Benny Marconi’s pizzeria in downtown Roanoke was the surprise recipient of a visit from Vice President Joe Biden this afternoon. Biden’s motorcade swung by the Campbell Avenue restaurant about 4 p.m. on Monday, picking up 12 of the restaurant’s signature 28-inch pizzas.
Benny’s co-owner Chris Brown said he had no idea the vice president was dropping by until about 3 p.m. Secret Service members staked out the restaurant long before the motorcade arrived and ordered the pizzas so they would be ready when Biden got there, Brown said.
When the line of vehicles stopped, U.S. Senator Mark Warner and Senate hopeful Tim Kaine got out and greeted a crowd of spectators. When they walked away, Jill Biden and Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, took a turn talking to the crowd. They asked for someone to point out the farmers market and Roanoke Weiner Stand before returning to the car. After carrying a pizza box to the car, Biden shook hands and chatted with folks in the crowd.
Brown said he was too far away to make it to his pizzeria in time to see the vice president, and his business partner, Zach Toth, tried to haul butt from Smith Mountain Lake to get there in time, but all he succeeded in getting was pulled over by a police officer. Brown said Toth was given a warning after he explained the reason for his rush.
An employee who was there said Biden “came up to the counter and bent over and looked at the pizza and said ‘That’s the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen.’” Brown said. Brown declined to talk about his own political stance, only saying, “I think me and Zach would probably say anyone who works as hard for the country as he does would be welcome at our place.”
As far as I know, Benny Marconi’s is the only Roanoke restaurant that has received a personal visit from a presidential or vice presidential candidate during this election, although other types of businesses have hosted candidates. After leaving Benny’s, Biden stopped by Obama’s political headquarters at Warehouse Row on Norfolk Avenue to drop off pizza for the workers.
Brown said he wishes he could find out whether Vice President Biden tried his pizza, and if he did, whether he liked it.