John’s Pizza—Part One

John’s Pizza—Part One

By By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

My cousin Elizabeth and her husband Pat arrive at O’Hare on a Friday at seven. I take the evening off from cooking at Irish Rose Norte to pick them up at the airport. Initially, we plan to pick them up and then go into Chicago to stay at my lady friend’s apartment. But at the last minute, I am feeling too rushed, and rather than deal with the stress, I call her and say that I just want to bring them back to Rockford and have them stay above the Irish Rose. She has a similar situation that causes this to be better also, so this relieves some of the stress.

Still, I am in a terrible hurry, and it causes me to make a mistake. My van is on automatic pilot, and I miss the I-90 turnoff to O’Hare. Then I am caught sitting in traffic that is going nowhere, waiting for an exit where I can get off to turn around. It seems like an eternity. I try calling American Airlines, but all I can get is automated message services. Finally, I get an O’Hare Airport paging number, but it involves remembering two long involved numbers, and I just give up. Finally, I do turn around, and the traffic is light, and I get to the airport about half an hour late.

I park in the short-term parking lot and rush in to the airport. In my haste, I fail to notice on what level I am parked. I frantically search for a couple that looks like my cousins. Finally, I go to Customer Service in the baggage pick-up area to request a page. I wait in line impatiently. It seems to take forever. An Oriental man in front of me is talking to the attendant about a bag that has been savaged by the airline system, the straps of his expensive luggage dangling and dragging on the ground. Just as I finally get to the head of the line, a slim gray-haired woman with close-cropped hair looks at me and says, “Are you Michael?” Hooray, I have found my cousin.

We wind up waiting several hours for one of their bags to arrive. There isn’t any place in the airport where we can sit and have a drink, an outcome of September 11, and the changes that evolved from it. I call my woman friend, and she suggests we go to the bar in the hotel to wait. We do, and Elizabeth’s husband Pat has his first taste of American boutique beer, a Goose Island. He likes it. Then we go back to the luggage service desk. The bag has still not arrived. The attendant makes an extra effort, and miraculously, the bag appears. Then we have to search the first four levels of the parking deck to find my van.

We arrive at the Irish Rose around midnight. Marco, my cook, has made us some sandwiches and left them out for us. We sit and eat and drink wine and use the time to get to know each other. Then I show them upstairs to bed and leave to spend the night at a friend’s. My apartment isn’t really set up to have company.

The next day I do the work I need to, to allow the restaurants to open, and then it’s back into Chicago to go to a White Sox game. We get to the gate, and Elizabeth has to check her bag. The fellow at the gate says a few phrases to her in Gaelic. Pat compares the game to rounders, and there is repartee between him and my companion about whether it is rounders, the card game. The two of them hit it off, and they sit together. Elizabeth and I sit together and talk while watching the game.

After the game, we adjourn to the bar under the stadium to have a drink and wait for the parking lot to clear. When we decide to leave, the bag check has departed. We will have to come back the next day to retrieve it. I remark that we are always sitting in a bar when we are supposed to be picking up our bags. It’s the curse of the Irish.

That evening we have dinner in Greek Town. I don’t want to take any chances, so I take them to Rodity’s. Everyone is delighted. We walk back to the apartment on Rush Street, stopping for drinks along the way and getting to know each other. We walk into the Palmer House and want to see the lobby. The guard doesn’t want to let us in but responds when my friend simply says, “They’re Irish.” We stay at my woman friend’s apartment, and they sleep in the bedroom with the beautiful view of the city. They are impressed with Chicago.

Sunday I give them a tour of Rockford, and we visit my mother’s grave. We have dinner at the bar at Great Wall. They get to talk to Gene Wang. Monday night we have dinner at Irish Rose Norte with my woman friend and her father, and then Tuesday I take them back to O’Hare. So what’s this got to do with John’s Pizza, you might well ask? Well, really nothing, but I wanted to write about my cousins’ visit, and the next day after my postponed trip to the market, we went to John’s for a delightful visit, which I shall write about in detail, next week.

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: and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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