It is 90 minutes before kickoff of one of the worst Super Bowl games ever played. Three XLVIII-sized boxes are sitting with their lids open on a stainless steel countertop next to the hulking pizza oven at Rosati’s Authentic Chicago Pizza at 72 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson.
In a minute or two — four or five for deep dish because they must bake longer — Jessica Garrett, the manager on duty, will pull open the door of the monstrous Middleby Marshall oven, and 450 degrees will blast anybody within a 5-mile radius (which also happens to be the distance limit on deliveries) right in the kisser. She will remove three Chicago-style pies and slide them into their boxes with a giant wooden pizza spatula called The Big Angelo.
After the box lids are closed and the pizzas are sent on their way, three more boxes with their lids open will be placed on the stainless steel countertop. That’s pretty much how it is on Super Bowl Sunday at a local pizza joint. Perhaps it would slow down after halftime when that Bruno Mars guy was done singing.
Super Bowl Sunday has become a de facto holiday in America and in Henderson, a time to eat and to drink and to watch humorous commercials and to buy those little squares in your office pool. Not so for the people who make pizzas.
(And not for the person dressed as the Statue of Liberty on Horizon Ridge who was imploring people to come in and have their taxes done on Super Bowl Sunday. And here you thought Lions fans were optimists.)
Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day on the pizza calendar, provided there is a pizza calendar. Pizza Hut put out a news release that said it would deliver more than two million pies on Sunday, and that it would have more than 57,000 drivers on the road — roughly the same number of drivers who will qualify for the NASCAR playoffs under the new setup.
After I received this news release from Pizza Hut, I went down to the one closest to my house and asked the assistant manager, who appeared to be 16 or 17, if I could come down on Super Bowl Sunday and perhaps make a couple of delivery runs with their drivers. No problem, said the assistant manager. This was on Wednesday.
By Sunday, the weasels at corporate headquarters had gotten wind of it. I was told there are rules against free publicity on Super Bowl Sunday, and like that fumble near the goal line in the 49ers’ game, they are not reviewable.
The only rule at Rosati’s is that if you get called into work on Super Bowl Sunday, you must have a good time. Everybody seemed to comply. Except for Lino.
The schedule on the bulletin board across from the big pizza oven listed 13 employees. All except Lino, Mark and Shelly were scheduled for duty on Sunday.
Mark was called into work at a Rosati’s across town. Shelly is Shelly Jensen, the young woman who runs the place. She was making pizzas, too, which makes her even more popular with her employees than, say, Jerry Jones is with his.
Lino was in church. At least that was his story.
I mentioned the only dictum at Rosati’s is that you must have a good time making pizzas there. There also may be a rule against ordering a pizza with pineapple on top. Rosati’s, as stated, is an authentic Chicago pizza joint, and people in Chicago know that pineapple isn’t a topping. Cheese and Italian sausage and pepperoni and, maybe, green peppers are toppings.
Pineapple is something in a can you attach to a ham at Thanksgiving with a toothpick, if you need to get rid of it.
Anyway, I watched the kids in the back make deep dish pizzas with the tomato sauce on top, which is Chicago style, and I watched Jessica Garrett slice the thin crust pizzas into little squares in the middle and triangles on the sides, which also is Chicago style, with a few deft swipes of her pizza shillelagh. Not one order had come in for a pizza with pineapple.
The TV in the vestibule was tuned to the Super Bowl pregame show, but this was mostly for the carry-out customers.
Ron McClure, a retired casino worker who delivers pizzas whenever Jensen needs an extra man, said 90 percent of the people he delivers to on Sundays during the regular season are Bears fans.
The door to the back seat of his 1989 Chevy Celebrity did not have a handle. This is Chicago style, too.
McClure was headed for an address on Preakness Stakes Street on the other side of Boulder Highway. It was pretty easy to find: right on Belmont Stakes Lane, left on Shoemaker Avenue. (If all communities had street names like this, there would be no need for GPS, at least if you bet the ponies.)
McClure, who grew up a Rams fan when Roman Gabriel was the quarterback, rapped on the door. An older man wearing a gray Bears T-shirt opened it. This man spoke with a gruff Chicago accent, like Mike Ditka or one of those aldermen back there. He said he originally was from Joliet, Ill., and he tipped four dollars on a $23 order, which pretty much is Chicago style, too.
When we returned through Rosati’s back door, pizza boxes with their lids open now were stacked on top of other pizza boxes. Those 450 degrees coming from the big oven felt like a thousand. Every time Julie, the young lady manning the telephones, would step away from them, they would ring again.
Rosati’s looked like a Canadian Football League game. Men (and women) were in motion all over the place.
The Super Bowl was 12 seconds old, and the Broncos already were losing.
Lino still was in church. At least that was his story.
Las Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski