Gettysburg is known for three things: Ghost tours, ice cream and pizza. If you abolish those three business categories, the storefronts are empty. There’s nothing left. No place for the tourists to go. Tourists? Oh right, I guess Gettysburg is also known for its civil war battle.
I live in the sort of town where most families have lived in the area for generations. Even Eli, who was born here, isn’t from here. He’s from DC like the rest of his family. We moved here almost sixteen years ago. We wanted to bail on city life. We sought out something simple. Oh, and park roads. We also sought out park roads. For running and biking.
In all the years we’ve lived here, our family only took one ghost tour. Don’t roll your eyes, it was entertaining. If I could remember the name of the company, I’d make a recommendation. The host was Jennie Wade’s long dead father, a ghost himself. Who’s Jennie Wade? She’s the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. As the story goes, she was baking bread for a couple of Union soldiers hiding in her basement—no, I don’t know why they were hiding in her basement—and a stray Minie ball blasted through her front door. It hit her in the back and pierced her heart. She died instantly.
When my kids were young, maybe five and eight, we sat at the dinner table and took turns being Jennie Wade. Someone would mimic a gunshot and the person ‘playing’ Jennie would say “Drat, I’ve been shot again.” This line was always delivered in a hoity British accent. Ghost tours, Gettysburg has dozens of them.
We’re far more familiar with Gettysburg’s ice cream parlors. How many? Countless. Actually, more open every year—Lu Lu’s is under construction as I write. Some of the shops are mediocre, some are excellent, but they all stay in business. Tourists! Our ice cream allegiance changes from year to year. When we first moved to Gettysburg, we favored Sunset. Then Rita’s. Then Half-pint. Then Mr. G’s.
This year, we’ve traded off between Rita’s and DQ. DQ? Is that disappointing? All these locally-owned restaurants, and we go to DQ! But it’s a local shop, too. I know the owner. She was the Aquatics Director at the Y when I worked there. Her family opened DQ sixty years ago. For years, my family has talked about taking the ice cream challenge. Our plan is to walk from shop to shop, getting a kids-sized cone at each. Yes, that’s a lot of ice cream, but it’s also a long walk. Maybe in the spring.
And pizza. If you want to start an argument in Gettysburg, ask a group of people which pizza is best. I have two preferred shops. Antica Napoli and Brothers. In my opinion, Brothers has, by far, the best pizza in Gettysburg. In 2008, I wanted my coworkers to help me assemble a fundraising packet to mail out. I bribed them with pizza. When I paid for my pizzas at Brothers, the owner asked if I needed any plates. I said “sure, twelve.” He counted out twelve paper plates. These were those cheap, white ones. The ones so thin that when you encounter them at a cookout, you always take two or three to get a bit of stability. And then he charged me $1.20. I didn’t go back to Brothers for ten years.
We get most of our pizza at Antica Napoli. It’s good, fine. Not awesome like Brothers, but they never charged me for paper plates. I think the real reason we go there is that the owner is so freaking nice. It just feels like the right place to go. Other options include Bella Italia, Pizza House, Upper Crust, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns and Tommy’s. The locals all like Tommy’s.
Tonight, Susan made a pitch for carryout. She worked today while Eli and I went mountain biking. Knowing that dinner planning and prep would fall on her, she made the decision. Eli voted for Tommy’s. We’ve probably gotten food from Tommy’s five time since we’ve lived here. A week ago, Eli got a steak sub from Tommy’s and he loved it. Tonight, he wanted to branch out and try something else.
Susan and I got Eggplant Parmesan subs; Eli got Chicken Parmesan. A quick aside: in my house growing up, we called Parmesan cheese—the kind that comes in a green plastic jar with a shaker top—par-mee-see-an cheese. Now, in my brain, we have the Parmesan cheese that we grate, and the Par-mee-see-an cheese that we shake.
Eli loved his sandwhich as much as he loved his steak sub, he raved about it. Susan thought hers was meh. I thought mine sucked. There was no flavor, none. Like eating cardboard. Eli said, “Well, dad, meat adds flavor.”
And I thought, “What a great title for a blog post.”
Tomorrow at Eli’s mountain bike end-of-season party, we’re getting Brothers. Rescued! The weekend isn’t a total culinary bust.