Growing up in a large Italian family it felt like food was the center of everything, not to mention a cure all. Feeling a cold coming on? Have some gravy and meatballs. Someone in the family got engaged? Start filling the cannoli. Have a bad scar that just won’t seem to fade? Some salami will do the trick. Freddy’s Pizzeria in Cicero is no exception to the classic Italian mentality that food, where more is always better, can instantly cure all and satisfy everyone’s appetite.

Walking into Freddy’s is like walking into a nonna’s basement. Wall-to-wall chestnut wooden shelves full of dried and handmade farfalle, penne and rigatoni pastas. Traditional Italian cookies, crackers, chocolates and panettones aligned haphazardly for people to grab and purchase. Olive oils, balsamic vinegars, tomato sauces and spices are also intertwined and tucked into the shelving displays, wrapping all the way around the small boxy space. The endless options don’t stop there. Atop the glass deli counter, which by the way I’m pretty sure contains every type of capicola, mortadella, prosciutto, pancetta and sopressata in Chicago, plus wheels and wheels of cheeses, are piles of fresh homemade breads in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Because it truly is a sin, (trust me) to eat a slice of prosciutto without a hunk of flakey bread.

Once I snaked my way past the other customers, my eyes and taste buds were treated to the main dishes, made daily and served fresh by owner Giuseppe Quercia. Pan pizzas sold by the slice for under $3.00, depending on the toppings, ravioli and other pasta dishes scooped and sold by the pound, sausage and potatoes, meatballs ($1.39 each), risottos, seafood salads, fresh mozzarella arancini and fried artichoke hearts ($2.80 each), are all ready to serve by Joe’s wife, Ann Marie and several other long-time employees.

Yes, other Italian eateries serve these dishes or similar, but Freddy’s makes you feel like you’re part of the family, instead of just a guest passing through. The salads are in transparent rectangular containers, pastas in large silver trays, pizza kept in the round greased pans or slid onto wooden cutting boards and fried treats placed on simple ivory and teal dishware and served on floral print paper plates. You’re no longer in a restaurant, you’re at home.

After placing my order by yelling over several other customers and dramatically pointing to what it was I wanted, the atmosphere mimicking my own home, I headed outside with a cumbersome olive green lunch tray and into the dining area right next door to the pizzeria. Staying true to my Italian roots, I began with an antipasti, trying the sopressata, bread and arancini first. The meat, perfectly spiced and prepared in oil, is ideal for dunking the crusty, yet deliciously doughy, bread into. Breaking into the arancini, more commonly known as a rice ball, is an experience every Italian food lover should try at Freddy’s. The golden shell of rice is deep fried and when cut into, spills out an irresistible combination of ground meat, peas, Italian herbs and spices. Spinach and cheese arancini are also on the menu. Next I dug into the margherita pan pizza, covered in thin slices of salami, basil and fresh mozzarella. I have to admit I am a picky pizza person, but when biting into the crunchy crust and tasting the simple yet tasty sauce, I was more than pleased.

I continued my eating fest with some handmade gnocchi drenched in vodka sauce. Although the sauce initially appeared heavy, it was surprisingly light and flavorful. This is what I love most about the 57-year-old pizzeria and grocery store, it’s authentic flavors and simple preparation that truly exemplify old school Italian cuisine.

Despite being absolutely full, I couldn’t resist a cup of gelato. All of the gelati and Italian lemonades are made in store, everything from hazelnut, lemon and chocolate options.

If you’re in the mood for Italian food, wanting to feel like part of the family, or maybe are suffering from the common cold, head over to Freddy’s Pizzeria, I guarantee it contains that special healing power, the kind that only the best Italian food does.

Freddy’s Pizzeria, 1600 S. 61st Ave., 708-863-1538, freddyspizza.com