Imperial will be remembered by many as the best pizza in the area, hands down. There is no better, and that includes all the big name places such as Regina, and Santarpio's. But, Imperial isn't only pizza. How can you ever forget a meatball sub, covered in shredded mozzarella cheese and heated in the pizza oven until melted. Chewy, gooey, cheesy love. You haven't lived until a glob of hot melted mozzarella sticks to the roof your mouth! The steak and cheese is made the same way. One is never enough, but has to be because they are so filling. Ordering a meatball sub with melted pizza cheese in any other restaurant gets you a strange look. Some places will try to sneak slices of American cheese in the bread if you're not paying attention. Ugh! A pile of Italian cold-cut calzone was on the counter every day at lunch. Not the folded over stuffed pizza crust that many places offer, but thin, crisp crust filled with meat and cheese. The calzone is just enough to put off a hunger pang, and maybe make you go back in for one more.
It is not often you go into Imperial and don't see someone you know. Every section of Brighton and Allston goes there. We would run up from St. Columbkille High School for a slice and a Coke at lunch time. The place would be packed after a high school basketball game, standing room only. The original owner, Joe D'Amico, loved it. After him, Joe Greco took over and kept things the same. All were welcome, and treated well.
My last visit was on Wednesday afternoon. There were two other people in the restaurant. I think I recognized one, but I can't be sure so I won't name names. But he had the beginnings of tears in his eyes as he looked around one last time. Joe was behind the counter, tossing dough in the air. "How you doin"' he asked. Joe, I feel like crying, we grew up here, and now you're leaving. "Don't say that, you make me cry!" As I waited for my order, (a large cheese, a large pepperoni and onion, a large half cheese/half sausage and onion, and a meatball sub with melted cheese) I looked around. Pizza boxes were still stacked in the corner, the old Pepsi Cola menu board was in its familiar location near the door. Pictures from the annual Brighton Center Halloween Trick or Treat hung on the wall. I only wish they still had the pizza boxes with the Brief History of Pizza on the cover. And of course, one last look at "the Painting."
I intended to take some pictures while I was there, but I didn't. Instead, I choose to have memories of Imperial. The tiled floors, and the painted over paneling, and the famous painting. I want to remember Joe's Christmas displays, the Buon Natale painted on the windows. I want to remember being there with friends, teammates, and the occasional date, and just a few years ago, some high school classmates before a reunion. I want to remember Joe D'Amico, Joe Greco, Aldo, Nino, and everyone else who worked there over the years, not in photographs, but in my mind, the way they are.
I wished Joe all the best, and thanked him. Not only for pizza and subs, but for what he meant to the community. Imperial will close, but we will all remember Imperial.