When I learned this issue was our “food” issue I thought of visiting a typical sit-down restaurant and writing a review of my experience. Then I saw the light and came up with a better idea. Nothing ecclesiastical here, the light I saw was the “open” sign for Bell’s Greek Pizza, an East Lansing institution for more than 40 years. It’s like getting religion of the Grinder kind. Habib Jarwan is the owner of Bell’s and he likes to call it “the last, first pizza place” left in EL. The original Bell’s on MAC Avenue opened in 1967 and closed its doors a few years back; this remaining location is on Grand River just a little east of Bogue Street. For me and a lot of other folks who have eaten at Bell’s over the years, there are two things that bring us back. Number one is the tuna grinder and number two — but not far behind — is the Italian grinder. I know, I know, the pizza is really good (it had better be since it’s in the name of the restaurant) but it’s the grinders people talk, no, obsess about. Numbers don’t lie. In the 40 years the doors have been open anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million students lived in close proximity to Bell’s front door. It’s those kinds of numbers that build a loyal and fervent following. In fact, the original owners were vacationing once in Greece when they overheard a fellow at a nearby table say “A Bell’s tuna grinder sounds good right now.” You see, the grinders are baked in an oven and it’s in there that the magic happens. So much magic that Habib ships grinder all over the US; that’s when you know you have it bad for a Bell’s grinder. The tuna grinder is a work of art: creamy tuna salad spread on six or twelve inches of crusty roll and baked with cheese. As it comes bubbling out of the oven this mouthwatering sandwich is finished with lettuce and tomato, green peppers and onions. Tuna will never taste the same. But my personal favorite is the Italian grinder. Two types of baked salami and cheese, and then the aforementioned veggies and a sprinkling of Bell’s house dressing are the finishing touches. It’s not hard to tell what I’ll order when I’m there, but in case my favorites don’t appeal to you, Bell’s offers an extensive list of grinders, gluten-free and vegetarian items as well as pastas and pita wraps, and if you need to feed a crowd ask Habib to make up a huge pan of his lasagna. So, go get your foot of heaven, just make sure it’s a tuna or an Italian.
Pete Ruffing is the Sales Director at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. He and his wife of 14 years Brenda live in Okemos.