President Obama on Wednesday made an "off the record" stop for a pizza lunch at Antonella's Pizzeria in Davenport, Iowa, joined by three local women who are longtime campaign volunteers; all were precinct captains in 2007. The President's visit to the city was the first stop on the 48-hour America Forward! "campaign marathon," and followed a rally with a crowd of about 3,500 at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds. (Above: A photo of the President enjoying pizza with his guests)
The President sat with his guests at a table covered with a red-and white checked cloth in the middle of the dimly-lit restaurant. He enjoyed a ten-inch "The Works" pizza ($12), with sausage, pepperoni, onion, mushroom and green peppers--and left off the ham that is standard on the dish, according to Gitana "Coco" Sierra, the very excited waitress who served the Eater in Chief. He also had the house salad--the "Insalate," which is greens with tomatoes ($12) and an iced tea ($1.50) and water that he "barely touched."
The President ate all but two of the slices in his 8-slice pie, and left "a fabulous" tip after lunch, Sierra said. She declined to say how much, but said the President paid the bill in cash. He also tried to calm his over-the-moon server, who is 32 and has worked at the eatery since June.
"I was very, very nervous, and extremely excited," Sierra said. "I am a big supporter of Obama, so that made it even worse."
The President's guests were Vicki Felger, a nurse and health care assistant; Marcia Teshak, a retired phone company worker; and Deb Willaredt. One of the women was surprised that the President knew personal details about her, according to pool.
"I told you, I do my homework before I sit down," the President said. "I am not just going to show up. You guys know everything about me. I would be at a disadvantage."
Sierra said the President "was a gentleman" during the lunch, putting everyone at ease, and continuing to calm her down. (Above: The President chats with Sierra during the lunch)
"He was very down to earth," Sierra said. "He hugged me, and remembered my name--he said 'Coco, I still need my check.'"
The President posed for photos with Sierra and other staff before he departed. Owned for 25 years by Giovan Sgro, who came to America from Sicily, Antonella's is a daily lunch spot for local campaign aides, Sierra said.
"They eat here every day."
Still, there was just fifteen minutes notice ahead of the President's visit, with Secret Service and aides descending on the 74-seat restaurant. Patrons already in the eatery were allowed to remain, but no one else was allowed in.
"I'm still nervous," Sierra said, as she described the President's historic visit. And yes, of course she is voting for her most famous patron.
As the President departed after lunch, a crowd outside the restaurant cheered loudly as he walked out. He shook some hands before entering his limo, heading for his next stop in Denver.
The President also travels today to Los Angeles to film Tonight Show, and to Las Vegas, where he will speak at a late-night concert where Katy Perry is the headliner.
He will spend the night aboard Air Force One as he travels to Tampa, Florida for a morning event on Thursday.
According to a campaign aide, Mr. Obama will be the first President in history to early vote on Thursday, when he stops in Chicago to hit the polls.
The America Forward! tour schedule.
The President poses with patrons for a photo:
Info: Antonella's Pizzeria is located at 112 West 3rd Street, Davenport, Iowa, 52801. Phone: 563-359-4411.
*Updated with photos and video by Obama for America