The 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues began in Boston, with Game 1 on Monday. Game 2 is in Boston on Wednesday before the series shifts to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday, June 3. NHL.com writers covering the series will provide a daily Stanley Cup Final postcard from whatever city they're in. Today, columnist Dave Stubbs sends his regards from a legendary Boston pizzeria.
For years, Nancy Pasquale fixed a morning meal for a gentleman at Halftime King of Pizza, an institution on Causeway St. that's a slap shot from TD Garden.
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"We used to do breakfast here and every morning, I'd make breakfast for this man," Nancy said. "I didn't know it was the Chief."
Of course, the Chief would be Boston Bruins legend John Bucyk, one of many beloved athletes in this city who have made this 38-year-old pizza and sub restaurant a part of their lives.
When in Boston for hockey, I don't visit Halftime for the convenience as much as for the history - Bruins and Boston Celtics caricatures adorn the walls - and the heaven that slides out of their pizza ovens.
"It's in our blood," Nancy said on Monday, a few hours before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, posing for a photo with veteran pizza-maker Gionvanni Vinnatoro and a pepperoni pie.
This is a family operation, Mark Pasquale largely running the show with sisters Nancy and Rita; the siblings' mother, Dora, 91, still comes in "to let me know that someone's not doing their job," Nancy said with a laugh, "and I tell her, 'Mom, leave him alone.'"
The offerings, Nancy said, haven't changed much. Nor has the menu - you look at the foldout and notice that the arena across the street is referred to as Fleet Center on the front page, TD Bank North on the back, names that predate the current TD Garden.
Subs are named generically for hockey and basketball and specifically for a few legends of the Bruins and Celtics. A "77 Ray Bourque" is a simple bacon, lettuce and tomato, while "33 The Big Z," for current captain Zdeno Chara, is a more elaborate chicken cutlet parmigiana with sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. Bucyk's "The Chief" and "On The Causeway With Bobby Orr" get equal billing.
"I'm very simple, old-fashioned, I just like a simple cheese pizza," Nancy admitted, and she touched my arm appreciatively when I told her that's the only slice I've ever had in her restaurant, no matter how good everything looks - charred a little black on the edges, with just enough air to lift the crust beneath the cheese bubbling on the top.
"Come back tomorrow, I'll make you a sub," Nancy said as I headed for the door.
Life was so simple until she said that, my Halftime cheese pizza streak suddenly in very grave danger indeed.