Tag Archives: pizza

Lenten Fish Fries

March 16, 2017 by
Photography by Joshua Foo

Lent in Omaha—a time of repentance and moderation for devout Catholics—is synonymous with crowded lines of happy, drunken people waiting for heaping piles of deep-fried fish.

Parishioners and non-churchgoers alike rejoice with the approach of Ash Wednesday. Non-Catholics who have never joined in the fun should not hesitate. All are welcome. Lenten fish fries (complete with raffles, pickle cards, and bake sales) are the biggest fundraising event of the year for many Catholic churches, schools, and charities in Omaha.

The beer-infused Friday fry-day gatherings are a popular annual ritual in Midwestern cities with robust Catholic communities. Omaha’s large Catholic population means that several dozen churches will host fish fries throughout the 40 days of Lenten fast (six weeks). Meanwhile, there are plenty of other community groups, such as the local Disabled American Veterans, hosting their own Lenten fish fries.

Some start the Friday before Ash Wednesday. Most begin after Ash Wednesday formally initiates the Lenten season. Some conclude after only a few weeks; others continue for the entire duration of the Lenten fast, including Good Friday two days before Easter.

Not all of them are bacchanals, with children running wild while parents and young adults socialize. A few are alcohol-free. But all are genuine family-friendly celebrations of community.

Expect to spend a few hours standing and waiting in line at Omaha’s most-popular fish fries. The long wait—and the chance to meet new friends while drinking beer—is sometimes the most fun part of the evening.

Omaha Magazine has compiled a list of six must-try fish fries for every week during Lent. But the list is hardly exhaustive. Other excellent fish fries are plentiful in the Omaha area. For those in a hurry, seeking out lesser-known gatherings might even save on the wait time. Or you might just discover a new Lenten favorite.

HOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

2901 Fontenelle Blvd., Omaha, NE 68104 . 402.451.6622 . holynameomaha.org

Omaha’s oldest Lenten fish fry event, the Holy Name “Fryday” is famous for its jam-packed line, fried Alaskan pollock, french fries, coleslaw, and Rotella’s bread. The BYOB line makes the event especially unique for the 21-and-over crowd. Those arriving at 6 p.m. can expect to find a line stretching out the church, through the adjacent Holy Name Elementary School, and circling around the building. A wait time of three hours is not unusual. The initiated come prepared with coolers full of beer to sustain drinking through the long wait. Upon entering the main building, a free cup of beer is offered. Another free cup of beer is offered if there’s a line out the cafeteria. More beer is sold inside the cafeteria, and a storeroom accommodates winter coats and coolers. Nebraska politicians are known to make appearances at the event, which averages an attendance of 2,300 people per night. Fridays (5-8 p.m.), February 24 (pre-Lenten) to April 7

MARY OUR QUEEN CATHOLIC CHURCH (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

3405 S. 118th St., Omaha, NE 68144 . 402.333.8662 . maryourqueenchurch.com

A packed line meanders through the halls of Mary Our Queen School, where intermittent refreshment tables allow visitors to replenish their beer pitchers/cups in one of Omaha’s most-popular Lenten fish fries. Young volunteers walk up and down the school’s hallway to collect emptied pitchers. Popcorn is available in the line near the cafeteria. A drive-through allows motorists to avoid the packed halls. Food options include: fried or baked fish, macaroni and cheese, spudsters, fries, coleslaw, bread, with assorted soft drinks and desserts also available for sale. Fridays (5-8 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH OF ELKHORN (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

20500 West Maple Road, Elkhorn, NE 68022 . 402.289.4289 . stpatselkhorn.org

The fish fry at St. Patrick’s features fried or baked catfish and/or pollock. Margaritas and a variety of beers offer a change of pace from the adult beverages typically available at area fish fries. Cheese pizza, fries, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, and dessert round out the available food options. There’s a drive-through, and there are clowns and face-painting for the kids inside. Fridays (5-9:30 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL CATHOLIC CHURCH

14330 Eagle Run Drive, Omaha, NE 68164 . 402.496.7988 . svdpomaha.org

A cheerful and welcoming atmosphere radiates from the jam-packed line snaking through the halls of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. The event features $3 cups, $8 bottles of wine, and $8 pitchers of Boulevard, Lucky Bucket, or Bud Light beer. For those seeking better quality beer on the cheap, St. Vincent de Paul’s fish fry is an excellent choice. Food options include fried or baked fish, cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and fries or baked potato, with assorted soft drinks and desserts also available for sale. Credit cards accepted. Fridays (5:30-8:30 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. JOHN’S GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH

602 Park Ave., Omaha, NE 68105 . 402.345.7103 . stjohnsgreekorthodox.org

Alcohol is not sold at the event; however, St. John’s offers possibly the most delicious food available at any Omaha area Lenten fish fry. The church also offers historic tours of its Byzantine-style building from 5:30-6:30 p.m. A kitchen full of volunteers (some of whom grew up in Greece and migrated to the United States) cook and serve plaki—a Greek baked cod with Mediterranean sauce. Also available: panko-fried cod, breaded-fried shrimp, baked salmon, and vegetable moussaka (an eggplant lasagna), spanakopita (a pie filled with spinach and feta cheese), and piropita (cheese baked in phyllo dough). Specialty cheesecakes and baklava sundaes await at the dessert bar. Fridays (4:30 to 8 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

HOLY GHOST CATHOLIC CHURCH

5219 S. 53rd St., Omaha, NE 68117 . 402.731.3176 . holyghostomaha.com

Clam chowder is one of the unique offerings at Holy Ghost Parish’s annual Lenten fish fry. The varied menu offers: shrimp, baked or fried cod, macaroni and cheese, or a combo dinner. Each dinner comes with baked potato, salad, fruit bar, and a drink. Beer, margaritas, and “watermelons” (a mixed drink) are sold. While the line is long, the wait is neither the longest nor the most beer-soaked in town. Expedited takeout service is available at the west end of the church. Fridays (4-8 p.m.), February 24 (pre-Lenten) to April 7.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Flour Road Paved with Dough

October 16, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Paul Kulik was a 20-year-old line cook, he knew restaurants would play an integral part of his life; little did he know that he would become a renowned part of Omaha’s culinary history, and one if its innovative executive chefs and restaurateurs.

Adding to his repertoire of restaurants in and around the Old Market, the talented owner of Le Bouillon and Boiler Room teamed up with local bar owner and design expert Ethan Bondelid and graced the public with the May opening of Little Italy’s newest pizza and pasta sensation, Via Farina.

“The appeal of pizza and pasta is very broad. It’s family-friendly, and has a sweet spot for all ages. Pricing our menu accordingly, not being overly pretentious, having fun, and bridging the demographic gap so that it is a place for everyone was important to our success.”

-Paul Kulik

Inspired by living abroad for a year in France during high school, Kulik fell in love with the food-oriented way of European life, the integrity of each course, and the quality of farm-to-table fare.

viafarina1“I had to meander a bit to find my passion,” Kulik confesses of his early adulthood. “But I could not imagine food not being a part of my future.”

A self-described “Francophile,” Kulik has long been obsessed with everything French, but a trip to Italy was the catalyst for his concept of creating an Italian eatery that even an Italian native would appreciate. All of that, he knew, lay in the craftsmanship of the dough.

“The process of making it fresh and of the highest quality is the difference,” says Bondelid, Kulik’s former roommate.

“The appeal of pizza and pasta is very broad. It’s family-friendly, and has a sweet spot for all ages,” explains Kulik. “Pricing our menu accordingly, not being overly pretentious, having fun, and bridging the demographic gap so that it is a place for everyone was important to our success.”

The owners received overwhelming support from the opening day of Via Farina, which translates to “Flour Street” in Italian. Thanks to their impressive collaboration—Kulik’s background in all things food-related and Bondelid’s knowledge of beverages and design—the inviting atmosphere blends an industrial sophistication with an inviting ambiance.

viafarina3The centerpiece of the establishment is their open kitchen’s dramatic wood-fired oven, manufactured in Italy and adorned with Egyptian tile, designed to retain heat. The south wall of the restaurant pictures a giant backdrop sketch of a Vespa’s assembly, modern globe pendant lights hang from the ceiling crisscrossed with natural wood beams, there is a backlit bar, and a DJ spins hits from classic vinyl. Out front is a refreshing patio and a trio of cheery yellow Vespas waiting patiently to deliver gastronomic masterpieces to famished locals. 

The menu features 11 unique pizzas, six pasta dishes, and an authentic selection of Italian appetizers. Patrons can expect to be impressed by the locally sourced meats, cheeses, herbs, and vegetables. The sauces, dough, and pasta are all made in-house using a unique process. Each menu item also features wine recommendations, chosen with Bondelid’s expertise.

“We’ve been very fortunate Via Farina has struck a positive chord with the public,” says Bondelid. Kulik adds, “We want to make sure we continue to accomplish the quality we’ve been providing since our opening. Restaurants are living, breathing things, and you always have to improve and evolve.”

Via Farina welcomes guests on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Visit goviafarina.com for more information.

Encounter

viafarina2

Old in Omaha

November 24, 2015 by

The long-gone Omaha of an earlier millennia is loaded with memories. And sideburns. And Easy Bake Ovens. It was a time when no presidential campaign would be complete without Paul Lynde making a valiant run for the Oval Office while you watched a war in a far-off land unfold on TV and prayed for an insanely high draft number. How many of these tidbits do you remember?

Rose Lodge

Plating this dish over waffles may be a thing today, but who can forget the crispy goodness of the chicken served at this legendary spot on the southeast corner of 78th and Dodge that is now the site of O’Daniel Honda?

Pogo’s Disco

C’mon, admit it. You teetered atop towering platform shoes while dancing The Hustle under that seizure-inducing strobe in this musk-scented nightspot located on the southeast corner of 72nd and Dodge. You know, the one just across from Kenny’s Steakhouse.

Hinky Dinky

Occupying the third corner of the the city’s busiest intersection was the place you went to buy cheese when it was…well, just regular old cheese, dammit! Award yourself bonus points if you also remember that the grocer’s name came from “Mademoiselle from Armentieres,” the bawdy WWI song with the nonsensical lyrics hinky dinky parlez-vous.

More Eats

And how about the Sunday ritual of a post-service visit to Bishop’s Buffet in your best “dicky” turtleneck or Nancy Sinatra, made-for-walkin’ go-go boots, even if that Cheese Frenchee, malt, and side of rings served by a King’s Food Host carhop the night before was still sitting pretty heavy?

Cornfields

Just any old cornfield would do—and there were plenty of them in the Omaha of old—when it came time for the rite of passage that was your first sickly sweet sip of Boone’s Farm wine accompanied by a (sicklier and sweeter) Swisher Sweet. Or so says our publisher (and former delinquent) Todd Lemke.

Speaking of Delinquents

Paper drivers licenses. That’s right, paper! All it took was an eraser, a steady hand and, voilà, you were ready to hit every dive bar across the river when the drinking age in Iowa was still 18. Remember the sensation caused when Coors’ 3.2 brew was first introduced on the prairie? Or the arrival of Olympia Beer? Par-taaaay! (Just be home by curfew.)

School Days

Didn’t Omaha used to have like a zillion Catholic high schools? You know you’re old in Omaha if you earned a sheepskin from a long-defunct school patrolled by nuns clad in acres of black who thought the church had gone “too far” with Vatican II. Mass in English? Saints preserve us!

Deliveries

No “freaky fast” sub or pizza deliveries back in those days. Sure, you had a milk box on your front porch like every other red-blooded American, but pizza was exotic fare served at a quaint tabletop illuminated by a candle stuck in an empty chianti bottle. Darn it, there’s just no way to phonetically represent that gross noise made by Hannibal Lecter when he uttered that famous line about fava beans and chianti.

Vroom-Vroom

There was nothing more “Omaha” than cruising Dodge on a balmy summer night in your dad’s snazzy Dodge Dart. Eric Burden growled on the radio that “we gotta get out of this place,” but we’re glad you stayed to help make Omaha the great city it is today.

We had fun with the recollections above, but it is important to point out that Omaha Magazine is a staunch opponent of underage drinking. Unless, of course, that drinking happened before 1975. And in a cornfield. And by our publisher.

Nostalgia

Little Italy, Big Flavor

August 12, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

One recent Sunday, the delicious scent of fresh-baked bread and a hodgepodge of other yummy smells wafted outside the Orsi’s building at 6th and Pacific. A steady stream of customers flowed in and out of the building. They made friendly conversation with employees while grabbing bread for Sunday dinner along with domestic and imported meats, cheeses, and olives for the perfect antipasto plate. Others snagged a prized and piping hot pizza to go.

In the back, hustling to make it all happen, was Jim Hall.

Hall’s first job was at Orsi’s. Times and labor laws have changed since a then 8-year-old boy wrapped bread and buns in paper bags. Now he and his wife, Kathy, own the Little Italy landmark.

“It’s been part of me my whole life,” Hall says. Before he returned full-time as owner, Hall worked at UPS and OPPD, but always kept a weekend shift at Orsi’s.

Founded by Alfonso and Raphael Orsi in 1919, the bakery descended through the family over the years. In 2006, Hall and Bobby Orsi Jr. took ownership from Bob Orsi, adding a deli counter with meats, cheeses, olives, oils, and dry goods around 2007. In 2010, the Halls became full owners.

If anyone thinks that the Halls’ full ownership signaled the changing of the family guard, they’d be at least figuratively wrong. Hall, an informally adopted Orsi, has been part of the lifeblood of the iconic South Omaha outfit most of his life.

By age 12 Hall was entrusted with a set of keys and, along with an older neighborhood kid, opened up early each Sunday morning to start baking bread.

“I’ve been here on Sundays since 1967,” says Hall. “I’m German-Austrian by heritage, but I’m an adopted Italian.”

He describes the South Omaha of his youth as an ethnically diverse place where “everyone got along,” but each proud population had their own churches, groceries, bakeries, and bars. Unfortunately, this tradition of niche family businesses isn’t as prevalent as it once was.

“This is all that’s left of Little Italy besides Cascio’s now,” Hall muses. “These places were the special gems of the city.”

But the pendulum is always swinging.

“People are moving back down here now and it’s revitalizing the area,” he says. “It’s a lot more vibrant again.”

Hall still works long hours along with Kathy, who handles bookkeeping. They suspect that many such businesses shutter when a family’s sons and daughters aren’t keen on the grueling time commitment involved in many small businesses.

“If there’s no one in the next generation to take it over,” he notes, “a lot of them have faded on.”

Hall says it may not be his kids, but perhaps one of the next generation of neighborhood kids—just like he once was—who pick up the Orsi’s baton when the time comes.

But not just yet. It’s Orsi’s 95th year in business, and Hall says he will see it to the century mark and beyond.

“I was always part of the family,” he adds, “and I want to keep going.” I know our customers and like making them happy. And having new people discover us. Once they taste, they’ll be back.”

large

Lighthouse Pizza

August 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for pizza, Omaha brothers Scott and Matt Egermayer are carving out their own slice of the pie at Lighthouse Pizza.

When the two Westside High School graduates decided to open a pizza shop together, they wanted to put their own twist on this classic, universally loved dish and set their independent business apart from other spots in the city’s ever-growing pizza scene.

“There’s a hundred pizza places in Omaha alone. That’s something we’re mindful of,” Matt says. “We want to show people how unique we can be.”

Embracing a concept that goes beyond the whole-pie-only, sit-down pizza joint, the siblings opened Lighthouse Pizza in April 2012 at 74th and Pacific streets. It’s geared toward pizza lovers who want to customize their slices and have it piping-hot and ready in minutes without leaving their car.

20130710_bs_5471

“The whole idea of drive-thru pizza by the slice—we didn’t understand why no one had done it,” Matt, 30, said.

The fast-casual restaurant attracts a diverse lunch, dinner, and late-night crowd of employees from nearby offices, college students, and families from the neighborhood. It’s also popular with the post-bar crowd and other night owls on the weekend when it stays open until 3 a.m.

“It’s been an extremely positive experience for both of us,” Matt says, “and it’s been a fun process for us to problem-solve.”

Among the problems they encountered in the first six months of business: inconsistent slices that were burned or undercooked, and customer dissatisfaction with pizza ingredients. The Egermayers installed a new pizza oven and changed their sauce, cheese, and other toppings.

The adjustments, Matt says, have resulted in pizza he’s proud to serve and one that customers enjoy. In addition to pizza (whole or by the slice), Lighthouse serves wings, salads, and French fries.

Offered with a variety of toppings, the fries are part of the restaurant’s new “Pies and Fries” concept, which the Egermayers introduced in mid-July. Thick, natural-cut fries are topped with a variety of ingredients, including pulled pork, blue cheese crumbles, truffle oil, roast chicken, coleslaw, beef brisket, and assorted sauces. There’s also a version of poutine, a French-Canadian snack of fries, cheese curds, and gravy.

20130710_bs_5438

Opening a restaurant together was an idea that Matt and Scott had talked about for several years. They sought advice from a cousin who works as a chef consultant and decided to give it a go. Working in a family business has been extremely rewarding for the pair. The two have always been close, and they work great as a team, Scott says. “It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of.”

Each brother has a different role in the business. Scott, 25, oversees the kitchen, while Matt handles the financial side and customer service. Before opening Lighthouse Pizza, Scott was an architecture student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Matt worked as an attorney in Hawaii.

“We both love pizza a lot,” says Matt. “You want to get into something you love.”

Lighthouse Pizza
1004 S. 74th Plz.
Omaha, NE 68114
402-932-6660
lhpizza.com

Say “Yes” 
to More Veggies

June 1, 2013 by

When it’s time to eat vegetables, does your child do the Brussels sprout pout? Don’t give up. It can take eight to 10 tries before children accept a new food.

Children are born with a natural preference for sweet foods and develop a liking for salty foods at around four months. That’s combined with an innate suspicion of foods unknown to them. But if a child rejects a food at first, it doesn’t mean they’ll always dislike it.

Healthy Kohl’s Kids, a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores, offers these tips to encourage your child to try the green stuff:

  • Don’t overcook. Steam vegetables lightly so they taste better.
  • Teach by example. Eat vegetables with your child.
  • Rather than telling your child to “eat your vegetables,” offer him or her a choice of two and ask, “Which one of these do you want to eat?”
  • Shop with your children. Let them pick a vegetable they like.
  • Add color. Use red bell peppers, bright carrot strips, and different types and colors of lettuce. Bake shoestring “fries” out of deep orange sweet potatoes.
  • Incorporate vegetables into the main dish rather than serving them on the side.

Here’s a great recipe that combines spinach with a family favorite—pizza! For more healthy recipes (with and without veggies), visit HealthyKohlsKids.com.

Spinach Pizza

Ingredients (Yield: 2 servings)

  • 1 store-bought whole wheat pizza crust (7-inch diameter)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 oz part-skim fontina or mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • Black pepper to taste

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Brush pizza crust with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Evenly spread garlic, fontina or mozzarella cheese, and beans over pizza crust. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
  • In a large bowl, toss the spinach with remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil and black pepper to taste.
  • Spread the spinach leaves in the center of the pizza, leaving a border around the rim.
  • Bake the pizza for 8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the spinach is wilted.

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 323
Fat: 11g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 18mg
Sodium: 488mg
Carbohydrates: 37g
Fiber: 7g
Protein: 12g

* Nutritional information is based on ingredients listed and serving size; any additions or substitutions to ingredients may alter the recipe’s nutritional content.

Greenbelly

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Trying to find somewhere to meet up with your girlfriends during your lunch hour that will have delicious, healthy fast food? Perhaps you should try the Coconut Chicken, Grilled Chicken Bruschetta, or Asian Peanut Crusted Chicken at Greenbelly. You might think we’re talking about some hearty entrées, but these are actually salads!

Greenbelly originally began as The Cooking Club, Inc., a catering company whose sole purpose was to share their love of fine metropolitan cuisine. But today, Greenbelly is the host of some of the healthiest, most mouthwatering salads in Omaha, as well as an eco-friendly restaurant environment.04 January 2013- Greenbelly Restaurant is photographed for Her Magazine.Manager Stacey Eckley explains that Greenbelly’s eco-friendly environment means that all of the silverware, cups, containers, etc. are all made from plants—like corn and potatoes—which makes them 100 percent environmentally safe. As for the food, Eckley says, “We try to get food as organic as possible, and as local as we can. For example, our tomatoes are from hot houses in O’Neill, Neb. What we’re trying to do is provide a healthy fast food.”

Some of the most popular meals at Greenbelly are their salads, but they also have whole-wheat or white Ciabatta paninis, whole-wheat wraps, and grilled pizzas rolled in olive oil. Eckley says their most popular pizza is the Greek, which has Gyro meat, tomatoes, onions, feta, kalamata olives, Greek dressing, and Tzatziki (white cucumber) sauce.04 January 2013- Greenbelly Restaurant is photographed for Her Magazine.

With seating for over 100 at their new location on 114th & Dodge, Eckley says Greenbelly’s ever-growing clientele includes people from all walks of life. “Some days, you’ll see a construction worker, and the next you’ll see a vice president of a bank. Also, we’re close to Nebraska Dance, so we get a lot of young dancers, as well as their moms, coming in after their classes to get healthy salads.”

As they say at Greenbelly, “Great food makes a great company.”

Greenbelly
210 N. 114th St.
402-334-1300
thegreenbelly.com