If you’ve ever read any of my posts before (and I believe you 5 or 6 people know who you are…) you will recall that I hail from Pittsburgh, PA.
Pittsburgh used to be commonly called “The Steel City,” although more commonly these days it’s turning into the city of “it used to be.” It is all too common to hear Pittsburghers giving driving directions to out-of-towners laced with phrases like, “…and then you turn left where the Isaly’s used to be…”As pungently significant as that reference may be for those increasingly shrinking number of Yinzers who doggedly continue to make their homes among the Rivers Three, it is of course a textbook non sequitur, since if someone was never here when the Isaly’s was, how could they be expected to know where the Isaly’s used to be?
Or even what the Isaly’s WAS?…
Anyway, as one of my newer friends would express it, “What I mean to say is this:…”
Yet another thing is going away.
Gullifty’s Restaurant is closing tonight. Less than 8 hours from now, as I write these words.
I have enjoyed many a meal there, with friends, family, future family, like my wife and daughter, and a few people (I admit it) I’d just as soon not contemplate let alone break bread in their company ever again.
The thing is, they were popular. Or at least, they used to be…
The restaurant occupied the space previously occupied by the Guild Theatre, a movie house in my local Squirrel Hill neighborhood. It was a first run Stanley-Warner Theatre back when I was a child, along with The Manor, The Forum and the Squirrel Hill theatres, all within about 6 blocks of one another, all within the same neighborhood.
You see, back in the dim dark days of yore, movie theatres always had only one screen. If you wanted to see a different movie, you had to get up and go to a different theatre, not merely an adjacent auditorium.
The Guild ran some pretty artsy stuff in the late 60’s: Antonioni’s “Blow Up.” And “I Am Curious (Yellow,)” two of the more risque (that meant on-screen nudity) titles back before the MPAA raced to establish the movie ratings code.
It was the only theatre in the city that had an illumiated clock next to the screen. You couldn’t come home late and hope to sell your Mom on the excuse that you didn’t realize what time it was when you had sat through three continuous screenings of Peter Sellers in “Casino Royale.” You knew, and she knew, and you had to accept your beating with a good grace.
Later, it became a revival house. It was the theatre where I discovered Bogart and Bacall in “The Big Sleep” and “To Have and Have Not.” I saw W-C Fields and Mae West play against each other in “My Little Chickadee.”
But everybody saw the writing on the wall: Revival screenings just don’t pay the rent outside New York and L-A, we knew the inevitable was coming and one day, after the last Three Stooges marathon, the Guild went dark.
Then came Gullifty’s, a restaurant that straddled the great divide between traditional sit-down dining and the New York-style delicatessen experience.
They offered chopped liver, potato latkes (pancakes,) and their unique creation, “The Meshugginah.” I’d describe it for you but what would be the point? You can’t order one anymore: they’re closed, remember?
You could also get pasta, steaks, chops and salads; AND they had a bar!… And the desserts! (My wife would never forgive me for overlooking the desserts…)
Gullifty’s was one of those restaurants that started pitching their cakes and pies while you were still waiting to be seated: they were ensconced in a little multi-tiered carousel and they went around and around, pirouetting in front of you mercilessly while you prayed the hostess would show up before you risked laceration and significant blood loss by breaking into the stupid display case. They never did THAT at Isaly’s!
Or at The Guild…
And – if you had a clear enough memory of the layout of the movie house – you could still orient yourself in the restaurant: the lobby was over here, the auditorium was over there, that’s where the screen used to be, this was where the balcony was. And, yes, over here was where the clock used to be.
Well, as George Harrison, King Solomon and not a few others have observed, “All Things Must Pass,” and Gullifty’s is no more of an exception than anything else. Just one less thing to be there …
And one more thing to confuse the visitors who find themselves directed by well-meaning locals who instruct them to look for anything across the street from “where the Gullifty’s used to be.”