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Charlie's Rants

Charlie, founder of Pizzaiolo, will weigh in here from time to time, so please check back soon for the latest entries!

Holy smokes, I actually have been given a platform!!!  Most of you out there who know me will be amazed than anyone let me put myself out to the world in such a form, but to them I smile and simply ask forgiveness in advance; if I don't manage to put my foot in my mouth within the first paragraph it will be a miracle.

 

May 7, 2008

Man o man, its been a while.  Charlie here recovering from Mark's departure, just back in town from a week in El Salvador and back in the kitchen with a new cooking partner!!! I want to officially welcome Julya Shin to the Pizzaiolo kitchen and say to all that she is the bomb.  I have aalready felt her influence on the food and the crew and I couldn't be happier.  Also, long time waitress Jessica P. is running the floor these days and until she leaves for bigger and better things is doing a super fly job driving the buggy and keeping me out of too much trouble.  So, I kind of wimped out on the NYC rant, but I wanted to give you a glimps of El Salvador before it got too far from my mind.

The food in El Salvador was great, mostly because my buddy Mike Dooley was cookin it, but it brought up a lot I love about food and a point that I feel needs considerable attention right now in America.  The thing that was so great about the food, which we could easily extend into the rest of the El Salvador adventure was a total lack of consistency.  Thats the rant for this week, consistancy.  It was so great to have a different papusa at every little stand, to have so maany different kinds of mangos, to pretty much across the board not be able to bank on any one flavor or texture to keep reappearing with any kind of regularity.  Now, that said, a papusa is a papusa.  They all fit within the parameters of what a papusa is, but day in and day out you couldn't count on them being the same.  With enough time, with enough seasons under ones belt, I'm sure you would see patterns emerging from the food of any place, but you would have to be flexible, present, and awake to notice them.  This is the crux of my rant, right here.  In a food system, or any system where things are in flux, consistancy is not a given, where things shift with time, weather and mood, one must be actively engaged with that system.  It is much harder to be a passive observer when things are changing around you, much harder to develope the comforting habits of sameness when you know you are going to have to adjust in a day or two or three.  It made me start thinking about how much we love regularity here at home, how much a hallmark of good business it is to provide consistancy in your product.  I mean hell, I can't get the damn dough to be the same between monday and tuesday.  How the hell does Dominos make the exact same dough, all over the world every day, every time for years?  Doesn't their flour change? Isn't their yeast alive like mine is? How do they do it?  Or, more importantly, why do they do it?  Wouldn't it be increadible if you got a different pizza at every dominos, if there was some element of humanness in those pies?  Because really as we push for uniformity, for regulation and consistancy, aren't we really removing the most human part of the pie, so to speak.  I mean how consistant do you feel, how homoginized does America look?  What the hell are we doing, why are we so afraid of being engaged with the world around us.  How many strip mall, super markets, and costcos do we have to build before we realize that the safety bubble of uniformity is an illlusion that is promoting a totally passisive consumer life that is destroying the world around us.  I mean, call me crazy for jumping from papusas to the collapse of the world as we know it, but really how long are we going to keep sleep walking through life wanting every damn pizza to taste and feel just like the last.  At the simplest level its just boring, but as we look at the ripples moving out in the pond, we see a much larger effect.  Is it fear?  Is that what drives us, is it an over arching sense of insecurity that plagues the American conscious and forces us to go out into the world and try to push consistancy on everyone.  Do we believe so much in out truths, in our rightness?  It seems crazy to me that we don't want a little more adventure in our lives, a little more change, drama, excitement.  Perhaps if we where more present to the natural drama, the changing seasons and all the wonderful food drama that comes with them we could let go of some of the drama we create. 

thanks

March 10, 2008

Marc here-

I wanted to hijack Charlie's Rants to say a few words before I leave.  That's right, San Francisco has been home for six years, but I'm moving to St. Louis, my hometown.  While the Bay is an incredible place to live, St. Louis has old friends and all of my family.  So by the end of the month I'm off to the STL to start working on my own restaurant, hopefully with some of the same magic here at Pizzaiolo.

First and foremost:  Thank you Charlie for the best job I've ever had.  For the advice when I needed it, and the space to make a mistake when I didn't.  For all of the amazing food we cooked and all of the people I got to meet doing it.

Thank you to all of the staff here at Pizzaiolo, past and present.  Restaurants are always like a family, but never as close as this.  And especially to the kitchen for watching my ass and making me look good.

Lastly and most importantly, thank you all- the friends and patrons of Pizzaiolo.  Making dinner has been my pleasure.

Hope to see everyone in St. Louis,

Marc

 

Jan. 25 2008

Good god time flies . . . so, I have received a good deal of negative press from that last rant.?!  I don't really know what to say.  Perhaps it was a little too personal, perhaps I sound like an asshole, perhaps.  Now that a little time has passed and my cackles are down a bit I would like to say, sorry man, I probably could have cut your pizza, but in the chaos of the moment it seemed like the straw that might break the camels back, so I said no.  I hope that it doesn't stick with ya too long.  It was definately not personal, nor racial.

Nov. 23 2007

Hello all, I'm back.  Sorry for the long gaps, shit, who maybe no one is even reading this....  Since my last rant I have been in NYC, and that is pretty much what I want to talk about, but first I have to adress some unfortunate business.  Today I recieved a letter of complaint from a disgruntled girlfriend of a disgruntled customer who had a less than wonderful experience at Pizzaiolo.  This customer however seemed to think that the negative experience somehow manifested because her boyfriend was an African American, not because we where crazy busy on a weekend night and he asked us to do something for him that would have made our lives a little harder, and we said no, sorry, we can't do that now. 

So... I would be a total asshole to deny being a racist, I'm white, I'm privilaged, I have benefited from a system whose entire foundation, and whose functional metaphores are so firmly rooted in captivity, slavery, and opression, that for me to claim any kind of trancendant stance in relationship to it would be total bullshit.  However, I would never make a desision about weather or not I cut someone's pizza based on what they fucking look like.!!!!!

So... to the boyfriend, I'm sorry we didn't cut your pizza, I know what its like to work hard, I know what its like to spend my money on expensive food, and to not feel totally taken care of.  Listen, I want you to feel taken care of, I mean I want you, hard working, middle class, hopefully with a kid, trying to make a life in this crazy town work, you.  You are why I, a thirty year old cook with two kids who never made more than sixteen bucks an hour in his life, openned a place like Pizzaiolo.  A place where for five bucks you can get a bowl of the best god damn beans you ever ate and a plate of rapini that will make your mouth water for days, and it will all be organic, and it will all be local, and it will all be cooked with love, and no, I can't and won't compete with MacDonald's prices, and if people in the hood want to keep throwin away their hard earned money on shit food thats killin them and taking that same money right out of the neighborhood and into some fucking franchise owners pocket in the burbs, so be it.  And to you, the girlfriend.  I think its great that you wrote me this letter of complaint, shit, I think we all need to be lookin at our racism a lot more regularly, maybe we could make some progress, but please, if you are going to call me out on my shit, please have the guts to leave a return adress, a telephone number, something so I can apologize, tell you to screw, beg forgiveness, or at the very least so we can have a dialogue about this fucking subject that everyone is so fucking scared of. So, I'm sorry if you felt slighted that night, both of you, and I'm sorry if you felt like race had something to do with it, hell, I'm sorry I'm not feeding every damn person in the hood.  cheers

So, NYC rants will have to wait.  I'm out of time.  Big love goes out to Frannie's in Brooklyn, yall rocked my world, the manager, the pizza, our waitress!!!  Thank you all!!!  Also to my fiends at the Pig, I haven't been treated so well in a long time.  Cheers.  Finally, to all you crazy people who put on the new show Fuerza Bruta, you are amazing. 

Oct. 10 2007

I wanted to write for a quick moment about my recent experience at the Full Belly Farm Hoes Down harvest party.  My god, what a beautiful event!!!   Besides the fact that the Hose Down takes place at one of the most beautiful farms in the galaxy and is run by one of the most amazing women around (thanks Judith), and that over a thousand people converge on this little piece of paradise to celebrate rural living, and all the people and work it takes to bring us the food that sustains us, I just wanted to rant for one moment on the simple difference that one feels in the country, on the farm, next to the feeling, or energy (not to sound too fucking new age-y) of our city life. 

I could be full of shit, and you wouldn't be the first to tell me as much, but this difference I think is pretty easy to pin down.  As far as I can tell people in the country, especially farmers, are still engaged in a primarily production based economy, they are still making things, plants, animals, clothes (often their own), they also seem more adept at producing alot of other things less industry related, like entertainment, music, and the general good times that we in the city have grown used to paying for.  Now, I don't want to sound like a city rube waxing on about the romantic life of the rural man, hell, I live in Oakland, I'm raising my kids in Oakland, and I own a business in Oakland, but man o man I have never had an easier time parenting than I did on the farm. In the city, especially if you are a middle class white guy, for some reason, you feel compelled to constantly monitor your children, or at least thats how it seems, but you get like half an inch outside the city limits and for some reason the fears that they will be abducted and taken away to some terrible basement torture center starts to melt away . . . but I digress.

The point of the rant . . . so, this energetic diffference, or should we call it the change in gears, the down shift, or up shift, whatever it was, hit me like a brick in the head.  We don't make much around town these days, I mean I have some friends who are producing stuff, my friend Max makes these amazing motor cycles, my friend Eric builds amazing houses, but they are pretty darn marginalized folk. So I started thinkin about the nature of our consumer world, the way we tend to define ourselves by what we buy instead of what we do, the way we don't get together all that much to make music and just whoop it up, that we have become addicted to defining ourselves as consumers instead of producers and how that has a certain feel to it.  (A certain empty, shitty feel)  Anyway, it was pretty darn nice to be surrounded by producers, to feel their collective creative juices flowin around the farm and to realize that in some way, Pizzaiolo, and Chez Panisse, and all the other restaurants committed to maintaining relationships with these rural producers of food, and good times, act as a kind of bridge between the us, the people in the city living within the parameters of normal capitalist, consumer life, and the them, the people who are out there, growing our food, creating sustainable ways for us to eat healthy, to nurture our bodies and our spirits, and man o man did it re-kindle my love of this strange half way there career I have fallen into.  It also reminded me that perhaps the only way we are going to start re-creating sustainable urban environments is to take a page from the country book and start making instead of buying our own lives right here in the city.

    

So, that there was the fuel for this, my first rant.  I hope it didn't meander too much, I hope the spelling wasn't too horrible( I can't figure out the spell check on this thing), and I hope you kind of sort of get what the hell I'm talkin about.  If not . . .

Thanks again to the whole Full Belly crew, it was the best weekend I've had in a long while.

October 26

Hello all you out there.  I'm back.  I just wanted to talk for a quick moment longer about this idea of being a producer or production oriented person because I think it is really important.  Now, I do see the beauty of the non productive life, or the argument for style; style for the sake of style, beauty for the sake of beauty, but lets put those high thoughts aside.  Lets also put aside the essencial American work ethic thing we all, or at least some of us seem to be plagued with.  I'm not here advocating that kind of need to work in order to fill the gigantic sense of inadequicy that so many of us feel, that need that seems to drive our endless growth and unquenchable desire, but more the kind of production that goes along with spontanious creative thought.  Now I know I sound like I'm coming back around to some kind of new age thinking here, but shit man, look at the world.  I have friends who would rather sit around playing a skateboard video game than actually go skateboarding, friends who spend more time looking at internet porn than actually talking and interacting with real women.  We seem to be caught in a time where the virtual experience is almost as desirable as the real, or perhaps more because you don't actually have to participate in the virtual experience on any kind of level that forces you to look outside of your self.  This may all seem like it has absolutely nothing to do with cookin', but your wrong, cooking is a fundementally process based activity.  It takes time, it takes focus, you actually have to be present or your food will suck, it will taste just like half the shit food out there, shit.  What makes the food taste good is you, I mean really good ingredients get you most of the way there, but it is your care, your heart, your production that is making that food delicious, you are the added value, just like the houses that my buddy Eric builds, or the music Ben plays, the added value is them, doin' there thing, adding their human-ness to the thing they are doing, and its not just great for us, it is the thing that fuels them. . . . . . .

Nov. 23 2007

Hello all, I'm back.  Sorry for the long gaps, shit, who maybe no one is even reading this....  Since my last rant I have been in NYC, and that is pretty much what I want to talk about, but first I have to adress some unfortunate business.  Today I recieved a letter of complaint from a disgruntled girlfriend of a disgruntled customer who had a less than wonderful experience at Pizzaiolo.  This customer however seemed to think that the negative experience somehow manifested because her boyfriend was an African American, not because we where crazy busy on a weekend night and he asked us to do something for him that would have made our lives a little harder, and we said no, sorry, we can't do that now.  So, I would be a total asshole to deny being a racist, I'm white, I'm privilaged, I have benefited from a system whose entire foundation, and whose functional metaphores are so firmly rooted in captivity, slavery, and opression, that for me to claim any kind of trancendant stance in relationship to it would be total bullshit.  However, I would never make a desision about wether or not I cut someone's pizza based on what they fucking look like.!!!!!  So, to the boy friend, I'm sorry we didn't cut your pizza, I know what its like to work hard, I know what its like to spend my money on expensive food, and to not feel totally taken care of.  Listen, I want you to feel taken care of, I mean I want you, hard working, middle class, hopefully with a kid, trying to make a life in this crazy town work, you.  You are why I, a thirty year old cook with two kids who never made more than sixteen bucks an hour in his life, openned a place like Pizzaiolo.  A place where for five bucks you can get a bowl of the best god damn beans you ever ate and a plate of rapini that will make your mouth water for days, and it will all be organic, and it will all be local, and it will all be cooked with love, and no, I can't and won't compete with MacDonalds prices, and if people in the hood want to keep throwin away their hard earned money on shit food thats killin them and taking that same money right out of the neighborhood and into some fucking franchise owners pocket in the burbs, so be it.  And to you, the girlfriend.  I think its great that you wrote me this letter of complaint, shit, I think we all need to be lookin at our racism a lot more regularly, maybe we could make some progress, but please, if you are going to call me out on my shit, please have the guts to leave a return adress, a telephone number, something so I can apologize, tell you to screw, beg forgiveness, or at the very least so we can have a dialogue about this fucking subject that everyone is so fucking scared of. So, I'm sorry if you felt slighted that night, both of you, and I'm sorry if you felt like race had something to do with it, hell, I'm sorry I'm not feeding every damn person in the hood yet.

 

 

 

 

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