Spacca Napoli – the Maestro’s Take

Spacca Napoli. Literally “break Naples” or, “Split Naples.” I will forever know the verb “spaccare” because of an amusing anecdote, told to me when I was in Italy in 1999. My music professor had an adorable daughter, Monica, aged maybe 6 or 7. She was at dinner one day with my professor’s father (her grandfather), who was very much in mold of an old patriarch who demanded complete obedience. At one point during the meal, the grandfather started chiding Monica for not eating her food. She muttered something under breath. “What was that, Monica?” said the grandfather. “Ti spacco il culo!” (“I’ll break your ass”)

Amusing anecdotes aside, Spacca Napoli is one of those pizzerias that consistently makes the “Top 25 Pizzas in Chicago” in pretty much every available list (Time Out Chicago, The Reader, etc.) And when my wife and I tried to comprehensively go through one of those lists about 5 years ago, Spacca Napoli was one of our favorites.

Per usual we ordered 3 pizzas. The only one that concerned me was the Margherita, because the other ones had things like leeks on them. Also, the other pizzas were white pizzas, and for me, the really glorious thing about a pizza is the sauce.

We started with some appetizers. There was a melanzane plate, and a plate of prosciutto with mozzarella di bufala. The prosciutto was just the right touch of salty, and the mozzarella was positively divine. Not too milky. Not dry at all. Extremely soft, and full of way more flavor than one would think.

The pizzas came out in about 15 minutes. Extremely fast for a busy Friday night. We had barely finished eating our appetizers, when the pizzas arrived. I’d say everything was perfect with the Margherita with the exception of the crust. And it wasn’t even that the crust was bad, but that it was a little on soft side. In the center mainly. The outside was nice, but it was almost as if it hadn’t been fully cooked. Having had a Margherita there the last time, I knew they were capable of a more perfect crust, so it was a tad disappointing.

Other than that, everything was great. It was a very much like a pizza you’d get in Italy, and, more specifically, Naples (duh). In Naples, you’ll have street corner pizza carts that sell pizza that is better than anything you’ve ever tasted before in your life. And it is slapped together with seemingly little effort. Just balls of mozzarella barely melted on a bed of delicious tomato sauce. Sometimes the crust is soggy enough to fold into a kind of pocket, which, while not the intent of this pizza, was almost the effect.

If the pizza was a little disappointing, the dessert made up for it. We had a kind of nutella calzone, which had the crust consistency that the pizza should have had. Last week’s pizza outing left us surprisingly unbloated. We made up for it this week in spades. There were also perfect, complimentary (!) cannoli. Can you believe it?

We’ve yet to pick a place for next week.

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