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Review Thu Mar 15 2007

Pizza, Pizza: A Two for One Review

I'm pretty certain that what I'm about to say will make some people mad.

So, after having lived across the street from Pizza D.O.C. for the past year (and within a few blocks for the past four), I finally made the trek across Lawrence Avenue to dine there for the first time. And you know what? Spacca Napoli has nothing on this place! I know that Spacca Napoli is the darling of the Chicago food world and all, but my experience there was so disappointing I can't imagine ever returning. I was rather excited when I first learned about it and invited two friends to dinner within weeks of its opening. However, all three of us were sorely disappointed. Sure, our food tasted fine. But that's all. Just fine. And we all commented on the blah-ness of the décor. We felt like we were eating some generic Italian chain. The nail in the coffin was our server. What a jerk! My friend asked for a pizza cutter to cut his pizza. Although I didn't think a pizza cutter was necessary, his request wasn't completely unreasonable. Our waiter scoffed, looked down his nose at him, and replied with a tone that intended to shame my friend. "These knives are special pizza-cutting knives flown in from Italy." I nearly stood up and said, "Oh yeah? Well these fists are special jerk-punching fists flown in from Yousuckistan." Instead, I looked down at my meal as if we had all been scolded.

Pizza D.O.C., on the other hand, was great! I visited this restaurant with nearly the same anticipation as I had for Spacca Napoli, albeit, with some suspicion. While I wasn't completely wowed by this place (and perhaps that's because I'm the only person on the planet who isn't too crazy about Italian food), I was pleasantly satisfied. Our server was courteous and efficient, despite how busy he was. Our food was more than just fine. It was delicious. We shared the Silvie e Gabriel, a pizza topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, arugala, Proscuitto de Parma, sliced tomatoes and shaved Parmigiano, and the Quattro Formaggi with mozzarella, blue cheese, Swiss and Parmigiano. The Quattro could have stood to lose some of the blue cheese as it's strong flavor overpowered the milder cheeses, but the Silvie was topped with plenty of fresh ingredients, the arugala adding just the right amount of herby spice. The atmosphere was also far more comfortable than Spacca (although the lighting seemed more appropriate for a hip sushi joint). We weren't cramped like we were in Spacca Napoli, rather there was plenty of room between the tables so my husband and I could converse about nerdy subjects such as the Council of Trent without being distracted by the conversations next to us (or worrying that they would hear what we were saying and judge us).

I recognize my good fortune of living less than a block from a place like D.O.C., however even if I lived across the street from Spacca Napoli, I'd avoid it and walk the half mile to Pizza D.O.C. anyway.

Cassin / March 16, 2007 6:15 AM

Interesting review, although I think it's a bit out of line to say only four words about the food at one place, and call it a review.

"Our food was fine", does not constitute a review, regardless of the fact that you didn't like your server.

Meghan / March 16, 2007 7:23 AM

You're right. I could have said more. The thing is, the food was so underwhelming, there really isn't much to say about it. For me, dining out has a lot to do with service, and that part of my experience really stood out to me (much more than the food). Also, it wasn't a matter of me not liking our server; that makes it seem too relative. Most people would have agreed that he was a real jerk (and I'm one of the most forgiving people when it comes to shaky service!). Frankly, if I'm going to be treated with such disdain by someone waiting on me, the food had better knock my socks off to compensate.

You are right though. I should have said more than four words about the food in order for it to be a real review. Or, I could have not called it a review in the title. I was just trying to be clever, not technical. "One complaint about service and another review" would have been a terrible title.

Vince Jose / March 16, 2007 3:37 PM

Having been to Southern Italy a few times I can honestly say Spacca Napoli is close but gets no cigar. Their pizzas have some attributes that remind me of what I've had there, but overall they don't get it. What's more I've noticed that its variable...some of the pies on the menu are OK and some are really not good, at least to my simple sensibilities.

BTW, Yousuckistan sounds awesome.

Jennifer / March 17, 2007 3:40 PM

I agree - Spacca Napoli is underwhelming. The flavors were bland, the crust burnt on the bottom, and the cheese not fully melted on top (and cool in the center). I sent it back, only to receive an equally badly-cooked pizza. I gave up. The service I experienced was also astonishingly bad.

Crystal / March 18, 2007 5:36 PM

Wow. I think you should try Spacca Napoli again. I love the place. I have been there at least five times and it's been great every time. I haven't tried the authentic Neapolitan style pizzas in Naples, but I thought this place rocked. I still crave the crust, I enjoy the fresh mozzarella. Now, I noticed they actually do cut the pizza for you in the kitchen. I actually liked the service. I thought it was fine. I went to Pizza D.O.C. years ago because of a Check! Please review and I thought it was pretty good, but nothing to write home about. Maybe I should go back. SN also has actual certification of its authenticity -which I know doesn't mean much to people if they don't like the pizza to begin, with, but I wonder if you don't like it because this is how Neapolitan pizza tastes. It's a different kind of pizza and you can't compare it with other thin crusts. The crust is supposed to be bubbly and slightly burnt and the fresh mozzarella isn't going to be melted all the way down.

Winediva / March 21, 2007 10:49 AM

While I enjoyed reading your opinion on pizza joints, I have to say Yousuckistan is just genius. I giggled all day over that.

Fritz / March 30, 2007 4:24 PM

Glad you don't like the Spacc. Less of a line for me next time I go. In fact, please tell everyone.

Crystal / July 12, 2007 10:37 PM

I went back to Pizza DOC because Spacca was closed. I was so disappointed. The crust was really salty, and my pizza (quattro something - prosciutto, artichokes, olives, mushrooms) was SO SALTY. The mozarrella cheese and all these ingredients overwhelmed the crust. My mom and I couldn't help comparing SN with this place. The ingredients are fresher at SN and of higher quality IMO. I really missed the fresh mozarrella and the crust was far superior to Pizza DOC. I may have ordered the wrong thing though. Even the margherita pizza was just not up to par.

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