Wednesday Warm-Up: Mammoth Italian sandwiches

January 20, 2010 1:43:26 PM PST
The Bertucci family has made Bridgeport a tastier place the last 20 years: They treat their customers like family and fill them up with hearty Italian beef, meatball and breaded steak sandwiches. If Fred Flintstone were Italian, he would have loved Fabulous Freddie's Italian Eatery in the heart of Bridgeport- and his picture would probably be up on the wall as part of the collage of customers. The big flavors match the enormous portions. It's easy to see why they've been a staple in the neighborhood for 20 years.

"Freddie, my dad, was a butcher - him and his dad had a butcher shop - and then my mom's family owned a restaurant actually a couple blocks away in Bridgeport, so they meshed together," said Christie Bertucci, one of the family owners of Fabulous Freddie's.

Grandma's recipe is used to make the homemade meatballs; hand-formed from a mound of beef, garlic and herbs. They're baked, then placed on slices of provolone, and doused in chunky, garlicky marinara - another family recipe.

Italian sausage is made by hand with an ancient cranking system. The firm, fennel-and-garlic-jammed pork links can be served in a "double" sandwich: that is, one long link is folded over on itself inside the Italian loaf, then topped with sweet peppers, and if you like, a spoon of gravy from the nearby Italian beef container.

Speaking of which.. the roast beef is also made in-house; the enormous sides of beef have to cool off so they can be hand-trimmed, then placed into a meat slicer, set at the thinnest possible setting, to slice the beef nearly paper-thin. Those roasted shards of beef are then returned to their seasoned bath of gravy, where they slumber, until an order comes in, and then it's time to be plucked from that delicious sea of jus. Fistfuls cover the entire loaf; what'll it be: sweet peppers or hot giardinere? Yet another beefy sandwich is the breaded steak. Tenderloin filets are passed through a tenderizer, then briefly dipped in eggs and well-coated with seasoned breadcrumbs. The filets are then rolled out on a cutting board with the aid of a rolling pin. Dropped into hot oil for just a minute or two, the fried steak gets a dunk in the marinara, then topped with peppers and sliced in half. Like nearly everything at Fabulous Freddie's, you could share it with a friend - or two.

"My dad only gets the best ingredients, he has good purveyors, he gets really good ingredients so the quality is really good, and that's why the people come back; because it's good quality and also the quantity is huge," Bertucci said.

Many of the sandwiches come in multiple sizes and pizza is another big seller. By the way, the family recently opened a second location in southwest suburban Lyons.

Fabulous Freddie's Italian Eatery
701 W. 31st St.

3910 S. Harlem Ave., Lyons