Little Italy, Big Oven

Nella Grassano, Spacca Napoli’s former pizzaiolo, is now working with Scott Harris (Mia Francesca) on a second Nella Pizzeria Napoletana at 1359 West Taylor Street (the old La Vita space)—and the pair haven’t even opened the first one yet. “I have so much trust in her golden fingers,” says Harris, who plans to open in September. (The Lincoln Park Nella at 2423 North Clark Street is slotted for mid-July.) Grassano will fly to Naples to buy the bricks and cement for their oven—plus the special ladles and spoons and spatulas that Grassano insists on—then the Italian craftsmen who built Nella’s oven on Clark will do the same on Taylor Street. “I have a beautiful wood burning pizza oven sitting in my basement,” says Harris. “And I said, ‘Nella, can’t we just use mine?’ She said absolutely not. These guys do things that no one else does and it shows in the product.”

Speaking of Spacca . . .

Starting in August, Spacca Napoli (1769 W. Sunnyside Ave.; 773-878-2420), Ravenswood’s eternally slammed pizzeria, will expand into the space next door. “The conceptual drawings were done six months ago, but we decided to see how business was over the winter,” says Jonathan Goldsmith. “It seems to be the right move.” The space currently houses Studio Rose, an art gallery owned by Goldsmith’s wife, Ginny Sykes, but more tables, another service bar, and an espresso machine will go in the space. And another oven? “No,” says Goldsmith. “One oven is enough. We can do 1,500 pizzas a day with our oven.” ETA: mid-October.

98 Words on Pop Tarts

“Inside, there are three pouches of two. . . . I open the first pouch, and I eat one tart, and I enjoy it very much, as naturally I would. And then I feel, Well, I have to eat the second one or it will go stale. Well, now I’ve eaten two, and it’s no longer just a snack, it’s a meal. I figure I may as well eat two more. And then finally I’m just like, Well, hell, I don’t just want two pop tarts hangin’ out in a box. I eat the last two just to tidy up, really.” –Paula Poundstone (b. 1959), American comedian

Such a Deal

Isaac Nava, owner of La Casa de Isaac Mexican Restaurant (431 Temple Ave., Highland Park; 847-433-5550), opened Isaac & Moishe’s Deli, Fruits & Vegetables (311 Waukegan Ave., Highwood; 847-433-0557) last month. Right now, it’s a straight-up grocery store with a Mexican slant, and the Jewish deli part of the equation won’t exist for another month and a half. “The big thing that I am excited about is that I’m going to make charcoal chicken,” says Nava. “And I am going to try and combine Mexican herbs and Jewish traditional ingredients to come out with amazing food.” Despite La Casa’s success—and Nava’s general disinterest in groceries—he was concerned enough to open a store that catered to home cooks. Hmm. Kind of like putting money on red and black at the roulette wheel.

Pizza Shocker

As the person who accompanied Alan Richman on his first visit to Andersonville’s Great Lake (1477 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-334-9270), whose pizzas the GQ food writer recently named the best in America, Ruby would just like to say: Richman is a crafty devil. At the time, I didn’t even know he liked the pie, much less loved it. And our pizza took so long for Nick Lessins to make, we actually considered walking out. Good thing we didn’t.

Meet the New Boss(es)

George’s Ice Cream & Sweets (5306 N. Clark St.; 773-271-7600) has opened in the former Sweet Occasions storefront (which closed in September 2008). “We expanded the menu to include pastries, cupcakes, brownies, macaroons, tarts, and Illy coffee,” says Jim Veikos, a manager. “And we make panini and crêpes.” The partners, Bill and Angie Stotis, own the space and decided to stick with the sweet shop concept; they revamped the space and added a flatscreen TV and free Wi-Fi. “But the ice cream is the same,” says Veikos. “Everyone in the neighborhood loved it.”

Cheap Things to Do

  1. Eat all the barbecue you want for $14 at Sheffield’s (3258 N. Sheffield Ave.; 773-281-4989) on a Thursday night.
  2. Go to the bar at One Sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St.; 312-850-0303) on any Friday night, and get a Neapolitan-style pizza and a prosecco (or a craft beer) for $9.
  3. Dine at Hub 51 (51 W. Hubbard St.; 312-828-0051) on May 21st and get free carrot cake.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Eivissa (1531 N. Wells St.; 312-654-9500), Dudley Nieto’s tapas and sangría bar in Old Town, finally opens on May 21st. . . . An outpost of My Pie and Li’l Guys will open at 1361 Shermer Road, just steps from the Northbrook Metra station, on June 9th. . . . Yak-Zie’s Bar and Grill (506 W. Diversey Pkwy.; 773-327-1717) is remodeling and reopening in July. “The city says it’s a privilege, not a right, to have a liquor license,” says Joe Prino, the general manager. “We had to go through the whole process as if there was never a license there, get neighborhood approval, alderman approval.” . . . The signature item at Wicker Park’s month-old Ledge Bar & Grill (1745 W. North Ave.; 773-252-6053) is a half-pound ground lamb burger with Muenster cheese and a fried egg. . . . As reported here, Tsunami (1160 N. Dearborn St.; 312-642-9911) plans to shutter its doors May 31st and find a new location “within the downtown area,” says Steven Song, the owner. “River North, ideally.” . . . On June 1st, Hans Aeschbacher, the longtime chef of Smith & Wollensky, defects to Trader Vic’s (1030 N. State St.; 312-642-6500). . . . Dixie Kitchen (5225 S. Harper Ave.; 773-363-4943), an old Hyde Park standby, will close on June 7th, but Calypso Cafe (5211 S. Harper Ave.; 773-955-0229) across the street will carry roughly 80 percent of DK’s menu—for now.