Legendary | Worth driving from anywhere
Freddy’s Pizzeria | Best Casual Italian Food in Chicago
Review by: Michael Stern
A Gregg Pill Favorite
Several years ago when Jane and I were on our way to Chicago, Gregg Pill (aka chitowndiner) prepared one of his famous spreadsheets. He listed five dozen different restaurants we needed to try during our 48 hours in town. Freddy’s came first. Four of us ate there for a few hours. Those few hours decimated all appetite. Proper restaurant-reviewer technique says you should have only a bite or two of each dish, thus preserving appetite for other dishes, other restaurants. But that cannot be done at Freddy’s. In this place, the casual Italian food insists you eat it all.
It’s All Good
The pint-size corner grocery store presents its food on paper plates or in paper bags. The only dining area is a covered sidewalk. Despite all that, the menu is huge. And everything — everything! — on it is good. Freddie’s is one of the best casual eateries in the city.
To be accurate, there is no menu. Assuming you are not a regular and already know what you like, you choose what to eat by looking at it. Endless pans and trays and pedestals of food occupy every available bit of counter space. One gets dizzy-hungry panning over pizzas thick and thin and calzones large and small. Three kinds of chicken, pastas and arancini, vegetable salads, pasta salads, seafood salads, whole salamis, and loaves of beautiful, just-baked bread all vie for attention.
Choosing Is Sweet Agony
The beauty of the food amplifies the challenge of choosing. It’s not glossy-magazine, too-perfect beautiful. It is home-cooking-at-its-best beautiful. Strangely, despite the name of the place, pizzas may be the least interesting thing available. They are good ones with chewy, faintly charred crust and quality toppings. But compared to, say, the brilliantly citrusy lemon chicken or the ridiculously fluffy veal stuffed into rolled baked sheaves of eggplant, the pizzas aren’t all that interesting. Who can resist gnocchi light as a cloud? Pasta with sweet & tangy tomato sauce that grandma might have made? Seafood that is like a gust of fresh ocean air? Eggplant parm and meatball sandwiches that are built in bread that is crusty and chewy and impeccably fresh?
Best Gelato on Earth?
To top off a meal, owner Joe Quercia makes fruity and refreshing ices as well as what may be the best gelato on earth. It is smooth as topcream, rich but not cloying, intensely charged with whatever flavor is its essence, whether that be hazelnut or fruits of the forest.
Selecting a meal is all the more challenging because Freddy’s is minuscule. Interesting groceries crowd the room. Customers eager to get their casual Italian food crowd every available bit of floor space. Behind the counter, it appears that chaos reigns. A battalion of Freddy’s employees take and dish out orders placed by hungry customers. There seems not to be a logic as to who among the staff behind the counter is helping whom on the other side. Nor is it clear whom you should pay, and who will be presenting the food you ordered. Getting a meal is an exhilarating experience. Eating it is even more so.
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||No|