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Casual Dining

Among the many inspired student contributions to the first Agincourt exhibit — in October 2007, celebrating the community’s 150th anniversary — was a diner on South Broad Street, the 1950s pizza shop hangout catering to my generation; not me, necessarily, just people my same age, because it may have been my generation, I just wasn’t part of it.

In the intervening thirteen years I’ve lost track of everyone who was part of that show. I did a poor job of documenting the early years of the project and don’t know quite how to fix that. But I can tell you a little about it and why it was inspired. And one contributor who’s stuck in my mind: Mitch Dressel. If memory serves — which it does less and less these days — Mitch proposed designing a 1950’s burger joint and pizza shop, Agincourt’s first, and the backstory which made it a genuinely American tale.

A substantial number of G.I.s came home with brides they’d married during their WWII service overseas: Italy, Germany, and France in Europe; Korea and Japan in Asia. The second category grew even larger during the Korean Conflict. Mitch wrote a story about an Italian war bride from Naples, who brought the family recipe for pizza, and the couple opened one of northwestern Iowa’s earliest pizza shops. I don’t recall the family name or any other aspects of the story, but I do vividly recall the project: Mitch had gone into considerable detail, producing a restaurant design, a thoroughly researched menu, even one of those table-side vendors of recorded music. There may even have been a soundtrack during the run of the exhibit. And all of that came to mind with this vignette titled “Ed’s Easy Diner”, a painting in oil by British artist Stephen Brook.

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