Comfort Food Away From Home

Sometimes when you enjoy pizza the context around the experience matters more than the taste.

My first time visiting Brooklyn took place one week prior to me signing a lease on an apartment in Park Slope. Clearly, that did not leave me a lot of time to get to know the neighborhood well (if at all) so the move both excited me and left me feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Hey, I am a small town girl, remember? Although I must say, ironically, being an “out-of-towner” in a city of other much more foreign foreigners actually makes you feel like you fit right in.

Anyway, my neighborhood exploration began as I strolled the Brownstone lined streets and passed stroller pushing Park Slope mothers. Admittedly, along the way, I was actively noting the pizza joints within walking distance: Joe’s Pizza, Smiling Pizzeria, Roma Pizza… the list goes on! Clearly I picked the perfect neighborhood to live in, despite having to face the daily temptation as the pizza smells drift past me while walking home every day.

My first exploration in Williamsburg evoked a similar feeling of newness. My boyfriend Ben and I went for a walk past dark in a neighborhood that proved much different than that of quiet, familial Park Slope. The streets were scattered with hipsters and food trucks, and the scene played out upon a backdrop of street lighting and loud overhead traffic as the overpass shook with the weight of heavy trucks.

Ben had just moved to the neighborhood and we wandered together both hungry and curious. As we passed a large diner, the famous Endless Summer food truck, and an assortment of sit down closet-sized mom and pop restaurants, I sighted something in the distance. It was the most welcoming of neon signs, and it read PIZZA.

I can’t fairly grade the quality of this pizza but I can explain to you the comfort it provided me in knowing that in a new place, you can find familiarity that puts you right back in Painted Post, N.Y. — or any other hometown from which you originate. It’s like going home and experiencing mom’s homemade cooking after months of being away. La Bella Mariella II convinced me I could feel right at home here in no time.

This may seem extreme to say that simply eating pizza, a common food found in most of the world could be a comfort, but I mean it fully. I lived in Spain for four months during the spring of my junior year and I never had the ability to go to the local pizzeria and experience the simple pleasure of a pizza pie. I’m not saying they didn’t have pizza joints– they were just much more rare and usually pizza was not the focal point but rather a side offering at a restaurant that served everything else. Here in New York, when people serve pizza it also comes with a casualness and a semblance to prior experience that you don’t receive with many food offerings. Thank you Mama Mariella for easing my mind and satisfying my stomach.

Jamie Miles

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