Tag Archives: Sacramento Renaissance Cafe

The El Chico Pizza Recipe aka Shakey’s Pizza

By Maryellen Burns

The story the Sacramento Bee wrote for Sherwood “Shakey” Johnson’s obituary was that in 1954, he and Ed Plummer – a college friend and fishing buddy – each put in $850 and rented a defunct mom-and-pop grocery store at 57th and J streets to open a neighborhood draft beer place.

They later added pizza, using a recipe Johnson knew from his childhood, some of which he spent serving as a recipe interpreter between Italian housewives and his mother, who was Swedish.

That might be the official story, but I much prefer the one I was told by Dr. Patrick Edward Melarkey. He was nearing 80 and wanted to share some of his stories for an oral history or possibly a book.

We had initially met working on the committee to save the Alhambra Theater and the George McGovern presidential election campaign in 1972. He was Chair of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and had an unsuccessful run as Mayor. I worked on his campaigns, not just out of deep respect for his political leanings but because of my fondness for him while hanging out at his restaurant and nightclub, Melarkey’s Place, at 1517 Broadway, across the street from Joe Marty’s bar and El Chico’s restaurant. Later he became a neighbor. Much later, my dentist.

To call Pat’s language crusty is an understatement. I’ve left out some of the more colorful language here, and his descriptions about Joe Marty and his racism and misogyny, but otherwise this is his story word for word.

“Eleanor Lineburger was the cook at Joe Marty’s for years. She was raised right across the street from me. If she was alive, she’d tell you the same story. Shakey got thrown out of Sacramento Junior College. He had a routine. He always played a Jazz Ragtime Piano. And then he teamed up with a friend of his who was raised around the corner here, too. A very prominent attorney, who is now dead. Shakey is dead too. And they had this routine where Shakey would dress in this white suit, and his friend would dress in a long black dress with a white mop. And they would start singing like Tom Lehrer and they would make fun of everybody. So, they would sing at the Junior College and they made so much fun of the Dean that he threw them both out of school. Shakey got the job at Joe Marty’s because his father was a very prominent attorney, he got a job as a waiter. Well, El Chico actually, but we all just called it Joe Marty’s. Eleanor always made this pizza which had been made by the Italians for centuries. Shakey would go back and watch her make it. He had a little notebook that he kept in his shirt pocket and a little pencil and wrote down all the ingredients. Then he would watch how she put it together. The dough was made in a big Hobart mixer, using a dough hook. Then she’d knead it a little bit more by hand, cut it into balls the size of your fist. She’d dust a little flour over each one and then put it into the refrigerator for 24 hours or so. She’d take them out and roll them when they were still cold. No hand-tossing.

The sauce was just a mixture of tomatoes and herbs. Fresh in season and big cans in the winter. Mozzarella cheese, parmesan, pepperoni, ground beef, Italian sausage, salami, mushrooms and black olives or a veggie option — onions, mushrooms, olives, green peppers, tomatoes put on top. Then it was baked at the highest heat in the oven. Only the World War vets, or little kids ordered it with plain cheese and a little tomato sauce, Neapolitan style.

Later, when she got swamped, he would offer to go in and make the pizza with her. It took him a while, because she had a special way of feeling when the dough was ready, how much extra to knead it after it came out of the mixer. He did that for a little over a year and then he and Ed Plummer, went off to start their place. They intended to do pizza from the very beginning. They wanted a place large enough to host Dixie Land Jazz bands and to play their own music. They picked the spot near Sac State because it was so close to students. They thought from the beginning that they could put a pizza parlor in other college towns. They were keen businessmen. They had a plan.

The parlor opened on the weekend, but the pizza ovens hadn’t arrived yet, so they only served beer. He took the profits from the beer sales and bought ingredients for the pizza the following Monday. The dough used a blend of white flour and Tortilla Flour, a little yeast, salt, water and Crisco. Eleanor always claimed that there was no yeast in her dough. That might have been
the only change that Shakey made to her recipe. He didn’t own the place for very long. 13 years or so before he sold the business for 4 million. They might have called it Shakey’s Pizza but the recipe for the sauce was different. They used commercial sauce and sent it out in packets. Nothing was done in house anymore.

I never spent time in the kitchens, really, we always had a chef or cooks, but I didn’t attempt Eleanor’s pizza (which was the best ever). Our ovens just weren’t hot enough.”

Pat didn’t remember the measurements but Eleanor’s niece provided me with the following recipes:

12 ounces all-purpose flour, sifted
4 ounces Quaker Harina Preparada Tortilla Flour, sifted
6 ½ ounces water, lukewarm
½ tablespoon sugar
½ tablespoon instant dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Crisco Shortening, room temperature
Handful Cornmeal Four, for rolling out dough

1. Combine Water & Sugar add Yeast and proof 5 minutes. Add mixture into Mixer.
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix using Dough Hook to form Dough Ball.
3. Place Dough in container twice the size of Dough Ball and let rise several times, punching down dough in between rises.
4. Divide Dough in half form balls and wrap with cellophane. Refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Roll out to desired size on Cornmeal Flour, add sauce, toppings, etc…
6. Bake at 450° on hot Pizza Stone for 6-8min or desired doneness.

Pizza Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 basil leaves, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and sauté until transparent, three to five minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, marjoram, salt and basil leaves. Reduce heat slightly, and simmer, stirring frequently, until thick, 25 to 30 minutes. Makes about two cups. Use as directed below.

For this recipe, if you can’t find fresh mozzarella, substitute the best regular mozzarella you can find.

Neapolitan-Style Pizza Dough

The key to real Neapolitan style pizza is the use of a good durum wheat pizza flour. Our local pizza parlors used commercial flours and yeast and made the dough in a large Hobart stand mixer that made 60 quarts at a time. The key was to let the dough to proof in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

This is El Chico’s classic Italian pizza dough recipe. Soon, I’ll share the story of El Chico restaurant, which had two locations. The one on Broadway and the other on Freeport Blvd.

I buy the flour from Corti Brothers or online. That is, when I make it. It is much easier to purchase pre-made dough at Taylor’s Market or Trader Joe’s.

4 cups Italian 00 flour if you can find it (all-purpose flour also works)
3 teaspoons salt
2½ teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups tap water

Place ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until there is no flour left in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to proof on the counter for 12 hours. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and portion into three balls. Put dough balls into plastic bags or containers and allow to proof in the fridge for 24 hours. This is simple and takes time, but the flavor is incredible!

Roll out to desired thinness. Place all the dry ingredients on the pizza first and then drizzle the tomato sauce on top. Tomato sauce on the bottom makes for a soggy pizza.

The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Friendship and Liberation in the 1960s By Maggie Doherty

Reviewed by Susan M. Osborn, Ph.D.

Based on her belief that most women want to find a way to combine professional interests and family life, and her recognition that this often requires having a room of one’s own, Mary Ingraham Bunting undertook what she called “a messy experiment” in 1960. As Radcliffe president, she created the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study to support a marginalized class of Americans: mothers. The institute provided two-year fellowships to “intellectually displaced women with a Ph.D.” or “the equivalent in artistic or scholarly achievement.” Each associate scholar received a stipend, access to Harvard’s resources, office space, and membership in a highly regarded professional and creative community. 

During their tenure, scholars gathered to exchange ideas with each other as well as with other artists and researchers, all of whom were women. They read each other’s work and collaborated on projects. Because they were encouraged to represent the female experience in all its complexity, the institute became a center for dialogue and the development of influential feminist perspectives. 

Five of the twenty-four women who were chosen formed deep bonds of friendship that would sustain and inspire them. They were Anne Sexton, poet; Maxine Kumin, poet; Barbara Swan, artist; Marianne Pineda, sculptor; and Tillie Olsen, writer. They called themselves “The Equivalents” because they lacked the requisite Ph.D. 

Drawing on journals, notebooks, letters, lecture recordings, and finished works, Doherty weaves a narrative of connection and separation, cooperation and competition, affection and resentment, joy and grief. The book focuses on the relationships among the five women with emphasis on the friendship between Sexton and Kumin.. (The photograph of Sexton on the book’s cover is an indicator that more material about her is included than about the other Equivalents.) 

In a departure from examining a two-year slice of history that focuses on the five women, Doherty includes information about Sylvia Plath, Florence Howe, Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker, and the creation of Ms. magazine. She also tracks the emergence of the second wave of feminism in the 1960s. (Bunting helped Betty Friedan develop The Feminine Mystique which was published during the institute’s second academic year.) 

As she explores white feminism and black womanism, Doherty points out the first class was composed exclusively of white women, most of whom had already achieved a great deal. Consequently, they had racial privilege and some degree of recognition working in their favor. An exception was Olsen who criticized from within the institute by confronting its racism and classism and by objecting to the exclusion of working-class reality from the program’s prescription for women. 

In spite of certain drawbacks, the institute served as an incubator where growth and development could take place. At a personal level, the institute provided a life-changing experience for the scholars because it empowered them to take themselves and their work seriously. 

Strengths of this book

– It is extensively researched and easy to read.

– It describes a valuable program for women that once existed.

– It provides examples of the challenges that many artists and writers face.

– It identifies how the institute contributed to the success of the five scholars.

– It demonstrates the supportive and competitive relationships that exist among women.

– It provides intimate glimpses of women’s families and their daily lives.

– It illuminates the evolution of the role of women in society, both in the work that’s been done and the work that remains.

– It richly depicts situations faced by women who are trying to juggle their caregiver/ breadwinner responsibilities with creative endeavors.

– It prompts us to consider the impact of marginalization on the lives of women.

Limitations of this book

– When the author delves into the history of mid- and late-1960s feminism in the latter half of the book, the Equivalents disappear from the narrative. 

– It’s a bit disorienting when the author enters the text toward the end of the narrative.

– It would be nice if the book included a photograph of the five women together.  Apparently, one doesn’t exist.

Personal notes

-I’d never heard of this institute and enjoyed reading about it.

I was shocked at how dependent Sexton was on Kumin and didn’t realize how many times Sexton attempted suicide.

-I’ve always admired Tillie Olsen and appreciated learning more about her.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is motherhood a form of repression?
  2. Do all women, regardless of race or class, need a room of their own?
  3. How can a woman be a responsible family member and have a creative life?
  4. Have your life experiences mirrored any of those that are described in this book?
  5. What kinds of short-term programs could be developed based on the purpose of the institute?                                                                                  

Experience Parallel Universes in Melodramatic K-Dramas

By Jennifer Kerr

Does this sound familiar? Our heroine is caught in a sudden tornado and dropped into a strange world where escape is unknown until she meets new friends who make her a better person and help her get back home. 

If you, like me, spent a childhood obsessively reading the 14 L. Frank Baum books and watching the movie, you’re probably thinking Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz. But no, this parallel universe is North Korea in a modern K-drama.

As you search for fresh entertainment these days, take a look at the K-dramas on Netflix. What are K-dramas? They’re wonderfully entertaining and beautifully filmed television series from South Korea. They can take you to parallel universes, immerse you in gorgeous clothing and sword-fighting history, treat you to modern chicken and soju meals and introduce you to evil villains and heroic women (yes, women) and men.

They can also be quite melodramatic, so keep tissues handy.

I’ve long been a big fan of world cinema, the best of which not only entertains you but delightfully teaches you about other cultures. Since travel is so out of the question these days, movies and TV series from other countries are a great way to get our heads out of our newly restricted environment.

Netflix, which has a wide array of foreign flicks and TV series, has been offering K-dramas since November 2008. 

Here are the main attributes of K-dramas (at least the ones I’ve watched): There are strong conflicts between good guys and bad guys, usually involving a sordid history and evil ambitions. Women characters are tough, independent and strong; they might not be historically accurate but are written for modern audiences. There are lots of emotions and tears (men, too). There must be crew members dedicated to spraying realistic tears on cheeks and reddening eyes as well as splotching fake blood on the faces of good guys who have just offed the bad guys. Good guys and gals seem to get injured but always recover amazingly quickly. There is lots of taekwondo, which was developed by Korean martial artists; one heroine is a taekwondo teacher. There are always supporting characters who offer comic relief but are at heart sweet and lovable.

Quite a few of the K-dramas I’ve watched have very similar, very modern endings: the two lovers don’t get married, but lead independent lives, coming together for travel and companionship. Quite refreshing!

I’m going to focus on three of the best (and include a list of other good ones at the end). The three all have parallel universe elements. I will only briefly describe these, not to give away too many details.

Mr. Sunshine

This is the first K-drama I watched two years ago, and I loved it. I was drawn to its historical period, the early 1900s, when the long Joseon period had ended and a weak kingdom was ruling. Japan, the United States and China were vying for power and influence and a rebel group was trying to thwart them (Japan took over Korea in 1910.) The history is very real; the plot is fiction, of course! It mainly takes place in Hanseong (the old name for Seoul).

The five complex and wonderful main characters all have feet both in Korea and somewhere or something else (thus parallel identities): A slave watches his parents being murdered and escapes to be taken to the United States; he returns as a U.S. Marine. An upper-class woman has a secret identity as a rebel and a crack sniper (an English word she learns with relish). An orphaned son of low-class parents goes to Japan and becomes a yakuza samurai. The daughter of an evil high official is married off to a Japanese mogul and after his death returns wealthy to run a hotel. An upper-class man engaged to the upper-class woman spends most of his privileged life in Japan before returning to Korea.

The King: Eternal Monarch

This came out this year. It was written by the same woman, Kim Eun-sook (Korean family names come first), as Mr. Sunshine but the two K-dramas are dramatically different.

This is the true parallel universe one: One universe is the Republic of Korea, just like today’s South Korea. The other (in the same time frame) is the Kingdom of Corea, which of course has a (handsome, charming) king. It turns out almost everyone has a doppelgänger in the opposite universe. A really bad guy in the Kingdom figures out how to go between the two and cause havoc. The young King accidentally crosses into the Republic and meets a delightful woman homicide cop whose ID badge the King was given when he, as a boy, was almost murdered by the really bad guy who also murdered the boy’s father, the King. The bad guy, of course, must be stopped.

Note for today: Black face masks play important roles in both Mr. Sunshine and The King! Nuff said.

Crash Landing on You

I really loved this 2019 one and just finished watching it. An aloof woman tycoon from Seoul goes paragliding and gets pulled by a freak tornado into the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). She is found hanging in a tree by a taciturn North Korean Army captain who decides to help her get home. 

The heroine is very unsympathetic when we first meet her, but we learn of her awful family making her the tough broad she is. The hero seems at first to be a simple soldier but turns out also to have a sad family past. And there is a very very bad guy, of course.

Like The King, the man and the woman must deal with being unable to live together in either of their worlds. This time, the two countries are no fantasies, but oh so real: South Korea and North Korea. We see the North through South Korean cinematic imagination, possibly the closest look anyone gets.

Here are a few other K-dramas that I’ve enjoyed; these all take place in Joseon times. All are still on Netflix.

Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryong, delightful and funny about an unusual woman.

My Sassy Girl, charming rom-com amid palace intrigue. My Country: The New Age, three childhood friends (two guys and a girl) and a bloody court battle.

Jennifer Kerr was a reporter for the Associated Press for more than 40 years, based in the California Capitol Bureau in Sacramento from 1977-2001, mainly covering the state Legislature. She previously worked in AP Bureaus in West Virginia and Los Angeles. She produces the Renaissance Society website and is offering Daring Women War Correspondents this fall, a course that shares the stories of the intrepid women correspondents who defied those who thought they should stay home instead of risking their lives to tell the truth — particularly what war does to women and children.