COVID grounded many people’s travel plans to fly back to our area to see family and friends this holiday season.
But, a number of them Newswatch 16’s Ryan Leckey tracked down, are still finding ways to get that taste of home from many, many, miles away.
In addition to satisfying their cravings from afar, those same folks are also helping to support small businesses, including restaurants, in our area that are dealing with all of the new COVID restrictions.
Some of you also shared your favorite spots to take your family members when they're back in town.
It appears for many, the places folks want to go to get their childhood food fixes are our area's pizza spots.
Ryan tackled this and more with two families who grew up in our area.
Their feet might be in Texas or California, but for Tara Boyce and Dennis Pabis Jr., their hearts are still in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
"I grew up in Blakely" said Tara Boyce who now lives in Livermore, California.
Three doors down from Tara's childhood home is where Dennis Pabis Jr. was raised.
This year, COVID is preventing many from travelling home over the holidays.
"We realized that it was just a safer decision to stay here" Dennis Pabis Jr. said.
For Dennis, "here" is in San Antonio Texas where he lives with his wife Megan. For Tara and her family, it’s Livermore, California just outside of San Francisco. But just because they won’t be in NEPA this holiday season, it’s not stopping them from getting their favorite food fix.
”Do you love Old Forge pizza? ‘ yes!!!!" Tara Boyce's family cheered.
Tara’s two sons, Andre and Kelen, are learning at an early age what mom considers to be an unforgettable “tray” of tastiness.
"I've learned to not try to get East Coast Pizza out here.”
It's why Tara along with Dennis and Megan have been ordering online from a place that’s usually on their “must visit list “ while back in Lackawanna County. That spot? Arcaro and Genell in Old Forge. And the pizza is just one of the reasons.
"I think it's super important to be able to support those kinds of restaurants that we grew up with" Dennis said.
"Yeah I, I feel exactly the same" Tara added.
Ryan asked Megan, Dennis' wife: "for somebody who didn't grow up in northeastern Pennsylvania, what are your thoughts on the pizza that Dennis introduced you to at Arcaro and Genell?"
"He used to tell me all about it when we first started dating. It's like you look at it and you're like 'how is this going to be?' And then you bite into it and it is like otherworldly. I call it 'voodoo pizza' because I don't know how they make it so good" Megan said.
And before Newswatch 16 let the group off the Zoom call, a surprise from Ryan: "I'm going to bring in somebody else who I want you to meet really fast. It's like an Oprah moment. Wait for it. Wait for it. Here's your big surprise: it's Amanda from our Arcaro and Genell in Old Forge.
"Hi!" said Amanda Krappa followed by cheers from the others.
Amanda shared what it has meant to see folks who live across the country still supporting their pizza shop.
"It's awesome. We're so happy that you are supporting us even from so far away" Amanda said.
Amanda is one of the workers at Arcaro and Genell packing the pizza and making sure it gets shipped across the country.
"You did a good job!" Megan said.
Amanda asked the group: "does it taste like you’re eating Old Forge pizza in Old Forge?"
"Just as good as getting it from the local restaurant" Dennis replied.
Tara added: "Yeah! And with the cheese burn and all because I couldn't wait for it to cool down when it first came out of the oven."
It's a bite of home that no matter which way you slice it can always bring people back to their roots.
"Northeastern Pennsylvania is always going to be home" Tara said.
By the way, if you have family living out of town and they too want a taste of home, your best bet is to check with your favorite mom and pop shop’s website or social media. You might be surprised at how many do online orders or partner with bigger companies to ship their products from our area nationwide.
One fun fact about Arcaro and Genell, the owner told Newswatch 16, at one time, before the pandemic, they were sending their pizzas to soldiers in Afghanistan.