Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spacca Napoli, Chicago IL

…having admittedly never traveled to Naples but a seeker of great Pizzas both in Chicago and in a number of cities around the United States, many of which have been named to any number of “Best Pizza in the America” lists, it was with great interest that lunch would lead us to Spacca Napoli – the only Vera Pizza Napoletana certified restaurant in a city overflowing with great pizza. Owned and operated by Pizzaiuolo Jon Goldsmith and his family and reportedly designed to not only recreate the pizza of Southern Italy, but also their traditions and hospitality Spacca had long been on my list and with mother and aunt in tow after a long afternoon in Oak Park it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Having heard from others that since the expansion Spacca Napoli was vastly more accessible than it once was but waits could still be long due to the single oven our arrival at 2:00pm proved to be quite opportune as free parking proved abundant in the Ravenswood area and lunch service was just winding down as we arrived. With the air a bit warm and the patio umbrellas shading a few leftover patrons we made our way into the restaurant to the lovely smells of yeast and tomatoes and greeted by our hostess/server/busser Rachelle we were led to a small four-top in the middle of the surprisingly empty dining room.

With menus presented and a wine list deferred Rachelle next proceeded to explain the daily specials and after a few quick questions waters were filled and we were left to our decisions eventually settling for two pizzas and two Italian sodas – one Aronciata and one Limonata, both bubbly and subtle without being overly sweet.

With the oven belonging only to us it would be a mere ten minutes before our pizzas would arrive and sticking to the “less is more” approach both were lightly dressed and invariable delcious. Beginning first with the “Funghi” featuring Fior di Latte Mozzarella, Basil, and Mushrooms the cheese was as mild as one would expect from fresh cow’s milk mozzarella while the sauce was lightly sweeted with just touch of acid and spice that complimented the mushroom’s earthy finish nicely. While the toppings were good, however, where this pie really shined was in the crust – a light and supple yet slightly crisp and toasty ring of smoky flavor that remained slightly undercooked in the middle; about as authentic as it gets.

Moving next to our second pizza, this one slightly more irregularly shaped with great pockets of air in the yeasty dough, the Bufalina – with Basil, Mozzarella di Bufala, and Olive Oil would prove even better than the Funghi for one simple reason – that ever so subtle funk from the intensely creamy cheese and the manner in which it so nicely blended with a thin pour of grassy olive oil. As I noted above, I can’t claim I’ve ever been to Italy, but if the Pizza there is better than this I need to start planning my trip.

With pizzas mostly consumed and the rest packed up to go Rachelle would next appear with dessert menus and although tempting I had plans to visit Black Dog Gelato next and deferred while the ladies opted to try two selections, the first a rather flavorless but appropriately silky Panna Cotta served with a substantially more tasty pear-balsamic compote and the second a creamy block of house made spumoni complete with pistachio, rum, strawberry and chocolate ice creams plus a whipped cream and candied fruit center that although tasty in parts did not work for me in its entirety due to the subpar chocolate ice cream and overpowering notes of rum.

In and out in under an hour I will note that while it may be unfair to judge our service considering the one-to-one server-to-table ratio I found Rachelle to be both friendly and knowledgeable as she manned everything but the pizza oven and although the space admittedly feels a lot more commercial/casual than New York or Philadelphia’s most well regarded pizzerias the pies themselves were absolutely genuine and delicious. As for the desserts – well – most of the “Best Pizza in America” locations don’t even serve sweets…and besides, the folks who ordered them actually enjoyed their choices.


zygomycota said...

Wow doc--it seems that you were back visiting Chicago, and 'tis nice to see you posting about different restaurants in Boston and other places too. I'm going to Chicago with a German visitor for a day, and we'll be going to Avenues for dinner. If you have recommendations on spots that should definitely be visited for breakfast, lunch, snacks, pastries, or afternoon tea...please let me know :) I know that you've written about places from your prior visits, but I'm having a hard time choosing where to go food-wise. Thanks, and I hope that you're enjoying your summer.

uhockey said...

Doughnut Vault.

If weekend: M. Henry.
If weekday: Southport Grocery Cafe.

Blackbird, Topolobampo, Henri, NAHA

Great Lake if you get there when they open.
Hot Dougs if you get there when they open.
Intelligentisia for Coffee.

zygomycota said...

Thanks for your suggestions, doc! I just read your review on Next and The Aviary, and it was informative. Sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your time at Next as much. I guess that among Achatz's creations, Alinea is still the crown jewel.

I will definitely include some of your suggestions in my itinerary. To prevent myself from being back to the 75-lb heavier guy I used to be, I might stay away from thick layers of pancakes and bring along some organic fruits and veggies for breakfast though :)

Thanks again, and I look forward to reading your future entries.

uhockey said...

As a person who used to be 115 lbs heavier I understand - but I'd rather work it off at the gym and in my day to day eating/life than limit my time away from work and "real life." :)

Have a great time.

zygomycota said...

Hi doc! I went to Chicago yesterday and 'twas a lot of fun despite having sore calves this morning due to too much walking around town. Thanks for suggesting M.Henry! My German friends loved that place although the blisscakes and bread pudding was a bit too sugary/sweet for me. Since 'twas only a day trip, we did not get to go to too many other places. I'll definitely try the places you mentioned in the near future.

Avenues was also amazing, and I was blown away by every dish. I hope that you enjoyed your time in Chicago overall!

I'm interested in hearing your story about your weight loss sometime. Keep hittin' up the gym and love yourself :)


uhockey said...

My Avenues review was posted today - with Duffy leaving I'll find a reason to head back once he opens his new space and I'll be back in town in Early November regardless.

The weight loss story, in short, was eat better/exercise more with a whole lot of dedication mixed in for good effects. :)