Growing up in a small town like Whitewater, Wisconsin it was easy to know just about everyone. From the local cops to the kids skateboarding on the church steps, the town drunks to the one and only cab driver, all the business owners, the athletes, the slackers and even the creepy old man that walked around town releasing balloons into the streets.
Back when I was coming-of-age, the best person to know was the employee running the register at Rocky Rococo’s Pizza on Tuesday.
Anyone aged 11-18 in the late ’90s and early 2000s in Whitewater knows the highlight of most any week was undoubtedly Rocky’s $1 Slice Tuesday.
The best deal of all time?
Arguably one of the greatest deals in pizza history, every Tuesday we were blessed with a slice of Detroit-style pan pizza for a buck—that’s right, you could get a huge slice with basically the spare change you found in the parking lot on the way into the place (I think that actually happened to me once).
If you’re familiar with Rocky’s pizza, you know that getting a slice for a dollar is nothing to shrug at—when it’s hot and fresh, it’s outstanding. Rocky’s has great sauce, a doughy crust that gets golden and crisp around the edges and is highlighted with hearty chunks of hand-pinched sausage.
Since moving away I’ve found that quality varies drastically from location to location, but the Whitewater shop, with their dirt cheap deals and their pepperonis-under-the-cheese, will forever hold a place in my heart.
Back in my Middle School days in between skateboarding and loitering, I’d always meet friends at Rocky’s. We would have slice eating competitions and literally stack those tan rectangular boxes as high as we could go. It was a glorious time for pizza binging.
Since it was easy enough to pool together a buck for some pizza, it became the place for many teens to gather—a hotspot for friends, teammates or even a date.
Just as Rocky’s was packed with hungry teens it was also, mostly staffed by teens, so, in a small town, where everybody knows everybody it was pretty easy to have an inside man.
A colleague on the opposite side of the counter that could potentially score you an extra dipping sauce, a cherry coke in your “water glass” or maybe even extend a trash-can destined breadstick or slice your way.
Because of food safety regulations those slices and breadsticks can only sit on the heat rack for so long, so I guess the high school kids manning the front counter figured it’d be best not to let them go to waste. The resulting generosity from them always left me feeling like a celebrity.
The gift of a slice goes a long way.
Back in those days, I was socially awkward, self-conscious and insecure and any sort of thoughtfulness from a peer put me on top of the world, especially if it was a pizza perk at the most happening place in town.
As my friends and I would pack one of those maroon booths, I recall glowing at the sight of my $1 slice and whatever extra I scored upon receiving my order. In my mind, I had the connections and loyalty of a “made man” from a mobster movie.
As I reflect on the recent loss of an old friend who was once among the ranks of those employees, I’m transported back to the glory days of $1 Slice Tuesday and the realization that our kindness can outlast us.
What pizza taught me:
Life is short, but the courtesy we extend to others has lasting effects. To all the Rocky’s alumni out there (I know there are many of you) I salute you.
What I’m eating: Rocky Rococo’s slice of the day: Pepperoni Motherload and Sausage and Pepperoni Superslice.
What I’m reading: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think –Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling
RIP Kyle, you were always a great laugh, a good conversation, and an accepting, righteous dude.