Pathetic pizza chain groupies cross state lines

My Christmas break was every bit as exciting as my summer non-vacation. While some friends and relatives were off to warmer climates, boarding cruise ships, visiting amusement parks, tanning on beaches or partaking of timeshare times, my kids and I took a far less glamorous approach to our vacation from school and work: We went for pizza.

Not just any pizza and not just anywhere for it, but we crossed state lines to follow the object of our affections: CiCi’s pizza.

CI CI, I WAS RIGHT - I knew what I was doing when I took my kids and their friends across state lines to re-experience the CiCi's Pizza "stuff yourself silly" experience. We were not disappointed.

CI CI, I WAS RIGHT – I knew what I was doing when I took my kids and their friends across state lines to re-experience the CiCi’s Pizza “stuff yourself silly” experience. We were not disappointed.

I know, I know, some of you wouldn’t go across the road for CiCi’s pizza, let alone down 67 miles of icy highway like we did to reach the nearest. But mind you, we weren’t going for the pizza, but for the experience, including the hokey “Ci Ci you laters” shouted as customers leave the restaurant. When the next best thing you’ll be getting to Disneyland is a day trip, you learn to trip on that which is available to you. In this case, that which is no longer available locally.

For a single-parent family on a shoestring budget, CiCi’s pizza represented a simple indulgence we could partake of together, although we often shared with similarly low-brow friends. We held Connor’s 9th birthday party at CiCi’s Pizza, complete with a homemade kitty litter gross-out cake and four of his friends and his little sister tagging along.

My now-deceased elderly friend, Stan, regularly invited me to lunch with him at the Jackson CiCi’s. He’d starve himself for a couple of days and then see how many slices of pizza he could eat at one sitting (I think his record was 11) for $5.49, less the senior discount he would always be sure to remind them he was entitled to.

While there was no connection between the pizza and Stan’s untimely death, as all of the Michigan CiCi’s had closed by then, there may have been a connection between his discount price piggishness and the death of that particular restaurant. That probably makes many of us accessories to business murder, with the economy and a difficult to perform to business model as contributing factors.

Our family observed a long moment of silence when the Jackson, Kalamazoo and Portage CiCi’s closed. We wore black for a week when the doors shut on the Battle Creek establishment. I wasn’t aware there were any CiCi’s left until last fall, when I started to receive email messages and coupons from CiCi’s national headquarters. Using Yahoo, I discovered CiCi’s Pizza lives on in Indiana, the closest restaurant in Goshen. It was then the wheels started turning in Hoosierly direction.

I rounded up a couple of the kids’ friends, Gavin and Schale Lindsey, who are generally up for any bit of nonsense we feel like dishing out. I also researched the best antique and secondhand stores to visit in Goshen. Hey, might as well make the trip as productive as possible.

“Welcome to CiCi’s!” owner Heath Mendenhall greeted when we entered the pizzeria, nearly the first customers of the day, as I had forgotten Indiana was an hour behind Michigan. I sat guarding our bright-colored coats from a suspicious-looking Mennonite couple as the kids made a mad dash to the buffet. Three of the four bypassed the salad and headed straight for the pizza, piling slices as high as feasible onto reinforced plates.

With considerably more decorum and control than I felt, I strolled up to the salad area and discovered a delicious pre-dressed Italian romaine salad with banana peppers and black olives, which hadn’t been standard fare when the Michigan CiCi’s closed. Also new were garlic parmesan (bread) knots and baked potato pizza, as well as a scrumptious Bavarian cream dessert pizza. If that weren’t enough, the soda fountain featured an unusually good Apple Manzana beverage made by Fanta.

We were so busy shoveling in food that we barely talked during the meal. Talk about American-style bonding experiences and non-quality time rolled into one! After blowing a few bucks in the arcade area, we left to shouts of “Ci Ci you later.” Hokey? You bet. But my kids are still talking about it and can hardly wait for our next day trip. CiCi, I was right.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heidi Louise Rawson
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 13:34:34

    I didn’t think Goshen was behind us? I know over closer to Chicago is Central Time but I think only one county? Some of those special pizzas sound great. Maybe Jim could take the kids and we could chaperone?!


  2. Janet Koehler
    Mar 03, 2013 @ 05:10:06

    I just now took time to read this post and enjoyed it so much!! I read the paragraph about how Stan would starve himself for a few days then gouge on the bargain pizza!! How like Stan for sure!!
    I so agree that memorable times can be had by all by just looking local (or not so local but not far far away)….and much less costly that going to the widely advertised “adventure parks” etc.
    Thanks for posting!!


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