Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar [Google Maps]
3358 N. Paulina St.
Chicago, IL 60657
CPC invaded Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar on 10/07/09.
Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar is a self-described "contemporary Italian" restaurant, located in Roscoe Village just a block off the Paulina Brown Line stop. It is brought to us by the same people who gave us Dunlays and Smoke Daddy, but both the menu and the ambiance of the restaurant differ greatly from both. Although the word "pizzeria" is in the name of this establishment, the menu contains a variety of Italian-inspired dinner items beyond pizza, along with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Frasca takes great pride in its wines, with a long list offering by the bottle, glass or flight; it is also worth taking note that on Tuesdays they offer 1/2-price bottles.
For the Chicago Pizza Club Meeting #86, we chose to go to Frasca on a Wednesday, to take advantage of their 2-for-1 pizza deal.
The following are the pizza combinations we tried -- all were from the menu except for the sausage & goat cheese:
- prosciutto - olive oil, mozzarella, arugula, prosciutto
- capone - tomato sauce, wood roasted onions, fennel sausage, fresh mozzarella
- caponata - tomato sauce, eggplant, goat cheese, mozzarella, red peppers, mushrooms, artichokes
- rustica - diced prosciutto, oven dried tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto
- shrimp + bacon - bechamel sauce with mozzarella, wood fired onions, evoo
- margherita - tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes basil
- soprano - hot capicola, sausage, pepperoni, sopressata, mozzarella and red peppers
- pepperoni - tomato sauce, oregano, mozzarella
- quattro formaggi - mozzarella, gorgonzola,ricotta, provolone
- sausage and goat cheese
Having never patronized Frasca's 2-for-1 night, it was a surprise for me to see the restaurant as busy as it was, and I am glad that we made reservations for our large group. But while it was busy, our pizzas started coming out in a timely manner, about 20 minutes after we'd sat down. And the temperature was perfect on all the pies -- I didn't have a cold slice the entire night, and no one scorched the roof of their mouth.
As is often the case, my favorite pizzas were the ones with sausage. The sausage itself had an abundance of flavor without being overly fatty, and I especially loved it paired with the sweet wood-roasted onions of the Capone. What really stood out for me, though, were those pizzas whose ingredients I otherwise usually dislike on pizza. Until having it at Frasca, I had never had an arugula pizza I liked. It's just personal preference, but I think salad greens should stay in salad, and away from pizza. However, Frasca did an excellent job with the combination of prosciutto and arugula. There was just the right amount of prosciutto to not be overwhelmed by the arugula, and the arugula was sauteed, which I think took a lot of the harshness out of its flavor, and helped it to complement the other ingredients. The other unexpected delight of the night for me was the Rustica, most notably its pesto. Other pizzerias could learn a lot from the use of pesto at Frasca. It was fresh, bursting with flavor -- (you can really taste the sharpness of the basil and get a good crunch from the nuts) -- and it was distributed in delicious dollops, without making the pizza a greasy mess.
As mentioned in the reviews (see comments), the pizzas' biggest let-down was the crust. In Chicago we are spoiled with our wood-fired thin crusts, and have come to expect some high quality dough when we see an oven like the one at Frasca. Most people didn't like how chewy it was, but what most disappointed me was the inconsistency of the crust from pizza to pizza. Some of the pizzas had the nice dough bubbles that delight me, but some were over-cooked. The pepperoni especially had been in the oven for too long. I like a little bit of burn on the crust, but at a certain point you are just eating burned pizza and that's not really a good thing.
Overall, Frasca offers decent pizza, especially when it's 1/2-price. Besides the crust, I enjoyed all of their ingredients, notably how fresh they were and how well thought-out were the combinations.