Chicagoans, and by proxy, suburbanites, sure do love pizza. We love our style of pizza. Whether it is traditional square-cut thin, deep-dish or stuffed, we're pretty proud of our pizzas and pretty well convinced that no other city has such great pizza.
The owners and chefs at Fiamme in Naperville are challenging that perception with artisan, wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, and they might be one of the first to get locals to love a completely different style of pie.
Fiamme19 N. Washington, Naperville, (630) 470-9441, fiammepizza.com
Cuisine: Neapolitan-style pizzas and southern Italian-inspired entrees and sandwiches
Setting: Spacious room with modern decor
Entrees: $12 to $15; pizzas $10 to $17
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
This new restaurant, opened in August and located just north of the downtown dining district at 19 N. Washington St. offers authentic "Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani" certified pizzas using fresh ingredients, hand-tossed dough and simple combinations. This is the original Italian pizza, created in Naples in 1889 to honor Queen Margherita of Italy.
Housed in what was once a Phillips 76 service station, Fiamme's decor is a mixture of warm, rustic Tuscan and modern industrial; the bar area features a wall of spirits and liqueurs. Booth seating rings the dining area, with a long, wooden bench and table taking up the center. Service is laid-back yet professional, letting diners enjoy a slower pace. This is not a fast-food pizzeria -- it's a dining experience.
In order to serve these authentic southern Italian pizzas, the head of the American chapter of the "Associazione" Roberto Caparusso spent a full week intensely training Fiamme head chef Ryan Craig and his staff.
"Really, no one else (in the area) is offering this," Craig said. "We're still learning, too, from our customers, tweaking the menu to find that balance of the Napoli-style and what diners were used to. We're adapting while keeping the authenticity."
Fiamme offers a limited and tantalizing entree menu -- only four selections: tortellini ricotta, sausage rigatoni, shrimp pesto linguine, roasted vegetable ravioli. Hearth-baked sandwiches are available on the lunch menu only, but a simple yet tasty selection of appetizers is available for lunch and dinner.
Fiamme's success will rest upon the quality -- and acceptance -- of its pizzas, and right now, a few tweaks are still needed.
My main problem is one that I've had with East Coast pizzas -- the crust is way-too-thin. We ordered the Regina Margherita pizza from the "Pizza Russo" selections, and while the ingredients were fresh and tasty, the crust was paper thin and the fresh tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella fell right off. The thinness also prevented any attempt to use a fork as anything other than a shovel.
A more substantial selection was the MaterDei pizza from the "Pizza Fritte" list. These pizzas feature risen and fried dough that's closer to the thicker, more supportive crust that we in the Chicago area are used to. The MaterDei featured prosciutto, sopressata, mushrooms and fresh mozzarella, all combining for an outstanding, flavor-filled, rustic pizza.
Fiamme offers a nice selection of wines and special mixed drinks, a little on the high-priced side for the quantity -- my dining companion referred to the "modest pour" on his glass of wine.
One classic southern Italian dessert should not be missed -- even if you've gotten your fill of pizza. Try the Sophia Grazia, warm strips of lightly-fried dough drizzled with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar.
There's definitely a reason to visit Fiamme more than once -- the varied selections of pizzas, interesting entrees, sandwiches, appetizers, wines and whimsical cocktails means you can enjoy a different meal even if you go every day of the month.
Fiamme just needs to focus on a few details -- mainly the too-thin crust -- and this restaurant should be one of the best additions to the Naperville and suburban dining scene.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.