Italian Fiesta Pizzeria Is An Obama Favorite

During quarantine, I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks. I like to read, but am just so much of a multitasker that I find it hard to carve out time to dedicate to doing nothing but sitting down and reading. With audiobooks, I can listen while I drive, listen while I walk, listen while I'm preparing dinner or doing housework, or while I'm scanning emails or scrolling social media or while I'm lying in the dark trying to fall asleep. So, I'm glad I downloaded Audible and have taken the opportunity for down time or maximized time doing other things to listen to several books. My favorites are kind of books are autobiographies.

I started with Try Not To Suck: The Exceptional, Extraordinary Baseball Life of Joe Maddon by Bill Chastain, which I really enjoyed. I have really liked Maddon ever since he signed on as the Chicago Cubs Manager and it was an inspiring story of his life.

Next was Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages by David Ross. I loved this one and got teary a few times as he recounted the 2016 season.

I kept the baseball theme going next by listening to Lets Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks by Ron Rappaport. It was a really long one, but each time I put it on pause, I couldn't wait to get back to it. It was full of so much history in addition to the story of Ernie's life - baseball history, Chicago history, African-American history. 

Open Book: A Memoir by Jessica Simpson was next. I had heard a radio interview with Simpson a couple months ago when it was released and had been wanting to read it. I enjoyed it, especially because she was the person reading it. 

After I finished that one, I went to the next one on my wish list, Becoming by Michelle Obama. I had watched the Netflix special a few days earlier, which prompted me to want to hear her full story. I loved hearing about her upbringing and recognized so much of what she talked about since she grew up in Chicago. There were a few mentions of things she ate as a young girl and on the the third mention of pizza, I was getting hungry for it. She twice mentioned her family's favorite pizzeria - Italian Fiesta on Chicago's south side.

I grew up in the south suburb of Dolton and I remembered that there was an Italian Fiesta location there. It was there when I was growing up and it's still there - in Almar Plaza on Cottage Grove. So, I placed a phone order and drove over to pick it up. It's the typical south side thin crust I remember so well of my youth. I actually had only had it a handful of times since our favorite pizza came from a carry-out place in nearby Riverdale called Vesuvio's. I have fond memories of Vesuvio's. For a few years my dad, in addition to his full-time job as an accountant, worked there on weekends doing deliveries. Most Saturday nights he dropped one off at home for us to eat while we watched TV (usually The Love Boat followed by Fantasy Island). I remember going to work with him a handful of times and sitting at the small table just off the kitchen next to the register and the smell of pizzas cooking in their one small oven. The counter was lined with little statues that were caricature figurines of famous people. There were statues of Laurel and Hardy. There was one of Richard Nixon. And there were probably a dozen or so others. I think one other one was John Wayne.

So, off I went to pick up an Italian Fiesta pizza all sausage and mushroom on half. It's good. Really good. Crispy crust. Lots of cheese that was slightly blistered around the edges. Ample toppings. Just a very nice example of the other kind of Chicago pizza - the stuff that isn't deep dish and that Chicagoans really eat most often. Michelle Obama and her parents have great taste in pizza.

If you want to try it for yourself, you'll find it five different locations - three in Chicago, one in Dolton and one in New Lenox. For more info and a full menu, visit