An Old Town institution, Dinotto, closed Thanksgiving Day weekend after 30 years in three neighborhood locations. Though it’s been only a few days since Dinotto’s closure, there’s excitement already building in the space. Gallucci, with pies from a champion member of the U.S. Pizza Team, should soon bring traditional Neapolitan pies to Old Town. The pizzeria should open in mid-January, just south of North and Wells.
Dinotto also served pizza, but chef Gianni Gallucci will bring his special style to the space. Gallucci is the pizza champion in charge of the new operation. He’s been a consultant, helping to open some of Chicago’s best pizzerias. He didn’t want to mention the stops on his pizza resume, but he’s now ready to open his own restaurant.
“I’m 33, coming off a couple big wins and pizza championships worldwide,” Gallucci said. “It’s now time for me to make my name.”
Gallucci also had a mobile pizza oven called Zero Ottantuno. Workers are building a wood-burning oven on site, flying in employees from Italian manufacturer Marra Forni to custom-fit it into the restaurant’s tight quarters. His accolades include the 2017 Caputo Cup, which takes place annually at the Pizza & Pasta Northeast convention. He topped his winning pie with buffalo ricotta, black truffles, prosciutto di Parma, red piennolo del Vesuvio, and summer black truffle. He intends to serve pizzas with white and black truffles at his new restaurant, when the ingredients are seasonally available.
He described his style as traditional. He competed in the Pizza Napoletana STG category (the Italian abbreviation translates English to “Traditional Specialty Guaranteed”). He bristles at attempts to modernize the style in ways that, in his view, cheapen the tradition. For Gallucci, that includes “neo Neapolitan” pizzerias that produce crispier crusts aimed to pander to American tastes.
“They want the fame of a Neapolitan pizzeria without the headaches,” Gallucci said.
Gallucci wants to hook new customers with his adherence to quality and tradition. Many Americans don’t know what true Neapolitan pizza tastes like because “they’ve been lied to and cheated” by pizzerias serving less-than-authentic food, he said. The opportunity to educate the customer by giving them a chance to try true Neapolitan pizza is something that excites Gallucci.
The buffalo ricotta will come from Italy, but not all the ingredients will be imported. Customers won’t find pepperoni at Gallucci, but the pizza champion said he wants to work with West Town’s acclaimed Tempesta Market to perhaps bring some nduja and other meats to Wells Street. Gallucci is also proud of his gluten-free crust. When customers from other pizzerias have ordered his recipe and taste it, he said some have anxiously called for their server to ask if they mistakenly brought out a pizza with gluten.
“It’s that good,” Gallucci said.
Eventually the restaurant will offer carry out, but Gallucci doesn’t plan to provide delivery. Part of that is respect for traditional Neapolitan rules which discourage the practice because it degrades pizza quality. It’s also out of disregard for delivery services, like GrubHub, which take a healthy chunk of profits away from restaurants, he said.
On the beverage side, expect amaro and a fun list of Italian wines that won’t gouge the customer. Gallucci wants an amaro cart to patrol the restaurant so customers can pick out a potion from their seats. The restaurant’s vibe will be dark and sleek, he said.
A popular stop near Second City comedy club, Dinotto moved to the 1551 N. Wells Street location in 2014. Before the move, the Italian restaurant occupied the space around the corner where Old Town Mexican institution Adobo Grill stands at 215 W. North Avenue.
Come back for more news on Gallucci in the coming weeks, and check out the Instagram page.
Gallucci, 1551 N. Wells Street, Scheduled to open second week of January.