Happy Camper – The Maestro’s Take

In the summer of 2014 I went on a low carb diet for the better part of three months. I lost about 20 lbs, went down two pant sizes, and generally looked fantastic. I was also famished. All the time. It was interesting to realize that the secret to weight loss was just that you would kill someone for a cracker. They say that you eventually lose the addiction to the carbs, but that just never happened to me. Maybe it was because on my one cheat day a week I ate pizza. And chocolate. If I was going to only have one day, I was going to make it count.

And as much as I loved the slimmer tummy, I didn’t love it as much as I love pizza.

A lot of my friends now are on various versions of diets and exercise. We have Maestro Francesco Milioto who has gotten me on the 100 push ups a day for 100 days kick, and who probably looks like the Italian Incredible Hulk right now



Then there’s my buddy, Josh Kohl, who before this week had never spent any time in Chicago, and came to the windy city to coach with me for a few days for our upcoming production of Amleto at Opera Delaware.

Unfortunately, Josh is in the middle of a no-grain (not a low-grain, a NO-grain) diet. Which means no grains. No dairy. No sugar. No fun. And definitely no pizza. So he missed out on the greatest pizza adventure of his life. No biggie. He’s already lost I think 10 lbs. in about 2 weeks, and is looking great, and (more importantly), sounding great.

Which brings us to the Doc. The Doc is on some kind of low-carb diet, but he does this thing called “running.” It’s apparently a faster and more terrible version of walking.

I have vague memories of doing this running thing back in 2006-7, and although it was never not terrible, I did lose a lot of weight, and had tons of energy. Which I would use consuming more pizza. Exercise for me has always been about 2 things: 1) getting the gut down, and 2) being able to eat more terrible and delicious food.

So I’m mighty proud of my buddy for sticking with this running thing as obsessively as he has. As of this writing I think he’s lost 20 lbs since the beginning of the year, and he’s training to run a full marathon, and will even be participating in a half marathon in the desert when he and his girlfriend come out to Albuquerque to see Il turco in Italia in April (get your tickets now).

But as enthusiastic as he is with ruining his kneecaps for all time, it’s not like he’s going to stop eating pizza. That way madness lies.

Which brings us to our pizza this week! We went to Happy Camper on N. Wells St. The Doc’s girlfriend and associate told us we’d love the place, because of the menus:

I give you, Exhibit A:

happy camper meat

follow the arrow, in case you didn’t see the circle


and Exhibit B:

happy camper veggie

I figured out how to make a cleaner, easier arrow with this one.


Also notice that the Tony is under Meat ‘Za, and the Glenn is under the Veggie ‘Za.

Neither of us tried our pizza namesakes though. I think he went with the Guarav which, for a veggie pizza was less like a natural emetic than I would’ve thought. It was very sweet.

I went for the Curt. Pepperoni, Mushrooms, Sausage. His associate who was with us and who weighs maybe 80 lbs wet went for a cheese pizza and an entire order of french bread sticks and ice cream. I’m not kidding.

A word on the atmosphere. I think this place is relatively new. It’s kind of huge, you can eat at tables, in booths, sitting in tire swings, or sitting in actual campers. The music is way too loud for our old ears, but the kids seem to like it that way these days. Criminally, they did not have root beer. I do not understand this. I’ll give them a mulligan because they’re new.

The decor is pretty neat. A little dark, but lots of stuff to look at, like this neat little light installment of the Great Lakes:

happy camper

At first I thought this was the worst map of Italy ever made.

And, as you can see in the photo above they have TVs. Lots of them. In fact I think there was a 1 to 1 person to TV ratio in the place. So everyone can watch their favorite sportsball game, and argue whether or not this is the year that the Kane County Cougars will finally win the championship.

How was the pizza? It was good. It was pizza, what did you think? My biggest critique would be that I had to actually add salt to it. The pepperoni was nice and thin, the sausage came in little round token shapes that reminded me of Super Mario Bros., and the mushrooms were not slimy or over-present.

It was cut in the traditional triangles, and I think there were 4 slices to each personal pizza. I can’t remember what the cheese was like, but on the whole the experience was nice, and of course, now that I’ve written this I’m starving for a pizza, even though it’s 8:00 a.m. and I have to wait until this afternoon.

So in short, I would definitely go back to Happy Camper.

If they get root beer.


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