It was around 1963. I would return from a Friday night prep game to the Evening Tribune editorial room. About 1:30 a.m. the game story had been written, plus the sidebars, and the photo captions for the Saturday high school page. At that point I would call Pernicano's restaurant in Hillcrest, visit with the midnight waitress Elinore, and order a pizza to go. I'd get get there just before 2 a.m. closing, and, accompanied by the early edition of the Union and my late dinner, I'd head for my apartment off Washington Street, enjoy Pernicano's great pizza, read the morning paper to see if the Union had beaten us on anything, and down a brewskie or two. Pernicano's had been a part of my Friday nights back to high school in the mid-fifties.
Years later I was the PR guy for the Chargers and was introduced to George's "Casa di Baffi", one of the great restaurants in America and a favorite of San Diegans and those with visiting teams in for an AFL game with the Chargers. Pernicano was a friend to all. Win or lose, the visiting team would not fly out of Lindbergh Field without a last minute drop at the airport of pork chops, grinders, pizza, rolls, and other favorites from George's kitchen.
In the hay day of Air Coryell, quarterback Dan Fouts and his offensive line dined there the night before every home game. Fouts paid if he had not been sacked the previous game. The offensive line paid if it had surrendered a sack the previous week. Big shots from the NFL, visiting teams, NBC, ABC (Howard Cosell), or CBS got their game faces on there. George was a wonderful and unique host. He was so worried that the heat from his pizza ovens would singe his handlebar mustache that George had the adornment insured by Lloyd's of London. George made it all the way to 98. And his legend will live on. His twin sons, Larry and Gary, have their own respective Pernicano's restaurants and serve the same great food.
We'll miss you, George. All the best Up There.
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