The Pizza Issue | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

April 20, 2016 News » Cover Story

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Slice of Nostalgia
We pour our marinara for these forgotten pizza parlors

By Enrique Limón

There's a certain romanticism about places long-gone. As far as these pizza emporiums that we tip our paper chef's hat to, some might have served cardboard with a schmear of Ragu or given you night terrors during your formative years courtesy of a creepy robot-animal band, but their memory lives on. So join me in this cheesy journey to the past and party like it's your birthday, boy or girl.

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Dër Ratskeller Pizza Shoppe
With a menu chock full of options all "baked in 750 degree ovens" and adhering to the motto "pizza is always eaten with the fingers," Dër Ratskeller, the brainchild of car dealer and restaurateur Roy Moore, was as good as it got in the 1970s Salt Lake City. There, otherworldly pizza like the fresh Alaskan shrimp and the Portuguese linguiça, filled local bellies and elevated slices to high-art. Other than a weathered sign in Sugar House depicting DR's lederhosen-clad Arian boy mascot, very little remains of the chain. Luckily, there's a post in PlayingInTheWorldGame.Wordpress.com written by a man known simply as the Old Wolf. Turns out Wolfie, who remembers the place as "a cut above," was the former assistant manager at the 2100 South location. The blogger discloses DR's secret cheese blend (75 percent mozzarella and 25 percent crumbled cheddar), and remembers Grandma Moore's thick pizza sauce, the recipe for which time has forgotten, fondly. He does, however, share the exact recipe for their famous crust (albeit for 50-pound batches).

The Grainary Sandwich and Pizza Loft
There were a few old remnants from managing editors past when I moved into my office at City Weekly HQ. Among them, a plaster donkey with a sign around its neck that reads "CW fantasy football last place award!" and a floormat emblazoned with the message "Welcome abnormals." Out of all of 'em, one reigns supreme: a poster-size map of 1976 Salt Lake City that depicts little illustrated people interacting with cartoon businesses in a not-so-subliminal fashion. Characters include a noticeably upper-class lady, nose in the air, heading to Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution, "the first department store west of the Mississippi." WATCH CHANNEL 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. There's also a nod to frontier marshall Orrin Porter Rockwell, who apparently "never killed a man who didn't deserve it!" COTTONWOOD MALL: SHOP THE ONE THAT HAS IT ALL! Out of all of the places in the map, none intrigues me more than The Grainary, which is depicted in a Coney Island-like fashion. Time (and current management of Trolley Square, to whom I reached out for this story) have forgotten about this Willy Wonka-esque emporium. Long before Whole Foods moved into the shopping center, our publisher John Saltas recalls, "They were the precursors to whole grain this, whole grain that." To keep the fantasy alive, in my mind those grains were harvested by Technicolor-haired dwarves that sang in unison: Oompa Loompa, doom-pa-da-dee, if you are wise, you'll get extra peppero-ni.

That fantastical pizza place I talk about in @slcweekly's current issue 🍕

A photo posted by Enrique Limón (@limonenrique) on

Me-N-Willey's
Again, there's no documentation online on this local iteration of the pizza/arcade concept that swept through the nation in the 1980's, but their location on 90th South by the freeway left a lasting impression in patron Chris Wright, who was in awe of its Western-theme scheme. The locale "had tons of cool games," Wright told City Weekly in 2012. " I couldn't get enough of Crossbow, Battlezone, Sea Wolf, Carnival, Stunt Cycle, Fire Truck and Berzerk," he continued. How much of an impression did the haunt leave? Big enough that Wright opened Atomic Arcade (3939 E Highland Drive, 801-634-1130), an operation of his own, in 2012; a cathedral housing the likes of Galaga, Donkey Kong and Frogger. This 5-star Yelp from Nov. 2015 let's the world know Wright is doing his influencer justice: "Best arcade EVER! Crummy in all the best ways. Open late. Chill environment. Cool old games!"

Gepetto's Restaurant
Gepetto's arrived in Holladay in 1970 as the "perfect après-ski destination" and never left. Soon it solidified its reputation as a cool hangout with a hippie vibe and an impromptu stage for live music acts. Sadly, its door permanently closed on Feb. 13, 2014. Many in the area and beyond still salivate at the thought of their "Buffalo Soldier"—a blue cheese-topped roasted chicken and creamy Alfredo sauce creation; the veggie "Hotel California Garden;" the jerked chicken topped "Bob Marley;" and the "Rastafarian" which alongside pesto and baby spinach, featured toasted hemp seeds. Man, the fumes coming out of that brick oven must have been glorious.

ShowBiz Pizza Place
Founded in 1980 in Topeka, Kansas, ShowBiz was an early precursor of the pizza parlor/arcade hybrid that quickly spread around the country, including a couple of Salt Lake City locations in what a young music editor Randy Harward recalls was 45th and State and another one his mother used to say was in BFE ("Bumble-fuck Egypt"), aka South Towne. The pizza was good by kiddy expectations, but the real draw was The Rock-afire Explosion an animatronics band designed and built by Aaron Fechter—also the inventor of Whac-A-Mole—that was heralded as "the world's most advanced entertainment." at the time, and included such high-profile fans as Michael Jackson.

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Band leader Fatz Geronimo has long put away his keyboard and my favorite member, Billy Bob the bear is not as quick on the banjo as he once was, but the band (or rather ghostly pieces of it) pop up here and there at roadside attractions and online auctions.

By 1992 all stateside ShowBiz operations were absorbed by Chuck E. Cheese's. Is there a local tie-in you ask? Why, yes there is. As noted by local "pizza connoisseur" and blogger Jason Woodland on PushUpsAnywhere.Wordpress.com, Chuck E. Cheese's was conceived by Atari founder (and Clearfield's own) Nolan Bushnell.

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