When I travel to the northeast on business, I always try to fly into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to spend a few days visiting with my mother. Once I’ve made my obligatory greetings, I get back in my rented car and head for a fast-food restaurant called “Danny’s Pizza” to partake of the best hoagie in the world. To describe it is to tarnish its grandeur. Let me just say, it’s extraordinary eating. Sure, “Danny’s” sells pizza and other fast-food stuff, but it’s the hoagie that matters.
“Danny’s” décor hasn’t changed one bit since my high school days. I’m almost sure that the blackened, encrusted pans are the same ones that were used when the restaurant opened in 1960. The building that makes this one-of-a-kind culinary delight stands as it did when hundreds of cars cruised the area nightly. And those of us who make our trek to “Danny’s” don’t mind one bit. We don’t want it to change. Ever.
The hold that a hoagie from “Danny’s” has on us is almost supernatural. I made the mistake of taking my wife and children there a few years back. They were hooked. And that’s the problem. They insist that they also get to indulge in the food of the gods. So three hours before my flight, I make one last trip—I’ve been there three times already—and order uncooked hoagies to go. They’re even kind enough to give me a container of their special sauce. No sauce—no world’s best. While my luggage is thrown on a conveyor belt without a care as I check in at the airport, the bag with the hoagies is held protectively. I’m extra careful with my uncommon cargo as I carry it on the plan and place it cautiously and reverently under my seat. I pray that there’s no one sitting nearby who recognizes the distinctive aroma.
The flight to Atlanta is uneventful. I’m anxious to see my family. As I enter the house, I’m greeted with, “Did you get them?” The stuff is unpacked, the oven warmed, the hoagies cooked, and for ten minutes we feast.
There’s more to “Danny’s” than the food. And while my family is forever grateful, they can never taste the special unseen ingredients that make a trip to “Danny’s” an event for me. Those of us who grew up in Bethel Park, Baldwin, and South Park are an extension of our parents’ dreams. We were working class kids who went off to college, started our own businesses, and lived the ideals of an extraordinary generation. We’ve never forgotten where we came from and what made us unique. Places like “Danny’s” helped to give us an identity. I’ll never forget those days. I am a composite of a myriad of experiences. Some of “Danny’s” special sauce runs through my veins. The people I grew up with, the teachers who taught me, the coaches who inspired me, and the parents who never gave up on me have shaped what I am today. Thank you, Danny.