Four spots that cook with wood | The feed
Everything tastes better with a little wood smoke.
Gruppo di Amici Owner Phaedra Divras lures East Rogers Parkers desperate for higher-end options. The wood-fired hearth that cooks these Roman-style pizzas was custom-made in Italy, for chrissakes—and this dedication pays off with a devoted clientele that packs the house for the capricciosa pie (a delicious heap of hard-boiled egg, prosciutto, olives, artichokes and mushrooms on a chewy crust), simple Margherita and tangy funghi e formaggi (goat cheese, mushroom, EVOO). 1508 W Jarvis Ave (773-508-5565). Dinner (Thu–Sun). Average main course: $13.
Nightwood The consistently successful dishes at this understated Pilsen restaurant from the Lula Cafe crew share two traits. First, that fresh-from-the-garden liveliness that’s garnered Lula its cultish status (e.g., a “stone soup” filled with bright lima beans or a squash salad accented with crunchy purslane). Second, a distinctive wood-grilled flavor that gives an intoxicating aroma to a juicy half-chicken and earthy cheeseburger. The sweet side of the menu hits all the right notes (think light and simple blueberry cake), as do the impressive cocktail and wine programs. 2119 S Halsted St (312-526-3385). Brunch (Sun), dinner (Mon–Sat). Average main course: $20.
Pizzeria da Nella Nella Grassano, the pizziaiola who has hopped from Spacca Napoli to a partnership with Scott Harris to this shop, her own venture, is something more than a chef: She’s a master craftsman. And she has a distinctive pizza crust to show for it. There is no wetness here, really. Nor is there a notable amount of crisp. It’s simply balanced. But the pizza is also so simple that it borders on unexciting. If you’re prepared for this, it works. If not, head to Balena. 1443 W Fullerton Ave (773-281-6600). Lunch, dinner. Average pizza: $12.
Sono Wood Fired Sono is a pizzeria, but the pizza here isn’t the main attraction. Instead, we prefer alternating swigs of wine (from a respectably interesting list, no less) with bites of a trio of mozzarella (a more-than-generous portion of tangy slices made from buffalo milk, cubes of decent fior di latte and a fist-sized knot of burrata oozing with cream), a beautifully bright eggplant caponata and feathery, perfectly fried artichoke leaves. Still hungry? A pizza will do the trick—or you could pop over to Sono’s sister restaurant, Burger Bar, for a milkshake and fries. 1582 N Clybourn Ave (312-255-1122). Lunch (Fri–Sun), dinner. Average pizza: $14.