“How can I put this in a way so as not to offend or unnerve?” (“Get Off” – Prince).
Hmmm. OK. I cannot. So, I will just say it. For the last 9 years, I have been living in the pizza desert called Chicago. While I respect the creative “otherness” of Chicago’s deep dish thing, it is anything but pizza. Calm down. It is not my intention to engage in a long diatribe on this point. So, let’s just agree to disagree, if you must.
I have suffered through the strangely pervasive, square-cut, thin-crust atrocities which many Chicago joints call pizza. Again, wrong! This, too, is not pizza.
Furthermore, there have been many disappointing attempts by Chicago businesses to offer up their versions of Neapolitan / New York-style pizza. Why do they fail? Most of the Chicago pizza joints in this category are “phoning it in.” They are not passionate about real pizza. First, they do not understand the finer elements of Neapolitan-style crust which should be crispy but not too thin that it will not support the pizza toppings. Second, many of these establishments are not using the freshest ingredients possible. You know who you are! Third, what is with the lack of olive oil and oregano on your pizza offerings?! As an Italian-American and transplanted New Yorker, I am completely confounded by this oversight. Good olive oil to oregano ratio is a crucial element of any proper pizza. Learn it! Live it!
So, what is the name of the savior who broke this long and painful cycle by opening an oasis in Chicago’s pizza desert? That would be Scott Toth, owner of Craft Pizza, Artisan Pizzeria & Café in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. (1252 N. Damen)
On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of being invited to a pre-launch tasting at Craft Pizza. In a matter of 1.5 hours, my longing was over. My personal pizza void has been filled! Craft Pizza will open to the public tomorrow and I strongly urge you to drop by to experience what real pizza should taste like. There are 11 house pies on the menu as well as a “build your own” pie option. Individual slices are available Tuesday-Friday from 4-6pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am-4pm.
I enjoyed 4 samples of the 11 house pies. First up was the “Devil in the White City” (pictured above) which consists of whole milk & fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano/grana padano, fresh garlic, herbs, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, hot capicollo, hot cherry peppers, peperoncinis and red onions. This was my absolute favorite! I love exceptionally spicy food and this pie was the perfect delivery system!
Another great offering is the “Bacon Bianca” pizza. This is made with whole milk & fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano/grana padano, fresh garlic, herbs, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and cured bacon. The balance of ingredients of this pizza was perfect.
I also tried the “Plain Jane” which is made with fresh tomato sauce, whole milk, and fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano/grana padano. Simple yet perfectly executed. Nothing plain about it!
Just before my stomach was about to explode, I had to try the “Wicker Pork” pizza which is a nice ode to the Wicker Park neighborhood as well as the meat-lovin’ town of Chicago. The “Wicker Pork” consists of tomato sauce, whole milk and fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano/grana padano, cured, smoked Canadian bacon, onions, and pineapple. Generally, I do not go for pineapple on my pizza but this totally rocks! This pizza was just the right balance of smoky, salty and sweet.
Scott Toth understands proper Neapolitan-style pie crust. His crust is crispy with the right amount of good char on the bottom. Yes, I turned the pizza over to inspect the bottom! This crust also has the right amount of chewiness and depth of flavor. Bravo! Most importantly, Mr. Toth is NOT afraid of extra virgin olive oil. There was plenty of it to satisfy me. Cue the choir! All of the toppings at Craft Pizza are incredibly fresh and locally sourced.
I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Toth about his foray into the pizza business. Here is a man who is extremely passionate and dedicated to creating the best pizza possible. His enthusiasm made me smile. I look forward to many future visits to Craft Pizza.
Lastly, I should mention that Craft Pizza is a BYOB establishment which I totally support. Also, there will be breakfast served from 8am-11am with boil & bake bagels, fresh pastries, and coffee by local business, Sparrow Coffee Roastery.
For more information visit www.craftpizzachicago.com
Tutti a tavola e mangiare!
ROAM. REVEL. REPEAT.