Ready hands get the dough ready to go 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

November 26, 2005

At 7 p.m. at Andrew’s Pizza and Skylight Theatre, things may seem quiet but there’s a lot going on.

In the smaller theater, which seats about 50, “Jarhead” is playing. In the other, seating about 100, the recently released “Walk the Line,” a movie about Johnny Cash, is on the screen.

In the front dining area of the restaurant, several families nosh pizza and cast the occasional glance at the big screen, where a ski/snowboard video is being shown.

Employees are cleaning up after the dinner rush and bracing for the next one.

“We make pizza specifically for the movie times so people can have the fresh pie and beer with their movie,” manager Darla Ruff says. But with more than an hour to go before the movies let out, it’s not quite time to start the pizzas yet. Still, there’s plenty to do.

Wash dishes – wipe down surfaces - clean the floor – prep the pizza toppings – and help the occasional movie patron or pizza customer seeking wine, cookies, or change for the arcade.

One of the families in the dining room migrates to the arcade, where three youngsters cluster around the “Addams Family” pinball machine, vying for the highest score. A young man tries his hand at an arcade game called “Hydro.”

Having exhausted their supply of quarters, the kids seek entertainment in the toddler play area, and -- not being toddlers -- soon move on and discover the “up” ramp leading to the theaters, and the “down” ramp back to the pizza counter.

“Who wants to play submarine?!” one of them says, and takes off up one ramp and down the other. But Ruff quickly puts a stop to the game.

“No running in this hallway, please,” she informs the youngsters, explaining, “You can hear it in the theaters.”

Sunshine Thomas walks by as she puts away a huge bag of onions she’s been slicing -- her eyes are heavy with tears. “And I don’t even like onions,” she says, wryly.

But the crew does have fun. “Are you ready to toss a little dough?” she asks Jose Celestino. “Sure,” he says.

“Jose and I like to toss dough,” she explains. “We hand-toss all our pizzas here, and after you do it for awhile, you get so you like to have a little fun with it, so Jose and I like to toss the dough back and forth.”

After hand washing, the tossing begins: Ruff quickly turns a ball of dough into a large, floppy, amazingly perfect disc, and hurls it high into the air from whence it drops into Celestino’s ready hands. He keeps it in motion and sends it right back to her.

“Want to learn how to toss dough?” Ruff asks delivery driver Ben Mahaffey. He’s game, so she gives him a quick tutorial. “You put your hands this way,” she says, which is loosely cupped and palms facing each other. “You push up and twist, at the same time.”

She demonstrates the gentle stretching of the dough from the repeated tossing and catching, then tosses it to him. His hand puts a hole in it right off. She gives him a few pointers, and they try again. Before long he’s hurling it high into the air.

Meanwhile, Thomas is going through the tasks on the daily checklist.

It’s about 7:45 p.m., and Ruff decides she doesn’t need as many people as she has on duty.

“I need to send a person home – who wants to go home?” she asks. “I will!” Thomas shoots back. She takes her allotment of the day’s tips and eventually leaves.

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