Fredo’s Deli in Dormont is a World Cup of dining. For choices, you have Italian sandwiches pitted against Bosnian cuisine pitted against Turkish coffee. The winner is anyone lucky enough to live within biking, driving, or walking distance of the only Italian-named, Bosnian-owned delicatessen in the Pittsburgh area.
But “delicatessen” is a misnomer. Fredo’s is a deli-market-coffeeshop hybrid. It’s also catering, delivery, dine in, and take out. Best of all, each part is as great as the whole and vice versa.
Fredo’s: The Deli
Fredo’s opened as a straight-up Italian delicatessen in 2003. Some staples of today’s menu were already present, like the specialty sandwiches. On each sandwich, the bread-to-lunchmeat ratio is balanced and just the right amount of dressing is used to give the fresh Breadworks bread a soft (but not too soft) consistency. Favorites include the spicy Sicilian; the Godfather, which is made with imported DiLusso Genoa Salami, and the Mediterranean Veggie. The shop also offers gyros, panini, and a breakfast sandwich.
Owners Dino and Mediha Cehic, by way of Prijedor, Bosnia, took over Fredo’s in February 2010. “That day I will never forget because of the weather,” Mrs. Cehic said. She had awoken to the infamous Snowmageddon and a garage half-buried in snow. “But later it was exciting for me because it was the first time I had been in this kind of business,” she noted. Once people were able to tunnel out of their homes, business picked up, and it hasn’t slowed since.
The Cehics kept the Fredo’s name as well as the homey hardwood floors and tin ceiling. Items like “Cevapi” and “Pljeskavica” quickly began appearing alongside those Italian offerings on the menu. Cevapi are tiny beef and veal sausages. You can order five or 10. They have the consistency of a well-made breakfast sausage but with a richer taste.
They come between pieces of homemade Lepina, a moist, textured bread that could make a dehydrated person salivate. Add Ajvar, a spread made with red pepper, for a sweeter taste.
Pljeskavica also tastes like sausage and is served between Lepina, but it is shaped into a patty. Other house specials include Sudjukice, which is a spicier version of Cevapi. All of these specialty meats come from Brother and Sister Foods in Harrisburg.
Next, picture a spinach pie but with a spiral-shaped exterior, and you have Pita Swirls, another regional dish. Made with a flaky crust, Pita Swirls come stuffed with either cheese, spinach and feta, potato, or ground beef. Eat your swirls in-house or take them home frozen.
Fredo’s: The Market
The Cehics keep Fredo’s stocked with rows upon rows of foodstuffs from the countries that were once parts of Yugoslavia. These packaged food items include cooking ingredients and sweets. Because counter space is limited, Mrs. Cehic chooses only the finest imports. She enjoys Eurovafel (cocoa-filled wafers) and, of course, Ajvar, which tastes excellent smeared on bread, crackers, or just about anything else that you can add a spread to. Exotic soft drinks stand alongside the usual Mountain Dew and Pepsi. Try Cockta, which tastes like Coca-Cola, but with a mellow, fruity aftertaste.
Fredo’s: The Coffeeshop
Walking into Fredo’s, one will find a quaint espresso bar to the immediate left. Lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos—Fredo’s has those.
There’s drip coffee, too, but the Croatian blend has more of a kick than you will find in the typical American mug. Order a Turkish coffee and drink like a sultan, thanks to the copper cups and plates brought over from Bosnia. Finally, have some baklava for dessert.
Mrs. Cehic wants her customers to feel relaxed both before and after getting their coffee or food. “I always try to provide more of a feeling like they can feel very welcome and comfortable and not just a customer who’s paying for food and that’s it,” she said.
As for future plans, she would like to use the shop’s immense backroom, which can be rented, for more events: “I’m trying to bring more music or something like that from my country.” Could a regular performance space be Fredo’s next facet? If so, it would add to a quantity of offerings that never once sacrifice quality. That’s a rare feat in the restaurant business, and it ensures Fredo’s Deli will last long past the next Snowmageddon.
Fredo’s is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 1451 Potomac Ave., Dormont. For many more details, visit Fredo’s website.
Chris Maggio is a freelance writer who likes live music and good food.