Of all the Gadamns, I looked forward to Cici’s Pizza Buffet the least. In fact, I actually looked backward, to Chicago Uno Grill, where a finer meal was never had…except at the Olive Garden, Ruby Buffet, Hooters and Red Lobster. For me, our sixth adventure into the depths of culinary hell ranks at the bottom of our experiences, although you’ll probably find some disagreement from the other Gadamners who joined me on the night of March 18 as we made our way to New Jersey – yes, BACK to New Jersey – for a night of flourescent, fatty self-abuse at Cici’s Pizza Buffet in Cherry Hill.
I love pizza. I really do. I think it’s one of the finer creations of the mind of man. You eat it with your hands, someone else makes it for you. They’ll even bring it to your doorstep if you ask. Less bombs and more pizza, that’s what I say! I used to think I’d eat pizza anytime, anyplace. Hell, the website for CiCi’s even boasts, “Almost too good to be true!” Well, thank goodness for little qualifiers.
The “pizza” at CiCi’s was such that it had me dreaming of Domino’s, a butter product I swore off long ago after a night of lonesome, tearful pizza bingeing. That night, I thought of being not with friends, but alone in a dark, hot living room in the middle of July, waiting for the doorbell to ring…somewhere round midnight. After our meal at CiCi’s, however, I found myself pining back to relatively fonder memories of the Domino’s after effects – dry mouth, heart burn, sleeplessness, dehydration, bloatedness. Such was the sight of this restaurant and the diners inside that these sensations seemed a welcome alternative.
Standing outside the establishment at about 8pm, waiting for cigarettes to be smoked, I found myself embracing – more like bear hugging – my own sense of cosmopolitan snobbery. I felt no shame about it, either. Curdo, Dreams, Niqueesh and I were probably the only patrons wearing pants with flies and buttons rather than elastic. It was a good feeling to feel better than everybody in that place because a place like CiCi’s invites you to be less by eating more and more and more. Pay less to be less. Go you. I felt no shame about it.
The shame, of course, would come later.
The cost of admittance was $5.99, a sum so affordable that I splurged and got a cup for an additional $2, which turned out to be quite a bargain because, for just a full third of the cost of the meal, I was able to have as many refills of Cherry Hill tap water as my kidneys could handle. Throw in the bridge toll to get us back to civilization and the evening cost me $12.43, the cheapest Gadamn of all, but still too much by far considering the quality of the food.
Back to that shame. Against every instinct, I stuffed myself with pizza, going to the buffet four or five times (I didn’t count) to collect little slices of runny – that’s RUNNY – greasy evil. I’ve stuffed my face shamelessly plenty of times, at least twice a week, for most of my adult life. But this was different and it was because of the other patrons and the restaurant itself. I was ashamed of sitting under lighting so white it appeared to be reflected off the surface of the moon, of paying to dine in a place with Cheez Whiz yellow walls and Mylie Cyrus music piped in for all the kids running around, dodging table and adults like obstacles in a fun house. (Although, I suppose that might be a good thing because they’ll need all the exercise they can get if they hope to live to see the inside of a high school). I wanted the smokey dankness of my favorite bar. I wanted the trendy air of a Philly gastropub. (Yes, a gastropub; I said it!) I wanted the hominess of my mother’s dining room, to be looking down into a plate of her addictive fried egg plant, chicken parm and a bowl of homemade rice pudding.
Go to CiCi’s and you’ll find there’s more ambiance in a purple plastic tunnel at Chuch E. Cheese’s.
So…CiCi’s wasn’t my favorite. Maybe it’s because all of the people who joined us on our last adventure couldn’t join us this time around. It was just the four of us: good company, to be sure, but a stark difference from the Red Lobster Extravaganza. Maybe it was the obvious cultural inferiority that kept those other dudes away. I guess they couldn’t handle all that pizza. After all, it takes a backbone to carry all that food around… So maybe some of our past adjunct Gadamners will join us next time at Golden Corral in Bensalem, the closest thing to a South Jersey township as you’ll find in Pennsylvania.