Italian Fiesta Pizzeria: The Obamas’ Chicago Pizza Favorite, Reviewed

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Italian Fiesta our man in Chicago, Daniel Zemans, shares another bit of information about the Windy City’s pizza scene. Daniel blogs with Chicago Pizza Club friends about Chicagoland Pizza. –The Mgmt.

Italian Fiesta

It was July when I first heard that Barack Obama preferred Italian Fiesta Pizzeria. At that point, I was already giving time and money to his campaign and, despite my cynical nature and having had so many glasses Obama Kool-Aid, my ex-neighbor and state representative could not do any wrong in my eyes, even though he had surprised me by voting FISA and showing cowardice on political pragmatism regarding gay marriage. Now, there were reports that he preferred pizzas from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria. I was aware of the poor quality of their pizza.

Since 1951, Italian Fiesta has been located in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. Even though the neighborhood was changing dramatically (read: blacks moved into the area and whites fled), Italian Fiesta stayed put and eventually added locations in Hyde Park as well as a few suburbs in the south and southwest. Michele Obama was born in South Shore, and she is credited with introducing it to the president.

The Hyde Park restaurant that the Obamas frequent is a small, casual eatery in a strip mall. It does not have a dining-in option. People who want to pick up pizzas should call at least 45 mins before arriving, even though it is impossible to make thin-crust pies in half the time.

Another peculiarity in the ordering process is the fact that the number to place an order is not directly to the restaurant, but to a general phone number. The person answering the call not only takes the order, but also asks where it should be sent.

“No refunds or exchanges. Customers must bring the unaltered portion of their pizza to exchange.”

There is a waiting area measuring approximately 10 x 20 ft and a large kitchen area visible through small bulletproof windows. Around a dozen people were busy packing and making pizzas. I was attracted to a couple signs that were posted in the waiting area. One warned that there might be a long wait, while the other explained the refund policy. Customers can only exchange their pizzas and receive a refund if they bring the unaltered portion.

I grabbed my sausage pizza, and then headed to the car to unwrap the box. The inside contained a steaming thin-crust pie with grease and oregano. Although the buttery crust is thinner than Chicago’s thin crust, it is still quite thin. Although the homemade sauce was well-seasoned, it was generously spread around the pizza’s outer edges. The middle portions could have used more. Although the sausage was of low quality, it had good flavor and was well-represented in the pizza.

After eating a few pieces of Italian Fiesta, I was ready to give up. But, about half an hour later, when I returned home, I had eaten more. The grease had largely soaked into the pizza by that point, which led to a much better pie. It’s not that the pizza suddenly became a top-quality treat. But it was quite comforting. Italian Fiesta doesn’t offer a delicious pizza, but they do have a decent pie for late-night diners.

Obama’s Favorite Pizza – It’s From St. Louis

Despite this, I doubt that Barack Obama supporters will be any closer to their hero if they eat pizza from Italian Fiesta. Michelle Obama has spoken out about her love for Italian Fiesta. However, I haven’t seen any quotes from him expressing his enthusiasm. The owner even admits that Obama has never been in the restaurant. However, there is a St. Louis story that gives some insight into Obama’s pizza preferences.

Obama addressed about 100,000 people in St. Louis during his campaign towards the end of the election. Anyone who has ever given a speech in front of 100,000 people knows that it is exhausting and fills you with hunger. Pi is a Chicago-style pizza joint in St. Louis owned by Chris Sommers. Obama and his staff were served pizzas by Sommers after the speech. The future president then called Sommers to tell him that it was the best pizza he had ever eaten.

Obama wasn’t just being a nice politician when he called Sommers. Sommers was contacted by the Missouri Field Director of the campaign and he said that Obama “wouldn’t shut up about me pizza.”

Pi wants to be more popular and return the love. They have introduced a new pizza called Broccoli O’Bama. It is vegan and made with thin-crust. It is topped with broccoli and seasoned potatoes.

Pi is not a place I’ve been to, so I cannot speak for the quality of it. Let’s hope Obama is more skilled at leading the country than picking a pizza. However, Italian Fiesta is the best food in the world if it were possible to live without pizza for eight years.

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