magical combo that made Vincenzo's more than just a sum of its parts.

Rest in Peace, dear man.
You will be missed.

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