After Tony Mantuano first dreamt up the cavernous, multifaceted Italian-dining emporium that ultimately became Chicago's Bar Toma, the job soon fell to longtime Spiaggia sous chef Erik Freeberg (now Bar Toma's Chef di Cucina) to perfect the dough that would form the basis of every pizza turned out at the restaurant. On a busy day, Freeberg says, that can easily mean 500 pies.
In the lead-up to Bar Toma's opening, late last year, Freeberg spent weeks testing out doughs until he landed on one that delivered the taut, crispy, Roman-style crust he was after. He would whip up batches with his home mixer, carefully noting the ingredients and their proportions, then cook them in Spiaggia's ovens (Bar Toma's wood-fired brick oven hadn't been constructed yet). Freeberg and Mantuano collaborated on the nearly 20-pizza menu, which runs the gamut from familiar Margherita to more seductive pies like the Merguez, topped with spiced lamb sausage, and Mantuano's namesake pizza, which includes rapini, guanciale, mozzarella, and chiles. But what caught my eye on this menu of stunners was the Capriole Goat Cheese—a combination of creamy Indiana-made goat cheese, toasted hazelnuts, melted leeks, fragrant thyme, jammy dates, and rich Acetaia San Giacomo balsamico.
Chef Freeberg was nice enough to walk me through how this pie is made. Turns out, for all its complex flavors and range of textures, Bar Toma's Capriole Goat Cheese pizza is actually pretty straightforward to make at home. The trick is just knowing when in the process to add certain toppings. Oh, and getting your hands on some really good balsamic.
What You'll Need (for one pizza)
- 1 portion of dough
- 100 percent extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Capriole goat cheese
- Leeks, melted
- Medjool dates, pitted
- Hazelnuts, de-skinned, toasted, and rough-chopped
- Dried thyme
- Pecorino Romano, grated
- Acetaia San Giacomo 8-year balsamic vinegar
About the author: Roger got his start writing about Chicago bars and restaurants for Chicagoist. Now you can follow Roger as he rips a path through his city's food- and drinkscape with his Serious Eats: Chicago columns Knockout Noodles and The Vegetarian Option, and through his coverage of the local cocktail scene for Serious Drinks.