Posted by Daniel
When reports started
trickling out in July that Barack Obama's favorite pizzeria was
Italian Fiesta Pizzeria, I took it a little
personally. By that time, I had already given time and money to his
campaign, and despite my cynical nature, I had already had so many
glasses of Obama Kool-Aid that my former neighbor and state
representative could do no wrong in my eyes even as he surprised me
voting for FISA and shown cowardice
political pragmatism on gay marriage. But now came reports that he
favored pizzas from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria, which I knew served
far from top-notch pizza.
Italian Fiesta has been in the South Shore neighborhood on
Chicago's south side since 1951. Even as the neighborhood changed
dramatically (read: blacks moved in and whites ran away), Italian
Fiesta stuck around, eventually adding locations in Hyde Park and a
couple of southern and southwestern suburbs. Michele Obama grew up
in South Shore and, presumably, she gets the credit for introducing
it to the president-elect.
After the jump, find out whose pizza
Barack Obama really craves. [He] "wouldn't shut up
about my pizza," the joint's owner said.
The Hyde Park location that the Obamas patronize is a small
restaurant in a strip mall that does not offer a dine-in
option. Those who choose to go pick up their pizzas are
advised to call at least 45 minutes before they arrive, despite
there being no possible way it takes even half that amount of time
to cook one of Italian Fiesta's thin-crust pies.
Another quirk of the ordering process is that the phone number
used to place the order is not to the restaurant itself, but to a
general number where the person answering asks not only takes the
order but also asks which location the order should go to.
The restaurant consists of a waiting area that's about 10 feet
by 20 feet and a large kitchen area visible through a small
bulletproof glass window, where about a dozen people were busy
making and packing pizzas. There were a couple of signs on the wall
in the waiting-ordering area that caught my eye. One warns that
there may be a long wait for pizza, and the other
explains the refund policy: No refunds,
only exchanges, and if a customer wants to make an exchange, they
have to bring in the uneaten portion of their pizza.
I picked up my sausage pizza and headed to the car to open the
box. Inside was a steaming thin-crust pizza with a noticeable
amount of oregano and grease sitting on top. The buttery
crust is thicker than traditional Chicago thin crust, but still
pretty thin. The homemade sauce was well seasoned and was
generously applied around the outer part of the pizza, but the
middle pieces could have used a bit more. The sausage seemed to be
fairly low quality, but it had some flavor and was well-represented
on the pizza.
I was ready to write off Italian Fiesta after a couple of
pieces, but when I got home about half an hour later, I ate some
more. By that time, the grease had largely soaked back into the
pizza, which resulted in a vastly improved pie. That's not to say
the pizza magically became a high-quality treat, but there was
something rather comforting about it. Italian Fiesta does not offer
a pizza to be savored, but it offers a decent pie, particularly for
late night diners-Italian Fiesta is open until 1 a.m. during the
week and 2 a.m. on weekends.