Ok, it's our first night in Chicago! So many, many places to eat. Since we only have 2 nights here...I thought it would be fun to check out Spacca Napoli since it is Neopolitan and being friends with Roberto (Keste) - I was interested to see how similar / different their pizzas are. Besides, I know we would get the full treatment of deep dish pizzas tomorrow on the Chicago Pizza Tour!
Took the metro to Ravenswood area..north of where we're staying (Loop). A block away from the Montrose train stop...Spacca Napoli is located in a corner building, first noticing a beautifully made, mosaic tiled picture of one of the ladies in La Primavera by Botticelli. (Later find out that his talented wife is an artist, trained in Florence - is the artist who created the tiled picture as well as encapsulating his remarkable wood fire oven with beautiful venetian glass, mosaic tiled.
Ordered prosciutto with arugula salad for starters. Pizza margherita. Pizza Bianca - with artichoke, porcini mushrooms and cheese. First, the margherita - very light, airy,..soft with a slight crisp. Lightly charred. I thought to order the pizza bianca to get a better sense of the flavor of the crust. Again, soft with a slight crisp. Very similar to Keste's.
Had a short conversation with the owner, Jonathan, who was on his way out to a meeting....so by the time I tried the pizza bianca - it was on the cool side. Still flavorful. But I now realize how much better pizza tastes -right out of the oven.
After enjoying cappucino, panna cotta, and pistachio & nocciola gelato...Jonathan had returned to the pizzeria. He presented us with glasses of Moscato and chatted some more about pizza, Roberto, VPN, Florence, visiting Naples, art school, and the Expo. Turns out he is the poster boy for Caputo, so he will be at the Expo, and probably will be judging pizza competitions. While I enjoy having a great pizza and good wine, the highlight of the evenings for me is chatting with someone like Jonathan who loves his craft, enjoys sharing his passion and life adventures.
He spoke proudly of his oven, built by second and third generation artisans from Napoli. He brought over several folks from Naples who stayed at his house while building his oven. I think even Roberto would have oven envy. His wife/artist did a beautiful job in the mosaic tiles. A piece of art. Sigh.
As a proprietor, he was quite accommodating. In fact, he truly cares about his customers too. He is very much a hands-on owner - greeting his customers as they come in the door, making sure the tables are arranged perfectly for the larger crowds,...walking around the restaurant making sure things are in order. As the restaurant filled to full capacity, he remained very relaxed and hospitable to his guests. And still made time to chat with us! Turns out the Chicago Pizza Tour will make their last stop at Spacca Napoli. I'm forgetting that we are being driven on the "Dough Force One"!! What a riot. http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakleaffarm/sets/72157632946479356/