Ciao Bella Pizza is another cross-cultural surprise in Albany Park | Bleader

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ciao Bella Pizza is another cross-cultural surprise in Albany Park

Posted By on 12.05.14 at 03:30 PM

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Tirolese pizza, Ciao Bella Pizza

One of the first food stories I ever wrote was about a pair of Argentine buddies who made terrific gelato and not so terrific pizza in a run down Lawrence Avenue storefront. The Penguin is, sadly, long gone but Lawrence Avenue is still capable of cross-cultural surprises. Witness Albany Park's Ciao Bella Pizza, a bare-bones strip-mall joint flanked by shuttered businesses, run by a pair of Egyptian cousins that specialize in wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. Don't let that throw you. Though pizzaiolo Meme Allam was born and raised in Egypt, he emigrated to Italy after college and spent nearly a quarter century tossing pies in Milan. A few months back he teamed with his cousin Eddy and installed a clay wood-burning oven in a dingy storefront that, appropriately enough, used to be the home of a Korean pho restaurant.

Margherita, Ciao Bella Pizza

You can sense the years of experience as Allam effortlessly spins ever-expanding discs of dough between his hands near the rear of the dining room before paddling them into the forno's flaming maw. These pies are the real thing: thin, fragile platforms of dough with the (typical) slightly mushy nucleus and a raised crust and upskirt stippled with toasty char. The crusts are a bit soft on the inside, a bit crispy on the outside, but lightly glazed with a bright, subtly sweet sauce, and sprinkled with a temperate amount of cheese, they more than support their payloads.
Il forno, Ciao Bella Pizza

Better still, they are a tremendous value, most coming in anywhere from $1 to $9 cheaper than, say, Spacca Napoli or Pizzeria da Nella. In fact, at $6.95 the standard margherita, with regular mozzarella may be the city's best pizza deal (bufala mozz is $4 more). Even so, I challenge anyone to spurn the relatively pricier Tirolese, layered just out of the oven with thin strips of speck that begin to melt atop the light understory of bubbling Gorgonzola ($12.95). There are a dizzying variety of meat, seafood, and cheese pies that include some fairly unusual toppings infrequently seen outside of Italy (hot dogs! apples! tuna!). Eddy reports that they even experimented with a French fry pie, but they feared the neighborhood wasn't ready for that particular Italian expression.

There are a few calzones (nutella!) and antipasti plates on the menu, and the promise of pasta in the future, but the pizzas alone at this no-frills BYO should—if there's any justice—bring this barren strip mall to life.

Ciao Bella Pizza

Ciao Bella Pizza, 3737 W. Lawrence, 773-236-8799,

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Related Locations

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Mike Sula

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Vanya on the Plains The Artistic Home
September 12
Performing Arts
Equus The Edge Theater
September 27

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories