Two weeks after Edward and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary, we hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner. I did all of the cooking myself.
We started a new tradition the night before. Edward and I set two tables and went to Freddy’s for pizza. To this day, I never cook the night before Thanksgiving. And the only comfort food I crave is pizza.
Freddy was an affable Hungarian who regaled us with stories of the Hungarian revolution and Hungarian food and wine. Although Freddy’s was a BYOB, he would always offer us a glass of white Hungarian wine. Frank, an Italian-American, was in charge of the kitchen. He baked marvelous pizza.
Freddy and his wife married on Nov. 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated. They thought about calling off the small, intimate ceremony, but decided some joy had to be celebrated before the next three dark days.
After Freddy retired, we sought a new place for our Thanksgiving-Eve pizza. To this day, I don’t recall how we discovered Marra’s on East Passyunk Avenue, but it became our go-to spot for pizza and Italian-American fare.
“Let’s go to Marra’s,” I said to Edward.
I instantly knew a floodgate of memories would overcome me because I associate Marra’s with years gone by. My mother loved its pizza.
The host showed us to a table by the window. Our server, the great granddaughter of the owners, offered us a sip of house pinot grigio, served in a wine glass straight out of the 1960s, before we told her it was tasty and ordered a half carafe ($13). We also received a loaf of Sarcone’s seeded bread. It was not crusty enough and the interior was cottony. But this is old world Italian-American food and there is nothing wrong with it.
We noticed two gentlemen tucking into a small antipasto. It was called antipasto rustico ($11) and some would find it ordinary, but this is what I wanted at Marra’s. The plate contained a bed of cold iceberg lettuce dressed in olive oil, some olives, a few tiny cubes of sharp provolone, a few thin strips of salami and roasted peppers.
“Remember that table over there?,” Edward asked as he nodded to a table for four a little bit away. “That’s when Berthe said she loved anchovies and we ordered a big anchovy pizza. It was much too much and realized a few anchovies with other ingredients would not make the pie as salty.”
We ordered mussels in white sauce ($10.50), which were very sandy and gritty. Another order arrived a bit better. The sauce needs pep like white wine, garlic, onions, hot pepper flakes, but this is how Marra’s has been making mussels for decades.
A small Margarita pizza ($8.50) was on order. Although I found the tomato sauce a bit sweet, it was fresh tasting and homemade. Small rounds of mozzarella topped the pie, along with a few basil leaves. Marra’s makes a thin-crust pie, so I was quite content.
I thought about all of the years spent at Marra’s on past Thanksgiving Eves. My younger niece sprung to mind. She lived with us on and off for a number of years and loved Marra’s pizza. She now lives in Idaho and was not here for Thanksgiving. Her older sister, who lives in northern Virginia, loved it too.
During dinner and the ride home, Edward and I talked about those early Thanksgiving years of our marriage. My mom and his parents were at the table with us that first year. It is yet a memory, just like our first dinner at Marra’s.
Two tips of the toque to Marra’s.
1734 E. Passyunk Ave.
I don’t know how many Italian restaurants there are in the city, but I do know that the price ranges go from very expensive to quite moderate.