Restaurant of the Week: Petrilli’s Pizza

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Petrilli’s Pizza, 110 S. Mountain Ave. (at 9th), Upland

One letter can make a lot of difference. Petrilli’s isn’t Petrillo’s, which is a San Gabriel Valley institution, with locations in San Gabriel and Glendora. But it used to be. The Upland storefront opened as a Petrillo’s circa 2004 but changed a letter the following year. (A close look at the sign hints that the “o” may have been cut in half.) Someone who knows more about Petrillo’s could probably explain, and if so, please account for Mama Petrillo’s in La Verne, Rosemead and Temple City, whose connection to the main operation is nebulous.

Located at the north end of the Dollar Tree and Fresh & Easy center, Petrilli’s is takeout only, except for a lone table. That, a soda case and a TV are about the only adornment. A friend and one of his friends and I met up there recently for dinner and snagged the table.

We ended up getting two pizzas: a medium specialty ($23.75) and a small three-topping veggie with mushrooms, onions and jalapenos ($14), because a small pizza was half-off that night with purchase of a medium or large. The menu has a few sandwiches and salads, and lasagna, but it’s mostly pizza.

The specialty had sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, salami, onions and green peppers and was enormous. So were the toppings. As my friend said, “Those are some of the biggest pieces of sausage I’ve ever seen,” and I agreed. The medium was cut in squares, not triangles, and encompassed 16 pieces. Two of us ate less than half.

We liked our pizzas, but we weren’t totally sold. The crust was crunchy and a little boring; my friend left all the edges on his plate, piled like chicken bones. It was a heavy pizza, probably double the usual amount of cheese, loaded with toppings, a little hard to pick up and eat, the opposite of the type of pizza I usually get. It was extreme, even a little freakish, like the giant horse at the county fair.

I took home seven pieces and got four more meals out of them. I’ve never had anything quite like Petrilli’s — well, except for my single Petrillo’s experience — and it’s hard to imagine returning. But it’s some people’s favorite pizza, and I won’t fault them for it.

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Column: For Ray Bradbury fans, overlapping events this way come

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Claremont has a Bradbury film, “Fahrenheit 451,” at 2 p.m. Sunday; meanwhile, Pomona has a Bradbury film, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” at 3 p.m. Sunday. Awkward! Wednesday’s column delves into both events, either of which promises entertainment for the Bradbury fan. Pomona’s is more star-studded (Edward James Olmos! Joe Mantegna!) but there’s a fee to get in, as it’s a fundraiser to benefit the Pomona Public Library. Claremont’s is cheaper (free!). Also, I’ll be there, introducing the film, moderating a discussion afterward and, if you like, selling you a copy of “Pomona A to Z.”

Above, there’s a neat display this week of Bradbury items at the Pomona Library (625 S. Garey), with books, photos and memorabilia, and DVDs of the two films this weekend happened to be placed side by side.

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Remembering Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze

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Frosty Freeze was a teen hangout on Foothill Boulevard in eastern Upland across from Memorial Park. Some called it Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze, or just Yum Yum’s. From the sign, it looks like the phrase wasn’t necessarily intended as part of the name, but I can see the appeal of calling the place Yum Yum’s.

According to a reminiscence by Shelby Garrett, the stand went up in 1950, founded by Mary Weitzel: “Teenagers went there for great hamburgers, shakes, malts and dancing.”

One habitue was future crime novelist Joseph Wambaugh, who told me a few years ago that Yum Yum’s was a favorite hangout for him and the rest of the Chaffey High crowd in the 1950s.

Mike Guerin, who grew up in Upland, took the above photo in 1981 when Frosty Freeze closed. Note the sign in the window: “We Quit. Out of Business. We Will Miss You.” (Click on the photo for a much larger view.) Guerin says: “Just found this in my files. Fast food from a family restaurant. Millie was always at the register.”

Do you remember Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze?

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Reading Log: September 2014

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Books acquired: “Three Early Stories,” J.D. Salinger; “Mockingjay,” Suzanne Collins

Books read: “Dangerous Visions,” Harlan Ellison, ed.; “Mind Fields,” Harlan Ellison and Jack Yerka; “Eye in the Sky,” Philip K. Dick; “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Zora Neale Hurston; “One Fearful Yellow Eye,” John D. MacDonald

Four or five years back, fresh from making a list of the title of every unread book on my shelves, I brainstormed potential theme months where titles played off each other. It was one way of grappling with, or coping with, a frankly overwhelming number of books, around 550 at the time.

Quite a few of those groupings have been used since then, or rendered obsolete as titles have been peeled away, but September brought one of those themes: sight. Some of these books are relatively recent to me, but two have been on my shelves for decades, and reading them was satisfying indeed.

“Dangerous Visions” is the landmark science fiction anthology of all-original stories that were considered envelope-pushing in 1967, generally too literary or adult to be marketable, and hardly a rocketship among them. I bought my copy around 1982 and was too daunted by its 500-plus pages to read it. But now I have, and I’m glad, do you hear? Seriously, it deserves every accolade it’s received, and even in 2014 made for great reading. A handful of the stories didn’t do much for me, but there’s not a clunker in the bunch, and many are brilliant.

“Eye in the Sky” has been on my shelves just as long, and maybe a year or two longer. Dick’s third published novel, I believe, this was the first that read like the Philip K. Dick we know and love, a crazy plot about a group of strangers injured in a science accident who learn that they haven’t really regained consciousness after all but instead are living in realities controlled by each of them in turn. Marvelous and hilarious.

“Their Eyes” is a more recent purchase. Written in 1937, it was among the first novels to star an African-American woman, and she’s quite a creation, strong and independent. This was a strong month.

“Mind Fields,” alas, was disappointing, late-period Ellison in which he wrote stories to accompany Yerka’s already finished paintings. Cute idea, and inventive, but none of the stories would stand alone. Bought this a couple of years ago.

“Yellow Eye” was a good Travis McGee mystery, eighth in the series, and despite a faintly ridiculous plot, it has all the hallmarks, such as McGee’s asides. This time he muses on modern art, credit cards, the Playboy philosophy and Chicago. He’s down on all of them. I read some of the McGees in the early ’80s, but not this one; it’s a relatively recent purchase.

So, five books, of which three were vastly entertaining and a fourth was a fun read. Not a bad month at all. And I’m down to 441 unread books — more than I’d like, but having restricted my book-buying this year, the number is dropping fast.

(A side-note: For anyone familiar with “Dangerous Visions,” I’ll mention that I actually read the trade paperback, 35th anniversary edition for ease of handling — I hated to mess up my nearly mint original pocket paperback — and that sometime next year I intend to get to the sequel, “Again, Dangerous Visions,” which is considerably longer.)

If you read anything in September, or have ever read any of these books, won’t you comment below?

Next month: Some old, annual favorites.

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Column: Sign flub hints that freeway work really is endless

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How could I resist a construction sign with the date “Feb. 31″? Clearly I could not. Sunday’s column leads off with that item and continues with five Rancho Cucamonga briefs, three Culture Corner briefs and an item on the early days of the Cucamonga library.

Would you like to hear about the photo? After a Facebook tip on Tuesday from reader Ron Scott, who’d seen the sign on the Towne offramp, I made a note of it and spotted similar signs Wednesday evening at a couple of ramps in Pomona and at the Indian Hill on- and offramps. I resolved to take a photo Thursday morning at the Indian Hill onramp on my way into work.

I parked by the closed World Famous Grill (yes, fame is fleeting) and first shot the sign, the one at the eastbound onramp, over and through the chain-link fence, as seen above. Not the best view, but acceptable. Then I walked around the Starbucks to the street and a few feet up the ramp’s landscaped side, nervously, to photograph the sign head-on.

Originally I was going to post the photo on my blog, but I decided Friday morning to use it in print. It’s been years since I ran a silly photo with my column that only went with a short item.

Incidentally, the sign at the westbound offramp would in retrospect have been a better photo, and easier to take, being only feet from the sidewalk and next to a Shell station, but I was in the wrong lane of traffic to get over there once I saw it. In another way, I made the best choice by photographing the eastbound sign, because instead of “this ramp,” this particular sign read “his ramp,” an extra level of strangeness.

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Column: Millard Sheets’ rainbow murals return to Honolulu Hilton

Friday’s column starts with the (admittedly belated) news of a massive mural by Millard Sheets on the 31-story Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort that has been restored. I’d been meaning to write about this for weeks but decided to wait for a chance to talk to Sheets’ son at the Fair. Have you ever seen the mural? Personally, I’ve never even been to Hawaii. But the mural looks cool.

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Restaurant of the Week: Collins Dining Hall, Claremont McKenna College

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Collins Dining Hall, Claremont McKenna College campus (roughly Sixth and Mills), Claremont

Cafeterias at the Claremont Colleges are open to the public and well worth a visit, if you don’t mind eating alongside vibrant youngsters who are almost uniformly toned, healthy and better off than you. (I kind of mind, but I make the occasional exception.)

I’ve previously posted about Scripps and Pitzer’s cafeterias and have eaten at Pomona’s, pre-blog. Recently I scheduled a lunch at CMC’s cafeteria with a campus friend, my first meal there. Describing where things are on a college campus isn’t easy, but we entered on foot at Mills and Sixth, northwest corner, followed a path a few yards northwest and were soon there.

You pay upon entering: $13 if you’re on your own, $7.50 if you’re the guest of someone on campus. The choices are almost dizzying. There are six stations: @Home, Farm to Fork, Expo & Options, Grill, Stocks and Ovens. That means, respectively, American comfort food, vegan, ethnic, burgers, soups and pizzas.

I opted for @Home in part because there was no line, unlike Expo and Grill, getting a pork chop with mashed potatoes and vegetables, plus a salad with some fruit. My friend, who’s vegetarian, got roasted pepper hummus, a tomato salad and basmati rice.

Even the beverage station was an ode to plenty. I bypassed the sodas, vitamin waters and tea to get a strawberry lemonade, and then kicked myself for not seeing the two aguas frescas.

The dining room, while crowded, was also lovely, with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the campus and providing lots of natural light.

When we left, the cafeteria was mostly shut down (they close between meals) and the soft-serve ice cream machine was already shut off, darn the luck. They still had two kinds of cookies, two kinds of cake and one kind of cupcake. I took a chocolate chip cookie. It was dry and quickly abandoned. It was the only disappointing part of the meal.

So, it’s a cafeteria, and it’s cafeteria food, but probably not like anything you remember. Like Claremont’s other dining halls, Collins rivals any buffet in the area.

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Which Ontario?

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Reader Ken Lineberger was in the airport in Lubbock, Texas, waiting to board a flight home to Ontario when he began to wonder just which Ontario he would end up in (see photo).

“The gate agent said the city provides the info on the screen, not the airline (nice excuse),” Lineberger reports. “Note that the background is even a famous landmark in Ontario, Canada.” As he was emailing me a few days after his flight, I trust he got home all right.

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Column: Books as community glue in Claremont, Pomona and RC

Wednesday’s column is about community reads going on in Claremont (Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451″), Pomona (Luis Alberto Urrea’s “Into the Beautiful North”) and Rancho Cucamonga (Edgar Allan Poe’s “Great Tales and Poems”).

And as the column notes, I’m speaking at Pomona’s library at 2 p.m. Saturday and introducing a film at Claremont’s library at 2 p.m. Oct. 12 (and selling “Pomona A to Z” both places). Try to attend!

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