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Meet Pinsa, the Latest Pizza Style to Hit Chicago

Streeterville’s l’Aventino Forno Romano focuses on the Roman-style flatbread, which has a light, airy crust.

Photo: Titus Ruscitti

Chicago is no longer just a deep dish and tavern-style city: Over the last decade or so, we’ve welcomed a handful of spots serving pizza popular in other regions of the globe. The latest, l’Aventino Forno Romano — which chef Adam Weisell opened last November in Streeterville — is centered around pinsa, a Roman style.

“Pinsa” comes from the Latin “pinsere,” meaning “to stretch” or “spread out,” and it’s similar to other popular Roman styles like pizza bianca and pizza al taglio (Bonci Pizzeria focuses on the latter). Pinsa has been around for centuries, but it really took off in 2001, when a local baker wanted to make a snack that was lighter and easier on the stomach than your average pizza.

Pinsa fit the bill: With a cloudlike crust and crispy edge, it’s much less dense than other styles. The dough is made with a combination of wheat, soy, and rice flours and has the long fermentation typical of Roman baking, which creates complex flavors and dough that’s more easily digested.

Weisell, who grew up in Rome, snacked on pizza bianca at recess during grade school. He started working in Italian kitchens in New York after college, around the same time pinsa was taking off in Rome. It eventually made its way to the United States, landing in San Francisco in 2015 with the opening of Montesacro. Before opening l’Aventino Forno Romano, Weisell worked with the team who helped bring the pizza style to the U.S., as well as pinsa consultants from Rome.

L’Aventino Forno Romano’s menu is reminiscent of Roman pizzerias. There’s a small selection of antipasti to pair with meats and cheeses, as well as scratch-made snacks and appetizers — like supplì, which consists of a ball of rice with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Each ball is soaked in egg, coated with breadcrumbs, and fried to order, which makes the cheese warm and stretchy.

But the focal point of the menu is the pinsa. L’Aventino Forno Romano offers 13 varieties to choose from, half of which come topped with tomato sauce. Each pinsa is served whole with a pizza cutter for portioning yourself; slicing into it, you’ll realize how light the dough is.

The toppings range from traditional to cheffy. If you’re a pizza purist, try the Margherita with tomato polpa, fior di latte, basil, and Parmigiano. Make your meal extra Roman with the Re di Roma, which is basically a gooey carbonara in pinsa form. I loved the Bologna, which is made with extra-milky fior di latte cheese and creamy Béchamel sauce, then layered with prosciutto cotto and sliced potatoes. It’s finished with a shower of Parmigiano and rosemary. But you really can’t go wrong with any of them, since Weisell absolutely nails the driving force behind a great pinsa: that light-as-air crust.

L’Aventino Forno Romano is located at 355 E Ohio St., Streeterville.

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