Ridiculous Calzones

I did something this evening that I have never ever done before. I walked in, sat down at my computer, and started writing this story. I have never before sat down to write this exact story, but that's not the amazing part. I omitted a step. Before sitting down, I put a to-go box from Mario's New York Pizza in my fridge. Now, this is incredible, because I never have leftovers at Mario's. Tonight I did, and here is why.

First though, let me back up. I have been in the habit of occasionally eating calzones at Napoli's in Enid. Actually I typically eat the Stromboli, because it has more stuff in it than the calzone, but they are, apart from the so-called "toppings," the same beast. Very good things to eat, but not actually beasts in any way and not what I would call ridiculous.

Moving along, we arrive in Tulsa. A couple weeks ago Herald suggested that as we were not in too much of a rush we might eat at Umberto's. I seconded. It had been something like twenty years since the one time I had eaten there, but I remember it being a good NY style pizza by the slice place, much like Mario's.

"I always get the calzone," Herald announced. "They make the best calzone anywhere."

I pondered this a moment and wondered if they were better than Mario's calzones, although I had never eaten a Mario's calzone. Still, Mario's holds the record for pizza. I then announced that I too would try a calzone.

Arriving at the joint, we found it to have a line of customers almost rivaling Burn Co. (another story altogether). However, we were not to be dissuaded, having grown stronger by the lines at Burn Co and Jim's Never on Sunday Coney Island. A long wait at our table followed the long line. Our order finally arriving, I could see right away that this was no ordinary calzone.

The ordinary calzone in this part of the country looks like a small deflated football and can be picked up with one or more hands and eaten like a puffy taco. Not so at Umberto's. Rather than sticking with the traditional sports theme, Umberto chose a wildlife-slash-donut shop-slash-superhero theme. The general effect is that of a bear claw with the toes having been formed by a vicious slash from Wolverine. Out of the resultant crevices was flowing the most gooey-looking cheese I've ever seen. Cheese that added 250 calories by mere proximity. The calzone was positioned on one side of what looked to be about a 12" pizza pan. The remainder of the pan was flowing with red sauce. And Herald was right; it was the best calzone he had ever eaten and happened to be the best one I'd ever eaten as well. By a factor of fifteen or twenty.

So this evening I found myself at Mario's (the usual unseen force led me there), and I decided to break a twenty-plus year-old tradition and try something besides pizza. It was my mission to try a Mario's calzone and see how it stacked up to the competition. Ironically, there was a line. There was also a long wait. Very long. I read three chapters in a seedy detective novel before my name was called. About half-way across the restaurant I spied my calzone sitting on the counter and realized right away that a mistake had been made. I didn't order six calzones strung end to end. What were they thinking?

The football motif in calzone technology has been introduced. Whereas Umberto shied away from such cliches, Mario decided to embrace it to such an extent as to make a parody of the situation. The Mario's calzone was also positioned on what looked like a 12" pizza pan and extended at least two inches beyond the edges of the pan in opposite directions. It looked like a regulation NFL football after being run over by that contraption that convey's rockets from the NASA hangar to the launch pad. It was the longest food I had ever attempted to eat. One of those long, skinny loaves of French bread you see sticking out of paper bags in the baskets of Parisienne bicyclists could easily be hidden away inside this thing. I had no choice but to obtain a plastic knife and fork from the plastic knife and fork hopper next to the soda fountain and cut the thing in half so that it would sit on my plate and not be bumping into patrons at the next table.

Like the Umberto's calzone, the Mario's model was superlative. Mario's didn't go in for the lake of red sauce effect, choosing instead the more modern styrofoam cup approach. Both had more cheese than a three goats and a cow could produce in a month. Umberto's, apart from stuffing me to the gills and out the seams, at least presented the appearance of being a dish to be consumed in a single sitting. The sheer length of the Mario's version bordered on lunacy and, once cut in twain, rather defied the user to have a go at the second half. Thus I boxed it and brought it home.

The overall award for pure creativity and flavor, alas, goes to Umberto's. The most ridiculous award goes to Mario's. The reader will not go wrong at either establishment, even if he or she opts for the pizza. Where he or she will go wrong is assuming that the calzones are ordinary and run-of-the-mill and not, in fact, ridiculous.