I was born in Troy, and then left for a really long time, and then came back. Even though I moved before Kindergarten, I still have these sharply ingrained Troy memories that live forever on the tip of my tongue or the back of my mind. The kind that instantly fire up my most nostalgic neurons as soon as a sight, sound, or smell gets in. Since my return, it’s been happening a lot. The snap of fresh Bella Napoli string against its white and blue box IS Sunday morning at my Grandparents. The warm electric glow of the Snowman sign is the night that my Dad lifted me out of bed to go chase the last bits of a summer with him, the good good ones that were past my 4 year old bedtime. Dusky Fireflies and wet grass under bare feet, pajamas in the yard, running wild with an icecream cone in one hand and a mason jar in the other.
BUt more than anything, nothing sends me off in my time machine like the smell of simmering sauce on a Saturday or Sunday. Throw in a chunk of fresh parmigiano reggiano being grated at the table and it’s over. I grew up thinking everyone had pasta, all the time. I still suffer some serious dietary blindspots when it comes to my love of perfect pasta. Pasta on Thanksgiving, before the Turkey. Pasta on every Holiday…..every party, every birthday, every funeral, every funeral party, every brunch. Births and deaths and parties and days that ended in “y”. Sometimes, we had pasta at cookouts. And always, on Sunday for dinner, which we ate at the ripe hour of 1pm.
Considering my saucy past, you can imagine what DeFazio’s does for my senses on a dreary Saturday. This weekend, I tried to drive by, I really did. (Every time I’m out, they pull me back in.) Next thing you know, I’m smelling the smells and picking up and putting down all of the imported jars of the world’s best olives, just to run my fingers over their rounded edges and imagine the kind of dinner we would all enjoy if I went home right away and got to cooking. I grabbed a can of the orange Pellegrino, snapped the top, and and happily wandered around imagining all of the possibilities. I just like it here. Being in DeFazio’s just makes you feel connected to things, and like you are a part of something bigger than pasta. And for as long as you’re there, you are. Oh. And it smells like heaven.
Rocco saw my aimless wandering and asked me if I wanted to try the garbage bread, fresh out of the oven. It was made with the red pepper pizza dough and was NOT to be refused. Rocco is the son of the legendary and late Anthony and Josephine DeFazio, who are the definition of anything close to Royalty in Troy. Anthony came to America from Italy at 13 and went on to build a family business favorite, gave us South Troy’s Little Italy neighborhood (complete with bocce ball courts), met 5 U.S. Presidents, influenced immigration policies, gave allllll the kids lollipops, and all of the adults a taste of Naples. My grandparents and great grandparents knew the DeFazios, but I get the feeling that everyone and anyone who lived in Troy back in the day “knew” the DeFazios. And the DeFazios all have this magical ability to make you feel like they know you just as well, which is a pretty special quality that runs in this family.
On this particular Saturday, we were whisked to the pizzeria side, where we sat in a super cute booth. The walls are covered with family photos of the Defazio’s that go back over 100 years. There are some framed newspaper articles, and a letter from Hillary Clinton, but the old photos take the cake. Many of them taken right across the street in the original DeFazio’s location, or just around the Little Italy neighborhood. What’s even better than that, is that Rocco came over and told us about any picture we wanted to know about. (All of them.)
There were 2 of us, and there were 3 employees making sure we had every single thing we could ever want. Defazio’s makes all of their own pizza dough, all 5 varieties of it! Even whole wheat and gluten free. Plus, two varieties of their own pasta, and some seriously mean sausages and meatballs. In the store, you can get all sorts of great pastas and Italian imports, prepared foods, garbage breads, stuffed peppers, and more things that you could never stop eating. In the restaurant, you can get about 20 varieties of pasta dishes, and one million billion combinations of pizzas. Pizzas seem to be about 12-14 bucks on average. Pastas are in the same range. AND, it’s BYOB. How
nice WONDERFUL is that?
I kept it classic with a Capriccio pizza. Red sauce, prosciutto, fresh mushrooms, kalamata olives, and added roasted red peppers. CMAXBY ordered the pasta special, fettucini bolognese. Rocco told us there were 17 ingredients in the bolognese….and I’m pretty sure what he meant was 17 mouth watering meatsssssss. It was…..aaamaaaaaazing. The pizza had so much fresh mozz on it that I was taking gobs of it off and giving them to CMAXBY as gifts, just to be nice. (She let me get in on her pasta too…..and by that I mean couldn’t keep me out if she tried.)
I know that everyone says DeFazio’s is awesome, and this is not exactly breaking news or an original breakthrough. But what I might love even more is how happy the DeFazio’s are to tell you about the history, the tradition, and also anything else in the world you might be interested in that moment. Everything they do, and everything they make, is clearly always a 100% effort. They are so welcoming, so enthusiastic about their business, so connected to the community, and take so much pride in everything they do that it’s infectious. I dare you to go there and not leave happy. (AND FULL. And happy. Did I say happy?)
Food aside, the DeFazio’s are forever a piece of Troy. When I googled “DeFazio’s Troy, NY” looking for menu items, I was blown away with the amount of articles and blogs out there, I even found a video of a sweet Josepehine working in the store, sharing her philosophy on life and love (and learning when to shut your mouth.) Make a date to go feed your body with some secret ingredients, and your soul with the DeFazio tradition of making the best (of the best) of everything.