I am of the firm belief that punk culture is often more civilized and supportive than purported mainstream culture. My proof in Louisville is the beautifully run, warmly welcoming, delightfully insomniac Spinnelli’s Pizzeria. It’s a local chain, founded less than a decade ago, with a genuine lived-in punk aesthetic and, not incidentally, very tasty pizza.
(Note to New Haveners: pizza here in the southern Midwest U.S. has a thick, unburnt crust yet is nevertheless still called “pizza,” and really his the spot. When in Rome…)
My critic friend Lou Harry (from Indianapolis) and I first discovered the Spinnelli’s on 5th Avenue in downtown Louisville at a previous Humana Festival two years ago. Famished after much theatergoing and mealskipping, we found this basement oasis of dough and sauce completely by accident, plugged in, and sat there happily writing articles on our devices well into the wee hours.
This year Lou and I only had two mealtimes in Louisville when we weren’t being fed for free by the Humana Festival. We spent both of them at Spinnelli’s.
I don’t dress much like a punk anymore–a steampunk, maybe, in my bowler hat and vest and rumpled white button-down shirt–but a ’70s punk spirit continues to permeate my being. I feel as at home at Spinnelli’s as I used to at punk clubs such as the Tune Inn in New Haven or The Rat, The Underground or The Channel in Boston. I was thrilled on Friday night when a couple of local hardcore bands walked into Spinnelli’s and set up their gear while Lou and I were eating. Alas, we couldn’t stay and see them play because we had to get to the theater.
“It’s gonna get lots,” our server advised. “Good,” I said.
I now own two Spinnelli’s T-shirts–there are many different designs to choose from,all patterned on famous punk or skateboarder logos and designs.
This weekend there I drank bottomless cups of Big Red soda pop and ate two spinach salads, one veggie slide and one mushroom /banana pepper slice. The slices cost $3.75 plus toppings but are a bargain because they are the size of a fifth of a large pizza.
Service? Efficient, amiable, no nonsense, real, honest and punk-gracious. Accepting of different tastes and needs. Hardworking. Intense. Tattooed. Colorful. I’d rather have a shaved-headed punk prepare my food than some classic rock dude who needs a hahairne
Spinnelli’s is literally underground, in a basement. A hideout.
When the theater crowd strikes me as too smarmy and supercilious, or just too hot and bothered, Spinnelli’s is a crucial get-away, a decompression spot, a pizza place. I’m not a sports guy, so beyond the Humana Festival, Spinnelli’s is my favorite thing about Louisville. If only I wasn’t seeing so much theater while I was here, and could catch a few of those local hard-core bands.