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Spacca Napoli - new pizzeria in Ravenswood, long

Spacca Napoli - new pizzeria in Ravenswood, long
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  • Spacca Napoli - new pizzeria in Ravenswood, long

    Post #1 - February 18th, 2006, 3:22 pm
    Post #1 - February 18th, 2006, 3:22 pm Post #1 - February 18th, 2006, 3:22 pm
    We just lunched at Spacca Napoli, a new pizzeria at the corner of Ravenswood and Sunnyside (next door to, and possibly even using part of, what used to be Joann & Sons). They just opened recently and at this point are only serving lunch, though I overheard a waitress tell another customer they may be moving to dinner also next week.

    First off, as someone who lives in the neighborhood and knows the space they took over, I have to say they did an incredible job with it. The inside is gorgeous, spacious, tasteful. Very impressive, especially considering what was there before.

    As for the food: We tried two pizzas, a salsiccia (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Italian sausage, olive oil) and a funghi (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, mushroom, olive oil). Their fancy, Italian-imported oven had them ready less than 5 minutes after our order. We enjoyed them both. Very thin crust that wasn’t crunchy but still pleasantly firm, tasty tomato sauce, nice sausage flavor, fresh basil, high-quality mozzarella, good mushrooms. Our biggest criticism is that they were too salty -- by the end we were salted-out and anxiously reaching for the water. Certainly the sausage added some salt to the one pizza, but that wasn’t all that was going on (the sausage on its own I found very nicely balanced). Maybe we got an oversalted crust batch or maybe they are just working out some kinks.

    The other possible criticism is that the middle of the pizzas, the thinnest part, were a bit “gloopy” with some of the sauce. More of an aesthetic point as the taste was still very good, and maybe not even an aesthetic point if traditional “authentic” Neapolitan pizza is just supposed to be like that.

    Prices on most of the pizzas range from 12 to 14 bucks. If you’re not getting any antipasti or dessert (or if you are and you’re starving), you probably want to have a pizza per person. Though the pizzas come out so fast that you could always order less and go from there if you’re still hungry.

    They had some reasonably-priced wines, by the glass and bottle. The glass of Cusumano Nero D’Avola at $5 went down easy.

    Didn’t try any of their antipasti, desserts (including gelato but not sure where they source it from or if it’s made in house), or espresso/cappuccino. But we will probably be back to do so. It’s a tad on the pricy side, but based on just one visit and admittedly while they are finding their legs, I’d say it was worth it.

    If you live in the neighborhood, I would definitely recommend checking it out. We both preferred it to D.O.C. at least. If you don’t live in the neighborhood and feel like some Neapolitan pizza, I think it’s worth a stop.

    You may want to call before heading out though to make sure they’re open.

    If anyone else has tried Spacca Napoli, I’d love to hear about it (especially the salt levels they experienced). That really was the one flaw in the pizza and I think if they fix that (or if it was just an aberration) it could be one of the better pizza places in the city.

    Spacca Napoli
    Corner of Ravenswood and Sunnyside
    773-878-2420
    Last edited by JamPhil on February 23rd, 2006, 4:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #2 - February 18th, 2006, 7:03 pm
    Post #2 - February 18th, 2006, 7:03 pm Post #2 - February 18th, 2006, 7:03 pm
    Thanks for posting, and for specifying the pros and cons of the pizza.
    I've been wondering a lot about the salt issue lately. Seems like my most frequent complaint at restaurants across the board these days is "too much salt" and I've been wondering if this phenomenon represents a concession to popular tastes rather than a mistake in the kitchen. In any case, I'm glad to learn about another Neapolitan-style option.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #3 - February 21st, 2006, 5:51 pm
    Post #3 - February 21st, 2006, 5:51 pm Post #3 - February 21st, 2006, 5:51 pm
    Spaccanapoli (split Naples) is the continuation of three or so streets in central Naples built on top of the decumanus inferior of the earlier Greek and Roman cities. I have had many memorable meals in Spaccanapoli. Today I had lunch at the new Spacca Napoli and enjoyed it enormously, too. I may have a slight bias because I have known the owner, Jonathan Goldsmith, for years, but to my palate he's making the most authentic vera pizza napoletana I've ever had in Chicago. He lived in Italy for years and spent months in Naples learning the craft of pizza making. Indeed, he displays a Diploma di Pizzaiolo on the wall of the attractive restaurant, along with pictures of the great Neapolitan comic actor Totò, photos of Naples by Jed Fielding, and paintings by Jon's wife, the artist Ginny Sykes.

    The pizza is built on a dough made with 00 flour from il Mulino Caputo that is mixed with a very butch Sottoriva machine, the impastatrice a bracci tuffanti (don't stand too close to this bad boy, Bill/SFNM). Jon says he's experimenting with flour from il Mulino San Felice, but hasn't added anything made with it to the menu. Pizza is fired in an oven beautifully decorated with a tesserae mosaic by Ms. Sykes. The oven is made of 13,000 pounds of brick, sand, and tufo imported from Italy and was built by three craftsmen from Naples. It appeared to me to cook a pizza in about a minute.

    The menu centers on pizza with ten different types offered, including pizza bianca con mozzarella di bufala (the cheese is imported from Caiazzo and is beautifully flavored), pizza prosciutto e rucola, pizza salsiccia e broccoletti di rape, plus the standards, marinara, margherita, funghi, and quattro formaggi, et al. There are seven antipasti, plus they make their own bread. They plan to add a charbroiler for more appetizers.

    Today we led off with the salsiccia e broccoletti and melenzane. Both were very good, but I especially enjoyed the eggplant, which tasted just about perfect to me. I tried both the pizza bianca con mozzarella di bufala and the margherita. The crust was chewy with well developed gluten and had the signature Neapolitan cornicione, which I would happily eat all by itself. I asked about JamPhil's experience with overly salted crust and was told that there was a problem on Saturday. Today I found the saltiness on the low side for my taste (I like food salty). They have a nice selection of southern Italian wines, reasonably priced. I particularly like the Insolia from Sicily and the Falanghina from Campania. They have Italian beer (regrettably not Baffo d'Oro, though), and plan to offer several digestivi, probably including limoncello, Averna, Strega, and a grappa.

    The pizzaiola, Nella Grassano, is a Napoletana who makes a fine and satisfying meal. I detected hints that there might be some zeppole in time for San Giuseppe's Day, my onomastico, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. I'm adding Spacca Napoli to my training regimen for this year's Giro di Cibo.

    Spacca Napoli
    1769 W. Sunnyside
    Chicago
    773 878.2420
    Lunch Tu-Sat 11:30-3
    Dinner W-Th 5-9, F-Sat 5-10
    Sunday 3-9
    Last edited by Choey on February 22nd, 2006, 5:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #4 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:25 am
    Post #4 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:25 am Post #4 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:25 am
    JamPhil wrote: They just opened recently and at this point are only serving lunch

    JamPhil, Choey,

    Moved by Choey's praise, I went to Spacca Napoli tonight for a late dinnerl. If only I had better reading comprehension I could have saved myself a trip.

    I ended up at JK Kabob for a chili chicken/seekh kabab combo with paratha, small salad and the slightly odd cornstarchy chicken soup. Was good, but not what I was in the mood for.

    Spacca Napoli looked nice, the wood burning oven is a monster, and I'm looking forward to trying the place soon.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Spacca Napoli
    Sunnyside just East of Ravenswood (South side of street)

    JK Kabab House
    6412 N Rockwell
    Chicago, IL 60645
    773-761-6089
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #5 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:49 pm
    Post #5 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:49 pm Post #5 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:49 pm
    I'm thinking of a return trip tonight. But just to stay current on my RDA of foods from the Pizza Group.
  • Post #6 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:58 pm
    Post #6 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:58 pm Post #6 - February 22nd, 2006, 12:58 pm
    Choey wrote:I'm thinking of a return trip tonight, just to stay current on my RDA of foods from the Pizza Group.


    I wish I could go tonight too. With an imported oven and an imported Napolitana pizzaiola, I can't not go and try it.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #7 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:00 pm
    Post #7 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:00 pm Post #7 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:00 pm
    I'm strongly considering going for a long lunch today.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #8 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:19 pm
    Post #8 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:19 pm Post #8 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:19 pm
    I'm thinking of a return trip tonight.


    I think they're still only open for lunch, according to the O.P. ( I just don't want you to be disappointed a la GWiv)
    Anthony Bourdain on Barack Obama: "He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."
  • Post #9 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:34 pm
    Post #9 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:34 pm Post #9 - February 22nd, 2006, 1:34 pm
    Sounds well worth a trip. Thanks for the great write-up(s) and mouth-watering descriptions. Apparently a first-hand evaluation of the kitchen's efforts is required.

    Can't make lunch (unless my boss decides I can stay home), but since we're talking a healthy stone's throw from Casa Our House, let me know if anyone's planning a trip...
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #10 - February 22nd, 2006, 3:37 pm
    Post #10 - February 22nd, 2006, 3:37 pm Post #10 - February 22nd, 2006, 3:37 pm
    Choey wrote:I may have a slight bias because I have known the owner, Jonathan Goldstein, for years, but to my palate he's making the most authentic vera pizza napoletana I've ever had in Chicago.


    How would you classify the pizza at Follia and how does it compare with that of Spacca Napoli?

    Having dined at Follia again recently, I can say that their ("Neapolitan-style") pizza remains my favourite in this town.

    E.M.
  • Post #11 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:09 pm
    Post #11 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:09 pm Post #11 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:09 pm
    I did end up cruising by today for lunch (I suspect another LTHer entered just ahead of me, speak up if it was you) and had the very fine pizza bianca con mozzarella di bufala and a limonata. I can't add to what Choey and JamPhil already said, except to agree. I will note that I thought the crust and pizza had near-perfect salt levels today, but, like JamPhil, I found the center of the pizza just a tiny bit underdone. Maybe another 15 seconds and it would have been perfect.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #12 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:43 pm
    Post #12 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:43 pm Post #12 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:43 pm
    Hi,

    First time poster, long time lurker. I've been getting tips on where to eat from LTH ever since discovering it about a year or so ago - a belated thanks to all of you!

    I was just at Spacca Napoli for lunch today and enjoyed it immensely. The owner came by and we found out that they are now open for dinner. I can't remember the hours exactly, though.
  • Post #13 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:55 pm
    Post #13 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:55 pm Post #13 - February 22nd, 2006, 4:55 pm
    Just like G Wiv, my reading comprehension was probably better as a seven year old. I went last Saturday for dinner. Closed! I'll try again, maybe tonight.
  • Post #14 - February 22nd, 2006, 5:23 pm
    Post #14 - February 22nd, 2006, 5:23 pm Post #14 - February 22nd, 2006, 5:23 pm
    I just called the restaurant, here are the official hours "from now on" (said the nice man on the phone):

    Mondays: closed
    Tuesday: lunch only, 11-3
    Weds and Thurs: 11-3 lunch, 5-9 dinner
    Fri and Sat: 11-3 lunch, 5-10 dinner
    Sunday: dinner only, 3-9

    edited to shift dinner plans to events forum
    Anthony Bourdain on Barack Obama: "He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."
  • Post #15 - February 22nd, 2006, 5:53 pm
    Post #15 - February 22nd, 2006, 5:53 pm Post #15 - February 22nd, 2006, 5:53 pm
    Erik, I like Follia and have recommended it to others, but I have greater enthusiasm for Spacca Napoli right now. Follia makes me think of a Milanese restaurant: competent, well run, pan-Italian tastes, and I enjoy going there occasionally. Their pizza reminds me more of the Roman style. The conception of SN is inspired by Neapolitan pizzerie without any concession to Tuscan this or Friulian that or Risotto Come Si Chiama. (Indeed, I asked Jon if he was thinking of adding some of the wonderful appetizers one finds in a Neapolitan friggitoria (fry house) and he said that it didn't fit with what he wanted to do: pizza.) I'm betting that SN will get better as they work through the next few months in their kitchen, experimenting and refining their food and the dining experience. My guess is that Follia's pretty far up their learning curve.

    My preferences are, of course, my own, but SN is the kind of restaurant I was fearing I would have to open myself if I were to have any hope of finding one in Chicago. But, then again, I'm a man who insists on eating a full serving from either the pizza group or the pasta group every day. Oh, and then there's the coffee group, too.
  • Post #16 - February 22nd, 2006, 6:31 pm
    Post #16 - February 22nd, 2006, 6:31 pm Post #16 - February 22nd, 2006, 6:31 pm
    Choey wrote:Erik, I like Follia and have recommended it to others, but I have greater enthusiasm for Spacca Napoli right now. Follia makes me think of a Milanese restaurant: competent, well run, pan-Italian tastes, and I enjoy going there occasionally. The conception of SN is inspired by Neapolitan pizzerie without any concession to Tuscan this or Friulian that or Risotto Come Si Chiama. (Indeed, I asked Jon if he was thinking of adding some of the wonderful appetizers one finds in a Neapolitan friggitoria (fry house) and he said that it didn't fit with what he wanted to do: pizza.) I'm betting that SN will get better as they work through the next few months in their kitchen, experimenting and refining their food and the dining experience. My guess is that Follia's pretty far up their learning curve.

    My preferences are, of course, my own, but SN is the kind of restaurant I was fearing I would have to open myself if I were to have any hope of finding one in Chicago. But, then again, I'm a man who insists on eating a full serving from either the pizza group or the pasta group every day. Oh, and then there's the coffee group, too.


    Thank you, Choey. I intend to visit sometime this week.

    --------

    I like Follia quite a bit, too. The food is usu. quite good, and like many of my favourite places, dining there allows me feel as if I have left town, however so briefly.

    BTW, Rich4 once detailed the manner in which pizza is cooked at Follia. If his estimates (and yours) are correct, the cooking times at Follia and Spacca Napoli are remarkably different.

    E.M.
  • Post #17 - February 22nd, 2006, 6:32 pm
    Post #17 - February 22nd, 2006, 6:32 pm Post #17 - February 22nd, 2006, 6:32 pm
    As for cooking time, I will say this: after ordering, my pizza arrived in under 5 minutes, probably 3 or 4. After subtracting time for forming the crust, adding toppings, and plating, they really only do have a minute or two of actual cook time.

    It's really good.

    Oh, and for those curious: pizzas (10-12" or so) are in the $10-15 range. The starters choey and jamphil mentioned are about $3-5, I think.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #18 - February 23rd, 2006, 1:30 pm
    Post #18 - February 23rd, 2006, 1:30 pm Post #18 - February 23rd, 2006, 1:30 pm
    I'll add to the chorus of goodwill.

    My family visited last evening and tried three of the pizze, each excellent in its own way (margherita, sausage and rabe with smoked mozz, and prosciutto with arugula). Three very different pies, the one coming together best probably the rabe and sausage. The rabe was near perfect, "overcooked" properly. The owner/chef clearly has a way with vegetables, as evidenced also by the great marinated zucchini appetizer in scapece (which shows of the Spanish and North African influences in Naples). No real serious problems, though I was not a fan of the intimidatingly harsh primitivo [edit: to be clear, this is a rustic table wine that did not meet my tastes, not a pizza or anything SN made]. I also think that the issue of the center of the pies not being "fully cooked" has nothing to do with the cooking or the oven, but the use of good mozzarella that is still a bit too wet (a minor point for an otherwise outstanding margherita). A kink that I'm sure will get worked out once the process is boiled down.

    The quality of the dough, the tomatoes, the arugula, basically all of the pizza ingredients is top-notch all the way. And the oven makes a big difference. The char at SN is what has been missing from pizza places in Chicago and available only from the tandoors around town.

    Spacca Napoli has much more going for it than great pizza. It is a comfortable, very attractive place on an impossibly perfect urban corner in Chicago (I long admired the shuttered diner it replaced, Joann and Son, though not for the food) with ample parking. The host and staff are welcoming and generous. The whole setup is more "Italian-Italian" than just about any place in Chicago. Interesting that such a place would open at the same time as the new pasta shop TerraGusto, not too far away.

    Oh, and the oven is simply outstanding. I'm not sure I've ever seen one that compares, anywhere.

    And Choey was there, at his regular table. When you go, he's the guy with the grappa. Once he helps the owner select the after dinner drinks, I'll be ready to become a regular. Strega with a little soda sounds good.

    PS to Erik's point: the SN oven goes to 1200 degrees, about twice what Follia uses. I've read that tandoors come in at 700-800.
  • Post #19 - February 23rd, 2006, 2:13 pm
    Post #19 - February 23rd, 2006, 2:13 pm Post #19 - February 23rd, 2006, 2:13 pm
    JeffB wrote: I also think that the issue of the center of the pies not being "fully cooked" has nothing to do with the cooking or the oven, but the use of good mozzarella that is still a bit too wet (a minor point for an otherwise outstanding margherita). A kink that I'm sure will get worked out once the process is boiled down.


    That comment above about the undercooked centre struck me as well. As you say, using fresh mozzarella, with it's high moisture content, inevitably (and in my view properly) affects the texture of the crust a bit. One also bears in mind the fact that the pizza shouldn't be overloaded with cheese in any event.

    If one wants uniformly crispy bottoms, Neapolitan pizza is not the way to go. On a well made pizza, there should be, in my opinion, a certain range of textures and flavours to the crust itself.

    And if one is unhappy with the moisture content of fresh mozzarella, one has to turn to the American style, low-moisture brick cheese. I like the Neapolitan way.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #20 - February 23rd, 2006, 3:22 pm
    Post #20 - February 23rd, 2006, 3:22 pm Post #20 - February 23rd, 2006, 3:22 pm
    Well, let me put it this way:

    I make plenty of pizza with fresh mozzarella. I know the impact it can have on the crispness/sogginess of a crust. Yes, that was a big portion of the limpness at the center. But the pizza was also slightly underdone.

    I don't expect neapolitan pizza to have a cracker crust. I do expect it to not have a still slightly raw center.

    It was a great pizza, I just think their timing is still in development.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #21 - February 23rd, 2006, 3:47 pm
    Post #21 - February 23rd, 2006, 3:47 pm Post #21 - February 23rd, 2006, 3:47 pm
    Well, let me put it this way...

    I too make pizza with fresh mozzarella and have been doing so for a long time. I've also eaten a lot of pizzas in Naples and elsewhere in Campania. Now, maybe your pizza was undercooked -- I didn't question that directly, and I read JeffB's post that way too. But I was commenting on the fact that pizza made in that style is not supposed to be some uniformly crispy crusted thing. Fresh mozzarella has a high moisture content and it, along with the tomatoes and oil, can and does affect locally the texture of the crust beneath it. I do not find that in any way a bad thing. Maybe you're talking about an undercooked pizza; Jeff and I were commenting on what it's supposed to be like, which is quite unlike the style that has come to be traditional and favoured in this city.

    Antonius

    edited slightly for content.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #22 - February 23rd, 2006, 5:02 pm
    Post #22 - February 23rd, 2006, 5:02 pm Post #22 - February 23rd, 2006, 5:02 pm
    Just to clarify, I didn't think our crust itself was underdone in any way. I just thought the very middle of the pizza was a tad heavy with sauce (i.e., it was a bit "gloopy" in the middle).

    Moisture-content of different types of mozzarella aside, I'm wondering if gravity is the real culprit (for the "gloopy" factor, not for gleam's experience with a slightly raw center crust, which I think is a separate issue). As I understand it, an authentic Neapolitan pizza is thinnest in the middle. So wouldn't some sauce and oil naturally flow there from the more elevated surroundings of the pie?

    At any rate, my point was meant to be a very minor one. It in no way affected the taste of the pizza or our enjoyment of it and was not a big deal, not even a small deal; it was just something we both noticed and commented on.

    Sounds like our experience with the salt levels was a total aberration, which is most welcome news. We'll definitely be back soon to explore more of the menu.

    Oh and Jeff B, we were fans of Joann & Sons as well (though I will admit a fondness for some of their food in addition to their location, especially their Dutch Apple Pancakes with a side of hamsteak). Did you ever happen to do one of the by-request-only, after-hours, and I suspect off the books, Italian dinner with one of the sons, Anthony I believe? One of my biggest Chicago-related food regrets (so far) is that we never got to partake before they closed.
  • Post #23 - February 23rd, 2006, 5:17 pm
    Post #23 - February 23rd, 2006, 5:17 pm Post #23 - February 23rd, 2006, 5:17 pm
    Never got invited to a secret Joann & Son's dinner. I had always thought of the place as more Appalachian-American than Italian American, in line with some of the other bone-in ham diners around town, so I obviously had the place pegged wrong.

    A final note for clarification about oven temps: it's possible that the above Follia oven temp info referred to the cooking deck temp while the SN info referred to the hottest part of the oven, up at the top, making the actual cooking temps fairly consistent between the two places, but I doubt it. I'm thinking both numbers above refer to the top-end temps. I have read that the "Roman" style is cooked at temperatures well below what is used in Naples. Finally, I believe that the crust would probably ignite in the SN oven if the pie were left in there long enough to get the top-browning that happens at Follia (to be sure, the toppings at Follia are uncooked by Chicago pizza standards, but they are well-done compared to Neapolitan pizza toppings).
  • Post #24 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:34 pm
    Post #24 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:34 pm Post #24 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:34 pm
    Just returned from Spacca Napoli and I have to say for starters that it is obvious that the owner, Jonathan Goldsmith, is someone who is pouring his heart and soul into something he clearly has a passion for; producing a wonderful pizza. What amazes me about Goldsmith is that, unlike most entrepreneurs, it seems that he largely defines this pursuit towards his idea of perfection not entirely from his own particular ideas about what constitutes a great pizza, but from taking the pulse of his enthusiastic Chicago customers and their preferences. After talking briefly with this wonderfully receptive and warm gentleman, not only was his passion evident but I highly suspected that the pizza he’ll be making in a year from now will quite possibly be a superior product to the already great one he is creating today.
    For starters, the crust on my Bufalina pizza (tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella di buffalo, and olive oil) was easily the finest I’ve had in this city. Wonderful chew and pliability. Its bottom was dotted with charness and had big, light bubbles on the top. To me, eating great pizza always starts with the idea of eating great bread. In this, Spacca Napoli excels like no other in Chicago I’ve ever tried.
    Although I did find the mozzarella a bit flat, it was significantly more enjoyable than the usual warm plastic cheese toppings found at most other pizzerias.
    Whether you jive with the tradition Neapolitan style pizza (made in all its variations) or not, to me, is the biggest question about whether you will enjoy Spacca Napoli.
    As for me who rarely, if ever eats pizza in Chicago, I believe those days are long over. Thanks Spacca Napoli.
  • Post #25 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:40 pm
    Post #25 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:40 pm Post #25 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:40 pm
    Many thanks to JamPhil and Choey for writing up Spacca Napoli. As someone who loves the real Neapolitan pizza style, as they say, I was very much looking forward to going there and had the opportunity to do so this evening with my family and Pigmon and Trixie Pea. In short, I was really very pleased with our pizzas and am delighted to see a place in Chicago that is making this -- in my opinion, the best -- style of pizza.

    Before ordering our pizzas, we ordered some of the zucchini alla scapece and also the calamari affogati, both of which were quite good. I must say, however, that --as would any Italian cook worth his salt say about someone else's version of such basic fare -- I prefer my own ways of making these dishes (e.g., I use a little chili in the scapece). But these are very tasty starters that lend some nice balance and variety to a meal featuring pizza.

    At our table, we had four different pizzas present: the Margherita (tomato, fior di latte, i.e. mozzarella di mucca, basil), the bufalina (tomato, mozzarella di bufala, basil), the bianca di bufala (mozzarella di bufala, basil), and the pizza with sausage and broccoli di rape. Here are a couple of pictures, though alas not all the pizzas are shown:

    bianca di bufala
    Image

    foreground salsiccia e rapini, background bufalina
    Image

    All very nicely made and delicious pizzas; my only complaint was the exact opposite of a complaint made above, namely, that I found the pizzas, particularly in the centre, a little too dry. This point is interesting and a little amusing, given Gleam's reaction to my post above. As JamPhil quite rightly surmised, it is common and normal to have the very centre of a Neapolitan pizza a little bit on the wet side, sufficiently so that to those raised on the crispy, cracker style of Chicago, it can even seem downright 'soupy'.

    The funny thing is that a number of Spacca Napoli's customers have complained that the centre of their pie was undercooked and soft and even soupy. The owner, an extremely affable and clearly very dedicated gentleman, said that he -- like these customers -- actually prefers the pizza a bit drier, and not as one typically finds it in Campania. For my part, as I have mentioned in at least a couple of places on this board, a pizza is supposed to have a range of crust textures and like the pizzaiola at Spacca Napoli (incidentally, a paisana of mine from the border zone between Campania and Lazio, near where the very first textual mention of pizza comes from), I prefer them and make them with a very thin and somewhat wet centre. Of course, it is absolutely reasonable for someone to decide that they prefer their pizzas made a different way but it is a shame that at least some, it seems, have assumed the pizzaiola was doing her job incorrectly when that was not the case and it was the customer's expectations that were perhaps amiss.

    It is a dilemna for someone who wants to undertake an enterprise such as this: to what degree does one remain true to the tradition and to what degree does one give in to the non-traditional preferences of at least some of the audience? Of course, a restaurant is a business and there is a bottom line, but I hope Spacca Napoli can manage to get people to embrace Neapolitan style pizza as it is supposed to be and not have to make little adjustments that start to drift it toward Chicago style pizza.

    For any wolves who are waiting to pounce, note well that there is absolutely no intended put down of Chicago pizza here. But there are lots of places in Chicago that make Chicago style pizza. So far as I know, there are but a handful that are trying to make la vera pizza napoletana. This one deserves support and perhaps a more open-minded approach from the audience that is unfamiliar with the style.

    Grazie assai a Nella e Jon pe' lle belle pizze. Nce simmo magnato buono.

    Antonius
    Last edited by Antonius on February 24th, 2006, 12:55 am, edited 2 times in total.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #26 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:48 pm
    Post #26 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:48 pm Post #26 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:48 pm
    Antonius wrote:All very nicely made and delicious pizzas; my only complaint was the exact opposite of a complaint made above, namely, that I found the pizzas, particularly in the centre, too dry.


    Perhaps that's just an affirmation of my point: that they're still working on their timing.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #27 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:59 pm
    Post #27 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:59 pm Post #27 - February 23rd, 2006, 11:59 pm
    gleam wrote:
    Antonius wrote:All very nicely made and delicious pizzas; my only complaint was the exact opposite of a complaint made above, namely, that I found the pizzas, particularly in the centre, too dry.


    Perhaps that's just an affirmation of my point: that they're still working on their timing.


    You seem to have missed the point. Some folks complained that their pizzas were undercooked. Perhaps some -- surely yours -- actually were. But others were as they should be, but that is a way that is clearly unfamiliar here. The folks at Spacca Napoli are trying to adjust a little and please their audience. I understand that and think that is the reasonable thing to do, though I wish the pizzaiola were allowed to make the pies as she sees fit. On the other hand, a little adjustment of texture to please better the average customer is hardly doing violence to the tradition. And having heard Jon, the owner, speak a bit about what he's doing, it's clear he both loves and respects the Neapolitan tradition.

    Be that all as it may, this is an outstanding pizzeria that will, as Pigmon says, only get better over time. And as it is now, having been open just a short time, it's a place that I look forward to returning to.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #28 - February 24th, 2006, 2:16 pm
    Post #28 - February 24th, 2006, 2:16 pm Post #28 - February 24th, 2006, 2:16 pm
    At the last minute I took up Geli's offer -- we ended up a table over from Pigmon & crew. I suspect this will be an easy place to say hello to LTHers for the next few weeks.

    At our table we split the prosciutto e arugula appetizer; I liked this quite a bit, with the salty meat and the slightly bitter greens combining very nicely and flaked Parmigiano Reggiano (I'm guessing; I took a copy of the menu but don't have it handy) adding to the flavors.

    We also split the bianca di bufala and the funghi e salsiccia pizzas. Again, both were very good, the sausage very flavorful in particular; as much as I liked it, though, the bianca di bufala surpassed it. I'm not a huge fan of mozzarella di bufala that I've had in stores around here; it's generally just a little too, I don't know, tangy for me. Gamey. Off. I assume it was Goldsmith who brought over a sample so we could decide, as he provided a fair amount of background about the cheese, and I really liked it quite a bit there. But on the pizza bianca it really melded nicely with the oil and the basil, I thought. Turned out to be a very flavorful, nicely balanced combination.

    As to the Great Middle Of The Pizza Debate, I don't have any problems with it beyond the pragmatic issue that even before I finished picking up and folding the pizza slice, everything in the middle drooped and then fell back onto my plate. For fork-and-knife pizza consumers, this probably isn't an issue; I'm devoutly in the finger-food camp, so having a wet piece of crust and next having the pieces of toppings it once held is less enjoyable than having the whole.
  • Post #29 - February 24th, 2006, 3:31 pm
    Post #29 - February 24th, 2006, 3:31 pm Post #29 - February 24th, 2006, 3:31 pm
    Had lunch here this afternoon. I had the funghi e salsicca which had "regular" fresh mozzarella (as opposed to bufala). I thought it was divine. I am a HUGE fan of this type of pizza, so perhaps my level of enjoyment was higher than most.

    All ingredients were used judiciously. The sausage had noticeable fennel and was crumbled, in small pieces, over the cheese. The pizza was topped with basil before it went in the oven, which crisped it and intensified its flavor.

    As to the crust, I didn't find it undercooked at all in the center. In fact, the bottom of the center crust had crunch when you bit into it. The edge of the crust had a slight blacking on the side of the very edge, while the top of the edge had a nice, even light brown color. This part of the crust had a nice crunch at first bite, followed by chewy texture and a pronounced bready flavor. The center of the crust, by contrast, gave more underneath the toppings, but provided a creamier texture which I thought interspersed well in the mouth with the toppings. As to eating it, you can fold it. But for the first bite, I place my pointer finger perpendicular to the crust in the center and push it down between my thumb and middle finger to form a "v." I find that, then, the pizza will hold and not require a knife and fork.

    The owner stopped by my table to ask me how it was. He recommended that I try the mozzarella di bufala pizza next time. He said that he has the buffalo mozzarella flown in from ol' Napoli every Thursday.

    I'll be sure to have that on my next visit, which may be tomorrow. :)
  • Post #30 - February 24th, 2006, 4:15 pm
    Post #30 - February 24th, 2006, 4:15 pm Post #30 - February 24th, 2006, 4:15 pm
    "Ditto" to everything that Bob S. said--I really liked this place! It was fun to try two different types of fresh mozzerella, especially since I don't really know too much about mozzerella in general so it was educational as well as delicious. The toppings were fresh and good and judiciously applied, and I thought the pizza crust was amazing. Bob S. remarked that at many pizza joints, the edge of the pizza was the equivalent of a bone, to be tossed aside after eating the "good part", but not here! The texture of the entire crust--chewy/crispy/tender--was divine. I enjoyed my glass of primitivo, the atmosphere was pleasant, the company good, and of course it was fun to see fellow LTHers. Even the cappuccino I had at the end of the meal was great; I've been looking for a decent cappuccino for awhile, so tired of the giant piles of foam on top of bland coffee that I usually end up with, but I digress...

    I will only add that the leftover pizza (only left over through a great exertion of willpower) was wonderful today for lunch, cold. Now I want more.

    eta: aschie30 I think I subconciously stole the use of "judicious" from you, but I can't think of a better way to put it, so it's staying in--full credit to you for using it first, though!
    Anthony Bourdain on Barack Obama: "He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."

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