Naples native Giorgia Somma’s two-level temple of Italian cheese opens today on the Magnificent Mile. The Mozzarella Store Pizza & Caffe at 822 N. Michigan Avenue across from the historic Water Tower functions as a retail base for a Warren, Indiana dairy farm in which Somma invested in 2015, offering soft, white globes of mozzarella as well as Neapolitan pizzas, small plates, and desserts. The space formerly housed Hershey’s Chocolate World, which closed in 2016.
The bilevel space designed by the Italian architects Bilodunk Studios is sleek and modern, featuring white marble counters, black chairs and wall treatments, and a few floral touches to breathe life into the space. Vessels of golden olive oil sit on each table, and decorative wooden pizza “peels,” shovel-like tools for pulling pies out of the oven, populate the wall behind the counter.
Several sections that flow into one another divide the space, including the Caffè, a small retail area, a grab-and-go counter, and a pizzeria dining area. There’s also a sizable dog-friendly patio that seats 42 at two- and four-top tables along Pearson Street and Michigan Avenue. The retail offerings include imported products like San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, grilled eggplant, grilled peppers, and truffle cream.
Mozzarella and burrata are the obvious stars at the Mozzarella Store. They are made daily by Campania, Italy native Armando Vanacore, who has a decade of experience creating cheeses. The dairy delights are offered with a variety of accouterment, including burrata stuffed with pistachio cream, walnuts, and black truffles. Customers can also try “sfoglia,” sheets of mozzarella filled with ingredients salumi and grilled vegetables.
The cheeses are integrated into most facets of the menu, including hand-tossed Neapolitan pizzas. Ready for a rush of customers, the space houses a custom built-in oven that can cook up to 20 pizzas at a time. Small plate offerings include a classic Caprese and Caponata Napoletana (tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, arugula, and anchovies on a tartallo, or crisp round bread).
Somma also offers fresh pastries created and baked in-house each day. Sweaty shoppers can cool off with a Brioche Con Gelato (a soft, Italian take on an ice cream sandwich with gelato and brioche) and Naples’s popular sfogliatella (flaky, layered pastries filled with sweetened ricotta). Patrons can also catch a second wind with a few sips of the Mozzarella Store’s espresso, made with an Italian machine that representatives say is completely unique in Chicago. The store’s caffè manager trained in Italy for nearly a month to use the machine and creates classic espresso drinks as well as specialty offerings like the “Caffè del Nonno,” a blend of chilled espresso, panna (cream) and fluffy cream formed from whipped sugar. Diners can also expect a small selection of Italian wines and beers.
Take a tour of the chic space and menu offerings in the photographs below. The Mozzarella Store Pizza & Caffe opens today on Michigan Avenue.
The Mozzarella Store Pizza & Caffe, 822 N. Michigan Avenue, open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.