Hours: Dinner: seven days
Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight
First Chicago location of the LEYE minichain featuring thin-crust pizzas.
It's a bit of a surprise to find Stella Barra, Lettuce Entertain You's new Lincoln Park pizzeria, using electricity instead of wood to heat its quadruple-decker oven. But the marvelous pizzas chef Jeff Mahin and company are turning out just go to show that you don't need an imported wood-burning oven handcrafted by Campanian peasants to make good—no, great—pies. The style Mahin is working with comes close to New Haven pizza (a la Piece), a New World relative to Neapolitan pizza, but Stella Barra's pies are smaller and built on a very thin crust that ends in a highly raised edge. And unlike most Neapolitan pizzas, which have a mushy nucleus, Stella Barra's have a toasty and crackly undercarriage with more than enough strength to support their toppings. The pies are offered in a variety of reds, such as margherita or pepperoni, and whites, like butternut squash or prosciutto and egg. My pals and I went with a deeply fungal shaved-mushroom pie, with Gruyere, melted onions, rosemary, finely chopped mushrooms, and black truffles that tasted like the depths of a virgin forest. We also got a red pie with subtly spiced house-made pork sausage, fresh mozzarella, and fennel pollen. The toppings on both pies were distributed just right and harmonized perfectly with the crust. You can also order a plate of meatballs, or a couple pastas, or a few of the more winning little plates offered next door at LEYE's Summer House Santa Monica (where Mahin is also the chef)—like the mountainous chopped salad or the fresh burrata with grilled grapes and the house's terrific crusty toasted bread. But it's mostly all about the pizza, which, you know, is really just bread, clearly one of Mahin's greatest strengths. The cocktails retail from California-based Proprietors LLC.
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