Another thin-crust pizzeria? I say bring it on. Chicago’s long-running reputation for deep-dish pizza is steadily being eroded by the proliferation of new pizzerias popping out thin-crust creations. When my friend Lisa and I were wondering where to have dinner on this Saturday night, we opted to try the latest newcomer to the Chicago pie scene, Castel Gandolfo. Inspired by a trip to Rome that included a private visit with the Pope (and named after the Pope’s summer residence), Jane Jasnak and family wanted to duplicate the light, Neapolitan-style pizza she experienced on their visit. And duplicate she did.
The pizza here is delicious. Jasnak spent months developing the dough and insists on using housemade mozzarella. The painstaking efforts show. The dough is chewy and lightly charred on the edges. Each pizza is topped with impeccably fresh ingredients. Every order is delivered bubbling hot out of a wood- and coal-burning brick oven that heats to more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit. We chose to order that evening’s special—a pizza with goat cheese, fresh spinach, fig, caramelized onion, pine nuts—that hit the mark with an pleasing palette of flavors and textures. Castel Gandolfo also offers a small selection of calzones, two salads, some antipasti, and a few desserts. We were told a selection of pasta dishes were to be added to the menu soon. The crisp, mixed greens house salad, enough for two or three people, is served with a mix of roasted sweet red peppers, big green olives, and salty Parmesan crisps.
The quality of the pizza is so good and satisfying that it made up for the multiple waits and service glitches by an inexperienced wait staff. Hopefully those issues are being worked out. I’m already thinking about which pizza I want to try next. The prosciutto and arugula? The veggie? The bianco? I’ll just have to come back soon, and often, to try each one.
800 North Dearborn Street
(Chicago Avenue & Dearborn)
UPDATE 10 March 2011: I walked by Castel Gandolfo last week and noticed that it was closed. Sadly, it is no longer in business.