I work in a suburban area. It's a nice area, but it's not your cappucino and exquisite pasta area (thank goodness). It's your basic cafeteria and fast food place and Mexican food and Chinese buffet area. It's prime stalking ground for that ubiquitous prey, CiCi's Pizza.
CiCi's Pizza is one of dozens of chains built on a single, informing principle--if one puts together a low priced buffet, and fills it with the most ordinary if good cooked dough upon which toppings have been quick-grilled, one can serve the multitudes. CiCi's pizzas are not temples of high cuisine. Indeed, one pays for a buffet and a drink at the counter, they give one a plastic plate and an empty drink cup, and the buffet awaits.
The pizza is always good, but good in a five dollar way. The pizza is always available, the plates are always clean, and attentive, cheerful staff always ask if there is some special flavor one wishes a new pizza to be. There are even desserts, although I have personally never figured out why someone who has ingested a luncheon of pizza and cheap pasta would want a cinnamon roll for afters. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe it's an aperitif. It might help temper that Canadian bacon flavor, giving it new subtlety.
Our local CiCi's always have a news channel or a sports channel playing soccer or tennis on a big screen in the corner, which everyone ignores totally. On weekdays, working folks like me, only usually not in a suit, flock to pay their five dollars and take on the pizza, while weekends seems tailor-made for children with non-cooking-visitation-rights-only-paren
One could get the blues at a CiCi's Pizza. One could realize that one was not formed for a life of red chequered place settings, fashion-model wait staffs, creme de menthe, and chocolate souffles. CiCi's Pizza is perhaps the single most effective metaphor in my daily life for all the ways in which my life is not a movie; no, not even "Clerks".
But I prefer to see CiCi's Pizza as a shining example of something I mean to write about this weekend in another post--people who take responsibility. At CiCi's Pizza, nobody ever tells you that there's no cheese pizza because the wait staff had a stressful night last evening. Nobody claims that network interference has prevented the CiCinet from providing one's favorite pizza. Nobody explains that they've been meaning to make the soda machine work, because the soda company has been called. No, they just put the pizza on the tray. If you don't like what you see, they top your favorite topping on a new one, and put it out promptly. They put the soda in the machine. They charge less than 7 dollars to all and sundry. When you leave, they say "thanks for coming in".
I find in life that casual cheerfulness, food that is not irritating, relative quiet, and an absence of banter, whine and excuses from anyone (though, on second thought, that nice waitress at our local MiMi's coffee shop could banter with me anytime, notwithstanding that her age is roughly the age of some hypothetical daughter I don't have).
I have been to multi-star restaurants. I have eaten pheasant in little goblet-like salade bowls at the Mansion. But please, really--take my five dollars, give me a smile, and give me pizza. I'll try to eat cheese topping only, to watch my waistline, but otherwise, neither I nor CiCi's need feel any guilt. It's really who I am, damn it. It's really who I am.