"Nella Grassano ruined pizza for Chicago," says Mike Sula, hastening to explain, "or at least she ruined the notion that even bad pizza is good pizza." When Grassano, a native of Italy, turned up at Spacca Napoli
back in 2006, her wood-fired Neapolitan pizza was a revelation in the land of deep dish and too much cheese. These days the style is ubiquitous, but Grassano, Sula is excited to report
, retains her magic with the dough. At her new home, Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana
, there are 11 classics, from the standard margherita to a four-cheese white pizza, and a few outstanding mutants like a marinated Genoa tuna and onion pie with blazing disks of hot pepperoni or the irresistible Nutella pizza, a double-crusted blanket of half-melted chocolate-hazelnut spread covered in a snowfall of confectioner's sugar. Add to that an all-Italian beer list, house-made limoncello, umbrellaed outdoor seating, and a handful of salads, appetizers, and pastas.
In Key Ingredient, Browntrout sous chef Blair Herridge, challenged by Ian Rossman with Bailey's Irish Cream, had his hand forced—"I kind of felt pigeonholed into doing some kind of dessert. So I did a dessert," he said. His Bailey's bread pudding, made with local bread, eggs, milk, and cream, is studded with Jameson-soaked golden raisins and served with a rich coffee ice cream and Bailey's sauce. Next up is Sprout chef de cuisine Jeffrey Sills, working with chicken gizzards.