Anthony Caccitolo stands surrounded by fans at a Jeffe’s Pizza summer 2021 pop-up at the Moose Family Center in Bridgeview, Illinois.

Legendary McKinley Park-Style Pizza Returns in Weekend Pop-ups

Published September 17, 2021

Bridgeview’s Moose Family Center at 7536 S. Harlem Ave. bustles with activity on a summer Sunday. After all, it’s Jefee’s Pizza day.

 
Maxwell Street Market - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. first and third Sundays

Anthony “Tony” Caccitolo inherited the Jefee’s Pizza business from his father in the 1960s. The pizzeria, formerly located at 1820 W. 35th Street in Chicago’s McKinley Park neighborhood, closed its doors in the 1980s.

 
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“I was doing this for a long time. We sold pizzas from Brighton Park to Bridgeport to McKinley Park in Chicago,” Caccitolo said. “At 35, I decided to wrap up the business and do something else.”

A Huge Queue

Tina Jurkschat serves Jeffe's pizzas at one of the summer 2021 pop-ups at the Moose Family Center in Bridgeview, Illinois.Tina Jurkschat serves Jefee's pizzas at one of the summer 2021 pop-ups at the Moose Family Center in Bridgeview, Illinois.This all changed in 2014 when a McKinley Park resident shared an old photo of Jefee’s Pizza, and the nostalgia came rushing back, Caccitolo said. He decided to organize a “reunion” for Jefee’s Pizza fans, starting with a pop-up event in 2015 in the basement of a local church.

“So many people showed up: from generations of high-school kids who grew up eating Jefee’s Pizza to former employees of the pizzeria,” Caccitolo said. “I couldn’t believe that so many people still missed my pizza.”

Return From Italy

After this success, Caccitolo started making pizzas part-time from his home. Word spread fast, and he had a huge queue outside his house on the days he made the pizza.

The original Jeffe's Pizzeria sign stood at 1820 W. 35th St. in Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood.The original Jefee's Pizzeria sign stood at 1820 W. 35th St. in Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood.Some days, he spent hours making pizza for just one customer, he said, as they would order stacks of pizza.

Caccitolo eventually retired and moved to Italy, to his ancestral town of Oliveto Citra. However, his passion to make pizza brought him back to Chicago.

Growing Up with Jeffe's

In 2019, he started making his famous pizzas every Sunday from June to October at the Moose Family Center. Ron Nadasky, one of the pizzeria’s oldest employees, helps Caccitolo make these pizzas.

 
Maxwell Street Market - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. first and third Sundays

Pilgrims to these pizzeria pop-ups said the pies are mouth-watering, and enjoying them again inspires strong nostalgia. Many people visiting the Moose Family Center are former employees of Jefee’s or grew up eating Jefee’s pizza.

Jerry Stuart, who worked with the pizzeria for a year in the 1970s, brings his family almost every weekend to eat the famous pizza.

Man of Many Talents

“Jefee’s was really popular when I was working there during my high school days,” Stuart said. “As a kid, that’s the only pizza I knew about. His [Caccitolo’s] mom was a real go-getter.”

 
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Tina Jurkschat met Tony four years ago when she was waitressing at a bar. “I knew Tony, as he used to play jazz,” she said. “He’s a man of many talents.”

Ron Nadasky helps Anthony Caccitolo make pizzas at a summer 2021 pop-up at the Moose Family Center in Bridgeview.Ron Nadasky helps Anthony Caccitolo make pizzas at a summer 2021 pop-up at the Moose Family Center in Bridgeview.“When he asked me to help at Moose, I couldn’t refuse,” Jurkschat said. “Last year, Tony couldn’t make it because of the pandemic. I craved the pizza so badly.”

Thin Crust Specialty

What’s so special about Jefee’s pizza? Visitors to the Moose Family Center said Jefee’s pizza is the best they ever had.

“The specialty is the thin crust, which is incredibly crunchy,” said Laura Wilcopolski, whose aunt and grandmother worked at Jefee’s.

 
Maxwell Street Market - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. first and third Sundays

“The pizza is crispy, delicious and fresh. Basically, it’s good Chicago pizza,” Wilcopolski said.

Pop-Ups Through October

“Even the reheating instructions are so good ... it tastes as fresh as it would out of Tony’s oven,” she added.

Anthony Caccitolo joins former employee Jerry Stewart and friends at a summer 2021 pizzaria pop-up at Bridgeview's Moose Family Lodge.Anthony Caccitolo joins former employee Jerry Stewart and friends at a summer 2021 pizzeria pop-up at Bridgeview's Moose Family Lodge.Most attendees at the pizza pop-ups received word through neighborhood Facebook groups, where Caccitolo actively posts the upcoming kitchen schedule.

Wish For a Legacy

Because of football season, the pop-ups are moving to Saturdays at the Moose Family Lodge, Caccitolo said, running until the end of October with a potential break next month.

Caccitolo said he’s now looking to sell his unique pizza recipe to someone who will be able to do justice to his family’s legacy.

“I am 72. I won’t be doing this forever,” he said. “I don’t want this legacy to die with me.”

Anthony Caccitolo shares a memory with Laura Wilcopoloski, whose dad, aunt and grandmother worked at Jefee's Pizza.Anthony Caccitolo shares a memory with Laura Wilcopoloski, whose dad, aunt and grandmother worked at Jefee's Pizza.


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Maxwell Street Market - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. first and third Sundays