Pasquale's in Royal Oak, MI

I visited Michigan over Labor Day weekend. There is something about places you've lived, and especially the place you are originally from, where it is reassuring when things don't change and very slightly sad or shocking when they do. It is as if that place existed only for your experience. It is as if every place you've been should remain the same forever like a museum of your life. And the fine folks at Pasquale's Restaurant seem happy to oblige.
I went with my lovely friend I met in London and her husband. Her husband always went there for his birthday as a child. They went there for their first date. My mother used to go there every Saturday night as a child, and then after cruising down Woodward Ave as a teenager. It is crazy how one restaurant can be a part of so many different moments in so many of my friends' and family members' lives.

About a year ago we rented out a banquet room there on the occasion of my grandmother's funeral. There was a birthday party in the banquet room this time with purple balloons overflowing into the main dining room. There was something surreal about being in the same restaurant a year later. I felt that it was hard to be sad because my grandma was so much fun. She was like a champagne cork popping, a firework suspended in the sky, and the sparkling tinsel on the tree. She always said everything was "like Christmas". Being late for somewhere and feeling rushed was "like Christmas". Thanksgiving was "like Christmas". Getting everything ready to leave somewhere and packing up was "like Christmas". The woman's life was "like Christmas". She was hilarious, and being at the place we ate for her funeral didn't make me sad, it almost made me laugh. It made me think of her advice for marriage ("Do whatever you want, and then tell him what he wants to hear to his face"), and the time I found a $50 bill in the Easter egg hunt as a 9 year old (no one believes me on this one). It made me think of her going out dancing every Saturday night for 45 years, and always trying to convince me to let her buy me bright red cowboy boots. It made me think of the matching fluorescent cropped mohair sweaters she bought my sister, my cousins and I, and how we thought they were kind of revealing. What grandmother buys things her granddaughters think are revealing? Hilarious! It made me think of the time she made more pies than there were people at her house. Of course, a restaurant that has good food and tons of it was a great place to have her funeral dinner.

My friend and her husband and I ordered a salad, the large antipasto salad, and it ended up taking up the entire table. The garlic bread was delicious and was cut in strips as long as our heads. The salad was great, but it probably ended up in about 3 take out containers. I ordered a small Hawaiian pizza (there was nothing small about it), my friend ordered Fettucini Alfredo, and her husband also ordered his own small cheese pizza. I think we ended up with about 10 take out containers. It was all amazing though, and the deep dish has a delicious thick crust and a very flavorful, slightly spicy sauce. Their approach is to put the sauce on top of the cheese, and it is very distinct. Anyone who has ever been there can recognize Pasquale's Pizza instantly.

The real test was when I went to my parents' house with my pile of take out containers, and they all disappeared within 5 minutes despite the fact that my family had just eaten birthday cake. My mother knew I had gone to Pasquale's without me telling her, and without there being any kind of label or logo on the bag or container. She was pretty excited about it.

On my drive back, I ran into a pretty bad rainstorm near Cleveland. I could still smell the campfire in my hair from the night before where I sat with my aunt and grandpa. I mentioned to them these metal devices we used to have that made pies in the campfire with white bread and pie filling. My grandpa didn't remember, instead he said "I had a wife once who did a lot of cooking". I couldn't figure out why he didn't say "your grandma" or "do you remember the time when she made more pies than there were people at the house?" Then I wished we had that pizza in Albany, but I knew that if we did it wouldn't be the same.


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