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. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Neapolitan Pizza
Despite being Italian, both eaters are paridoxically not much into going out for pizza. Maybe this is because so much of it is mediocre? But when we do go for pizza, we either do Neapolitan-style of Chicago-style deep-dish (Yes, Chicago-style IS pizza). So when we heard about Vero Pizza Napoletana (12421 Cedar Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH) and the accolades heaped on it and its owner Marc-Aurele Buholzer we were cautiously excited. The focus here is on Neapolitan pizzas cooked in authentic 900° wood-fire oven (inside which a pizza is cooked in only 90 seconds). Vero’s interior is sleek and simple, and has two stories – but even so, it is not a huge place. Another feature of the second floor is that you can look right into the kitchen and see the oven and pizzaiolo at work, which is pretty cool.
The only thing on Vero’s menu is basically pizza (10″ pizzas that serve one, with a little to spare), which we always appreciate in a pizza place. The varieties available at Vero run the gamut from classic to creative ad include pizzas with and without red sauce – the Blanca features mozzarella, basil and garlic (and no red sauce). The inventive Milk ‘n’ Honey is topped with a farm egg (which you can also add to other pizzas for $2) and wild honey. For those feeling peckish, you can get a local cheese platter, olives or charcuterie to start off your meal.
First, we selected one of our favorite pizzas, the stalwart Margherita – tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella – the classic by which we judge almost any pizzeria. Next, we opted for the “Capua” variety which was topped with prosciutto, arugula and Parmesan cheese. The pizzas arrived quickly, as advertised. The pies initially come out uncut and the server will cut them for you into whatever configuration you may wish. The traditional way to eat this kind of pizza is by knife and fork anyway. Overall, the topping were fresh, generous and uniformly excellent, and the sauce was the perfect consistency. The crust was a little thicker than Neapolitan pies might be, but we don’t have any complaints.
The hype behind Vero’s fresh and authentic pizzas turned out to be warranted, as evidenced by the fact that we practically inhaled our pizzas. We also appreciated Vero’s commitment to the art of Neapolitan pizza. For example, in addition to the authentic oven of course, Vero doesn’t deliver pizzas and instead focuses on having the in-person Neapolitan experience. This makes perfect sense, since this kind of pizza really doesn’t taste the same unless you are eating it fresh out of the oven. We would definitely go back for another pizza fix soon, especially since we are so far from our deep-dish alternatives. As if that wasn’t enough, the gelato in the front counter looked pretty good, too.
141 Aragon Ave.
Coral Gables FL 33134
Let’s be frank: we are total pizza snobs. When it comes to pizza, it takes a lot to impress us. Maybe it is because we had superlative pizza in Naples, and let’s be honest, there is nothing like pizza in Naples. Maybe it is because both of us come from Italian families. Or maybe (and this is probably the most important) it is because Matt’s grandmother has owned and operated her own pizza shop for the last fifty years. In any case, we were surprised to fall so quickly in love with Pummarola, a small restaurant serving up pizza that part Neapolitan, part northern Italian, and part pure Miami. Small with not even ten tables, the tiny space is dominated by a stone pizza oven and a red Fiat 500 car stuck into the wall as decoration. Love it. Maybe an allusion to the Neapolitan traffic?
Pummarola’s menu includes pasta and salads, but the main attraction is the pizza, which is made exactly like we had it in Naples – and thus exactly as we have come to expect it. The obvious reason for this? Everyone who works at Pummarola, from the owner to the pizzaolo, is Neapolitan. Everyone except the ebullient and witty manager, who hails from northern Italy: “I’m the only real Italian here!” he quipped with a wink, echoing the north / south Italian cultural divide. With a Neapolitan pizzaolo behind the counter, it is no surprise that we found the pizza to be purely Neapolitan. It was fun to watch the pizza being prepared and the white tiled pizza oven heating up. We went twice, and each time split a large pizza (which is really is enough for 3). The first was a perfectly-made margherita, with buffalo mozzarella and perfect tomato sauce. Other varieties included spicy salami, truffled mushrooms and pancetta.
On our second trip we had a prosciutto and arugula pizza, also fantastic. L, always one to explore further afield, tried the arancini, which was good, but nothing to write home about. Our quest for a respectable arancine in the US continues. Still, that pizza just blew us away. This was one of the best pizzas we’ve had in this country (not on this side of the Atlantic, though – we’re looking at you, São Paulo) and one of the few that approximated those we had in Naples. We liked both pizzas, but our hat tip goes to the margherita, for its clean flavors. If you are craving Neapolitan style pizza, do not think twice to head Pummarola. It is cheaper than a flight to Naples!
1769 W Sunnyside Ave
We’re pretty picky about our pizza, and pretty sure that going to Naples has made us even pickier about Neapolitan style pizza in particular. However, when the pizza craving hits, it hits hard. And fortunately there are some truly great places to get Neapolitan pizzas in Chicago. Spacca Napoli is one of those places. When we learned that one of the owners had trained to be a pizzamaker in Naples and had an Italian brick oven, we were definitely sold.
Spacca Napoli has a nice selection of pizzas, divided into “Rosse” (with red sauce) and “Bianche” (without) including the two essential Neapolitan styles, Marinara and Margherita. At $9.50 and $12.50 respectively, the pizzas were more expensive than in Naples, but still very reasonable. We selected two pizza on our visit, a red pizza and white pizza, without the typical marinara sauce. The white pizza, Bianco Nero ($16.00) had Pecorino cheese with black truffles, Fior di Latte mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, and finished with white truffle oil. M ordered his favorite combination from Napoli, the Diavola ($16.00) which was topped with mozzarella di bufala, spicy salami, red pepper flakes and basil.
The crust of the pizza was excellent: both chewy and light, and not soggy at all in the middle (our pet peeve). We also appreciated the generous hand with the toppings, and the availability of buffalo mozzarella. The pizza was great, but don’t let that be the end of your meal. Spacca Napoli also has gelato ($4.50) in a variety of flavors: cream, hazelnut, cappuccino, chocolate, pistachio and raspberry. We ordered a scoop of chocolate, even though we had polished off both of our pizzas. We highly enjoyed our pizzas at Spacca Napoli – we think we have found our go-to Neapolitan pizza place in Chicago.
We came to Naples for its pizza, plain and simple. US places claiming authentic Neapolitan pizza are a dime a dozen, so we were extremely excited to try the real deal where it originated. In America, Neapolitan pizza is usually a pretty fancy affair, with each pizza costing upwards of $18. However not so in Naples. Pizza is literally everywhere, and pizza even in the best spots will not run you more than 7€ (less than $10). Naturally, we did our research beforehand so we would only end up at the top locations.
One spot that kept pinging our radar was Decumani. Decumani is located on Via Tribunali, in the heart of historic Napoli. If you find yourself strolling down Tribunali, you really cannot go wrong: there are several famous pizzerias on this road, so after some initial indecision we decided to use our old rule of thumb: go to the crowded place. Arriving at 2 PM, usually a little late for the lunch crowd, the place was still hopping, and after a few minutes of awkward waiting in the corner, we were lucky enough to secure a seat. The menu is surprisingly extensive for a Neapolitan pizzeria: a wide variety of pizzas and fried appetizers, but we were floored by the prices. A classic Margherita pizza with basil and fresh mozzarella? 3.50€. Want to splurge and get some more adventurous toppings? It’s impossible to spend more than 7€ on a whole pie, with most pizzas under 5. The prices were so surprising to some, in fact, that one patron actually argued that his bill was – at 70€ for feeding his entire group of 10 people – too low. This is a very good problem to have.
We know what you’re thinking: so cheap, they must be small. Never mind that the high prices in the US come from the import taxes on importing your bufala and tomatoes from the shady side of Mount Vesuvius – the local places here save considerably by being able to practically walk the ingredients to the kitchen. No, these are not small pies, as you can see above. But they’re also not overpowering or too filling. The crust is thin but supportive, perfectly chewy while acting as a place for the blended marinara, bufala, and basil on top. The sauce is fresh and tastes like actual tomatoes: not to sweet, not too salty, and oh so good. The mozzarella is excellent, and as you can see generously applied. M, keeping up his love of cured pig meats and spicy food, decided to go for another classic pizza, the Diavola – essentially a margherita topped with spicy salame (4.50€.)
Together, L and M sat in I Decumani for about an hour, slowly savoring every bite of our pizzas. M very carefully paid special attention to his salame: cooked to perfection, it was the perfect complement (for him, anyway) to the margherita L was devouring across the table. All in all, for the unbelievable price of 11€, we were totally blown away by our Naples pizza experience. We’ll never be able to have Neapolitan pizza in the US again. But Chicago deep dish, we still love you!