Grand dames have always impressed me. Auntie Mame. Sally Rand. Elaine Stritch. Queen Elizabeth. Eleanor Roosevelt. And Fanny.
In 1954 I was just nine and for my birthday my family was going to a restaurant in Evanston (I lived in Chicago on Kedzie Avenue at the time.) We rarely ate out so going to Fanny’s Restaurant was quite an event.
Fanny began her restaurant in 1946 with faith in herself and seven tables in Evanston, serving local workers lunchtime meals until she perfected her spaghetti sauce and salad dressing recipes (for which she gained worldwide fame.)
The restaurant was located in a house in an Evanston residential neighborhood. The entry hall had a desk where the hostess/cashier sat. The living room with its fire place and book cases as well as the dining room with its fancy chandelier was filled with tables and chairs for diners. It felt like you were a guest in Fanny’s home. The two first floor bedrooms were also used for private dinner parties. I remember the house as victorian, dark, heavily curtained, dimly lit.
The menu was simple. Butterfly shrimp, pork chops, chicken, or filet mignon with “all you could eat” romaine lettuce salad with Fanny’s World Famous salad dressing and all you could eat spaghetti with Fanny’s World Famous sauce.
Back to my family, all dressed up, at one of our rare out to dinner evenings to celebrate my birthday. To me the restaurant was magic. The atmosphere was magic. The food was magic. And here comes this grand dame of a woman in flowing skirts, a colorful blouse with shawl, heavy on the jewelry, waltzing up to our table. It was Fanny, herself!
“How is everything this evening?” she asked. “Are you enjoying your meal?” Then louder to the room, "Ladies and gentlemen would you please help me wish my dear friend Michael a very Happy Birthday. Join me ... Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, ... etc"
Well, you can imagine. I felt like the most important person in the world, having the most wonderful time in the world, at the most famous restaurant in the world, Fanny’s.
While the restaurant is long gone and Fanny passed away many years ago, one can still purchase the spaghetti sauce and salad dressing in local grocery stores. When I dress a romaine leaf with Fanny’s World Renowned Dressing or douse my spaghetti with Fanny’s Famous Sauce, I can still see and feel and hear our dinner party. I tear up every time I tell this story.
May 16, 2009
You can still buy Fanny's Spaghetti Sauce Today
Fanny's Salad Dressing, still available today.
Frozen dinner still available today.
You can see the dining room in the background.