As I enter Iggies, yeasty air embraces me in a warm hug. I feel as if I am entering into a best friend's kitchen where I feel completely at ease. The maitre d' greets us with a smile and asks how many people are in our party. Pointing at two empty seats wedged in the middle of a long table, she tells us we can sit there and takes our wine for a placeholder. Seeing our somewhat apprehensive faces, she also asks if we have been here before. When we say no, she says "welcome!" and explains the "rules" to us. Iggies isn't an ordinary restaurant. They do seat you and give you plates, but from there on, it is self-serve. Wine glasses, water glasses, silverware, napkins, and corkscrews sit on a small sideboard in the heart of Iggies, and we grab what we need. Easy. Choosing which intriguing pizza to order from the chalk-written menu on the wall is not quite as easy. Orange squash, silky pears,creamy mozzarella, salty pancetta, tangy olives: the extensive list of ingredients delightfully goes on an on. So many possible tastes to savor. We deliberate, and finally decide to go half and half on our pizza with one side the Alioe, and on the other the Diovolo.
After placing our order at the small counter, we make our way over to our seats. Fellow guests sit directly next to us family style at the long wooden table and we squish ourselves into our chairs carefully trying not to bump our neighbors. To our left sit a young man and his mother who have already finished eating but are still sipping their wine and enjoying a quiet conversation. To our right sits a couple who is chatting quickly and loudly and perhaps a bit nervously. A first or second date? They start holding hands across the table. I think it's a second. An Asian group of students at the far right-end of the table asks the maitre d' to take a photograph of them eating cheese, and saying "cheese." So cheesy, I love it.
The close quarters at the table might be too close for some diners, but I enjoy the camaraderie of the table. I love catching quick glimpses into the lives of those sitting next to me as I hear bits of their conversation. Something about a mean girl at work. Something about an art show. Can you pass me the hot peppers? I relish the fact that even though I am sitting amongst complete strangers who can hear everything I'm saying, I feel entirely uninhibited to say whatever I want. I know my conversation isn't really private, but it feels like it is because of the surrounding noise. I know that no one is really listening to me because they are focused on their own conversation. If they do tune into mine, they will probably just laugh and enjoy it, just as I enjoy hearing theirs, and continue on.
When the chef calls our order, we are ready to eat. The pizza that waits at the counter for us is a beautifully crafted masterpiece. On one side, bubbling mozzarella and parmigiano lay over a bright red tomato sauce finely supported by a thin pita-like crust. Sizzling spicy sausage and fiery hot peppers add a kick and a punch, and another kick. On the other side lies a brilliantly green coating of pesto dotted with vine-ripened tomato, steamy garlic spinach, and buttery goat cheese. Each piece that enters our mouth is an applauding testament to the duo of fresh ingredients and crispy crust. We eat every last chewy cheesy crumb of this pizza, and long after it was gone, savor its taste on our tongues.
The delicious food at Iggies does more than satisfy my stomach: it satisfies my soul. I am reminded to value the small moments of life as I eat my pizza. The apparent appreciation for good food, good friends, and good times that permeates the air at Iggies is why I will be back and why I heartily say,
"Bravo Iggies! You sure got a good thing right!"