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Spacca Napoli (GNR Dinner)

Spacca Napoli (GNR Dinner)
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  • Spacca Napoli (GNR Dinner)

    Post #1 - November 4th, 2006, 10:41 am
    Post #1 - November 4th, 2006, 10:41 am Post #1 - November 4th, 2006, 10:41 am
    LTH,

    Last evening an LTH group of 13 gathered at Spacca Napoli to present Choey's nomination the GNR, enjoy each others company, revel in drop-dead gorgeous mozzarella di bufala w/prosciutto, picture perfect Neapolitan style pizza and bask in the absolutely radiant energy of SN owner Jonathan Goldsmith.

    Choey (L) Jonathan Goldsmith(R)
    Image

    Spacca Napoli, which has been open less than a year, is an incredibly well oiled machine, handling our group with grace and efficiency, even though the house was packed. Choey, oenophile that he is, picked the wine, and terrific picks they were, and we got down to the pleasant chore of winnowing down our choices from One of Everything, to a slightly more reasonable request.

    We started with a white board special of mozzarella di bufala w/prosciutto. Mozzarella rich, creamy, luxurious, just the faintest hint of tart, so incredibly full flavored and silky smooth gastroporn really doesn't begin to describe. Match this mozzarella with a ripe heirloom tomato or three and you'd have a 20 on Mike G's Caprese Salad Index.

    Image

    Melenzane (eggplant), salads and terrific made in-house bread completed our starters.
    Image

    SN is all about the pizza, the mechanics of which Choey describes to a tee here. I love the lightly chewy crust, bit of bottom blister from the wood fired oven and obsessive attention to detail that dictates only the best possible ingredients available.

    Image

    Joe G (germuska) and Ms. Joe G (Jennifer) quietly contemplate proper moisture content in the imported 00 Caputo flour.
    Image

    Even for a fellow as food obsessive as myself, last night was less about the food and more about the company perfectly complimented by the energetic, yet comfortable feel of SN.
    Image

    Lucantonius receives parting gift of bread from Jon.
    Image

    The only mildly unpleasant moment of the evening occurred when Antonius started after a passing Domino's delivery man with a loaf of bread. :)
    Image

    Terrific GNR nomination and, given the fact SN had a copy of their GNR award already displayed on the widow, it's apparent the regard is mutual.

    la Professoressa (L) Choey (R)
    Image

    A terrific evening in the company of fellow LTHers.

    A few additional pictures may be found here

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Spacca Napoli
    1769 West Sunnyside
    Chicago, IL
    773-878-2420
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #2 - November 6th, 2006, 2:48 pm
    Post #2 - November 6th, 2006, 2:48 pm Post #2 - November 6th, 2006, 2:48 pm
    So what were the "terrific" wine picks?

    Always curious.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #3 - November 7th, 2006, 6:20 am
    Post #3 - November 7th, 2006, 6:20 am Post #3 - November 7th, 2006, 6:20 am
    mrbarolo wrote:So what were the "terrific" wine picks?

    Mr. B,

    We had three, maybe four, different wines for the table. I particularly liked the Taburno Falanghina. Slightly fruity, little acid to offset, a nice non demanding white, perfect for pizza and a change pace from my usual Spacca Napoli quaff Rustico Prosecco.

    Fidelis, also from Taburno, Cusumano Insolia and, possibly, one additional wine rounded out the evenings selection.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #4 - November 18th, 2006, 6:49 pm
    Post #4 - November 18th, 2006, 6:49 pm Post #4 - November 18th, 2006, 6:49 pm
    Run, do not walk, to Spacca Napoli for this:

    Image

    I say this with one caveat, which is, don't have it if you're eating there solo. It's very rich, you'll probably miss the tang of tomato, it's a little too much of a muchness to be the only thing you get.

    But as one of a couple of pizzas on the table... you want it.

    Pork, potato slices, smoked provolone, all tasting buttery smoky porky fresh from the oven.

    Jonathan stopped by our table and described how they'd been tinkering with it, reducing the amount of stuff on it so it wasn't too rich, adding some mozzarella in with the provolone (though ours seemed to be all provolone), etc. He seemed to regard it as a work in progress. We had no such reservations.
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  • Post #5 - December 5th, 2006, 11:22 am
    Post #5 - December 5th, 2006, 11:22 am Post #5 - December 5th, 2006, 11:22 am
    This post is a late addition to the report that Gary made on the meal we had the evening of the GNR presentation to Spacca Napoli.

    Back when I first went to Spacca Napoli late last winter, I said to a couple of people that, as good as everything was on that occasion, I thought this place would gradually keep getting better and in a year or so, I would expect them to be really outstanding. On the evening of the GNR presentation, the pizza I had -- a Bufalina, pictured below in the foreground –– was damn close to perfect. I was especially delighted to receive my pie cooked in the Neapolitan way, with a nice soft and luscious centre. I had hoped they would do so and now it seems they have decided just to do things as they should be done for proper Neapolitan pizza and not try to cater to local notions of what pizza is supposed to be like.

    Image

    A number of times in the past, before Spacca Napoli had really taken the local pizza scene by storm, I had written about Neapolitan pizza and sung its praises, both in an absolute sense and in a relative sense, as compared to other styles of pizza. For this I was accused by some of being everything from a snob to an insane person, but as people become familiar with la pizza vera, they will understand better why I and other like-minded folks such as Pigmon and Bill/SFNM and Choey feel as we do. The hardwork and passion of Jonathan and his outstanding pizzaiola, Nella, have, I suspect, opened the eyes of many about what Neapolitan style pizza really is about.

    The quality of each and every ingredient, the design of the oven, the skill of the pizzaiuolo, the overall aesthetic restraint and simplicity, these are what makes Neapolitan style pizza not just tasty fast food but an expression of culinary art in its highest form, and one that is to my mind all the more beautiful because it is in its origins not the product of affluence but rather of the frugality -- and genius -- of the common people of Naples and Campania. Good bread with a little stuff on 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 #6 - December 5th, 2006, 4:49 pm
    Post #6 - December 5th, 2006, 4:49 pm Post #6 - December 5th, 2006, 4:49 pm
    Antonius wrote:I had hoped they would do so and now it seems they have decided just to do things as they should be done for proper Neapolitan pizza and not try to cater to local notions of what pizza is supposed to be like.


    Loathe as I am to disagree with you on a subject like this, Antonius, I must take exception with your claim. I have dined at Spacca Napoli nearly twenty times since they first opened, and while I was able to witness (as you describe) an arc towards a normative mean, I have not witnessed the converse, namely a reversion to the original form. Lately (6 visits in 2 months), what I have experienced at Spacca Napoli is a tremendous amount of variability. At times the center of the pies ordered were "soft and luscious," as you describe, and at other times they were not. [And, pies have varied in this regard from one to another on the same visit, as well as from one visit to the next.]

    My take, which is simply based on my experiece, is that Spacca Napoli remains a work in progress. And, from what I've heard/read about the production of la pizza vera, as you call it, that is certain to be expected. Apparently, it takes years for the best Neapolitan-style shops to become so.

    And, not to be coy, Antonius, but I must ask: could the results you describe above have something to do with the circumstances of your most recent visit? The fact that it was an LTH event, and that Jonathan knew as much, etc? I'll be the first to admit that circumstance has everything to do with the exceptional Thai food I so often enjoy at various local establishments.*

    E.M.

    * In plain English, the Thai restaurants which I so frequently discuss on these boards cater to my taste. So sufficiently, so thoroughly, that I don't even have to ask. [Editorial Note: Is that fair? What, would you prefer that I not discuss restaurant Thai food in Chicago any longer? :wink: ]
  • Post #7 - December 5th, 2006, 6:35 pm
    Post #7 - December 5th, 2006, 6:35 pm Post #7 - December 5th, 2006, 6:35 pm
    So many little things go into the final texture of this kind of pizza, but oven temperature is one of the most important and most variable. The age of the dough is another. Even in the oldest most revered pizzerias in Naples, the character of the pies changes throughout the day and from day to day. The skill of the pizzioalo can help moderate these changes, but they are unavoidable. Even the great Chris Bianco acknowledges that the pies he makes at the beginning of service are different from those later on.

    It is unreasonable to expect perfect consistency in texture, but that shouldn't prevent the pie from being delicious every time, IMHO.

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #8 - December 5th, 2006, 7:49 pm
    Post #8 - December 5th, 2006, 7:49 pm Post #8 - December 5th, 2006, 7:49 pm
    Erik M. wrote:
    Antonius wrote:I had hoped they would do so and now it seems they have decided just to do things as they should be done for proper Neapolitan pizza and not try to cater to local notions of what pizza is supposed to be like.


    Loathe as I am to disagree with you on a subject like this, Antonius, I must take exception with your claim. I have dined at Spacca Napoli nearly twenty times since they first opened, and while I was able to witness (as you describe) an arc towards a normative mean, I have not witnessed the converse, namely a reversion to the original form. Lately (6 visits in 2 months), what I have experienced at Spacca Napoli is a tremendous amount of variability. At times the center of the pies ordered were "soft and luscious," as you describe, and at other times they were not. [And, pies have varied in this regard from one to another on the same visit, as well as from one visit to the next.]

    My take, which is simply based on my experiece, is that Spacca Napoli remains a work in progress. And, from what I've heard/read about the production of la pizza vera, as you call it, that is certain to be expected. Apparently, it takes years for the best Neapolitan-style shops to become so.

    And, not to be coy, Antonius, but I must ask: could the results you describe above have something to do with the circumstances of your most recent visit? The fact that it was an LTH event, and that Jonathan knew as much, etc? I'll be the first to admit that circumstance has everything to do with the exceptional Thai food I so often enjoy at various local establishments.*

    E.M.

    * In plain English, the Thai restaurants which I so frequently discuss on these boards cater to my taste. So sufficiently, so thoroughly, that I don't even have to ask. [Editorial Note: Is that fair? What, would you prefer that I not discuss restaurant Thai food in Chicago any longer? :wink: ]


    If the pizza making is not controlled by the pizzamaker, we end up with Pizza Hut, or pizza by accountants. I don't want the exact same pizza every time. I want good/great pizza every time. Spacca Napoli does that.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #9 - December 5th, 2006, 8:24 pm
    Post #9 - December 5th, 2006, 8:24 pm Post #9 - December 5th, 2006, 8:24 pm
    Bill/SFNM wrote:So many little things go into the final texture of this kind of pizza, but oven temperature is one of the most important and most variable. The age of the dough is another. Even in the oldest most revered pizzerias in Naples, the character of the pies changes throughout the day and from day to day. The skill of the pizzioalo can help moderate these changes, but they are unavoidable. Even the great Chris Bianco acknowledges that the pies he makes at the beginning of service are different from those later on.

    It is unreasonable to expect perfect consistency in texture, but that shouldn't prevent the pie from being delicious every time, IMHO.

    Bill/SFNM


    Amen.

    Bruce wrote:If the pizza making is not controlled by the pizzamaker, we end up with Pizza Hut, or pizza by accountants. I don't want the exact same pizza every time. I want good/great pizza every time. Spacca Napoli does that.


    Bis-amen.

    I make dough a lot, both for bread and for pizza, and the inherent variability of the process is often surprising and sometimes rather humbling. My maestro, Frank Masi, one of the best bakers in Chicago, has been making bread (and bakery style pizza) for more than fifty years and has often told me that he feels he just about never gets everything perfect. Of course, he's a commercial baker, and that's a lot more complicated a rôle to fill than that of a home-baker, but when I typically fail to get things exactly the way I want in the limited context and scale of home-baking, I take heart in Frank's words.

    Spacca Napoli is a commercial setting and, as Bill says, the variability is inevitably there, and as Bruce says, a welcome sign of the genuine "artisanal" quality of their approach.

    Erik: I haven't been to SN nearly as many times as you have and so perhaps my interpretation of the near perfection of my pie, of the soft and luscious centre, was a misinterpretation, an assumption of a philosophical decision that isn't really there. On the other hand, I remain delighted that my pizza, with its soft and luscious centre, at least proves that they have not ruled out this proper level of cooking in favour of the uniformly overdone crust that many in Chicago prefer and expect.

    My praise is always very measured and I stand by what I said above. The first time I went to SN, I knew they would continue to improve. From my experience they have done so, and I believe they will continue to improve. They reached the point where they produce excellent pizzas on a consistent basis and, in the US, that's remarkable and outstanding.

    Saluti amichevoli,
    A
    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 #10 - December 5th, 2006, 9:40 pm
    Post #10 - December 5th, 2006, 9:40 pm Post #10 - December 5th, 2006, 9:40 pm
    Wasn't the original issue in contention not doneness but the tendency of fresh mozzarella to express a lot of water during cooking and Jonathan's (successful) efforts to control that? That seems the real change to me.
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  • Post #11 - December 6th, 2006, 5:02 pm
    Post #11 - December 6th, 2006, 5:02 pm Post #11 - December 6th, 2006, 5:02 pm
    Antonius, what do you mean by soft and luscious center? When I went for dinner last Thursday both pizzas we ordered were so soggy they were hard to eat. I took my sister who lives in a town with no good pizza at all, and from the pictures here we expected to be blown away they looked so good. We ordered the funghi and a special with lots of different toppings. They seemed haphazardly put together, not like the pics we saw. the funghi had a large pile of slightly undercooked shrooms in the center which may have contributed the extra moisture. If this isn't normal, it was probably because of how busy they were. It was disappointing because Spacca seemed like it would be a sure thing. Oh well. The owner was really really nice and kept handing out samples of stuff.

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