Naples Pizza: a memory

Corby Kummer remembers a campus hangout—and a long-lost friend.

Mark Alden Branch ’86

Mark Alden Branch ’86

For seven decades, Naples Pizza (later Wall Street Pizza) served comfort food to town and gown. It closed last year. View full image

“Did I just hear my name?” my companion asked a table two booths behind us. We’d been having a late-night pizza at Naples (decades ago; the name changed from Naples to Wall Street in 2007). She asked pleasantly, with the strong sense of knowing humor and agreeable assertion I knew well. Sarai Ribicoff ’79 had been my best friend by many miles from the time we met as freshmen in high school, and those traits marked everything she said and did. She had risen from our booth in the middle of a conversation. Why did she feel compelled to interrupt, I asked her when she came back. “So whatever they were going to say behind my back they’d have to say to my face,” she replied matter-of-factly.

I recount this not only to say how much I miss Ribicoff—who was killed soon after we graduated, in a random mugging in California—but to illustrate how deeply Naples is interwoven into student memories. For 70 years it served thin-crusted pies at its restaurant hard by Silliman College and the music department, before it closed suddenly last November when the proprietors decided to retire.

The wooden tables at Naples were sticky. Students regularly carved their names into them, as if the place were a democratic Mory’s. The floors never looked very clean. The Italian-American servers, who had seen it all, barely tolerated the rowdy students who crowded in every night; the crowds were largest when CCL (now renamed Bass Library, and far more upscale) was closing.

I never thought Naples rivaled Sally’s—or Pepe’s when it was more on its game than it is now—although the thin-crust, sparingly topped style was closer to theirs than to Modern’s. But it was pizza. And nearby. And the rice pudding was comfort food. You could talk with your best friend with the easy animation you assumed would be the anchor of your whole lives.

Naples was like Durfee’s Sweet Shoppe, Commons, GPSCY, the dining halls: central to student life. Unlike those places, it had an authentic urban feel, and the New Haven customers who somehow tolerated the  students helped them realize they were part of a community that was broader than Yale—and just as proud. It’s a reality every student needs to understand before graduating.

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