If you YouTube, search “Village Pizza getting robbed,” and watch security camera footage of Village Pizza’s register getting held up. You’ll be watching Johnny Gagliardi, that iconoclastic pie-man, slam the register back shut every time his affronter opens it, yelling profanities into his ski-masked face—this, while the man points a loaded gun into his eyes. How does he have the gall and moxie to behave like this, under such duress of robbery? These and many more questions will be firmly answered, in terms that can’t be typed, or even spoken, by anyone who takes a visit to this place. Mr. Gagliardi is enigmatic in the way that all endlessly irascible men are—both entirely simple and completely perplexing, ever-begging that query of why, and how, does anyone behave like this? In addition to making a fat, fat delicious slice for a mere five dollars, Johnny is apt to sing loudly and incoherently, exercise all direction of bigotry (ultimately, it seems, just a jest), berate anyone who speaks to him, and generally use a language of half-words, mumbles and gestures that makes you wonder deeply, at 2am in this strangely hued fluorescent hum, whether you came because you were hungry, or if you just drank way way more than you had planned to. That everyone around you seems to be taking Johnny’s cue in their behavior won’t help to make you any less tizzied. With every slice at Village Pizza comes a small styrofoam soda, and it’s been said that, once, when a customer took a slice without paying, Johnny filled a cup with fruit punch and chucked it across girthy, always-busy Chicago Avenue, soaking the thief in stickiness as he reminded him that he “forgot [his] soda.” Don’t mess with Johnny.
Village Pizza, 2356 West Chicago, (773)235-2900, villagepizzamenu.com
Best of Chicago 2012