Location: Minneapolis Dinkytown
During my formative years, the arrival the weighty Sunday paper and the TVWeek insert was my personal Bat Signal to launch my weekly social plans. I spent countless hours pouring over game show schedules, after-school opportunities, plus a litany of family hour, prime-time, and sporting options. Navigating the conflicts, anticipating the family maze of screen availability, and optimizing my own potential viewing hours taught me more about real life than any math or science class ever could. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, and I certainly wasn’t the target demographic, the ads contained in TVWeek left an indelible imprint on the brain receptors most susceptible to making the “teenager me” mimic the responsible middle-aged homeowner that I’ve become. I could cite numerous examples, but the most relevant to pizza are:
Anderson House, an actual “destination restaurant" a few hours outside of the city serving comfort food while offering exotic motorcoach tours every Saturday morning. I was a realist who had never even flown on an airplane before, but if I squinted, this seemed notionally within my grasp.
Vescio’s, a local institution spoken of in hushed but reverent tones by the neighborhood elites, in a way that suggested an ascending social trajectory, but not so exuberant as to make it appear like a one-time pinnacle experience. I knew it would be many years before I could ever absorb $3.95 for a single meal, but even at a young age, I knew a social standard when I’d seen one.
I don’t know what either establishment was like in their heyday, but time is a cruel and unforgiving mistress. Two decades separated my wild-eyed visions of suburban exceptionalism from the sobering reality of maintaining a restaurant well past its expiration date. I anticipated a world that no longer existed—where Saturday night reservations were treasured; a world of pizza served with the panache of strolling violins; where gentlemen wore sport coats and the women clutched their faux pearls. Instead I landed in a torrent of stained tablecloths, plastic trays, and an empty room.
It gives me no pleasure to report that both restaurants recently closed their doors for the last time, a couple years after Swen and I agreed Vescio's usefulness was nearing the end. For six decades these icons satisfied thousands of diners, and for that, I salute you. (2 of 10 stars)