“Time flies,” said Kris Kahled Reda. “It feels like yesterday that I arrived in Oak Park.”
In 1983, Reda, longtime owner of Puree’s Pizza and Pasta, 1023 Lake St., traveled from Syria to Oak Park to visit his best friend. Despite the fact Reda had a round trip ticket and every intention of returning to his home country, he opted to stay and has been a vibrant part of the Oak Park restaurant scene for 35 years.
“It’s Anan’s fault I’m in the pizza business,” said Reda of Mayor Anan Abu Taleb. “I am grateful for all he taught me over the years.”
Abu Taleb gave Reda his first American job when he hired him as a driver at Giordano’s in 1987. Over the years Reda ascended the ranks to assistant manager and in 1994 he stepped out on his own and opened Puree’s pizza. After 26 years in business Reda is ready for retirement. He officially sold Purees to new owners on Oct. 1.
While Reda knows the time is right to move on, he is wistful about the years he spent on Lake Street. He reminisced about raising his son in the restaurant — gesturing to a corner of the dining room Reda said, “his crib used to be right over there.” His son, now 24, joins his seven-year-old daughter and wife as primary motivations for retiring.
“I am very happy I have been successful,” said Reda. “God gave me more than I asked for. I wish the new owners to be just as successful as I have been. Now, I look forward to taking care of my family.”
Reda has transferred his pizza legacy to new owners Gregory Steele, Tony Rudd and Dominic Washington. The trio tried the pizza and decided to keep the recipe “as is.” Reda joins the new owners for a few hours each day to help them get their footing in the pizza business.
“We love this location,” said Rudd. “Kris has taken us under his wing and become a mentor to us.”
Steele, who has both front of the house and back of the house restaurant experience, is happy Reda is passing along his pizza making secrets. He grew up going to the movies at the Lake Theater and his sister, an OPRF graduate, enjoyed Puree’s Pizza as a student.
The new owners are dropping the pasta, sandwiches, and soups in favor of a more streamlined menu consisting of pizza and chicken with Chicago “mild sauce.” Made popular on the South Side of Chicago, “mild sauce” is traditionally made from a blend of ketchup, hot sauce and occasionally barbecue sauce. The sauce is prized for being sweet rather than spicy, and Steele is developing a seasoned coating for the wings designed to complement “mild sauce.”
Puree’s Pizza and Pasta has been officially renamed Puree’s Pizza and Chicken.
“We want Kris to come back to visit knowing there will always be a sense of him here,” said Steele.