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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar [Meeting #86]

Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar [Google Maps]
3358 N. Paulina St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 248-5222

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.


Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

8 comments:

  1. I tried every pizza except for the quattro formaggi and margherita and there were two themes. The toppings were generally very good and the crust, among the toughest to chew that I've had in a very long time, was not. Only one of the pizza crusts had any crispness to it at all, but that one was burned.

    I thought the prosciutto and arugula was particularly good. The pizza was covered with a sweet ass pile of prosciutto and the arugula, also present in a large quantity, was nicely bathed in a tasty vinaigrette. It was pretty salty, but I have a high salt tolerance and really, really liked the flavor.

    The pizza we designed, with sausage and goat cheese, was another winner. The sausage was great and the smooth goat cheese worked well.

    Less successful were the shrimp and bacon, which had overcooked shrimp and was much more bacon fat than bacon, and the caponata, which was a mushy mess of not particularly flavorful veggies.

    If they can crisp up the crust a little bit without burning it, Frasca would be a real asset to the Chicago pizza scene. As it stands, it's a good deal on half price night, but I don't see myself heading back there any time soon. I give Frasca a 6.

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  2. Considering what we paid on half-price night, I don't think I'd be going back to eat there on any other night. Regardless the pizza was pretty good. As far as the wood-burning oven pizzas I've had in the last few years this one is definitely near the bottom of the heap. But still, it's not a bad pizza.

    The toppings and specialty combinations that I tried were all excellent. The crust was the downfall though. Mostly inoffenssive and unnoticed while covered with cheese, sauce and toppings it's fine, the end of the crust where it has to pull its own weight is where it falls most drastically short.

    So yeah, a worthwhile place to go and try pizza. I enjoyed it, my mind was not blown, nor were many of my crusts finished off. Frasca gets a 6.

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  3. Frasca Pizzeria succeeds as a pleasant dining establishment that offers quality food and drink with great service. Their pizza isn't exceptional by any means, but the effort is apparent. Ingredients are fresh and gourmet, but the combinations and abundance are problematic at times.

    I began with a slice of the capone, and although the sausage, onions, and cheese were delish, the sauce was super duper sweet; It tasted like ketchup. Ruined. Next up, soprano. This probably wins for the night. There was ample flavor, spice, and to my satisfaction didn't have the throat constricting sweetness my previous slice offered. Moving on, quattro formaggi landed in my hands and was simple and well executed. The cheese was well dispersed. Since I do like vegetables a lot, the caponata travelled in my direction. It was loaded with things...too many things. Although it seemed that the toppings were quality product, the pizza lacked flavor. The goat cheese overpowered the subtler vegetables, the artichokes were dry, and the overall result was highly underwhelming. The only two remaining slices of the night were of this variety and they went home with me if that's any indication. Lastly, I topped off the night with the pepperoni slice. At this point, it was cool and had maybe one small circle of meat on it...so so.

    The crust was very thin and had some large bubbles on the edges. Until my final two pieces, I was content with the way it tasted. It could've been stiffer but I didn't mind that it folded occassionally. Unfortunately, my final slices were a bit overcooked and all I could taste was burnt bread. I don't like this. I washed it down with an IPA and called it a night.

    Overall, Frasca's is a happening place with some good pizza offerings. Be sure to go for the special pizza 2 for 1 deal otherwise you'll be paying way too much for ambience.

    P.S. I do love the wooden tables with the natural tree trunk edging.

    Frasca's gets a 6.5.

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  4. Chewy crust did not ruin my day. I found it to be a little chewy, but if it wasn't for Marla Collins' Husband going on and on about it, I probably would have only noticed it in passing. I found it to be a little chewy, but many of my slices were great on the exterior of the pizza. The crust was leavened and had a nice, airy crumb with an appropriate salt and humidity level.

    The chunky sauce on the sausage pizzas was really outstanding. Just nice chunks of great-tasting tomatoes. And the sausage was good too, a classic Chicago blend of fat, meat, salt, fennel, and pepper.

    I'm always looking for shrimp pizzas, and most of the time they disappoint. This one, I'm happy to report, did not. The shrimp wasn't outstanding by any means, but it was fine. The pizza had a strong lard flavor (not bacon) that I actually really liked. I am sure to be in the minority, but I would order it again.

    The soprano pizza was a real let down. Too many meats that didn't go well together and the overwhelming saltiness of the prosciutto without a counterpoint such as lemon or arugula that you find on most prosciutto pizza. Clearly the worst pie I tried that night.

    I give it a 7.5 because I thought their best pizzas were outstanding, including the margherita pie. The 2-for-1 is hard to beat as well.

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  5. I have been quite busy of late and was uncertain about going to this pizza club. Then I was told that it was a “buy one get one free” pizza night and I was able to reconfigure my schedule to attend. I think the conversation went something like this.
    Me: Don’t think I can make this meeting. Too busy. Swamped with work and need more hours in the day. Probably gonna skip dinner or eat a salami sandwich standing over the sink.
    Random Pizza Club Member: It’s buy one get one free pizza night.
    Me: What time does the meeting start.
    This was really good pizza. I did not try all of them though. I though the best of the bunch was the pepperoni, and the soprano. The sauce on these pizzas was really good. The toppings had some spice as well. These were all thin crust pizzas with crispy crusts (at least on my slices). The cheese was pretty good as well. It was not too gooey and could easily be cut from the pie. I would go back to this place on a night when it was NOT buy one-get-one-free night. I give it a solid 7/10.

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  6. The prosciutto pizza was very good. I thank Pizza Club for stirring my new found love of this tasty meat. The arugula and its nutty tones are a great addition to this pizza. My only problem with the presentation is that dumping all the prosciutto in the middle does not make for a nice slice. Can't we arrange that a little better please?

    The rustica pizza was delicious. The oven dried tomatoes must be done on the premises. What a flavor! I would totally go back for this pizza alone.

    The caponata was just ok. I loved all those veggies, but the eggplant was chunked and overpowered the rest. Though add goat cheese to any pizza and you can make me pretty happy.

    I really dug the margherita. The tomatoes were so juicy and had great taste. I was a fan of the sweet sauce.

    The pepperoni was slightly burned, but I was happy with the crispiness. The pepperonis had a bite to them too which is a ok in my book. Give me a pepperoni with substance! Yes!
    The crust really worked for me. It held the toppings beautifully and had a nice crunch to it. Felt slightly authentic Italian.

    I would definitely go back, but at those prices only on Wednesday night for 1/2 price. The beer selection was worth a mention too.

    I give Frasca a solid 7.5.

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  7. I probably won't find myself at Frasca again any time soon, but it is definitely worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood on the 2fer night. I only tried about half the pizzas, but they were all pretty good.

    My favorite was the prosciutto with the lightly dressed arugula. This is a combination I am really starting to like, particularly when the arugula is well-seasoned as was the case at Frasca. The prosciutto gave the pizza some much-needed salt. My second favorite was the margherita, which stood out because of the sweet, juicy tomato globes. Tasty cheese and flavorful fresh basil to boot.

    I also liked the pepperoni, which was one of the few pies to give me a generous taste of the red sauce. It was a bit sweet, but balanced out by the pepperoni. Overall, I thought the cheese was really good on all the pies. I agree the crust was chewier than I would have preferred, but I was not as bothered by it as some others.

    I give Frasca a 6.1.

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  8. For the reasons I mentioned in the post, I will certainly be back on a Wednesday and give Frasca a 7.

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