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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Spacca Napoli [Meeting #29]

Spacca Napoli
1769 W. Sunnyside (Google Maps)
773-878-2420


CPC invaded Spacca Napoli on 4/5/06

What to say about Spacca Napoli? First off, this restaurant is located in the Lincoln Square neighborhood and from appearances seems to have opened somewhat recently. They serve vera pizza napoletana, cooked in an imported wood-burning oven, decorated with a tile mosaic by the owner's, Jonathan Goldsmith, wife, Ginny Sykes (some of her art also graces the walls). Some internet research tells me that the oven is made of 13,000 pounds of brick, sand, and tufo imported from Italy and was built by three craftsmen from Naples. In addition to what we would all agree is a very serious oven, this Neapolitan-style pizza place takes their ingredients very seriously, using (among things) fresh whole-milk mozzarella (fior di latte mozzarella), imported Italian flour and olive oil.

The atmosphere of the restaurant had a nice contemporary feel to it, with touches of the Old Country, mainly the paintings on the wall, and the tile mosaic of the pizza oven. We went on a Wednesday night and the place was packed to the gills, with several people (besides us) waiting to be seated. The service was top notch, the owner was very accommodating to our large group, and was also very apologetic about us having to wait for our tables despite having a reservation... the fact that they gave us free champagne and bread while we waited also tends to help. Also, the waiters were very helpful in translating the menu and explaining the differences in the three Italian beers that they serve.

Spacca Napoli serves individually sized pizza's, about 10 inches in diameter. So rather than ordering a few pizzas for the group to share (as we usually do), the Chicago Pizza Club let each member fend for themselves. Everyone's meal averaged out to about $23 per person, and this included a beer and a tip for our server. Orders came pretty quickly, in about 20 minutes (no surprise, considering the size of the oven), and once everyone had tried what they ordered members then started to trade slices in order to sample the variety that this restaurant offers.

We ordered the following:

Marinara tomato, oregano, garlic, basil, olive oil
Margherita tomatoes, oregano, fior di latte mozzarella, basil, olive oil
Funghi tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, basil, mushroom, olive oil
Salsiccia tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, basil, italian sausage, olive oil
Funghi E Salsiccia tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, basil, mushrooms, italian sausage, olive oil
Bufalina tomatoes, basil, mozzarella di bufala, olive oil
Prosciutto E Arucola pizza bianca with provola, prosciutto di parma, arugula shaved parmesan olive oil
Salsiccia E Broccoletti pizza bianca with italian sausage, rapini, fior di latte, olive oil
Bianca Con Bufala pizza bianca with mozzarella di bufala, basil, olive oil
Quattro Formaggi pizza bianca with fior di lette, gorgonzola, ementhal, fontina

Petey gives Spacca Napoli a score of 7.25/10


Ooooh! Exterior Lighting!


The oven, in all her glory


Anti-pasto, the opening act for the main event


Look at that fresh basil!


Man, that looks good... wish I had one right now


Time for your close up Mr. Pizza...


Ryan goes to town


The Chicago Pizza Club in action


Where it went down


Salerno's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

6 comments:

  1. Rating authentic Neapolitan pizza is always difficult, because it's kind of like comparing apples to oranges.

    I had the bufalina, featuring buffalo mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. It was great. The buffalo mozzarella was something I hadn't tried before. It was mild, but the texture was very full on your tongue. Also, don't confuse me saying it was mild with saying it was subtle. It was still easily discernible from standard cow cheese mozzarella.

    I also tried, the funghi e salsiccia pizza. The mushrooms were only white button mushroom, but they packed a bigger taste, probably because they were sauteed prior to being cooked on the pizza. The sausage was mild, but there were no annoying chewy chunks. It wasn't overpowered by fennel as many sausages can be.

    Overall, if they included more of their fresh, slightly acidic sauce on the pizzas, I would give them a higher score. This style of pizza is not the homogenous pie we're all used to here. There are large chunks of ingredients and you will probably not get a piece of everything in each bite, but that's not the point - it's more like a meal eaten with a fork. I will say the crust was delicious when warm, but as it cooled it got chewy and difficult to cut. The crust was soggy in the center, but I suppose it's not made to be eaten with hands like its New World counterpart.

    This place stumped me. I ask myself, do I like this better than domino's? Yes. So it's better than a 4. Do I like it better than Caffe Florian? No. So my score lies somewhere in between. Don't let it fool you; I would happily go back to this restaurant because it is a unique experience. I may not feel the ened to go back once a month, but I will go back once a year.

    7.25

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  2. First off, let me just say that I really loved this place. And yes, I realize I may sound biased since, well, I did pick this week's restaurant.

    It is somewhat hard to compare authentic Neapolitan pizza to what we're used to eating in the US. But, thats the whole point of the Pizza Club... variety! I loved the fact that it wasn't we're used to as far as pizza goes (This place seems to me to be most similar to Pizza D.O.C., also located in Lincoln Square). For me the mystery of something new is what made this restaurant such a good experience.

    I ordered the Quattro Formaggi (that's a 4-cheese pizza for the layperson), which featured fior di lette (fresh, whole-milk mozzarella), gorgonzola, ementhal, fontina. The cheeses all tasted very fresh and flavorful, as did the basil that annointed my pie. Also, this pizza featured a white sauce that I thought was extremely delicious.

    Upon sampling some of my fellow clubbers' selections, I tend to agree that the pizzas that did have tomato sauce definitely needed more of it. I enjoyed the crust on every selection, and all the ingredients tasted very fresh. I even enjoyed the cherry tomatoes on Stelios' pizza, and I usually hate the taste tomatoes outside of sauces.

    Spacca Napoli may draw some mixed reviews from the Chicago Pizza Club members, but I'm giving this place a solid 9. I enjoyed eating there immensely, and I wish I had one of those pizzas sitting in front of me right now.

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  3. Apples and bowling balls. I think we all feel that it's hard to plug this place into our usual rating scheme because it is different from the usual styles in these parts. If I were stuck on an island with one pizza style, this would not be the one I'd choose, but I would happily craft a sailing vessel to visit Stu's neighboring island if it only had Neapolitan pizza.

    In short, I thought the pizza was delicious, and I seem to have come to like it more and more as I've pondered entering my review throughout the day. The little complaints have faded from memory, and I just remember the delight of biting into that delicious combination of flavors and textures in the bufalina pizza. I could taste every ingredient: warm crust, subtle tomato sauce, olive oil, luscious buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil. I also enjoyed the pizza with mushrooms and sausage, and the four-cheese white pizza. The ingredients are pretty simple so most of the pizzas were very similar. What stood out the most to me was how fresh everything tasted.

    Yes, the crust was not as good when it cooled, and it was a bit soggy in the center, but I accept that as a tradeoff with this style. A little more sauce might have been good, but I was happy with the quantities there were, and more may have weighed down the thin crust.

    Although we are all about the pizza, I have to add that the service was pretty good. It was a little annoying that our table was not ready when we got there, but a lot of people were waiting and I attribute that more to disorganization than disinterest. The complimentary prosecco and bread was really nice. Overall, it felt like they really cared about the pizza and those eating it, and it wasn't just a business.

    Last night, I was thinking of giving this place a 7, but today I give it:

    8

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  4. I think that in Chicago when you make a pizza without virtually no tomato sauce and a flimsy crust you’re in trouble. But if you call it Neapolitan and add tasty toppings and cheeses you may find some takers.

    I ordered the salsiccia and funghi because it had tomato sauce. It was a terrible reason to order this pizza because there really isn’t any. The sausage and mushrooms were tasty but there isn’t quite enough on your pizza to enjoy them fully. In contrast, the pizza bianca was much tastier because the olive oil added the flavor my pizza lacked. The cherry tomatoes were fresh and tasted great. This was definitely the way to go.

    Spacca Napoli has a beautifully tiled brick oven that they use to cook your pizza. Looks great but unfortunately it also chars your crust. The char covering the bottom of my pizza didn’t bother me too much but it definitely didn’t add to the flavor. If you’re a person that throws your marshmallow in the woods if it gets a little black over the campfire, this place ain’t for you.

    The crust is also different than your typical American pizza. It’s closer in taste and consistency to a light, soft pita bread. The ingredients sort of sit on top of it rather than stick to the crust. To eat it by hand you have to fold it up like a taco. Still tasted ok but it’s not what I typically look for in a pizza crust.

    Spacca Napoli had a very friendly chef and a nice décor. I hope it does well and attracts an audience looking for authentic(?) Neapolitan pizza. For your average pizza lover, I would recommend going for the wine and friendly atmosphere. If you’re hungry you could consider the pizza bianca as an appetizer to share.

    5

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  5. Overall this place was pretty good. One must keep in mind gourmet pizza is served here which is little different from the pizza you order from the local pizzeria around the corner. Here you’re going to get something different; a personal pizza (10 inches in diameter) with a special type of cheese or cheeses. You will get fresh ingredients and a thin crust which must be eaten right away or else the oils from the uncut pizza will not allow the pizza to be sliced. In other words this place is a bit high maintenance. Now, I may like my women that way but not necessarily my pizza. So this is something to consider when going to a place like Spacca Napoli.
    On my pizza, Buffalina, there was mozzarella di buffalo which is a soft cheese made in southern Italy. The cheese was soft and fresh. I did not have much sauce but it had some great vine tomatoes which tasted as if they had just been picked. The basil was fresh and on my pizza was generously sprinkled on the pizza. I am not a fan of being served an uncut pizza but again, this is a gourmet restaurant. The olive oil makes the pizza soft after sitting for a while so I would not take anything to go. The crust was pretty good, crispy and hot, and tasted as if had just been in their million degree brick oven. There were little burned sot on the edge of the crust as proof of the immense heat used in the baking process. I would give this place a 7 out of 10 overall. I liked the place but it’s not someplace I would go to on a regular basis. Probably a good date place because it s a nice restaurant in a cool neighborhood.

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  6. I have eaten at this place twice, I do believe it is expensive for a pizza place but you do get the highest quality of ingredients for the price.

    The middle of the pizza is supposed to be tender and char marks are a normal result of the cooking process. It should be cooked for 90 secs at 900F. The tomato sauce is excellent, because it is made from crushed San Marzano tomatoes.

    The reason why they didn't drown your pizza in sauce is because Neapolitan pizza is not meant to be overwhelmed by one particular ingredient. I also think if you put more sauce on the pizza it would fall apart because you would also have to add more cheese and other ingredients to compensate.

    Some of the reviews on here were completely off base. I am completely baffled at why someone would want to eat Domino's pizza over this place or compare. Comparing the two is like comparing a prime steak to utility grade beef slab, ughhh.

    Sadly, you were seated later than your reservation, but you should still try to remain objective when critiquing the food. Next, maybe learn a thing or two about the history, method, ingredients before you make asidnie statements, atleast then you'll be a knowledgable prick. ;)

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