Author Topic: Spacca Napoli - Chicago  (Read 6861 times)

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Offline pftaylor

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Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« on: August 22, 2006, 08:09:00 AM »
I spent the weekend in Chicago and at the urging of fellow member Bill/SFNM, I visited Spacca Napoli, a true Neapolitan pizzeria. Coming off the heels of visiting Settebello in Las Vegas, how lucky can a pizza hunter like me get in one week. Lucky I was.

The owner Jonathan welcomed me with open arms and spent much more time than I deserved. The pizzaiolo from Naples, Nella, was delightful in sharing her love of pizza. As she assured me, everything on the menu is "her." I have never had anyone tell me in the past that everything on the menu is a personal reflection of who they are as a person. It was after she shared that fact that I realized why she favored no particular pizza. It would have been like calling one of her children beautiful and all the rest ugly. She loves them all and that's why they were on the menu.

My notes indicated the folllowing facts:
1) The authentic Neapolitan oven was handmade on-site by three gentlemen (Grandfather, son, grandson) from Naples. The oven builders were part of a family which goes back three generations of oven builders. Apparently the oven was a custom Neapolitan one which featured a gorgeous mosaic finish and an ultra low dome for unbelievably fast baking - 42 seconds in my case. The pizzas baked were perfectly uniform and did not require hoisting toward the dome for charring. This oven is the first Neapolitan oven I have ever seen and I now understand why an ultra low dome is important. The pizzaiolo had an infra-red thermometer which showed the deck at only 860 degrees yet the pizza only took 42 seconds to bake. 42 seconds is a rather perplexing bake time since every other coal or wood burning oven I've personally measured required well in excess of a minute and probably a lot closer to two minutes to properly bake a pie at 860 degrees.
2) Jon took me into his "dough room" and showed his second prized possession a Diving Arm mixer. Again, I have broken new ground here because it was the first time I have ever seen one of these creatures. I took a short video of its operation in addition to a photo and will forward to Pete-zza for posting. The arms of the mixer literally dive into the dough like human hands. Supposedly the friction factor is as close to human hands as one can get. Wow. When combined with a true Neapolitan oven, I felt like I was closer to the real thing than ever before. 
3) The restaurant was packed to the gills with customers. Anyone who is thinking about opening a pizza restaurant may want to consider opening a true Neapolitan concept because it appears to fill a niche which is profitable. According to Jon, he sells 400 or so pies a day and much more on the weekends. From the huge line outside, I had no reason to doubt him. In fact, there were more people outside the restaurant than in.
4) How did the pizza taste? Well on balance it was very good and perhaps closer to the real thing than I know. Since I have never been to Naples to form a baseline, I can only compare it to my homemade pizzas. In that light, I wish their crust would have been enhanced with a starter of some sort because the crust was lacking any real charm. The ingredients were top notch across the board with freshly imported bufala mutz, canned San Marzano tomatoes, and potent basil. The basil really jumped off the charts and was a welcomed addition.
5) The Margherita was soupy because, according to Nella, the bufala has a lot of liquid. Rather than inform her that it could be drained, I let it go. Her point turned out to be valid when I ordered a second pie without bufala and it was not soupy.

I hope the membership enjoy the attached pictures.
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Offline pftaylor

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Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2006, 08:12:38 AM »
More
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 08:34:18 AM by pftaylor »
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
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Offline pftaylor

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Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2006, 08:14:13 AM »
More
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 08:34:33 AM by pftaylor »
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You’d Want.
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Offline pftaylor

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Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2006, 08:14:48 AM »
Final Pictures
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 08:34:45 AM by pftaylor »
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Online Pete-zza

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2006, 09:40:22 AM »
I have forwarded the email with the video attachment to Steve so see if it can be posted on the forum.

Peter

Offline David

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2006, 04:47:40 PM »
Great PFT.I'm glad someone of this board got out there to check it out.I believe  fellow member "uppercrust " was involved with them in the early stages,and from all the photos etc on various web pages it really looks to me as though they are doing things the right way.It's the "Next" place on my list to visit,then i'll check out Luzzo's after and compare.(Haven't tried the SF flour as yet ) Did you ask if he was using any refridgeration or if everything was room temp?
                                                                                    David
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Offline pftaylor

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Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2006, 05:53:49 PM »
David,
I wish more of our members had the freedom to travel like I do. I am very fortunate to be able to travel around our great country meeting fabulous people who own and work at pizzerias. More often than not, and much to my amazement, I walk away from the restaurants I write about with something free. Whether it is an appetizer, deserts, pies, aprons, hats, T-shirts – you name it. I seem to be the recipient of their gratitude for some reason. Just to set the record straight, I have never asked for anything (other than a few minutes of their time and permission to photograph a few things) and gladly pay my tab like everyone else. A gentle word of caution though - pizza hunting is not cheap. I spent three times as much on taxi fare than the two pie dinner cost me. Including taxi fare it cost well over a hundred bucks. Go figure.

The true test of my interviewing skills will be coming up in the first half of September as I will be in Phoenix for a few days. Perhaps this time I will finally be able to meet Chris Bianco. If anyone has any tips on how to get an audience with Chris, please share.

Anyway, back to Spacca Napoli. An interesting tidbit is that the owner claims his inspiration and concept is loosely based on Pizzeria Trianon in Napoli, Italy. Without giving away secrets, here is what I can share with the membership about their current dough process:
- Place salt and water into mixing bowl, dissolving the salt completely
- Add fresh yeast and all the Caputo Pizzeria flour.
- They do not use an autolyse or slowly mix the ingredients.
- The diving arm mixer is turned on for 20 minutes.
- The dough is then cut and formed into 225 gm balls for an eight hour period at 75 degrees in a 
   temperature controlled dough room.
- Dough which is not used that day is stored in a cooler at 37 degrees for use the next day.
- Dough is made every day at 3pm which seems to be an odd hour to begin mixing but I confirmed
  it twice. The room rise coupled with the retardation in the cooler is unusual for authentic
  Neapolitan pizza made with Caputo Pizzeria flour but it seems to be working so who am I to
  judge.
- The dough stored in the cooler is brought to room temperature for half an hour before stretching
  into a 12” skin.

My sense is they use a 60% or lower hydration percentage due to the rather dense crumb structure I observed on the two pies I ordered. I did not verify the hydration percentage so my surmise is based on a discussion with Pete-zza. Conventional wisdom would hold that a diving arm mixer would have oxygenated the dough more than what I observed but that was clearly not the case. Their crust certainly did not have the bounce associated with an airy, open crumb structure. So I am somewhat confused on the value of a $60K mixer. 
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 06:00:37 PM by pftaylor »
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Offline David

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2006, 06:43:45 PM »
So I am somewhat confused on the value of a $60K mixer. 


 :o  :o :o $60K......OUUUCCCHHH!

Thanks PFT.I hope you have time to check out this other place I mentioned near Phoenix and give us an educated review?

http://phoenix.citysearch.com/profile/1701949
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Offline Christopher

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2006, 07:24:04 PM »
Hey, PFT,
my wife and i go to Chicago every so often and i was curious as to how far from the center of the city is this place? i would like to visit it next time we are up there and we usually stay off of michigan near the water tower.
thanks,
Christopher

Offline David

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2006, 08:00:48 PM »
According to Jon, he sells 400 or so pies a day and much more on the weekends.

Very interesting?This comment got me to thinking about toppings.I read somewhere that UPN was doing about 100 per day.That may be early on,when he was open less and little known?
I know that location is a prime factor ,but the fact that these two places are in major cities does help.I wonder if UPN offered a wider variety of toppings it would dramatically increase his volume?
I was surprised to read  that Salvo (Claimed recently by Marco to be Naples Best) offers numerous toppings with such items as Cream and Corn.Very much a case of "Giving the customers what they want" I presume - will Pineapple be far behind?Just another point PFT.........did they cut the Pizza for you at Settebello / Spacca Napoli? ;)
                                                         David
If you're looking for a date... go to the Supermarket.If you're looking for a wife....go to the Farmers market


Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2006, 08:08:13 PM »
Great report, pftaylor. Love the photos. It never ceases to amaze me how lightly sauced these pies are. I really have to restrain myself with all of the toppings - definitely a case where less is more.

Bill/SFNM

Offline chiguy

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2006, 08:09:22 PM »
 Hi christofer and other members,
 Spacca Napoli is located about 6 miles N.W. of downtown in Ravenswood. You do not need to take a cab, the EL-Train brown line to Ravenswood stops less than 2 blocks away. Get off at (1814 W. Montrose ave. stop), then walk one block north to sunnyside ave. when you get to suunyside ave. head east 1/2 block. 1769 W sunnyside ave is the address of Spacca Napoli. 
 The Brown line/Ravenswood train makes stops all over the Loop where you can get on, for a point of interest you may choose to get on at the Merchadise Mart, it sits right on the Chicago River on Wells St, the stops address is 350 N Wells. Lou Malnatis is also located a few blocks north on Wells in case you are still hungry after Spacca Napoli. You can see the Map of the EL-trains at www.chicagotransit.com. You will probably save $40 by taking the train, enough for dinner for two.    Chiguy
« Last Edit: August 23, 2006, 01:31:17 AM by chiguy »

Offline SteveVit

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2006, 12:39:27 AM »
Excellent work pftaylor! It's amazing how much pictures perk up a restaurant review.
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Offline scott r

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2006, 04:09:40 AM »
Very interesting?This comment got me to thinking about toppings.I read somewhere that UPN was doing about 100 per day.That may be early on,when he was open less and little known?
I know that location is a prime factor ,but the fact that these two places are in major cities does help.I wonder if UPN offered a wider variety of toppings it would dramatically increase his volume?
I was surprised to read  that Salvo (Claimed recently by Marco to be Naples Best) offers numerous toppings with such items as Cream and Corn.Very much a case of "Giving the customers what they want" I presume - will Pineapple be far behind?Just another point PFT.........did they cut the Pizza for you at Settebello / Spacca Napoli? ;)
                                                         David

David, Anthony at UPN hand mixes one full bag of caputo for each day he is open.  When he is out of dough he shuts his door.  I get the feeling he is not interested in selling any more pizzas then he does.  After all, that would mean hand kneading more than a 55lb bag of flour each day, and I am sure that is not fun!

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2006, 08:02:15 AM »
Bill/SFNM,
The light handed sauce was a real shocker to me as well. Even more so after the Margherita was plated with a soupy middle. Nella explained that she puts the sauce on extra light for true Margheritas (buffalina on the menu) made with bufala cheese. The middle section of my pie was literally floating in liquid. The spiraled olive oil didn't help matters and only added to the pooling effect. It was hard for me to imagine that bufala would squirt that much.

David,
The pizza at Settebello is pre-sliced while it is not sliced at Spacca Napoli. Attached are examples of goodies I have recently received; a Caputo apron, Caputo hat, and an authentic Cappuccino cup with a enameled scene of Napoli. I can't wait to make pie this weekend...

« Last Edit: August 23, 2006, 08:11:29 AM by pftaylor »
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Online Pete-zza

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2006, 02:02:23 PM »
Steve converted the diving arm mixer video file I sent to him to .wmv format and should be viewable at www.pizzamaking.com/videos/diving_arm.wmv.

Thanks, Steve.

Peter

Offline chiguy

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2007, 02:50:14 PM »
 Hey all,
 i made it up to Spacca Napoli a couple of weeks ago, i though the pizza was pretty good. I had the Buffalina and from what the owner says the bufalla Mozzarell is flown is from Italy once or twice a week. It was very good but i think it was due too the high quality of ingrediants. The problem was the corcione which seemed very bready. When compared to others photos that i have seen with an open airy crust like Marco or his friend Ciro the crust at Spacca Napoli had no open airy to the crust. So i though i would ask him his dough management process.
 
He basically said he makes dough a couple times a day. He makes the dough early and then after 4 hours on the counter places it in a cooler to hold thoughout lunch and longer. i arrived at about 1:30 so maybe the dough had not been fully femented, It's hard too say for sure.
 Overall the pizza is good with nice atmosphere. The buffalina pizza is $14.00, not bad considering some of the N.Y. prices i have heard mentioned here for Neopolitan.        chiguy   

Offline othafa9

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2007, 04:59:47 PM »

Offline David

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #18 on: November 16, 2007, 11:40:52 AM »
The owner goes into his hand mixing method:

« Last Edit: November 16, 2007, 11:45:06 AM by David »
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Offline abatardi

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Re: Spacca Napoli - Chicago
« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2007, 12:19:42 PM »
The pizza at Settebello is pre-sliced while it is not sliced at Spacca Napoli.

Weird, the Settebello in Salt Lake City does not pre-slice their pies... I guess just the vegas (henderson) one does.  I haven't been to that one in a couple years though so I don't really remember if they did for me or not.

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« Last Edit: November 16, 2007, 12:21:27 PM by abatardi »
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