photo: brian moriarty

Thin, crispy crusts and housemade cheeses make Pizzeria del Mercato a welcome newcomer to Chicago's pizza scene.  

The road from apprenticeship to entrepreneurship seems shorter than ever these days. Case in point: the West Loop’s new Pizzeria del Mercato (1154 W. Fulton Market, 312-226-6898), opened about three weeks ago by a 22-year-old with the Dickensian name of Ambrose Erkenswick.

Erkenswick started as a dishwasher at the bygone T’s Bar and Grill in Andersonville, managed a crêpe stand at Green City Market and spun it into a catering business called Crêpe Brothers Company (along with his brother, Axel), attended the French Pastry School, and worked at La Sardine and La Fournette. In the seven-year span covered by that resumé, Erkenswick picked up fundamentals of baking that inform his pizzas now.

“My main thing here is the crust,” he says. “To me that’s the biggest thing that makes or breaks a good pizza—the crust having a great flavor as well as texture.”

He cooks his pizzas in an 800- to 900-degree wood-burning oven for longer than a traditional Neapolitan style, eschewing the chewy, soft center typical of those pies. “I’m more of a fan of keeping that crunch throughout, but still crispy-thin,” he says.

Pizzeria del Mercato also makes its own mozzarella (from whole milk rather than skim) and ricotta, and uses sausage from La Sardine’s chef de cuisine, Scott Jambrosek. House-made tiramisù and chocolate-Nutella pizza appear on the dessert menu.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we have to go teach our toddler to clean a chicken. Don’t want her to get behind.