Growing up in the far South Suburbs, I always felt like I could tell a lot about a person based on their baseball team, their choice of pizza place, and what parish they belonged to. I mean if I met an IJP kid who was a St. Louis fan and whose favorite pizza was Pizza Hut, I assumed we wouldn’t get along.
I grew up in a broken home. My mother is a Cubs fan, and my father was a Sox fan. As kids, we were often confused about loyalties, and decided it was best to just love the game of baseball. The same holds true for pizza. Aurelio’s in Homewood or Sanfratello’s in Glenwood it didn’t matter. We held no loyalties. Why? Because you couldn’t go wrong either way.
Both of these places are ones that I spent the majority of my childhood and adolescent years frequenting. We got pizza every Friday growing up. While they both are great places, each has their own special charms.
We lived in Glenwood, so Sanfratello’s was closer which means we were there often. My Dad was a very cheap man, and would never, I mean NEVER pay for a pizza to be delivered. He was of the opinion that if he had a working car, there was no reason he couldn’t drive and get his own pizza.
Sanfratello’s has the perfect atmosphere for pick up. You walk in and it is all cozy and smells delicious. When I was a kid, they had cushy chairs, a cigarette machine, and you could walk down a few steps to the bar, and grab a drink if you were so inclined. They also had a TV near the bar, which for sports fans, like my Dad, you didn’t have to miss any of the game. When you are six, cigarette machines, drinks at a bar (unless it was a cherry coke), and a boring college basketball game matter little. The only reason I enjoyed picking up pizza from Sanfratello’s better was because the drive home was as bit closer, and holding the pizza on my lap didn’t cause as many burn marks on my legs as the ride home from Aurelio’s.
Sanfratello’s eat in was the perfect spot for dates or serious conversations. It was one of those places you could hunker down in a booth and not be bothered for hours. They would just keep the pitchers of pop coming. It was a great teenage hang out. It was also nice if you needed to have a serious talk. When I say serious, I mean teenage gossip containing lots of “whatevers” and “likes” and “no ways.”
Sanfratello’s was also the first place that I had white pizza before there was such a thing. At Sanfratello’s it is called Pizza Ala Sanfratello. Thin crust + alfredo sauce + cheese + tomatoes + mushrooms = heaven.
Aurelio’s pick up area was not as superior as Sanfratello’s. Theirs is like a long hallway, with an old church pew. It is small, no TV, and the only cool thing to look at is the glass fridge filled with grape and orange pop. However, Aurelio’s gives out suckers. Which for me was awesome. Unfortunately, the sucker could do little to heal the third degree burn marks I could have gotten on my lets holding the pizza box the whole way home.
Aurelio’s best feature is eat in. This place had it all. It was like a maze of booths tables, and different levels of seating. They also had a big room where big groups would gather. I loved that I had most of my big post basketball victory dinners at Aurelio’s. Also, this is where I met former Chicago Bear Jim Morrissey, got his autograph, and got to ask him the most important of football questions on live television. My squeaky nine year old self in my St. Kieran Fighting Irish hoodie. “Which do you prefer, real or artificial turf?” In addition, Aurelio’s has an arcade. As a child of the 80’s an arcade at a pizza place was a big deal.
The original Aurelio’s in Homewood also has like a secret language when ordering pizza. It is customary to order extra sauce, and in the old ovens please. Also, there is a pizza that only a few know about and it isn’t even on the menu. It is the most delicious pizza you have ever tasted (no I’m not exaggerating). If you go to the original location, ask your server about it. I promise you will not be disappointed. When you are one of two Irish kids in your Italian populated Catholic grammar school, this was kind of awesome. I felt like I was in on some kind of Italian secret.
Pizza in the far south suburbs is integral to what makes it so unique to grow up here. It is the Apple Pie to anywhere South of I-80. I would be willing to bet there are more Italian restaurants and pizzerias here than there are White Castle locations and hot dog joints. Come on down people, it isn’t scary. Not only will you get a great (square) slice of pizza, but a little slice of the far south suburban culture.
If you are looking for real, old school, family owned, beer in a frosted mug, pitchers of pop, and the best pizza you have ever had in your life. Head south.
The Original Aurelio’s Pizza – 18162 Harwood Avenue, Homewood, Illinois 60430
The Original Sanfratello’s Pizza – 127 West Main Street, Glenwood, Illinois 60425
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