Panino's Pizzaiolo has authentic, Neapolitan pizza (and no wood-burning, brick oven)
October 24, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- There are, of course, dozens of places to get a great pizza in Chicago, but the Hungry Hound has been discovering a few authentic, Neapolitan pies lately.
He says they don't always have to come from a wood-burning, brick oven either. The key seems to be a great dough and high heat.
Is a great pizza really that complicated? It shouldn't be. But while many places would have you believe you need to have a wood-burning, brick oven to produce great pies, Panino's Pizzaiolo, which has locations in Evanston, Park Ridge and Lakeview, is proving that's not necessarily the case.
"We try to keep all of the ingredients that we put on these pizzas all imported stuff from Italy; we want to give it that extra level of taste and texture," said Bruno Brunetti, owner of Panino's.
But it's more than just ingredients; it's mostly about their starter, which is essentially a living yeast that is used in every batch of dough. It reacts to heat, and that's where the magic happens.
"It's done in a way that the old masters of Italy, the old pizzaiolos of Italy used to make the pizza," said Brunetti.
And so when that dough has rested and fermented for at least two to three days, it develops character and complexity. So much so, that after you top it was fresh, vibrant San Marzano tomato sauce, a healthy sprinkle of pecorino romano and parmesan, giant chunks of fior di latte, or fresh mozzarella and a simple drizzle of olive oil, the pizza doesn't need a brick oven.
This deck oven -- set to an extremely high temperature -- does the trick. Once it's removed, it's topped with a few fresh basil leaves and a final drizzle of oil, before being whisked out to the dining room. It's here where the resulting crust shows the payoff, for using that ancient starter.
"It gives it the nice bubbles, it gives it that airiness that our pizza has," he said.
So Panino's is proof you don't need a fancy, wood burning brick oven to make great pizza. What it really boils down to is having the right temperature -- high temperature, of course -- and a great dough recipe.
Panino's has two other locations -- one in Evanston, the other in Park Ridge -- but the Lakeview location can be confusing, because they have a standard, by-the-slice joint on one side, then the more serious, Neapolitan pizza on the other side, facing Waveland.
3704 N. Broadway (entrance on Waveland)
1968 Dempster, Evanston (Evanston Plaza)
28 S. Fairview, Park Ridge
restaurants, steve dolinsky
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