A rebus is a compact means of delivering a message in pictorial form. Some rebuses must be puzzled out, but to attract passers-by, a telegraphic image such as "two slices" would seem to be more effective. Like the other examples cited below, this signboard doesn't dispense with text altogether. The green lettering helps to visually separate the oversized "2" and "5"; the recessive type in the lower right corner ensures that the tax man gets his due.
At one time, no doubt, this was an Italian-American pizzeria. When I first passed this way some years ago, it was doing business as Roma Pizza Restaurant (a name still lettered on the windows), but a hand-drawn list of specials signaled a change in ownership. Many of these newer items have been codified on the menu, though in a section of their own, separated from the more traditional fare just as the middle flag out front is set apart from its neighbors. Nowadays, you can order chaulafan, and you can order pizza, but you can't get an Ecuadorian-fried-rice pizza. Perhaps that's just as well — but the possibility of a churrasco, fritada, or carne asada pie might be worth asking about.
La Sorrentina Pizza & Restaurant 245 Adams St. (Nichols-East Kinney Sts.), Newark, New Jersey 973-465-9555 Closed Tuesday
"Just to name a few!" If you read English but not Chinese, only the tagline and the price are immediately intelligible. After a moment you might gather, since this sign stands outside a cafe, that it's a menu board, and by matching the price on the sign to the big red type in the window, you might then deduce that it names a list of lunch specials. A few of them, anyway.
Of course the menu board might spell out the bill of fare in English, too, or restrict itself to Chinese. Instead it offers an example of code-switching — a shift by a multilingual author or speaker between two or more languages, each expressed idiomatically rather than in translation — which in this context suggests a young, American-born staff. (I wouldn't expect such a sign in the eastern sprawl of Manhattan's Chinatown, for example, where many proprietors are recent immigrants from Fujian province and speak an English just as labored as my Mandarin.) Indeed, when I entered Kato Cafe, the countergals greeted me in an easy English, though perhaps for the sake of expediency they also offered a printed menu, fully translated, of Hong Kong-style light bites. After another visit, when I haven't just risen from a large group lunch, I'll have the appetite to offer you more particulars.
In English we have bread, cookies, and cakes; in Polish, chleb, ciastka, and ciasta. No translation is needed, however, for espresso and cappuccino (though a spell-checker couldn't hurt). The names of these two beverages are loanwords, which are rendered in the recipient languages just as they are in the donor language.
"Loan," some linguists maintain, is misleading, since the original spelling is appropriated rather than borrowed with the expectation of return. Payback, however, can take many forms, in this case through the acknowledgement of the preeminence of Italian coffee culture. The local Polish-American community offers a culinary return, too: On the largely Italian-American menu, several items that include sausage also have a kielbasa analog. I have my eyes on a hot sub with kielbasa, peppers, and onions.
Axutla, a small town in southwestern Puebla, Mexico, sits on one winding bank of the Rio Mixteco. Along the even-more-winding roads in that mountainous part of the country, by car it's about a half-hour, online maps tell me, from Tehuitzingo to the north or Tulcingo de Valle to the south. I haven't made the drive in either direction and (owing to unfortunate timing) haven't tried Bravo's pan de Axutla, either. I can't tell you, then, if it's all that different from other Mexican bread or if an American pizza oven does it justice.
Note, however, the owners' attempt to stand out from the crowd, in this case a crowd of Poblano restaurants and shops, by signaling the availability of a hyperlocal specialty. (In New York, which has attained Fujianese critical mass, Min Jiang Mini Cafe makes similar hometown appeals.) The illustration of the Iglesia de San Miguel, the one structure of any prominence in Axutla, is a charming touch — especially the birds that might have taken flight as the church bells began to ring.
Bravo's Pizzeria and Restaurant 112 Market St. (Mercer-Bergen Sts.), Passaic, New Jersey 973-777-1168
At certain sunny times of day when the blinds are set just right, the signage by the front door suggests, inadvertently, a lenticular ad — the sort that changes its appearance as you change your point of view. So, too, with the menus. Originally, citing one bill of fare, I'd written that daily dim sum service begins at 4:00. However, a separate dim sum menu, the sort with boxes to be ticked off, gives hours of 11:30-3:30 daily and lists even more items. Thanks for the fact-check, Anne!
Silver Pond 230 Main St. (Gerome-Center Aves.), Fort Lee, New Jersey 201-592-8338
I'm not sure what's more curious about this Korean-Mexican menu item — that the churros are apparently oven-baked rather than deep-fried, or that someone has given so much thought to how a hands-on, grab-and-go food should be properly plated. Seen in passing, not yet sampled.