The first time I went to Tacconelli’s Pizzeria in Maple Shade, the woman seated behind us was celebrating her 95th birthday. Generations were gathered to honor her: the birthday girl, her daughter, her grandson. Crisp pizzas steamed on tray stands, and the soundtrack was one of familiar conversation and laughter in the black, red, and wood-toned dining room.
At some point, the chatter spilled over to the next table. A pair of Italian aunties wished grandma happy birthday. Then, they set their eyes on her grandson.
Were his grades good? (They were.)
Such a handsome boy. (He was.)
They went on to enumerate the qualities of their niece, who was in need of a nice boy like him. As they chattered, his blush came to match the red sauce atop Tacconelli’s classic tomato pie (hold the cheese). You could tell, though, that he was used to this. Though I did not know it then, this was a classic Tacconelli’s moment. At a restaurant perfumed by dough and garlic, food is a vehicle that brings generations together.