Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. --The Mgmt.
464 N. Halsted Street, Chicago IL 60654 (map); (312) 421-0077; piccolosognorestaurant.com
Getting There: Blue Line to Grand
Pizza Style: Roman
Oven Type: Wood-fired
The Skinny: Outstanding Roman pizza features exceptional-quality toppings on a crisp toasted crust
Price: $13 to $15
One of the great things about Baconfest Chicago, aside from affording me one of the most enjoyably gluttonous days of my life, was that I had the opportunity to compare the skills of 24 of Chicago's best chefs. One of the dishes that really stood out came from Tony Priolo's kitchen at Piccolo Sogno. I had long known that the restaurant had a few pizzas on the menu, but with the malfatti all'amatriciana from Baconfest haunting my dreams, it was time to make it a point to get over there.
After making a name for himself cooking Tuscan fare at Coco Pazzo, Chicago-raised chef Priolo opened Piccolo Sogno with Naples-born Ciro Longobardo, who was previously a general manager at Coco Pazzo. Their restaurant, which features rustic Italian cuisine and an extensive, exclusively Italian wine list, has been a hit since it opened in July 2009. After my recent meal there, I can understand why.
My original plan was to order the prosciutto pizza, but when I settled on what turned out to be a positively mind-blowing appetizer of burrata with culatello topped with a generous drizzle of exceptional olive oil, I decided to pick a different one of their five pizzas. Given the limited options, the choices was surprisingly difficult, but I settled fairly quickly on the Acciughe E Olive, which came with white anchovies, olives, mozzarella and tomato sauce.
This pizza will have you reaching for an extra glass of water, but the extra sodium is most definitely worth it. The medley of meaty green and Kalamata olives added some welcome heartiness to the white anchovies, which were the real star of the plate. The high quality creamy mozzarella, which was fairly generously applied, tempered the saltiness a little bit without getting in the way of the flavor. The sauce, which appeared to be simply crushed San Marzano tomatoes, was very good when I singled it out for a taste, but largely a non-factor in the overall pie.
My dining companion ordered a white pie that was a study in elegant simplicity. On paper the Funghi Tartufati did not strike me as a particularly fulfilling pizza, but the combination of great mozzarella, herbs, truffle oil and an incredible array of fresh mushrooms proved to be an absolute delight.
I'm not sufficiently well versed in fungi to report the varieties in any detail, but I can say that the combination was stellar. The generous pour of truffle oil really brought everything together without coming close to overpowering the rest of the pizza. It's not often that I eat a vegetarian pizza and don't think there's a meat out there that would make it better, but there was no improving this pie.
The cracker thin, perfectly cooked, taste-as-good-as-they-look crusts managed be incredibly crisp without being remotely crumbly. The center of both pies exhibited some tip sag, but that was a small price to pay for the crunchy, lightly toasted goodness that made the bulk of both pies a texturally delicious treat.
Finally, no description of Piccolo Sogno can fail to mention the large outdoor seating area that doubles as Chef Priolo's garden where he grows many of the vegetables served in the restaurant. This quiet oasis hidden right next to a very busy 6-way intersection offers diners an exceptional place to enjoy their meal. Unfortunately, on my visit it was a few degrees too chilly for them to seat people outside, but that just gives me an extra reason to return soon.