Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fiercely Local at Douglas and Oliver

The excitement is building. A formerly renowned and locally owned  Italian restaurant, known as Angelo's, closed for many years, may now be reopened by a relative of the family that started it. This is big news to the local citizenry. For some people it is the joy in the recollection of the fantastic aroma of the meatball sandwiches. For others it is simply the spaghetti and meatballs. For still others it is the incredibly authentic Italian salad with an un-pitted olive, eggplant pieces and dripping with savory Italian salad dressing. But for me, it was the Deluxe pizza.

I recall vividly the first time I tasted one of those pizzas. It was with my wife to be, her mother and her brother at the restaurant's location on East Harry street here in Wichita. The place was hardly what you would consider fancy. In fact it was kind of a cheap looking place. But nobody cared because they knew how good the food was. A warning note on the menu says that if you order the extra large deluxe pizza, be prepared to wait a little longer, because it takes awhile to bake. Nobody complained because they knew what was coming. Just ask my sister about the place. Long after she and her husband had moved to Tulsa, they would sneak back to Wichita and dine there.

That pizza is close to an inch thick! There were chunks (yes, chunks) of  beef, Italian sausage, ham and the most amazing pepperoni I have ever tasted along with green pepper, black olives, mushrooms and onions. Cheese is piled high. The only possible imperfection, to a Cyborg like me, might be the crust, but I never heard any complaints. Everything else was so spectacularly good. One piece was all most people needed. I kid you not!

The potential future location is the northeast corner of Douglas and Oliver streets, a place that once was a popular, locally owned jewelry store for many, many years.
It was almost sad to see the former jewelry store close. In the day of big chain stores in the mall, this local store had fought a good battle for market share. My wife and I had purchased rings there in the past. Everybody in town knew where this store was and the good reputation it had in the community. Eventually though, the markets became more difficult and the store eventually closed.

Ironically, very close to this location, across the street and down a little bit is one of my favorite pizza restaurants. This place, also locally owned,  has wood oven pizza, jazz music, great atmosphere and great pizza, calzones, salads and sandwiches.  

All the pizzas are good, many with unique toppings such as artichoke hearts, spinach, etc, that wouldn't be found on a pizza from a"corporate pizza" restaurant.

You may or may not know that "Pizza Hut" started here in Wichita in the 1960's. The original owners, two brothers, sold out to Pepsico, I think in the 1980's. I don't blame them. They made a bunch of $. They were hugely successful and I have eaten a lot of their pizzas over the years. Their pizzas were good. I say "were", because now the recipes are different and, in my opinion, the restaurants are now just very "corporate", the bottom line is more important than the food. I guess that's what happens when the company has to answer to Wall Street and shareholders, rather than the actual customers.

The original Angelo's Italian restaurant was never that way. Il Vicino isn't either. I haven't eaten a Pizza Hut pizza voluntarily for many years. For the same reasons I won't eat at Domino's or any other big chain. Something gets lost in the process.

Being "Fiercely Locally Owned" seems to thrive at this intersection. All 4 corners have retail stores, but the southwest corner is the most interesting, to me.
Supposedly the first true shopping center in the history of the world. I cannot verify that, but there are some great stores here. A marvelous florist, a good shoe store and a variety of shops.
This shopping center was not too far from the edge of town in the 1940's, far enough from downtown, that a walk downtown, to go shopping, would have taken awhile. But a walk here from what is known as the College Hill residential area would be rather nice. People used to walk more, and not complain about it.
Max in the morning sun helping to provide evidence of the origin date on the shopping center.
There is one local store here that I admire a great deal. One that has survived the upheavals of the market crash and weathered blistering competition from national chain stores. It is a locally owned bookstore. 
Surviving in a vast sea of competition, this small, but mighty, locally owned bookstore is an anchor for this shopping center. 
I am sure they have struggled at times, financially, as they compete with big box stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders, etc. But the customers of this store remain "fiercely loyal" to their local neighborhood book store at a time when it would seem that the obstacles against them might be insurmountable. Nonetheless, they survive. They compete. They do not give up!

It is almost like Winston Churchill, who was quoted as saying something like:
 "Never, Ever, Ever, Ever Give Up!"

I guess this Cyborg likes the idea of being "Fiercely Local" and not ever, ever giving up.

A lot of very loyal former customers hope the Angelo's restaurant is able to be revived. I bet my sister, who now lives in the Dallas area, will drive up and partake of their food once again.

Ride On and Carpe Diem my friends.



  1. J H Kunstler has a great deal to say on this subject.
    Try dumping the word salad. You'd be amazed how little your life will be affected.

  2. I'm gonna have to read some of that. BTW, I like salads now.