Freddy's: A gem that was easy to overlook

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank on food
Back in your own backyard? Can't see the forest for the trees? Take your pick. Both of these familiar clichés aptly describe my thoughts on the happy and ever-so-surprising discovery I made last week when I walked back in time and through the doors to Freddy's Pizzeria.

Freddy's is, in fact, located in our own backyard, modestly situated on the corner of 16th Street and 61st Avenue in neighboring Cicero. But there's a whole lot more to Freddy's than pizza, and that's only part of what I found so surprising.

Most surprising of all is the realization that I just now discovered this culinary gem. Can't see the forest for the trees? For years I shopped at the Bohemian butcher shop that was directly across the street from Freddy's, apparently oblivious to the Italian culinary treasures that lay inside. Oblivious, too, I suppose, to all of the great reviews Freddy's has received over the years, including our own feature in Wednesday Journal, as well as a spot on the popular Check Please on channel 11.

So what's inside Freddy's?

Everything you might expect from an Italian grocery store, and more, can be found in this tiny, charming, old-world Italian storefront. Dine in or to take out. Square pan, deep dish & thin crust pizza; homemade Italian sausage, including homemade prosciutto and assorted salamis; fresh homemade bread; numerous pasta dishes and an incredible selection of authentic Italian recipes, such as arrancini (crisp fried rice balls), fried artichoke hearts, and polenta are only a small sampling of the everyday fare that is proudly displayed on the countertop. Award-winning homemade gelato and assorted Italian ices are a major draw during the summer, making Freddy's a popular place with kids as well.

Eating at Freddy's is the next best thing to eating at the home of a great Italian cook, and chef/owner Joe Quercia has kindly provided his recipe for Gnocchi Caprese. Gnocchi are small potato dumplings that you can make yourself or purchase in packages at any Italian grocery store.

Freddy's Pizzeria has become a new favorite of mine, the only regret being that I didn't discover it sooner. The neighborhood feeling it evokes is real, unpretentious and truly delightful. Hours are Tuesday thru Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and credit cards are not accepted.

Speaking of clichés, how about that one about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence? Is it? Look in your own backyard.


Gnocchi Caprese

¼ cup onion, diced small

cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ pound ground beef, chuck

1 28oz can Plum tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup dry white wine

½ pound fresh mozzarella, cubed

¼ cup Parmesan Reggiano

¼ cup fresh basil

2 pounds packaged gnocchi (available at Italian grocery)

Salt & pepper to taste

n Heat the oil in a large heavy sauce pan and sauté the onion until soft

n Add the ground beef and sauté until the red disappears

n Add the white wine and cook over medium high heat for five minutes

n Add the chopped plum tomatoes and cook over low heat for 30 minutes

n Meanwhile, following package directions, cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water

n Drain and add to the tomato sauce

n Add the cubed mozzarella

n Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and garnish with the fresh basil

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