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The Order of Oddfish


Dave Mancini and Supino Pizza

September 9, 2009

Dave and me as kids, 1980 James and Dave

My best friend growing up was Dave Mancini.

I met him in first grade. He lived across the street throughout my childhood. We ended up going to different high schools, and when it came time for college our lives diverged completely. We fell out of touch.

About ten years ago we met up again. Dave was considering walking away from his career as a physical therapist to open his own pizzeria. I was in the middle of writing The Order of Odd-Fish. Looking back, we were both at decisive moments.

Now it’s 2009 and I’m proud to say that Dave just celebrated the one-year anniversary of Supino, his pizzeria in Eastern Market in downtown Detroit (it’s named after his father’s family’s hometown in Italy).

I’ve been to Supino several times and it is—I do not say this lightly—the best pizza I have ever had in my life.

Supino has always had great reviews, but a couple days after its one-year anniversary, the Detroit Free Press dubbed Supino’s as the Best Pizza in Detroit. Go Dave!

Dave with pizza

I went to Supino’s one-year anniversary party. It was at the Farnsworth Community Garden in the middle of Detroit. What an positive scene of the most optimistic people. Dave gave a speech. It was warmly received and lovingly heckled.

Dave Gives a Speech Supino Anniversary

A few years ago, a group of San Francisco artists, fed up with SF’s surreally priced real estate, all moved together to Detroit and bought up blocks of cheap land and decaying houses, luring more friends to follow. Of course, Detroit also has its own homegrown scene of artists and resourceful DIYers. They’re all onto something. Detroit is mostly empty, and strangely beautiful. The trees and grass are taking over. The decay of the city and the revenge of nature is fascinating, though one shouldn’t get too happy about it—it’s sobering to contemplate the implosion of what was once a thriving industrial city. My mother’s fond stories about growing up in prosperous 1950s Detroit might as well be stories about New York, or Chicago, or the moon, for all the connection they bear to modern Detroit.

Lee Plaza Hotel

It seems to me that Detroit is one of the most interesting places to live. It’s probably the best city in the world for exploring abandoned buildings. There’s a lot of urban farming and livestocking-raising going on. If you’re a young artist, and you want to live cheaply in a satisfyingly weird place while honing your craft, it seems you could hardly go wrong with Detroit.

So: kudos to Dave Mancini, hooray for Supino pizzeria, and a respectful bow to the enterprising artists and stubborn idealists who are rebuilding (and greening) Detroit.