Pagliacci's Last Day on the Ave: Inspiring Memories

For anyone who may not have heard, we are approaching our last day at our University Ave location, 4529 University Way NE. To celebrate nearly 40 great years of making fabulous pizza on the Ave, we will give away free slices at the location from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 26th (limit: two slices per person).

As word of the imminent closure of our University Ave location has spread, we’ve heard nostalgic stories from sources far and wide, not least from our employees. It seems everyone has a meaningful memory tied to that little store on the Ave.

Pagliacci’s original store opened in 1979. Pizza was far from ubiquitous in the city then, and the combination of hand-tossed fresh dough and high-quality ingredients led to lines out the door.

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A HistoryLink.org article titled Pizza in Seattle: A Slice of History talks about Pagliacci back then: “As public tastes — and general awareness about culinary quality — evolved over time, marketplace space opened up for new pizza shops that focused on gourmet ingredients and artisanal approaches. Among the first in Seattle of this next wave was Pizzeria Pagliacci.”

That combination of artisanal approach and high-quality ingredients continues to bring in the crowds today at our 25 other locations in Seattle and the greater Seattle area, including three different locations on the University of Washington's campus— one in the HUB, Lander Hall and the soon to open Willow Hall. Other nearby Pagliacci stores are on Lake City Way (8024 15th Ave NE) and at the newly remodeled Sand Point Way store (6224 Sand Point Way NE).

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Closing the Ave was one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make. Matt Galvin, co-owner of Pagliacci, said, “Many, including myself, were first introduced to Pagliacci Pizza on the Ave. The store is a Seattle gem. It is with a heavy heart that I announce we are closing it. Both the Ave and our business have changed. We are focused on growing our locations that offer slices, dine-in seating and delivery.”

But what memories, what nostalgia, what stories! They’ve been pouring in since the news spread. Here are just a few of them:

Edgar Bobadilla, the general manager who oversees all our dough production, started working at the Ave store 37 years ago. He says, “That’s where I learned the dough-making process from the original five people involved in starting the company.”

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Jason Cheung, a former general manager of the pizzeria on the Ave, remembers one of his best days there. A huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, Jason was was absolutely thrilled when Bourdain visited the store in 2006. He says, “Man, he was tall. And so, so, nice and down to earth. He was gracious enough to pose for a picture with the rabid fan-boy that was me, ate his slice of AGOG, and left. I was on Cloud 9.” Then things got even better when The Stranger wrote this about the encounter, “The manager of the U-District Pagliacci, wearing an incredibly loud shirt with Elvis airbrushed on it, is triumphant: Tony breakfasted on his pizza that morning before a University Book Store reading (Tony had the AGOG Primo; his assertion: "Now THAT'S a f***ing PIE"). The shirt, naturally, prompts a story from Tony about a thrilling yet disturbing experience skydiving with a fat Elvis imitator strapped on his back, intoning from behind in free-fall, "HOW DO YOU LIKE IT, TONY?”

Rosin Saez wrote in Seattle Met, “Pagliacci Pizza is, and will forever be, the pie of my early 20s. It fueled all-nighters, student council meetings, lunches in the quad, and was—I’ll be the first to admit—the bait with which we Italian Club officers enticed hungry freshmen who were, at least tangentially, interested in Italian Studies or conversation practice. The latter of course improved with every slice of Margherita.”

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Catherine Bedford wrote, “I feel 18 again when I eat at Pagliacci on the Ave! Great memories.”

Another customer, David Rice, wrote, “My wife (30 years this October) Eileen Rice and I, when we were first dating, used to have dinner there before going to the movies in the u-district. Many years our daughter Katie Rice ended up working at Pagliacci Pizza in Shoreline and Edmonds from high school thru college. This is more than a Pizza business, it's a home to my family.”

Steve Bunin wrote, “Oh man. The original Pagliacci Pizza on University Way in Seattle is closing?!!? I remember feeling so cool racing there during lunch break once we got our driver’s licenses in high school.”

And Bruce Taylor wrote, “Dear Pagliacci, I will miss your store on the Ave so much. It was the second meal I ate when I came to the UW in 1983 — so good, like nothing my hometown had to offer. Your quality has never wavered in the 35 years since. I've returned to Pagliacci No. 1 again and again, filling up slice and salad punchcards. My favorite movie posters remain. The Seattle I loved slips away day by day, but this is a particularly brutal loss. Somebody please get me a time machine.”

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We’re beyond touched at the love and nostalgia the closing has brought forth. We will carry the store on the Ave in our hearts and our memories. It’s a big part of who we are. The movie posters will all find homes in other stores, as will all employees at the Ave store. The traditions, the pizza, and so many employees who trained at our original location are still with us making great artisanal pizza with high-quality ingredients at 25 other locations throughout Seattle and surrounding area. We look forward to making new memories with you as we continue to grow our business. The spirit of the Ave lives on in our dough, in our sauce, in the carefully chosen ingredients and our customer service. And, yes, in those Italian movie posters.

Thank you all so much.

Pagliacci