Classic Tables: Spacca Napoli

This classic Neapolitan pizza joint is still one of the best

Yes, Eataly has arrived (and it is sprawling, and it is glorious).

But let us not forget the old as we bask in the glow of the new. Chicago's fanatical response to the Italian emporium can be traced, in part, to a handful of establishments that have spent years propagating Italian-inspired food culture. Spacca Napoli is one such place.

As Ravenswood's devoutly Neapolitan pizza joint enters its ninth year (in February), owner Jonathan Goldsmith is no less obsessive about the holy trinity of the Italian pie: the tomato, the cheese and the oil.

"I feel like I'm a baby in this pizza guild," he says. "I've done this for ten years and I work with people who are 80 years old." He trained at the side of Enzo Coccia, a Neapolitan luminary. These days, Goldsmith returns to Naples at least three times a year to visit his expansive network of pizzaiolo comrades and hone his dough.

At Spacca Napoli, that dough–chewy, blistered and flavorful–is offered as pizze rosse or bianchi (with tomato sauce or without), in a dozen different forms. Seasonal specials abound, like squash blossoms and cherry tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and butternut squash puree, and crema di pistachio (pistachio butter) and sausage.

The iconic Bufalina ($15.50), however, is a must–dotted with Italian mozzarella di bufala, tomato sauce and fresh basil leaves.

Simple, classic, sublime.