March 2, 2011

Road Trip Memories - Meeting a President at Carmen's Pizza in Evanston, IL

Tuesday, I mentioned that I have been lucky enough to shake the hands of a former President and two Supreme Court Justices. Because I think it is rather interesting, I thought I should share the story of how I shook the hand of former President Jimmy Carter.

I had just left Oklahoma and moved to Evanston, Illinois. My mother came to town to visit me and offered to take me and my roommate, who was Bess of The Unplanned Misadventures of MirMir and Bess, out to dinner. Choosing where to eat was easy - we were college students and our diet consisted almost entirely of pizza and PopTarts (literally, that is not an exaggeration. If it couldn't be delivered or gotten from a vending machine then we probably didn't eat it that year). So when offered a free meal at a restaurant, we opted to go to Carmen's Pizza. But before you judge our monochromatic tastes, you must understand just how good Carmen's Pizza is. Pizza isn't just a food, it is an art form in Chicago and its suburbs like Evanston. Decades of craftsmanship go into these delicacies so restaurants inspire fanatical devotion in their patrons for the best in Chicago-style pizza.

When I first moved to Chicago, my loyalty went to Carmen's although as I continued to live in Chicago I would eventually spend at least one year of my life living on a steady diet of pizza and wings delivered from Chicago's Pizza. But that particular evening, Bess and I insisted on going to Carmen's Pizza. When we arrived, the restaurant was full of people sampling the thin pizza, stuffed pizza, and traditional pan pizza. Their stuffed pizza is what made them famous. It is stuffed with toppings and topped with their special, secret tomato sauce then baked for a full 35 minutes. It is definitely worth the wait and in the meantime, there is salad to munch on and dessert to anticipate. You can't go to Carmen's and not have the cannoli for dessert. Carmen's cannoli is everything a cannoli should be - crispy shell overflowing with sweet ricotta and chocolate chips and dusted with pistachios. (In my opinion, it's not a real cannoli without the pistachios).

As we were waiting on our order, my mother, Bess, and I began to notice official-looking men with ear pieces and dark suits standing by the door. We made a few jokes about the Secret Service, but didn't realize we were actually right until the entire restaurant stood up and started clapping. Over the patron's heads, we saw President Carter descending the stairs. He exited slowly, taking his time to greet customers and shake hands. Including Bess's and my hands. As my mother and I were in shock, trying to process that our dinner had lead to a chance encounter with a President, Bess asked "Who was that?" (Bess is Canadian, she can't help it).

In addition to being an amazing experience - meeting a Former President and shaking his hand - it also gave Carmen's some clout in the Chicago pizza debate. After all, they can now claim a President prefers Carmen's pizza when he's in town.

This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick. Check them out!



  1. Wonderful memories. Cherishing happy moments in life is necessary to keep the spirits high.
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