I was in Chicago this past weekend helping my friend Matt with his non-profit, Buddies Through Baseball, which is a mentor-mentee program in Chicago for taking kids to Cubs games. We talked about some restaurants we’d like to check out during my visit and Bonci made it to the top of the list, which was interesting because: 1) Bonci is a Roman-style pizza; and 2) it’s first location in the United States is in Chicago. My initial thought was “isn’t it sacrilege to eat anything but deep-dish pizza in Chicago?” The answer is absolutely not and here’s why you should check out Bonci during your next trip to the Windy City.
What is Roman-Style Pizza?
Roman-style pizza is cooked in a rectangular shape and uses a more refined flour than Neapolitan-style pizza that requires extra fermentation resulting in a thicker dough that is sturdier than thin-crust pizza but much lighter than deep-dish pizza. In addition, Roman-style pizza doesn’t require an oven at 900-1,000 degrees. Instead, the pizzas are cooked around 500-600 degrees in a traditional oven.
Why does this matter? The dough allows for a greater variety of toppings ranging from lighter vegetable centric pizzas to heavier pizzas involving meat, cheeses, and root vegetables. In sum, Roman-style pizza is a platform for variety, as I will explain now.
What Makes Bonci So Awesome?
For starters Bonci serves pizza based upon weight. I think its fair to say that the goal at Bonci is to try as many different pizzas as possible. With Roman-style pizza one orders individual slices by weight (I probably ordered 1 lb of pizza that came in 3×1 pieces) and your work your way down the menu. Matt and I ordered six different types of pizza that were as simple as eggplant with tomato, to the the more complex involving smoked salmon or prosciutto with onions and potatoes. It’s difficult to explain how awesome the variety is, so here is some food porn for your viewing pleasure.
Besides the food, Bonci has a great atmosphere in the sense that its very European-style eating. There’s a line and a decent wait, and when its finally your turn to order you have the pizza counter to yourself – you are the only customer that matters at that time. Upon sitting down its the little things, such as counter-style seating, a relaxed pace, and people watching that makes this such an enjoyable experience. Also, I have to admit the Italian sparkling water on tap was a nice touch. As far as prices go our checks were in the $15-20 range, but you could certainly go higher or lower based upon how hungry you are.
Where is Bonci?
Fulton Market, which is just west of the Loop. For what its worth, Fulton Market has some of my favorite Chicago restaurants (Duck Duck Goat, Au Cheval, and The Publican) and one of my favorite watering holes, Lone Wolf Tavern. What I will say is don’t be afraid to cast aside the traditional spots for pizza such as Giordanos, Pizzeria Uno, and Lou Malnati’s (on the record, I’m a Lou’s fan) and head west – you won’t regret it and will easily to convert to Roman-style pizza.