Monday, April 7, 2014

Alabama Pizza Pasta in London, England, in 1998

No, we couldn't believe it either. But here's the story.

In May 1998 I headed to England to give a talk at an anesthesia history meeting in Bristol. Wife Dianne, son Amos and daughter Becca went along for the ride--well, several of them, actually. Although the travel there and back was a nightmare which included two lost days, we had a blast in England.

Arriving bright and early one morning at Gatwick airport, we picked up the rental and started toward Bristol on one of the "M" roads, British for Interstate. We hadn't been tooling along for long [on the wrong side of the road, of course] before this young lady's voice blurts out, in a wonderful accent, "Traffic flowing freely." In a word, we were startled. Our rental agency clerk had neglected to tell us we were getting a speaking car. What will they think of next? Remember, this was the digital dark ages of 1998.

After awhile we arrived in Salisbury finding ourselves in the metaphorical shadow of the great cathedral and very hungry. We parked the car and then had a decision to make. What would be our first meal in England? Traditional pub food or pizza? The kids opted for the pizza parlor just across the street and so the theme for the journey was established. 

The adventures in England continued for several days. We stopped to see the big rocks at Stonehenge on the way to Bristol, drove through the wonderful city of Bath, and got to see something of Bristol. During the meeting Dianne took the car and the kids up to Stratford-on-Avon looking for that Bard guy. 

The big rocks

Once the meeting was over, we drove back to Gatwick, dumped the car, checked into the hotel, and took the train to Victoria Station. That evening we rode a double-decker London bus and had dinner at the original Hard Rock Cafe.

The following day, our last full one, we mostly spent watching the changing of the guard at some big palace and took in the Tower of London. They wouldn't let us sample the Crown Jewels, unfortunately. 

The big palace 

The guards at the big palace

Anyway, after that we headed to a shop devoted entirely to Beatles memorabilia and took tea at a nice place on Piccadilly Circus. Then it was time for a little stroll before heading back to the hotel. Low and behold, we rounded a corner and there it was:

We were surprised, to say the least. Since we had just had something to eat with tea, we weren't hungry. We took these photos, but didn't go inside and ask about the name. We've regretted that decision ever since, although the name may have been chosen just for the startle effect.

Others have also wondered about that name. In a January 14, 1997, entry in his travel diary [link is broken], Roger MacBride Allen wrote "The only restaurant name I saw in London that made less sense was one in Piccadilly -- Alabama Pizza Pasta. I never knew that Alabama was famous for Italian food." Another web page [link is broken], with a photo from 2006, feeds from the same trough, calling the name "nonsensical" since "Alabama is not widely known for its Italian foods."  

I wonder if these people have trouble dealing with "Beatles" and "Yahoo" and the whole concept of naming things in a way that will be remembered. Don't tell them about "Google."

I doubt if the restaurant is still operating. A search on that Google thing doesn't turn up a web site or other current presence on the net. Ah, well, we have the memories....

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