Pizza. I love pizza. You love pizza. Everyone loves pizza. Although Chicago is notorious for its deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza, I much prefer thin crust pizza. Especially Neapolitan pizza. You know, the pizza that originated in Naples, Italy, the motherland and origin of pizza as we know it today?
True Neapolitan pizza is serious business. There is a learned technique to creating real Neapolitan pizza and groups dedicated to its art, including the True Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, or AVPN). As an illustration, to satisfy the requirements set forth by the AVPN, the pizza must be cooked in a wood-burning oven; be made with specific, certified ingredients, preferably imported from Italy; and must be prepared using proper technique. There is truly nothing that compares to a flawless Neapolitan pizza, with bubbly, lightly charred crust topped with San Marzano tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese- typically mozzarella di Bufala (produced with the milk of water buffaloes). Neapolitan pizza is uncomplicated, but there are few foods more satisfying in their simplicity than a well-crafted, rustic Neapolitan pie. Chicago is home to several appealing options for this delicious pizza. My city-wide favorites are listed below. Is your mouth watering yet? Read on:
Pizzeria da Nella, Lincoln Park
Pizzeria da Nella pays homage to true Neapolitan pizza with glorious pies topped with authentic ingredients, flown in from Italy, atop a perfectly chewy, blistered artisan crust. Helmed by esteemed pizzaiola Nella Grassano, Pizzeria da Nella is sure to momentarily transport your taste buds to Naples. The extensive menu features tried and true, passionately handcrafted Neapolitan pies; numerous antipasti (appetizer) plates and salads; Neapolitan pasta; risottos; meat and fish dishes. Pair a mouth-watering pizza with Birra from an impressive Italian craft beer list or with a juicy Italian wine and don’t get too stuffed to try the nectarous, wood-burning Nutella pizza. Pizzeria da Nella is top-notch and guaranteed to wow pizza-aficionados.
Spacca Napoli, Ravenswood
Spacca Napoli serves up exceptional, purist Neapolitan pies- with a perfect cheese, sauce, dough proportion- and is a member of the American Delegation of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. Perpetually busy, any wait endured at Spacca is well worth it. Aside from traditional Neapolitan pizza cooked to charred perfection, and complemented by an Italian-focused wine and beer list, Spacca boasts delectable antipasti including a superbly creamy burrata, marinated octopus, and Caprese con Bufala. A complimentary piece of ambrosial cannoli is a sweet culmination to this delightful Neapolitan experience. Spacca Napoli, with its devotion to the art of authentic Neapolitan pizza, is undoubtedly the gold standard in Chicago.
Coalfire Pizza, West Town
Coalfire Pizza occupies a cozy storefront on Grand Avenue and provides an unconventional twist on Neapolitan pizza with glorious toppings including whipped ricotta cheese, Calabrese salami, soppressata, and fresh basil. The basic Margherita is flavorful while the heavenly honey salami pie is truly sublime. Coalfire’s straightforward menu also consists of salads and calzones and luscious cupcakes à la Chicago Cupcakes alongside a decent wine and beer list. But Coalfire’s inventive pizzas are truly the main attraction and are hands- down among the most enticing pies in Chicago. Update: Coalfire is slated to open a north side Southport corridor location very soon!
Antica Pizzeria, Andersonville
Antica Pizzeria is an Andersonville favorite and haven for Neapolitan pizza-connoisseurs, dishing up tasty, wood-fired pies handcrafted with fresh ingredients from Italy. The owner, Mario, a native of Sicily and Spiaggia-vet, is wonderfully skillful in the art of constructing a marvelous pizza in a cozy, welcoming environment. In addition to savory pies, Antica also showcases other Italian favorites in a voluminous menu. While the pasta and entrees shine, the pizzas are the real show stoppers, and Antica Pizzeria is sure to make you feel, deliciously, at home.