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This week in Omnivorous I wrote about the Gruene Coal Company in Englewood, the last coal yard in Chicago. Gruene's only customers for their Kentucky bituminous coal are D'Amato's #1 Bakery and the best pizzeria in Chicago. The photo demonstrates just what coal can do for Italian bread. What you have on the bottom is a toasty, crusty loaf baked in Victor D'Amato's 100-something-year-old coal-fueled oven. On top is a softer, more elastic loaf baked at the other D'Amato's, operated by his brother a few blocks west on Grand.
I've always liked the bread from both bakeries, but it wasn't until I did a side-by-side comparison that I had to give an edge--no, a furlong--to the coal-baked bread.
Coal: D'Amato's #1, 1124 W. Grand, 312-733-5456
No coal: D'Amato's Bakery and Deli, 1332 W. Grand, 312-733-6219