1235 West Lake Street Chicago, IL 60607 (map); 312-850-9870; macellochicago.com
Pizza Style: A non-descript version of thin crust
Oven Type: Wood-burning
The Skinny: Some delicious and unique toppings aren't enough to overcome significant flaws
Price: Nearly all pizzas are $13
In the food world, Puglia, the region of Italy located in the heel of the boot, is known for many things. Puglia produces most of the country's olive oil and most of Europe's pasta; it's also the primary supplier of fish to the rest of the country and is one of the largest sources of wine in the world. Puglia is not known for its pizza, but at Macello, a Pugliese restaurant in the West Loop, the pies have gotten some favorable reviews.
Physically, Macello is one of the more interesting pizzerias I've been to. The building used to be home to a slaughterhouse, hence the name of the restaurant (macello translates to slaughterhouse). The interior features a lot of heavy dark wood furniture, exposed wooden trusses and a skylight, as well as brightly painted walls and multi-colored ornaments hanging from the ceiling. And in the center of the place is a large wood-burning oven out of which come some very attractive pizzas.
The Pizza Macello, the better of the two pies I tried, comes topped with burrata, cerignola olives, and Barese sausage, along with mozzarella cheese and sauce. Other than the burrata being cold and on the chewy side, the toppings were really good. The mozzarella was nicely melted and tasted relatively fresh and the sauce, made from Cirio plum tomatoes, was light.
The cerignola olives, which come in both red and green, are particularly fruity and meaty and are not stored in a salty brine. Barese sausage, a specialty of Puglia, is traditionally made with pork and lamb along with garlic and parsley. Our server told us this version also contained beef, but it tasted mostly like pork. The flavor of the meat was fine, but it, like many components at Macello suffered from not having enough salt.
The Pizza Vegetariana comes with a medley of grilled vegetables, mozzarella, tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, basil, and shaved ricotta salata. It seems the vegetables change based on the season and this time the assortment included asparagus, red peppers, and olives. Again, the flavors worked well together but suffered from a lack of salt across the board. The ricotta salata, a hard, aged version of the creamy cheese, helped somewhat in that regard, but not enough.
Despite the light hand with salt, I could have stood behind these pizzas had the crust been better. They were dense and overly chewy, and also in need of salting. I did appreciate the contrast between the crunchy exterior and the chewy interior, but the chewiness far outlasted the crunchiness.
It's always good to stumble on quality toppings I haven't had before and I am now eager to try cerignola olives again soon. But it's going to have to happen somewhere other than Macello. The pizzas weren't bad, but the combination of the lack of salt, the dense and dry crust, and the carelessness that led to cold burrata being served is too much for me to overlook for a while.