Forno Rosso (1048 W Randolph St., Chicago, IL) recently opened up a West Loop branch of their original Harlem avenue pizzeria, complete with a signature red tile oven (the titular “Forno Rosso”). Authenticity is the name of the game at Forno Rosso, and it is one of only three restaurants in Illinois to be given the official mark of authentic Neapolian Pizzas – the Verace Pizza Napoletana – which dictates the flour, cook time, oven, etc. needed to formulate the most authentic Neapolitan pizza. Despite its close adherence to tradition, this branch of Forno Rosso is brand new, and gives off a sleek urban vibe with muted grays. The Neapolitan pizza at Forno Rosso comes in a variety of red and white (sauce-less) varieties, including some truly unique options like a pistacchio ($18) white pizza with pistachio pesto, mais ($18) white pizza with prosciutto and corn, or a rosso cavallo ($18) red sauce pizza with caciocavallo cheese and olives. However, there are a few other non-pizza items on the menu that stand out, particularly the pannuozo, a little-known panini-like creation made with pizza dough, and native to Salerno, outside of Naples. To start with, there is a selection of appetizers (burrata, bruschetta and an Italian charcuterie platter) and big salads (caprese and panzanella). We attempted to order the arancini, but they said the fryer wasn’t up and running yet, so we ordered a burrata and caprese salad for the table – and we were impressed by the size of the salads and the freshness of the cheese in each.
We went with our two standard pizza choices that we use to test out every Neapolitan place – caprese (tomato, Mozzarella and basil – $15) and Diavolo (spicy soppressata and peppers – $16). For the caprese, we upgraded to the buffalo mozzarella ($3), but we are glad we did (when is buffalo mozzarello not a good choice?). The pizzas were larger than they would be in Naples, and one pizza is probably enough for two lighter eaters, and we each had leftovers from our individual pizzas. The pizzas were tasty and true-to-form Neapolitan, with a generous amount of cheese and not overly-sweet red sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes. The toothsome crust held up well, and was nicely blistered, it even stood up to re-heating the next day. One caveat, if you are looking for a laid back lunch or romantic dinner – the music on our visit was insanely loud (and bad). Hopefully that is a one-time problem, but it won’t deter us from returning. Forno Rosso turns out a mean pizza with some delicious toppings, and one of the best Neapolitan pie in the city. We look forward to trying Forno Rosso again – hopefully on a quieter day!