Nella Grassano Opens New Pizzeria

Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

“It’s been two years since Nella Grassano last crafted her pizzas in a public setting. A third generation pizzaiola from Naples, she’s regarded as one of the best in Chicago and may be solely responsible for popularizing Neapolitan pizza in the city, first at Spacca Napoli and later at Nella Pizzeria Napoletana,” according to Chicagoist. “Her exit from each restaurant was followed by speculation as to why she left and may have earned her and Franco Grassano reputations as being difficult to work with.

“In person, the Grassanos make a formidable team whose personalities complement each other. Nella is more reserved and lets her cooking do the talking; Franco is more affable, brought on by years of working in the industry. They’ve been a team almost from the moment they met in 1995, when they met at Glenview’s Gusto Italiano while Nella was on a visit from Naples. ‘I was supposed to stay one month,’ Nella said. ‘I wound up staying three.’ She returned stateside and married Franco two years later.

“Pizzeria da Nella takes up part of the former Tsuki sushi space in Lincoln Park. The wood-burning oven, like at Nella Pizzeria, was built to Nella’s specifications. It’s a massively tiled marvel built from Italian volcanic ash and Vesuvio stone.

“But the main draw will be Nella Grassano’s pizzas. Bar seating around the oven will give guests an up-close and personal view of her rolling out dough and topping pie after pie. And that’s what the Grassanos hope will be their trump card.”