Things change, as they do. It’s hard to pick the right words, the right stories, to describe the impact of people and places on our lives. Sometimes we don’t find the right words until we lose the capability of experiencing them. When our present reality becomes history, we have no choice but to reflect on the things that really mattered. We sit in our memories and we relive them with joy and with sorrow. While I crave the tastes of my favorite restaurant, and in the back of my mind I’m secretly hoping the new owners of Rico’s #dontchangethedressing, I am really praying for my old friends and grieving their absence. My need is not the food, but the comfort of our connection. Change is hard.
Around the age my son is now, I loaded up in the car of a new friend (who drove) and she took me to her favorite lunch spot. It’s where everyone went, and I was gaining access to a proverbial treasure trove of culture and cuisine. Rarely did my family cross the intersection to this part of town. And, we never ate out. Except for Domino’s Pizza on Friday nights and the occasional trip to McDonald’s – all within several blocks of my home and definitely not crossing the major intersection that divided our town into neighborhoods.
Over the years, Rico’s Pizzeria became a staple in my life. I would scrape to find money to buy a salad or a pepperoni sub. Sometimes that looked like using a few silver dollars from my brother’s coin collection. Once for Christmas, my mom bought me A GALLON of their creamy Italian dressing to use at home. If I went missing for long periods of time, she would call there looking for me. I had dates at Rico’s, met with friends, I’ve done business there and fed my babies.
I’ve known every crew of cooking and wait staff. The owners were friends that felt like family. I watched them grow as they had babies, just like they watched as my family grew. Sal was one of my first blog followers and would often mention the things going on in my life as if we had just been chatting about it. He was worried when I went to Haiti, and then shared about his own daughter’s travel. He corrupted my children with lollipops and breadsticks. The truth is that he was ever-present and constant in my life. Rico’s was our connection.
We’ve gone through cycles; life and food. There were the times when I lived so near to Rico’s that I went every day, and times when I lived so far away that going to Rico’s felt like a homecoming. There were times when they changed dressings or croutons and the ultimate decision to lose green olives forever. They delivered food to my hospital room and offered jobs when my prospects were bleak. We went through it all together. I’m certain that neighbors from all sides of town would share similar and personal stories about how Rico’s as an institution and as a family impacted our lives and community.
Things change, as they do. We grow old and away. Communities adapt. The new owners of Rico’s are working hard to keep things the same, but we all know the important ingredient is missing. Sometimes we run out of words to explain the sadness of loss. A hashtag masks our grief as we struggle to support the family we love. As I stand at the counter, waiting for someone new to fill my order, I attach memories and feelings to the photos of Rico and his bowling trophies, now absent. I wonder what will replace them. I remember how many times one visit to Rico’s, one meal, got me through the day; with a side order of Sal’s jokes, a smile from Rico, or some chit chat with Sylvia and her girls. It was always about more than the food. It was the relationships built over time and the showing up every day and then the sudden absence of it all. I’m not sure the food will taste the same, despite the heroic efforts of the new owners. What’s missing is impossible to replicate. Change is hard.
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