Illinois State magazine this month asked Illinois State alumni to share their favorite memory from Avanti’s—and wow, did you deliver.

With 500 submissions and counting, we’re getting some amazing stories. Though our Avanti’s Spread the Bread contest doesn’t end until June 21, we thought it would be fun to give you a sneak peek at some of the best stories submitted so far. (The 10 winners of the Avanti’s-Illinois State prize package will be drawn randomly after June 21, so the memories we’re sharing today are just for fun.)

The question: What’s your favorite Avanti’s memory?

Pigging out

“Eating six plates of spaghetti on All You Can Eat Night, and having to waddle back to the dorm.”

David Smith ’90

original Avanti's Normal location

The original Avanti’s Normal location near campus opened in 1971.

“My love affair with the grilled cheese is epic! I have had way too many to count and would have had one more if I would have known how far life would take me away from the great Avanti’s. I can still taste them in my dreams!”

Carly (Stein) Kowing ’97

“Once while living in Hamilton, I went in to Avanti’s for a late snack while working on a paper. Someone had ordered a huge family dinner for takeout but never picked it up. The staff offered it to me for free instead of throwing it out. My roommate and I ate like kings that night.”

Jason Green ’10

“All You Can Eat Spaghetti Night. Eating two bowls and then asking for a third. Taking a bite and then asking for a box to take it home! One word memory: Bread!”

Michelle Schmitt ’90, M.S. ’91

Love at Avanti’s

“My husband (my boyfriend at the time) and I were each traveling in different directions for work. We met in the middle at ISU during one of our business trips. We went for a walk on the Quad, where he proposed, and then we had lunch at Avanti’s!”

April (Eccleston) Veselsky ’05

“My very first double date ever was during my freshman year at ISU, and our dates took us to Avanti’s. I worked so hard to be neat and tidy, polite and attractive, but when my date ordered Avanti’s meatball sandwiches, I became an animal unleashed! The sauce, the cheese, THE BREAD! Needless to say, we never went out on another double date, but through a recent Alumni Relations event we all found each other again and have become close friends. We still laugh about that date, and still talk about how great the Avanti’s meatball sandwich was, and still is, as we have all driven through town for business just to pick one up!”

Avanti's dining room

The old Avanti’s dining room.

Michelle Bradley ’77

“When my husband and I were dating, I was telling him about my craving a Gondola sandwich from Avanti’s. He asked how far away Avanti’s was. When I told him it was two hours away, he said, ‘Hop in the car and let’s go!’ That’s when I knew that he was ‘the one.’ We picked up 10 loaves of bread and four Gondola sandwiches, and I was in heaven.”

Monica (Jacoby) Fulfer ’74

“I went to Avanti’s one night after an event with my sorority. There were a bunch of us girls just sitting around at the table laughing and having a great time. But this is one of the events that led to me finding my best friend. That night, she and I shared a slice of cheesecake and a cherry Pepsi—one of the many things we have in common.”

Ashley Beckett ’12

Good meal, good price

“We lived across the street in Whitten Hall. I was always scraping together $1.10 in change to buy a loaf of bread and sauce.”

Sheila (Robinson) Mahon ’89
Austin, Texas

“Back in the day there were no meals at the dorms on Sunday night. I never had any money. A friend was in the same boat. We used to pool our loose change to buy a loaf of Avanti’s bread for our Sunday dinner. We’d go over to the IGA and buy one small tomato and four slices of cheese, and that was our Sunday night supper! To this day, I still throw my loose change into a change jar, just in case!”

Joanna Wrublik ’79

“As a teen in the late 1960s, I found Avanti’s was a great place to take a date and not break the bank. As a college student and young adult, I still went there and loved it, date or not. I moved to Alaska in 1981. Every time I visit home, I make sure to visit Avanti’s. And when folks from home visit me in Alaska, they bring Avanti’s bread. It is a requirement!”

Mark Manuel, M.S.E. ’79

Special connection

“I had to fill out an emergency contact sheet once, and after my parents’ names I listed Avanti’s, because if you wave a hot ham and cheese sandwich under my nose, there is a good chance I will be revived!”

Brenda (Thompson) Garrett ’94, M.S. ’03

“I didn’t go to ISU my first two years, but often visited friends who lived in Watterson Towers. No trip was complete without getting Gondolas, and I just remember that smell filling the downstairs lobby from all the orders, and that taste of the freshest bread. It was seriously one of the reasons I decided to transfer to ISU.”

Neal Wilson ’93

Avantis Gonzales

Alum and former Avanti’s employee Ras Yuri Gonzales, left, in the restaurant’s kitchen. “I worked for the company during my schooling years. They got me through college,” Gonzales said.

“Despite going to Avanti’s countless times with friends and while dating my now wife, my favorite memory actually occurred this year in our teachers’ lounge, as all of us former Redbirds tried to explain the wonders of the Gondola and the bread to our colleagues who studied elsewhere. We all vowed to make a pilgrimage back to ISU as a team to have a gondola.”

Robert Battey ’05
School administrator from Illinois

“When I first came to ISU a great friend of mine (who had already been going there for two years prior) wanted to show me the best of everything campus had to offer. One our first stops was Avanti’s. Deciding to ask his advice on what to get, he said, ‘Get the Gondola!’ They are awesome, and he was absolutely right. Ever since then I couldn’t get enough of them. Avanti’s is truly an institution, and it was great to read their entire history!”

Russ Novotny ’92

“I was a waitress at the Avanti’s near campus for several months in 1986 and 1987. I loved being able to bring loaves of bread home for my residence hall friends after working a shift. I also loved making my own dinners in the Avant’s kitchen; the Primo Pizza Burger was my particular favorite.”

Lisa (Pauley) Grab ’88
Portland, Oregon

“Ever since I was a kid, coming down to Normal with my aunt (also an ISU alum), we would make a stop at Avanti’s. Naturally my first meal as a freshman here at ISU was a Gondola, and I have made frequent returns throughout my undergrad for a taste of the amazing bread! I’m fortunate to be able to stay in Normal for two more years not only to earn my master’s, but to also savor that bread for a just a little while longer!”

Matthew Steckling, current graduate student

“My favorite Avanti’s memory was my most recent trip. I got to take my wife and newborn daughter there on this year’s graduation day, and I will never forget it.”

Eric Powell ’01

“I lived in Dunn-Barton and would walk to Avanti’s almost every Sunday night to pick up dinner. Just bread and sauce. I loved the fact that it was sweet enough to eat without needing butter. Oh, and the way it melts in your mouth was awesome. Avanti’s is the one thing I miss the most about my days at ISU. I would love to share Avanti’s with my boys.”

Kara (Romanco) Ravancho ’91

Ryan Denham can be reached at