In 1968, a 14-year-old Joe Quercia came to the United States from Naples, Italy knowing not a word of English. Lost and seeking assistance, fate led him to Freddy’s Pizza, unaware that this encounter would set the stage for his extraordinary success story. Joe walked into the pizzeria to speak to somebody who spoke his native language. This is where Joe asked the owner for a job. Initially hesitant, the owner was unsure about hiring the young Italian boy with limited language skills. Unfazed by the odds stacked against him, Joe made a proposition: “Let me work for one week, and if you don’t like my work, you don’t have to pay me.” Starting out as a cleaner at the pizzeria, Joe soon advanced in English to help take care of customers. He practiced on an old-fashioned recorder, diligently listening to basic phrases like “Hello, how are you?” Within a month, he grasped the fundamentals, and within six months, Joe was conversing almost fluently in English. This incredible transformation paved the way for Joe’s remarkable journey. From a young immigrant facing challenges and rejection to a successful pizzeria owner who ignited the hearts and palates of all who taste it.
After five years of dedicated work at the original pizzeria, Joe seized an opportunity in 1970 when he took over the location on 61st Ave, Cicero, as it stands today. Initially, the shop only offered Italian lemonade and cheese pizza slices. In 1978, Joe met his future wife, Ann Marie, while serving customers. Within a year, the two embarked on a journey to Italy, traveling on trains as they indulged in the rich Italian culture, documenting every delight they encountered. This unforgettable experience inspired Joe to elevate his pizzeria’s status among Chicago’s pizza parlors. Upon their return, the couple introduced exciting innovations, like homemade gelato and unique flavors. To emphasize the freshness and quality of the shop’s offerings, Joe made a bold move, transitioning the store to only offer pickup or walk-in services, abandoning deliveries. This move showcased the shop’s dedication to preparing specialty food, not quick, fast-food. Joe’s visionary ideas laid the groundwork for establishments like Eataly, where customers can relish specialty Italian cuisine of unparalleled quality. Whether it’s enjoying a piping hot meal or savoring frozen delights in the comfort of one’s home, Joe’s influence has left an indelible mark on the Italian culinary landscape, spreading the authentic taste of Italy.
Joe Quercia attributes his work and inspiration to his wife, who plays a pivotal role in his culinary journey. Growing up watching his mother cook, he absorbed valuable knowledge and honed his skills to create the culinary masterpieces he offers today. However, it’s Ann Marie, his wife, who possesses an exceptional palate, effortlessly identifying spices with just a taste. This emphasis on quality ingredients and taste led Joe to import specific, authentic ingredients from Italy, ensuring an unmatched dining experience.
In Chicago, where many Italian immigrants settled, towns like Berwyn and Cicero recognized Freddy’s Pizzeria as the epitome of authentic Italian flavors. Generations of families have savored traditional Italian cooking. Freddy’s is renowned for its Neapotlian-style pizza, crafted with fresh mozzarella, basil and baked in a brick oven. The pizzeria also offers an array of styles, including Sicilian, pleasing all preferences. Beyond pizza, Freddy’s customers love the gelato and handcrafted sandwiches, featuring house-made salami and more.