An East Coast–style pizzeria proves coal isn't just for punishment.
Cocktail enthusiasts who stopped by Matchbox for a drink anytime during the last year when bartender J. Spillane was working were in for an earful about East Coast pizzerias and the benefits of firing up pizzas in a coal-fired oven. Now that Spillane and partner Bill Carroll have finally opened Coal Fire, they’re putting their money where their mouths are.
And they’re banking. Now heading into week four, it looks like Spillane (who mans the namesake coal-fired oven) has found his groove. Pies that were coming out a bit inconsistent in week two (some were wet in the middle, others burnt around the edges) now arrive pretty damn close to perfect, with slightly charred bubbles here and there and crisp edges that give way to a salty, yeasty chew.
We’re fans of the sweet-heat combo on the Fiorentino, a marriage of red peppers and hot salami. While the Fiorentino’s housemade sauce incorporates canned tomatoes, they’re high quality and taste fresh and bright, not tinny and overly sweet. Fans of ricotta could skip red pies altogether and go with either the white pizza (ricotta dominates, but mozz, pecorino romano, oregano and fresh basil round out this light option) or the pesto (salty black olives combine with the fresh ricotta for perfect balance). If only fat rounds of fresh mozzarella were swapped in for Coal Fire’s shredded stuff—we’d almost be convinced we were no longer in the Second City.—Heather Shouse
1321 W Grand Ave between Elizabeth and Ada Sts (312-226-2625). El: Blue to Chicago. Bus: 9, X9, 65. Dinner (closed Mon). Average pizza: $13.