“Grande” memories

Patrick Newell

As a youngster I remember Norwich’s great pizza debate: Grande’s or Nina’s. Depending on your preference for sauce, crust style or convenience, there was a definitive line in the sand drawn by the respective patrons of each Italian restaurant. Over the years, Nina’s has flourished and expanded its menu, but in its earliest years, much like Grande’s, it was a no-frills pizza parlor with subs and a small menu of Italian cuisine. I enjoyed each place, and what young kid didn’t relish the opportunity to get a slice or two of pizza? Earlier this week, Grande’s owners, John and Connie Elia, announced their retirement and close of business after serving the community for 34 years. I did the math: Grande’s was a Norwich fixture – first in the Town of Norwich North Plaza and in recent years on East Main Street – for most of my life. I knew Mr. Elia a little bit during my teen-aged years playing in the summer soccer leagues. John was a huge fan of soccer, and loved to lace it up and play whenever possible. I also had the privilege of attending school with the Elia’s daughter, Lori. As part of a large Italian family growing up, all things Italian (especially food) conjure up fond memories. I was probably at my happiest tearing into a piece of pizza, and Grande’s made me smile many, many times. I wish the Elias well in the next phase of their lives.