It’s a movie with a cult following, based on a pizza place that really exists. This humble little pizza joint on the main drag of Mystic’s downtown shopping district grabbed the attention of screenwriter Amy Holden Jones who decided to tell a story set in a local pizza parlor in the quaint fishing seaport that is Mystic, Connecticut.
When I first visited Mystic Seaport in 1984 as a teenager on a band trip to Rhode Island (where some of the film’s scenes were shot), Mystic Seaport made an impression on me, too. I would later return with my daughter to explore the whaling museum there, and to experience the inspiration for Mystic Pizza — one of my favorite 1980’s movies starring Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish, Lili Taylor, and Robert D’Onofrio.
My daughter has never seen the movie! I’ve seen it a dozen times now, I’m sure. It’s the perfect escape on a rainy day, curled up inside with — a “slice of heaven.”
In the movie, the pizza-maker Fiona (played by Conchata Farrell) adds a mystery blend of spices to her pizza sauce that no one, not even her three loyal, daughter-like workers can coax out of her. A food critic stops by and they nervously await his review of Fiona’s special recipe as their teenage crises play out around town.
As someone who lived for years on the east coast and lived on large, greasy slices of New York pizza, my mouth was watering just thinking about it. I love a piece of pizza that you basically fold to eat. But alas, the pizza at Mystic Pizza was not the thin-crusted delicacy I’d imagined it might be. It was more along the lines of Domino’s or Papa John’s pizzas – not horrible, but not unique. I have to imagine that Amy Holden Jones was more entranced with the setting than Mystic’s pizza, though I’m sure the recipes have probably changed hands over the years.
Luckily, we were entranced by the setting, too — both outside and inside the restaurant.
The establishment has wisely banked on Mystic Pizza drawing tourists to see the spot featured in the iconic film. As you walk in, the lobby/waiting area doubles as a gift shop where you can buy t-shirts, movie posters, pizza cutters, and lots of other memorabilia from the movie. The souvenir penny machine immediately called my name.
We sat down and ordered meatball pizza and continued to take in the ambiance of what can only be described as part film location/part-restaurant.
The whole place is decorated with movie memorabilia now and the movie plays continuously on one of the tv screens. My daughter was facing that wall and got to see a good portion of the movie while we ate.
I, of course, was too busy comparing the actual interior to the dining room depicted in the movie. They were not the same. I have to admit — I was a little disappointed.
But the exterior is the same as that shown in the movie and I let that be enough for me. I enjoyed my meatball pizza and a beer and the trip down memory lane of a movie I pretty much know by heart. It was fun to sit and eat pizza in the place that inspired the film. I only wish that Fiona’s secret recipe pizza sauce had been part of the experience, too.
Would the movie draw you to dine at Mystic Pizza, too?