Venezuela may not be known of its pizza, but the country is home to nearly 5 million with Italian ancestry, so it shouldn’t be much of a shock that there’s a bit of a history. Marcial Bereciartu’s grandmother was one of those with ties to Italy, bringing with her recipes that are used at her family’s restaurant, Rubén Pizza, in Merida, Venezuela. It’s been around for more than four decades.
Like his grandmother, Bereciartu is bringing those recipes to a new home. This week, Bereciartu debuts Strapoli Pizzeria on the Lincoln Park and Lakeview border, a family effort that involves Bereciartu’s parents. Bereciartu sees Strapoli, an all-day cafe, as breaking away from some of the rules that dominate authentic Neapolitan pizzerias which have specific rules. He wants to give customers flexibility to pick their toppings; often pizziolas won’t offer substitutions. Strapoli will allow customers to build their own pizzas and — gasp — they’ll also offer takeaway and delivery. Neapolitan pizza makers often wag their fingers, feeling that their thin crusts will degrade in seconds — their pizza is meant to be immediately consumed. Just ask the vendors at Pizza City USA about the importance of ovens. Well, maybe not.
Each pie is about 10 inches and baked 90 seconds in a 900-degree oven. The crust is dairy free. Why is that important? Bereciartu’s childhood friend, Daniel Briceno, has answers. Briceno is from the same town as Bereciartu and he moved to Chicago years ago and has started the Fons, a mini-chain serving vegan empanadas. The original location is around the corner from Strapoli and Bereciartu says he’ll be using vegan cheese from Fons, often a costly add on that doesn’t melt properly causing textural imbalances. Bereciartu is confident in his friend’s product.
But Strapoli isn’t just about pizza. They’ll have egg sandwiches for breakfast and caprese sandwiches for lunch. The mornings will also feature Dark Matter Coffee drinks for an all-day cafe Bereciartu hopes the Lakeview and Lincoln Park community embraces.
Does Bereciartu predict he’ll follow in his friend’s footsteps, as Briceno has opened three Fons locations in Chicago, on in the suburbs, and another in New York? One is enough, for now, Bereciartu says.
Strapoli Pizzeria and All-Day Cafe, 545 W. Diversey Parkway, opening Friday, October 20.