Dear Foodies,

Did you miss me? How was your summer? Did you pack on a few pounds? Well, I did. I really couldn't do much about it. I went to Mexico to visit my parents and you know how it is ... how can you say "no" to your mom's home-cooking?

I'm glad they took care of my culinary needs. You would think I would go straight to a salad bar after eating all that pan dulce, but that was not the case. My taste buds lured me to "Cordon's Taste of Chicago" as soon as I arrived from my long vacation. I must thank my husband (Dan MacDonald) and restaurant informant for the recommendation -- he had already eaten there several times and was very pleased with our new friendly neighborhood pizzeria.

Back in 1988 the Windy City, better known as Chicago, blew Edgar Cordon our way. He left that toddling town so he could study at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg and then, slowly but surely, many of his family members (including his parents) decided to move to the Rio Grande Valley. They fell in love with our sunny weather and Edgar fell in love with Cindy. They were blessed with five children and now they're the proud owners of this eatery.

Now let's talk pizza! Do you remember your first slice? Was it worth it? I am what you call an advocate for pizzas of all creeds, colors, and nationalities - let's just say, I'm not, a pizza snob. I remember when my brother-in-law Mark Bayse, took us to legendary "Frank Pepe's" (est. 1925) in New Haven, Conn. How could I ever forget that thin, oblong-shaped pizza with a crispy crust, garlicky shrimp scampi and creamy spinach (alfredo sauce of sorts) and cheese masterpiece I ordered and everyone dug into. When I think of Chicago, Lou Malnati's (famous pizzeria - est. 1971), Wrigley Field, Mother's (movie: About Last Night -- my hubby and I had a drink there once), Al Capone and the beautiful Navy Pier come to mind. Now, all I have to do is drive to Edinburg (Freddy Gonzales and 10th Street) to savor some SERIOUS Pie.

At Cordon's Taste of Chicago they're cooking up crusty, cheesy, saucy wood-fired (blistering heat) pies and traditional thin pizzas' with simple fresh toppings made in-house. Pizza is continually borrowed and tweaked to make something just a bit different, yet familiar enough to whet the appetite, especially when the enticing smell of a pizza pie backing in a hot oven hits the nose.

As soon as I stepped inside this pizzeria filled with Chicago memorabilia, I felt ... the Love! The red and white checkered table clothes had a homespun feel to them and the warm family pictures hanging on the wall I'm sure are intended to make us feel like guests in their home. There's even a beautiful painting (wall) of Edgar's parents (passed away) as they looked when they first got married. Their eyes might be looking down from heaven... but, their spirit comes to life in that painting.

This nostalgic, family-owned restaurant is perfect for social gatherings or for families wanting to reconnect. It's all about "La Familia" at Cordon's. We had to try their Famous Wrigley Wings ($8.95) and Illini Breaded Pickle Spears ($5.95) - why not?! The deep-fried dill spears were lightly battered (Italian spices/bread crumbs) and had a great pickle crunch, tasty on their own but even better dipped in homemade ranch dressing. I promise you'll get hooked!

Our little, fall-off-the-bone drumlettes were perfectly dressed with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce (our choice) - E squisito! Much to my delight celery sticks and garlic butter parmesan French fries (sprinkled with parsley) were served with our wings. We loved this tasty finger food, and there wasn't anything leftover when we were done.

It was pizza time! We placed our order at the counter and patiently waited (takes 45 minutes to make) for ... the Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza Pie ($24.95). It's the sort of crisp-crusted, sparingly topped, perfectly executed pie that you want to pair with a nice glass of vino and savor slowly. Each mouthful of this quintessential pie seemed to offer a new flavor - the oil (I prefer butter) gave the crust (they make the dough) a nice brown outer layer. Imagine sweet diced tomatoes (chunky) and a traditional tomato-based marinara sauce loaded with high quality, Italian sausage, pepperoni, sliced mushrooms and plenty of cheese. Mama Mia!

As we were about to leave, restaurant Manager/ Chef Marc Antieau made an appearance, taking time to answer our food-related questions and accept our compliments on his skill at cooking. Chef Antieau and his dedicated assistant Michael Clayton try their best to make every dish the classic way -- fresh ingredients and recipes that call for cooking from scratch. I could tell that a lot of pride and passion went into all of their Italian fare (pastas, calzone's, Chicago Dogs /Vienna sausage and sandwiches with sourdough buns).

What a great experience we had. We loved the food, the casual atmosphere and the staff. Pretty soon they'll have pony rides, batting cages, karaoke, and music for the whole family to enjoy. Yes, my friends, you can also sit back and watch your favorite sport (drink beer) while eating a dog (Ditka's Chili Dog with an attitude). Buon appetito!

That was AMORE,

Madame Gourmand

odettemac@gmail.com

Cordon's Taste of Chicago, 4304 W. Freddy Gonzales Drive, Edinburg. 956-383-4567. Closed Mondays and Sundays. They also deliver!