New York City has some of the best restaurants in the world. Still, some exceptions may apply...
During my second year of college I received homework assignments that required me to visit areas of the city with which I was unfamiliar. My husband (boyfriend at the time) accompanied me on one such adventure. I figured since he was still relatively new in town it would be a good opportunity for him to see the sights. We made a day out of it and had a good time at a museum--the exact name of the museum escapes my memory due to the unfortunate experience that followed it.
Evening was rapidly approaching and the rumbling of our tummies signaled it was nearly suppertime. In retrospect, I now wonder if the gastro-internal turbulence was actually a desperate warning of things to come. After wandering the area in search of sustenance, we decided to visit a small pizzeria. The fact that we had bypassed the place twice before finally venturing inside should have been a warning, but we were both tired, young and naive. The first thing we noticed that was a bit odd was the smell, or lack thereof. Being a native New Yorker, I had never been to a pizza shop that lacked the fragrant aroma of garlic, herbs and freshly-baked dough. Then again, I was still recovering from a cold so I thought, perhaps, that was to blame. The food choices looked decent enough so we both ordered chicken slices. The man behind the counter, presumably the co-owner was very friendly and happily prepared our order. As we waited, we noticed how empty the place was, but we rationalized it by figuring it was either due to the location or the time of day.
After receiving our food--and I use the term loosely--we took a seat by the window and started our punishment. In the middle of the first bite I was hit with the fact that there was something unusual about what I was eating. It was the smell. As I mentioned earlier, I was getting over a cold, so I thought my sinuses were doing weird things to my olfactory senses. I locked eyes with Max. He seemed okay and we continued eating. All the while I figured I needed to make an urgent doctor's appointment to get some medicine for whatever the hell was going on with my nose. Each time I went to take a bite, my nose was bombarded by a smell reminiscent of moldy gym socks and stray wet puppies. It led me to question the true origin of the meat used to prepare this highly-disappointing meal.
My stomach got the signal and my nose waved the white flag as I surrendered eating and concentrated my attention on my soda. That's when Max dropped his slice on the tray and said: "I can't eat anymore. This shit stinks!" to which I replied: "Seriously? I thought my nose was playing tricks on me." That said, we decided to high-tail it out of there. However, Max, who was not yet fluent in English had a few parting words for the inept pizza maker. "Thank you for your services, but you need to do something about your pizza because it STINKS!!!" he proclaimed.
Clearly irritated, the thickly-accented man defended his stinky wares by retorting: "My pizza doesn't stink! YOU stink!" He was still yelling after as we made our exodus. If only he had put as much passion into his food as he did defending it, we would never have gotten into this altercation.
At least ten years have elapsed and Max and I still bear emotional scars. If we think about it long enough, which we try not to, we can still smell the horrifying stench of the attempted meal. Now, every time we go out to dine we make it a point to do a thorough scent check upon entering any restaurant. If it doesn't smell like food, we immediately reverse course and seek food elsewhere. We don't know what ever became of the shop, but we strongly doubt they're still in business. I can't help but think what a travesty it was for such an establishment to call themselves a pizza shop. Honestly, I feel if the Italian mafia ever got wind of that place it would have been on the news; the owners' skeletons found inside the burnt building with their kneecaps mysteriously broken, or something like that. One positive thing to be said about the experience, aside from our obvious survival, is that I gained a burning desire to prepare my own meals and to prepare them damn well so I don't have to rely solely on restaurants for my culinary pleasures.