Most towns have a well-known pizza place. Most folks have a favorite pizza. Most of us salivate for a good piece of pizza. But Clinton, Iowa has a pizza place that is more than a favorite. Oh, they serve distinctive pizza, and good all-round American and Italian classics. But what they really serve is the best kind of nostalgia.
Ida and her husband Pete, who began this restaurant years ago, nurtured generations of high school kids and young families. Some of these young people, now grown and well-established, mail order the famous Rastrelli’s pizza several times a year. Some say the Italian sauce, the pizza, and the cabbage salad are unchanged from an earlier time. Many never visit Clinton without a stop at Rastrelli’s.
Guess where I had lunch this week? Of the fifteen people at the table, all but one ordered pizza for their lunch. Our table was nearly giddy with excitement.
When the pizza arrived with its well-seasoned sausage aroma, and members of the group bit into the crunch of the thin crust, heaped generously with crisp topping, most were transported with energy and enthusiasm to a time and place out of the past. Most had eaten pizza there many times, and the food brought to mind some of the best times of their lives. I’ve never watched a group enjoy a lunch, the company and the food more.
No doubt some remembered a time when they had entered the long narrow room of an earlier version of the restaurant with it’s soda fountain, and Ida had raised her arms in welcome, calling their names from the back of the place as she hurried forward, ready to deliver hugs. It seemed she remembered every regular customer the place had ever had.
The restaurant continues to be as welcoming as Ida Rastrelli’s wide, warm smile, though she and her husband are no longer there. Today, their son Mike and others carry on the traditions. The menu is large and varied. The salad bar is more than inviting, almost as famous as the pizza. This time, the salad was the best ever. For so many, especially Clinton natives, this pizza is a constant that remains their all time favorite pizza.
But this place doesn’t just offer good food. For so many who have lived in Clinton or visited there regularly, it offers a perfect plateful of happy memories.
I urge you to visit when life takes you in that direction. I think you will experience the joy of the place. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you feel the spirit of your own past and present good times when you are there.
Learn more about this unique place at www.rastrellis.com.
“Let’s go to Rastrelli’s.” It’s a refrain heard in any Clinton, Iowa song.