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Hanging Out In Rockford, Angelo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria—Part One

July 1, 1993

Hanging Out In Rockford, Angelo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria—Part One

By By Mike Leifheit

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life.” These columns are also available on his website: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

On a Monday, having finished my work, I am at one of my regular hangouts, Minglewood. Karen is there with James. Karen says the Seed Band Is playing at Sinnissippi Park on Wednesday night, and there is a potluck, and she wonders if I want to go with them. She shows me a flyer called the Sinnissippi Big Medicine Show. I am excited about the prospect, and I tell them that I have ideas for a new direction for the column—one that won’t force me to relate everything to a restaurant. Some would say I have already accomplished that. I personally feel I have a way to go.

I am interested in making the column more about Rockford and going out in Rockford in general, not just dining out. We talk about names for the column. I say I like “Out and About.” Karen says then everyone will think I am gay. I say half the town thinks that now, so what’s the difference? Karen says, “Not the female half!” Then Karen offers the name, “A Day In The Leifheit.” But I don’t like that one either. The Seed Band and a potluck, perfect! That will give me a chance to break out of the mold.

Wednesday night comes. I have had an unusually difficult day. I call Karen to see if we are still on. I am almost relieved when she says it is too cold. There will be other Wednesdays. But what am I to do for a column?

I am sitting at my little bar at the Irish Rose having a drink and thinking about all of this. Eileen Morrissey and her fiance, Tommy Yaccas, are sitting in the booth closest to the door. They are keeping company with Tom Nali, affectionately known to many as Ichabod Tom, and are discussing, among other things, art. While I am there, a conversation about Pollack leads into one about Warhol. Tom, a realist, is adamantly opposed to both. I defend Warhol. I leave it to Eileen to defend Pollack.

As I leave the table, I lament the fact that I have no idea for a column. Eileen offers that she and I could go to dinner. “Don’t trifle with me,” I warn, “I have to have a column before a week from yesterday.” “I will call you, I promise,” says Eileen as she leaves the table. Then Tommy looks at me and says, “If she says she will call you, she will. She loves to see her name in print.”

The next day, Thursday, Eileen calls. I am on my way back from Chicago. “How about tonight?” she asks. I say, “That would be OK.” She asks, “Could I bring Jody Beach? She says you owe her dinner.” I say it is more likely that Jody owes me dinner, but that it is fine. I like Jody and haven’t seen her in a while.

Eileen played a double role in her brother’s bid for mayor. She is a really “get things done” sort of person. Her organizational skills contributed enormously to the campaign. She was on call at all hours of the day and night. Together, they set an agenda for this community that will affect Rockford for years to come. Had the daily newspaper conducted its own polls, showing Larry’s real strength, and not just accepting the word of the other two candidates that he was just a blip on the radar screen, he would probably be mayor today. (There was a lot of nonsense going around that if you voted for Larry, you were throwing your vote away. Only after the votes were counted did it become evident this was not so, another disservice by the Rockford daily.) In any event, the agenda he set has been largely adopted by our new mayor, and for that we owe Larry and his sister (and his dad, Joe) a large measure of thanks.

Jody Beach, beautiful songstress, daughter of Franklin, the alderman, has had her own music career for years now. I first met her through Tom Fish, who played in one of her bands. I met Tom through Jeff Lang and the Moonlight Jazz Orchestra. They practiced in the basement of the Old Rock River Cafe for years. I hired them one night to play in the front bar. It was a “Blue Moon” in February. It was a leap year. The moon was full on the 1st and on the 29th, and on that last day they filled the Old Rock River Cafe with music. I was in love at the time, and it remains one of my favorite memories. Jody is wonderful company, and we haven’t been out together since we attended a Mother’s Day event put on by Harlan Jefferson at Lamont’s. It will be good to spend time with her.

So now, wonderful company is in store, Thursday night comes, and we still haven’t decided where to go. (I have to save certain restaurants for friends who have asked me specifically to go there with them.) We discuss several possibilities and finally settle on Angelo’s. Next week we meet Angelo, the father, and Angelo, the son. We drink some nice wine and eat some good bread and pasta. Hope you will join us.

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