Hours: Lunch: Friday-Sunday; dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday
Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11
West Town spot offering coal-fired east-coast-style thin-crust pizza.
Coalfire—Chicago's first east-coast-style coal-oven pizzeria—opened in 2007 to a flood of buzz and business, catching owners J. Spillane (a longtime bartender at the Matchbox) and Bill Carroll off guard. Was the frenzy warranted? It is, after all, just pizza (almost literally—besides the pies, the menu offers calzones and a few salads). But as pizza goes, it's pretty great. The thin, blistered crust is sooty and crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy toward the center of the pan, with a dense, toasty flavor. The sauce, applied sparingly, is fresh and slightly sweet; toppings include buttery prosciutto, hot Calabrese salami with fennel, and a terrific spicy Italian sausage. The margherita, with ovals of melting mozzarella each topped by a sole basil leaf, was a bit bland, but the white pizza was tangy and complex, thanks to a last-minute substitution of goat cheese when the kitchen ran out of ricotta. And while in pizza, to each his own, I agreed with my friend who, four pies in, declared the simplest to be the best: sauce, cheese, one topping, perfection.
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