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Jun 6, 2007 09:16 PM

Coal Fire Pizza

I am a self proclaimed pizza guru and this place on Grand was amazing. Hands down the best pizza in chicago. Any one else who loves all pizza must go.

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  1. I liked it as well. I should have posted earlier.

    My only problem was the service, but I assume it will be hammered out. The pizza maker was actually very helpful, though. He told me all about how hot he runs the oven. That's pretty fun.

    1. I am thinking of going this weekend while i am in the area.

      Does Coal Fire serve beer & liquor, or is it BYOB?

      11 Replies
        1. re: jbw

          Good news,

          I am fairly new to the concept of BYOB,

          What can I bring in? wine, beer, a bottle of tequilla?

          Have you eaten there? How did you like it?

          I do not like Chicago style pizza, and have been wanting to try this east coast style pizza since they opened.

          1. re: swsidejim

            You can bring wine and beer -- I believe they have wine and beer glasses. I don't see any reason why you couldn't bring a bottle of tequilla (although that would be an interesting sight, and I'm not sure they will have shot glasses).

            The pizza is very good. I wouldn't call it east coast style, though. It is like Grimaldi's in New York if you have every been. Prior posts on LTH Forum have some good photos of the pizza.

            1. re: JJ.

              I checked the post at LTH, and those pics of the pizza & great crust got my mouth watering.

              I am going to San Soo Gap San for lunch, and then either to Coal Fire, or Honey 1 for dinner. I am leaning towards Coal Fire since I have never been there yet. I am looking forward to a Saturday of good chow.

              Thanks for clearing up the BYOB question, I have never been to place that offered that option, and I dont to do something that is unacceptable.

              1. re: swsidejim

                One of the owners (J) formerly tended bar at The Matchbox, just down the street, and if you cared to call beforehand I am sure that he would be more than happy to discuss possible drink pairings for his product.

                Irrespective of style, it would seem that most Americans like to pair beer with pizza, but I don't personally keel to the idea of consuming two yeast-fermented grain products at the same time. <smile> Wine and soda are my beverages of choice.


                1. re: Erik M

                  thanks for the heads up,

                  I am one of those folks who likes beer and pizza, but I also like a some tequilla when I am having a few drinks..

                  1. re: swsidejim

                    Hey swsidejim...
                    For what it's worth, Amelia's Mexican Grill is less than a minute down the street if you want a shot of tequila.

                    I've been to Coal Fire about 6 times (it's walking distance for me) and like it. Unlike the 45+ minute wait for a deep dish/stuffed/chicago style pizza, these come up pretty quickly.

                    Be aware that you go up to the counter to place your order and pay, then your order will be brought to your table.

                    Just down Odgen on Randolph you can pick up beer or wine at the Tasting Room.

                    Amelia's Restaurant
                    1235 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

                    Tasting Room
                    1415 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

                    1. re: delk

                      Thanks for the heads up about Amelias, and the Tasting Room, I was wondering where a liquor store was that is close to Coal Fire.

                      Also thanks for the tips about the odering @ Coal Fire.

                      1. re: swsidejim

                        Depending on which way you go, there is also a rather large liquor store on Grand and Western called DiCarlo's. Obviously, if you want wine, the Tasting Room is the better choice. Plus, even better, both establishments have parking lots!

                        Curious to hear your take on the pizza though!

                        DiCarlo's Grand & Western
                        515 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60612

                        1. re: delk

                          We are going to get to Coal Fire right around 5 p.m. when they open, and I am looking forward to trying this new spot for us, as much as I am looking forward to our return trip to San Soo Gap San for lunch.

                          It should should be a nice Saturday centered around some good eats.

                    2. re: swsidejim

                      Having recently come back from Italy, it's clear that many Italians drink beer with their pizza, too.

        2. Spacca Napoli in Ravenswood serves up authentic Neopolitan style thin pizza fresh from a charcoal wood fired oven. The oven was shipped direct from Italy and the owner was trained in Naples. I hear it's great, the best apparently.

          2 Replies
          1. re: amoncada

            The pizza at Spacca is good to very good, but there's something one note about the pies as the variations we tasted were quite similar. IMO, everything else about the place sucks. A prosciutto and argula salad arrived with the ham element ice cold from the fridge and the greens woefully under-dressed. The wine list is primarily, low acid, over-extracted, "new school" Southern Italian reds and to add insult to injury, the wine was served way too warm (75-80 degrees F) and served in tumblers, which for some reason are believed to be more "authentic" than a proper glass. The dessert was absolutely forgetable. Spacca Napoli is a noisy, crowded space overun by the "Bug-a-boo Mafia" and their passel of screaming toddlers! Thanks, but no pizza is worth putting up with this scene. BTW...the joint is no bargain; a cheap bottle, two pies, salad and one dessert with tax and tip was well over $100...which for sake of "authenticity" (a "concept" that is tossed around at Spacca like so much grated reggiano) is about twice what you'd pay in Naples.

            1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

              Having never been ot Naples, I can't comment on authentic Neapolitan Pizza, but I was not too impressed with Spacca. In my case, the prosciutto/arugala pizza toppings were fine - not cold, very flavorful, etc - but the crust was very tough. Not soggy at least, but it took some good sawing to hack through them. The taste was good, but I really prefer a thing, crispy pizza. The table was tight, but I didin't mind the crowd. No screamers from what I can remember.

              In fact, the only place I have had a really satisfying pizza in reent months is at Stop 50 Pizza in Michiana Indiana. Perfectly crispy wood fired pizza. Outstanding when it all comes together. Don't know if its worth a trip just to visit, but if you are ever in the area, its worth checking out.

              More here:

          2. Chicago Magazine, in its August issue, took a look at recently opened pizzerias with wood-burning/coalfired ovens comparing ten of them with a variety of criteria. Take a look here, particularly for the differences between, say, Coalfire and Spaccanapoli:


            3 Replies
            1. re: jbw

              I did a quick glance and it looks like Spacca Napoli wins. I can't imagine how expensive it was to transport Spacca's huge wood fired oven all the way from Italy.

              1. re: amoncada

                The oven wasn't "transported" from Italy. Instead, Jonathan hired a family of professional Napoli-style oven builders to come here and build it for him. Hell, he even had them ship all of the bricks and mortaring supplies too.

                At any rate, while the product at Spacca is exceptional, it cannot be fairly compared to that of Coalfire. Whereas Spaaca prepares traditional Neopolitan-style pizza in a hardwood-burning, hand-built, domed brick oven, Coalfire prepares a New Haven-style pizza in a LUMP COAL-burning, commercial American oven. It's apples to oranges, and they're both great.


                1. re: amoncada

                  It was brought in pieces and assembled here on site, but that was still a lot of weight to ship.

              2. I visited both Coal Fire and Crust this week and both my SO and I enjoyed Crust much better. Even though I liked the laid-back byo environs at Coal-Fire better, the food just wasn't as good. We started with a caprese appetizer that was close to inedible. The tomatoes were cold, straight out of the refrigerator, and consequently really bland and gross. The basil and mozzarella were no good either. But, it's not about the sides, it's about the pie.

                The pizza was way better than the appetizers: good toppings, crisp, but was too burnt for my taste. I liked the smoky flavor but the char encompassed a good portion on the top of the pizza that should have been cheese and toppings. Perhaps those that like a severe char will prefer this style. I was always the kid who patiently toasted his marshmallows to avoid the char, so maybe it's just my aversion to it.

                As for Crust, we had to send one of the pizzas back as it was overly charred, but upon return they fared much better. They call them "flatbreads" in order to serve fancier pizzas, which kind of annoyed me. It's pizza. The goat cheese and mushroom with a bechamel pretty spot on, and the pepperonata, with pepperoni and roasted peppers with a tomato-based sauce, was a nice contrast to the first one. Crust has an overly commercial feel akin to a Cheesecake factory, but the food was very solid. I will be back to Crust, not to Coal Fire. I am very interested in trying Spacca Nappoli next. To each his own I guess.