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November 9, 2009

Lunch: Buffalo Chicken Pizza at Cafe Rustica II

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The idea of spicy chicken and bleu cheese on a pizza may seem wildly unusual to many, but for me it brings back memories of my college days. Back in Amherst, Mass, there is a pizza shop called Antonio's that specializes in odd toppings. There were plenty of others including Potato Bacon, with thin slices of baked potatoes with cheese and crispy bacon bits on top, but 'Spicy Bleu,' was always one of my favorites

So, when I saw this buffalo chicken pie come out of the oven at hole in the wall Cafe Rustica II on 35th Street, I had to have it. Though not nearly as good as my far off memories of Antonio's, it was close enough to take me back for a moment.

A firm layer of mozzarella sets the foundation of the slice. It holds what might otherwise be watery ingredients in place. The bleu cheese is a thinner dressing that I'd like, but is just strong enough to balance out the tang and spice of the buffalo sauce. The chicken chunks are breaded and fried, a departure from the slices I had back in college and maybe an improvement. The crispness of the breading adds another texture to experience and manages to soak up some of the hot sauce, making it a better vehicle for flavor.

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The way I found it was entirely by accident. My usual Herald Square pizza spot, Giuseppe's apparently closed down but I still wanted a slice, so I stopped in here.

In the 5 years I've worked in the area, I had only gone to Cafe Rustica once. Passing by, the signs out front declare it a 'Trattoria Pizza and Pasta House.' This is ridiculous. The closest thing to decor in this dark, cave-like space are the exposed duct work in the ceiling. This is not Trattoria. It's not even a Restaurant. It's a Pizza shop. Make no mistake.

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June 4, 2009

Amherst: 10th Reunion

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Somehow, ten years have passed since I graduated from college. Last weekend I returned to Amherst College for my class reunion. It was my first time on campus since the last reunion, five years ago.

For all my travels, I've only ever lived in two areas in my thirty-odd years. As such, I find myself very tightly bonded to this small town that is so contrary to everywhere else I'm ever drawn to. Returning was comforting, yet jarring.

As a New Yorker, I should be more than a little familiar with the change and progress that transforms the world around us all the time. But seeing it in Amherst fwas slightly traumatic. Dorms were gutted and renovated and the old, decaying bits we thought of as character were replaced with more practical features.

Regardless of the other differences around campus, it was reassuring to take in the same view from the top of Memorial Hill that blew me away as a prospective student 15 years ago.

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