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The Story of Fanny and her
World Famous Restaurant
Fanny's World Famous Restaurant was founded by Fanny Bianucci in 1946. One year later, she took out a full page ad in a local paper thanking her patrons for making her restaurant World Famous! How did that happen?
She indeed had launched on a most illustrious career at 1601 Simpson Street, Evanston, Illinois, beginning with just 4 tables, faith in God and hard work.
She had begun as a small café owned by her father, who emigrated from Italy. He served lunch to workers in what was then Evanston's industrial area. Fanny wanted to create a very special dinner restaurant. To this end, she spent long hours and countless recipe combinations to perfect for exquisite taste and digestability her salad dressing and spaghetti meat sauce. She used her own sensitive digestion as a guide to perfection, and history would later record she found it, in her Salad Dressing and Meat Sauce.
She wasn't sure what food to feature and other than herself had no cook. Being a religious woman, she prayed for help. Two days later there was a knock on the back door of the restaurant. When she answered, there was an African-American gentleman, Bob Jordan, who asked to see Mrs. Bianucci. Fanny asked what she could do for him, and Jordan answered, "The Lord sent me to be your cook." Fanny asked, "What do you cook?" and he answered, "The best fried chicken around!" Thus was born the fried chicken that helped make Fanny's Restaurant famous. He remained the Chef at Fanny's restaurant for 25 years.
Early on, Fanny asked one of her customers what his name was, and when he said Marshall Field III she admonished him "You should be ashamed of yourself for impersonating such a well known man as that." The next day a writer from the Chicago Sun-Times, owned by Field, came to the restaurant and told her he had sent her to write a story about it. Fanny, of course, apologized to Field, and they became fast friends. He promoted the restaurant not only through the newspaper, but among his wealthy friends on the North Shore. What developed was an unusual combination of a reasonably priced restaurant, serving outstanding food in modest surroundings.
Fanny insisted on using only the finest and freshest ingredients, but didn't believe in having an expensive building in a fancy neighborhood. She observed "Why the overhead . . . Let's put it in the food instead." Even though the restaurant was in an unfashionable part of town, the food was so good, and in no small part because of Fanny's enthusiasm and promotional skills, the restaurant flourished and was frequented by a very broad range of people, including the rich and famous, such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower and wife Mamie, Louis Armstrong, Mae West, Charlton Heston, Admiral Nimitz. Mamie Eisenhower had Fanny's Salad Dressing mailed to her and the General's home.
To say the least, Fanny's became a very celebrated restaurant. One customer come specially four times a year from New York. It was recommended by Leoni's of London, LaTour d'Argent of Paris, and Tre Scalini of Rome. It received awards from Epicurean Magazine, Bon Apetit, and Holiday Magazine. The restaurant got the Grand Prix D'Excellence of the International Culinary Service in London, and the Epicurean Society of France Award. Fanny was the only woman to receive the Italian government's gold medal "Stella Della Solidarieta" for outstanding achievement.
As the fame of the restaurant grew, Fanny constructed additions on top of and next to the original building, and ultimately had 275 seats. Kraft Foods tried to buy the recipe for her salad dressing, but she refused to sell. Because of the restaurant, Fanny herself became a celebrity, writing a column in the Evanston Review and other North Shore papers, and a book dealing with her outlook on life.
By 1987 she was in her 80s, in declining health, and her husband, Ray Lazzar, had died. Fanny closed the restaurant for its usual August vacation, but decided not to reopen. Fanny Bianucci Lazaar passed away 3 years later.
Fanny was a strong believer in, and servant of, God having extended countless unnamed generosities during her lifetime. She was often heard to say, "We are spiritual being in a spiritual Universe."