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When one door closes, another restaurant opens

restaurant, closed sign

Noralli’s is gone. Not Noralli’s Pizza, but Noralli’s Pizza and Subs, which took over the space when Noralli’s Pizza closed. The restaurant occupied a tiny storefront on the lonely east end of a dying shopping plaza. Once there was a thriving grocery store right in the center of this plaza, and I was quite disappointed to see that the grocery store had closed. Since I don’t have a car, any business that is within walking distance of my home will get my money.

Noralli’s Pizza was one of those businesses. We ate there the first day after we had moved into a new apartment around the corner. It was pouring rain, and the tiny room was packed, but we got service right away. Our pizza came fast with about half an inch of mozzarella cheese dripping off each slice.

Then the rain let up, and suddenly the restaurant was empty. We realized the crowd was just waiting out the storm and had not purchased even a beverage. I dismissed the idea that the massive amounts of cheese on our pizza was an effort to use up inventory that was about to expire.

The end of an era

The owners of Noralli’s Pizza soon taped to the glass door a hand-written note on the back of a placemat. It was addressed to their loyal customers (which would have included me if they hadn’t closed within two weeks of us moving to this end of town), thanking them for their patronage and promising a big feast to help them prevent the waste of their remaining inventory.

That party never happened because new owners snatched up the shop and opened Noralli’s Pizza and Subs. The addition of subs should have saved them. But alas.

Warning signs

I knew Noralli’s Pizza and Subs were in trouble when I stopped in to get a meatball sub, a bag of chips and a fountain soda. The place was dirty. The kitchen looked empty with very little stock on the shelves. One man in a filthy apron turned in circles, I assume looking for the meatballs, while another was on his cell asking foreboding questions to the person on the other end:

“How much is the bill? Well, how long do I have to pay it? But what if I can’t get the money by tomorrow? How much again? Will you take my credit card?”

The guy who rang me up asked if I wanted anything besides the sandwich.

“Um, a bag of chips?” I looked to my left at the chip display rack where one battered bag of Funions lay on the bottom shelf. “Or, no, a small order of fries. And a large soft drink.”

“Large?” he asked, his eyes flitting to the single stack of 10-ounce Styrofoam cups in front of him. I began to wonder if the person on the phone demanding payment was the cup vendor.

“Yes, large,” I said.

He reached under the counter and plopped a 64-ounce bottle of Pepsi in front of me. I didn’t argue. He was already having a bad day.

How much can you eat?

Supposedly, there is one restaurant for every 30 people in the city where I live. That means there are well over 1,300 eating establishments, from fast food to fine dining. We even have a few ethnic restaurants that are not all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets. While we have our share of chains and franchises, a good many restaurants are family owned by local entrepreneurs. This makes it even sadder when one of them closes.

But almost as soon as one shuts down, another takes its place. In the same store front, with the same décor and sometimes the same menu, new owners come in confident that they can make it work where others failed. I admire that gumption. “No used book stores or pawn shops for this family! We will cook for a hungry city!”

The end of another era

A week or so after ordering my meatball sub at Noralli’s Pizza and Subs, I walked past the plaza and saw a $3,000 bill from the water company taped to the restaurant’s glass door. Under it, a new place mat made a bold promise:

Dear loyal customers,

Thank you for your patronage. We are sorry to say we are closing our business. However, don’t worry! A new restaurant will be opening soon serving pizza, subs, and tacos.

That ought to do it.

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