While it’s true Chicago is traditionally known for its deep-dish pizza, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: this city makes a mean Neapolitan-style. Especially at Spacca Napoli.
Back in the days when we were trying every local bakery, my brother and I were also on a months-long quest to find the best pizza in Chicago, having gotten the idea from Chicago Magazine, which did a write-up on all the Neapolitan-style pizzerias in and around the city.
What I didn’t expect from this experiment, as a girl who has been known to crave frozen Tombstones from the grocery store, was that it would revolutionize the way I felt about pizza – not that I would stop liking the cheap kinds on lazy weeknights, but that, after having the smoky, thinner style considered a trademark in Italy, I would love this other kind much more.
Here’s how it’s made: A simple, thin round of dough is topped and slid into a hot, hot stone oven (we’re talking over 900 degrees Fahrenheit) and baked for less than two minutes over an oak-wood fire.
When it emerges, the result is crispy, but not like a cracker – more chewy and tender, with a swollen lip around the edges and a wet, cheesy center.
If done right, the pizza will have faint hints of char from the fast heat and punches of fragrance from the tomatoes.
At Spacca Napoli in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, a pizzeria owned by Jonathan Goldsmith, pizzas are baked in an oven actually made in Naples, Italy, which cooks at 1200 (!) degrees Fahrenheit, amidst light golden walls with black and white photographs.
You know, the law of averages says the more times you go to a restaurant, the greater your chances of having a bad experience. Yet, for me, the opposite has been true.
Every visit gets better, from the winter night last February, when the restaurant seemed packed, but we were seated in five minutes, to the summer when we took our friend Sonja, my college roommate who was coming through town for a few days, and we sat and talked, leisurely, on a slow afternoon.
I’ve been putting off posting about this place because, honestly, I didn’t think I could write about it without over-gushing.
However. After a recent Saturday when we capped off pizzas with risotto gelato, a sweet, creamy base with hints of vanilla and tiny bits of chewy risotto mixed throughout, the sound of the Andrews Sisters and Ella Fitzgerald in the background, I realized it was finally time.
I couldn’t keep this to myself any longer.
And, throwing caution to the wind, I’ll just tell you this: I love this restaurant. I love the food, the service, the way it’s always busy at nights but always able to seat me.
It is the #1 place I take friends. And if I could find a job down the street, I would move there, in a heartbeat, just to walk by its orange-colored exterior, inhaling its fresh, yeasty dough, looking in at its charming dining area, ready for another slice.
1769 West Sunnyside
Chicago, IL 60640
Open Daily Lunch (W – Sat) and Dinner (Tues – Sun)
Lunch Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (W – Sat)
Dinner Hours: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (Tues – Thu)
5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Fri – Sat)
12:00 Noon – 9:00 p.m. (Sunday)
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.