Nella Grassano first drew the drooling hordes at Spacca Napoli, where she made the Neapolitan-style pizzas that packed the place as soon as it opened in 2006. Then Grassano teamed up with Scott Harris of the Francesca’s chain in late 2009 to open Nella Pizzeria Napoletana on Clark Street in Lincoln Park, with plans for a second location in Little Italy. After some differences with Harris, Grassano left in mid-2010, and the second location never materialized, while Harris renamed the restaurant Francesca’s Pizzeria Napoletana. It closed in May.
Now Grassano is only a few months away from opening Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana (1443 W. Fullerton Ave.; no phone yet) in the old Tsuki space and turning out picture-perfect margheritas again. “We will have the beautiful oven like we did at Clark Street,” says Frank Grassano, Nella’s husband. “It will be built again. Everything comes from Naples again.” The oven at Clark Street he’s referring to was a 1,200-degree woodburning beauty built brick by brick by two artisans brought in from Naples, and Harris said in 2009 that Nella thought the flavor given off by the oven and the temperature it kept were irreplaceable.
Frank Grassano says that in addition to 20 to 25 pizzas, the new pizzeria will offer 10 to 12 pastas made by Nella, and probably a pizza with luxury ingredients that costs $100. They’re currently refurnishing and repainting the space, which holds 90 diners inside, and they plan to use the driveway next door as an 80-seat patio. Craft beers will be sold on draft and imported Italian beers in bottles.
They expect to be open by Christmas, Frank Grassano says—the perfect time for a green-white-red tricolor pizza.