We are busy here at Spacca Napoli. The holidays are upon us, and there is much to do. Beginning in early September we started on an expansion of the pizzeria that will almost double our indoor capacity! These plans have long been in the works, in some ways since our earliest days. This year the timing felt right, and we look forward to being able to share our new spaces with you! We are well under way with the construction and have several city inspections this week. Once we receive approvals on the work performed to date, we will close the walls and begin the fun stuff, such as lighting, tile, cabinetry and the introduction of color. I am confident that the additional two rooms will be pleasing to the eye and ease the wait time for a table. Reservations will be available on Friday and Saturday evenings. Larger parties and private events, no problem! Though starting my days earlier than usual to accommodate the crews has been a little rough, it also has been a lot of fun. I have always liked the demolition part of a project and the excitement of making a new space out of a raw space; this harks back to my pre-pizzeria construction days. All of the trades working on this project take pride in their work and have begun to coalesce as a family, in a way not unlike that of our staff.
Speaking of family, Keith Will, a guiding light at Spacca Napoli, and I participated as we do each year in the Inspiration Café’s Anniversary Dinner fund raiser. This was a particularly special night, a celebration of twenty years of service to the homeless community of Chicago. Keith shares my love for the Inspiration Café, it is truly in our blood. We always look forward to the call for help for this event. Though our main task is doing the dishes, we often are asked by award winning Chef Dominique Tougne of Bistro 110 (the event’s grand master) to work alongside his staff and those of the French Pastry School as the evening progresses. It’s not a bad job! And the treats Chef Dominique puts forth are readily available for all of us to enjoy.
On December 7th I will team up with restaurants Piccolo Sogno, Phil Stefani 437 Rush, and Italian Village, as well as with Isola Imports and Palm Bay International to sponsor the Italian Chamber of Commerce’s 2009 Christmas Reception. A portion of the funds raised by the event will be donated to the Cook Italy Education Foundation. Cook Italy was created to provide nutritional education to disadvantaged children in Chicago. We are serving bruschetta with ricotta and peperonata, octopus salad, roasted asparagus with walnut crème and pecorino tartufo, and lastly, Neapolitan meatloaf (Polpettone) with prosciutto, scamorza and parmigiano, made possible with much appreciated help by my own kitchen at Spacca.
The asparagus recipe mentioned above comes from Nate Appleman’s and Shelly Lindgren’s A16 Food and Wine cook book. I am never at a loss to find something new and delightful when I look to them for ideas. The Polpetone comes from a new book, Cucina Napoletana by Arturo Iengo. Just added to my collection is Arthur Schwartz’s The Southern Italian Table, Authentic Tastes from Traditional Kitchens. I can’t wait to introduce new specials at the pizzeria that Arthur has so lovingly embraced and shares with everyone.
In early December Ginny goes to San Francisco to hear our friend Pasquale Esposito perform. A wonderful voice (he has crafted a unique pop opera style) and a beautiful person, Pasquale, a native of Napoli, found us when he was here in Chicago in 2006. In October of this year Pasquale was here to sing again. Before flying out on Monday afternoon, he came by with his manager, musical arranger, and his adopted from the heart American parents to make some pizza and have a little Minestra Maritata. I couldn’t help putting Neapolitan Classic, Salsiccia e Broccoletti on the table.
While Ginny is on the West Coast, she will visit a very popular new spot, Flour and Water, which was just written up in the NY Times Travel magazine on Nov 22nd. Their principal pizzaiolo Jon Darsky was visiting family in the neighborhood (our neighborhood), and asked if he could spend a day with me at the pizzeria. It’s always a pleasure to share time with another of the pizza community. Like San Francisco, in Chicago we continue to see new pizzerias open and are proud to be part of this camaraderie. It’s an exciting time for all of us. My thanks to all of you. I enjoy what I do, I am inspired. Happy Thanksgiving!