After numerous trips to Naples, Jon Goldsmith opened Spacca Napoli in the winter of 2006 after realizing Chicago had no traditional Neapolitan pizzerias to offer. Spacca Napoli translates directly to "Naples splitter," referring to a main thorough fair through Naples that literally divides the city into different sectors.
Originally Jon employed native Italian Nella Grassano as his pizzaiola until she left to start Pizzeria Nella in 2009, but nothing could have prepared me for who was behind the counter when a friend and I walked through the door:
(courtesy of FoodMayhem)
Keste pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio! We both did a double take upon seeing one another, and neither of us understood what the other was doing so far from home. I had just stopped in at Keste days before leaving for Chicago to see the man himself and grab one of his killer Margheritas. I am totally kicking myself, but in my stupor of such a coincidence I completely forgot to get a shot of him manning the oven (idiot!).
Check out that sweet custom oven! That bushel of grain is Spacca's logo designed by Jon's partner Ginny Skyles. Shortly after being seated, we were served a dish that any Keste regular would recognize-
I'm embarrassed to say, but I have no idea what this is called (anyone care to enlighten me?). Roberto whips these up and throws a combo of great toppings on top, ranging from squash and mozzarella to Marscapone and fennel. In this case, he made one with broccoli rabe, mozzarella and sausage. Yum!
Shortly thereafter, Roberto returned with Jon (a native New Yorker) to chat about Chicago pizza and gave me some additional recommendations while in town. Since the pizza menu was split between red and white pies and we were completely undecided, we decided to get one of each, starting of course with the Margherita:
This pizza was extremely tasty, but by no means life-changing in my opinion. After a while, it becomes hard to differentiate most Neapolitan pizzas from one another, especially when they are under the strict certification of the Vera Pizza Napoletana and there is little room to deviate from guidelines. Next up was our white pie, which features mozzarella, arugula, shaved Parmesan and Proscuitto:
This pie was the winner and tasted extremely fresh. After taking a bite, I realized this was one ingredient away from Paulie Gee's famous Parma d'Or, lacking only the fresh-squeezed lemon on top.
Something to note- of piles of leftovers I was forced to bring back to my gracious hosts while pizza hunting around the city, I think this pie held up the best. That being said, it's a no-brainer that this pizza is best consumed straight out of the oven.
Spacca Napoli (and Roberto Caporuscio) whipped up some fantastic pies, making this my third favorite pizzeria (out of 12) that I visited in Chicago.