User "Wadester16," Wikimedia Commons
Chris Sommers, owner of the Delmar Loop pizza restaurant Pi
(6144 Delmar Boulevard
; Web site
), will appear on Fox & Friends
tomorrow morning to set the record straight on his visit to the White House to cook pizza for President Barack Obama. The interview should air around 6:30 a.m. local time.
The background, in case you just awoke from a coma: Obama raved about Pi's pizza
when in town for his rally beneath the Arch in October of last year. Sommers, managing partner Ryan Mangialardo and Anne Schuermann went to Washington, D.C., last week
to cook the restaurant's deep- and thin-crust pizzas in the White House kitchen for Obama, his family and staffers.
News of the trip prompted controversy -- or, more accurately, "controversy" -- after several Chicago pizzeria owners expressed dismay
that the president would prefer deep-dish pizza from anywhere besides his hometown. In addition, Internet commenters, among numerous stupid criticisms
, questioned whether taxpayer money paid for the trip or the pizza itself.
"You want to kind of respond to everything," Sommers told me when I called him this afternoon. "But at the same time you want to take the high road."
Sommers, who doesn't hide his support of Obama, hopes his appearance on Fox & Friends
will afford him the opportunity to dispel what he terms "the pizza-gate crap."
But enough about "pizza-gate." How did things go at the White House?
Shealah Craighead, Wikimedia Commons
The White House kitchen.
"It was phenomenal," says Sommers. "They treated us like we were Thomas Keller. There's just not an ego in the place."
Pi trio were given a tour of the White House grounds, including the new
organic garden, before heading into the kitchen, which Sommers
describes as "the cleanest I've ever seen -- outside of mine, of
The kitchen is small, however -- too small for the
entire team to work together. Sommers and Schuermann prepared the
deep-dish pies in the main kitchen, while Mangialardo made the
thin-crust pizza in the pastry kitchen upstairs. The two kitchens are
connected by a steep spiral staircase, which -- to give you some idea
of how cramped the quarters are -- doubles as a storage area.
Chuck Kennedy, Wikimedia Commons
The Roosevelt Room, sans pizza.
The pizza was served to Obama and, by Sommers count, about 50 staffers in the Roosevelt Room
which caused some concern as the greasy pizza boxes approached the
untreated wood furniture. Sommers chuckles as he remembers the
reaction: "Maybe we should put something under the pizza boxes."
were worried they were going to cancel this thing because of all the
negative publicity," Sommers admits. Instead, the controversy went
almost entirely unmentioned. According to Sommers, the only person to
address it was someone from the White House communications office, who
told Sommers, "I've been deflecting this story for two days, so I
better get some pizza!"
Controversy aside, the publicity has
been a boon to Pi, with diners enduring long waits for both lunch and
dinner. "We've hired fifteen people in the last two days," reports
Sommers. "We needed to hire for the patio season, but this blindsided