The Six to Pelham Bay Park Several months later.
Scripted by Tania
Sometimes I have a mental block against writing these posts. It’s a bit like phoning a friend that you haven’t talked to in ages. It never feels like the right time, or that there is enough time to give it the attention that it deserves. So it goes undone. Until one day, you decide to bite the bullet and do it, and you wonder why it needed to take so long.
Three seasons ago, Bonnie and I embarked on the long journey up the 6 line to Pelham Bay Park. We received a request for our presence – the first time in End of the Line dining history. An email came had come through to the Boxcar Girls:
If you happen to take the 6 to the last stop north (Pelham Bay Park), walk over to Buhre Avenue. Zeppieri & Sons Italian Bakery, our family business, has been in Pelham Bay of the Bronx for over 50 years. Known in the area for our homemade bread (ask for a loaf of Pane de Casa to take home, or get an “S” roll buttered), our pastries (cannolis, red velvet cupcakes, a slice of tiramisu or strawberry shortcake) and our pies and cakes. If you have dinner in the area, it’s the perfect stop for some dessert and treats to go.
Neither of us are one to say no – especially to delicious treats, so we decided to go for it. We met at the Union Square station, and headed for Pelham Bay Park. On the ride, catching up as usual, Bonnie shared with me a story that so perfectly captures the person that she is and the person that we all love so much. Bonnie’s aunt had passed away after a struggle with cancer. She had been asked to speak at the funeral, a truly difficult thing to do for a loved one. In an attempt to make it through, Bonnie decided to focus on a word(s) to catch her when the tears started to come. I think we all do that to some extent – mine usually in reverse – thinking of something sad when I am about to laugh at an inappropriate time. The exceptional thing, though, is that up there in the middle of her eulogy – Bonnie decided to share her safe words with the entire group. Those words – Chicken Chow Mein. In a time of grief, Bonnie made people smile, even chuckle a bit – and those who subsequently got up to speak also used Chicken Chow Mein to make it through. It never ceases to amaze me how genuine Bonnie is, with a strength and openness that carries her though the good times and the bad….and so many of us as well.
We finally arrived at Pelham Bay, after one of our lengthiest train rides to day. You might recognize the name from that novel/film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. In the novel, a train leaving the Pelham Bay station at 1:23pm gets high jacked. After that film, for many years, the MTA banned any schedule with a train departure at 1:23, either in the early morning or afternoon. It is no longer a policy, but it is still widely agreed that dispatchers keep the superstition alive and never leave at that time. I didn’t think anyone paid that much attention to train times – except Bonnie and me when we time our trips.
When you exit the train, there is an area where you can catch a bus to City Island. Bonnie lived on City Island one summer, renting a house to write. If you haven’t been to City Island, I would certainly recommend it. A small fishing island with several seafood restaurants, it’s a nice escape from the city itself.
We walked around a bit, trying to orient ourselves. We knew from the email that we received that the bakery was on Buhre Avenue, and we were able to locate both the street and the bakery within minutes (thankfully, on a cold January day). We wandered past the bakery and settled on a diner, which was about our speed for the day. I think that I was craving pancakes, although that is not what I ordered. I ALWAYS want pancakes, but ultimately talk myself out of it for their lack of nutritional value. It is funny, because I rarely use that measuring stick for other foods – just pancakes.
In any case, George’s Family Restaurant served us well. It was everything you want a dinner to be – an extremely large menu (in size and variety of cuisine), breakfast all day and exotic cocktails suggestions (although we did not partake). I had my standard veggie burger with mushrooms and swiss and Bonnie had a burger as well. They were generous with the slaw and pickles. The fries were sufficiently crispy. We left happy and ready for some pastries.
When we arrived at Zeppieri & Sons, we decided not to make ourselves known. We anonymously ordered cannolis and cookies from a girl at the counter who was polite, but seemingly unimpressed. I was once told that some restaurants keep pictures of the NY Times restaurant reviewers up near the kitchen, so the wait staff can be alert in the event of their arrival. I secretly thought maybe they had our picture up at Zeppieri & Sons. I’m kidding, of course.
The pastries, which we ate while waiting for the train home, were delicious as expected.
Tired and ready to get home, we boarded the train….only to be stopped in our tracks just a few stops later. After an interminable pause at one of the stations, we were informed to disembark from the train. Someone had been hit. Riders filed off the train – some looking disorientated and others angry at the inconvenience – looking around the platform for a sign of what was happening. A sense of dread and morbid curiosity was soon allayed by the appearance of a man, surrounded by authorities, who looked as if he just had a tangle with a domestic cat. It looked not so much as if the train hit him, as if maybe he tripped and was slightly skimmed by a moving car.
In the face of a lengthy investigation, an irritated populace exited onto the streets of Harlem. Too far to call for an Uber, we boarded a bus to the nearest subway station and found our way home….a journey that felt, at the time, almost as long as the time it has taken me to write this post.