When Logan Square's Ciao Napoli Pizzeria closed last year, the restaurant group behind the neighboring Telegraph Wine Bar quickly snatched up the space. Since opening last November, their new restaurant and bar, Reno, has taken Chicago by storm (most recently landing on Eater's Pizzeria Heatmap). The osteria launched with morning, midday, and nighttime menus, offering up wood-fired bagels and pastries in the a.m., sandwiches at lunch, and an impressive array of pastas and wood-fired pizzas come dinner.
The tiled oven that anchors the low-key dining room is a Ciao leftover. You've got to wonder if its presence in the vacant space helped inspire Telegraph's executive chef, Johnny Anderes—who now heads Reno's kitchen, as well—to lead restaurant group's charge into pizza-making. What chef inherits that kind of hardware and doesn't figure out a way to put it to good use?
And Anderes has done just that. The style he's cultivated at Telegraph is one of rustic elegance; he's as confident in plating clean, modernist compositions as he is in building more hearty dishes. Now that he's working in the medium of pizza, he seems to be embracing more of the latter, with excellent results. The team manning the oven has been consistently hitting a nice, healthy char along the rim, bathing the pies in the smoky aroma of the wood-fired oven. Indeed, there's a lot to like here. I wouldn't go so far as to say they upset the pantheon of the city's finest pies, but factoring in their reasonable prices and the quality of ingredients, Reno certainly ranks as a go-to spot for pizza in Logan Square.
The Reno ($9), topped with mozzarella, fresh basil, and red sauce, is the restaurant's Margherita pie—my bellwether of choice when it comes to judging pizza quality. In this case, it signaled that Anderes has settled on a taut and elastic crust that transitions from chewy at the center, to crispy and flaky along the cornicione. At times that elasticity bordered on toughness, but for the most part I was digging how doughy and resilient the crust was—even with a well-done pie. The red sauce, while pleasantly rich, seemed short on punch and acidity. Its big, yet somewhat flat, flavor dominated, keeping the cheese from any memorable form self-expression.
The Paulina ($12) is a far more dynamic and balanced pie than the Reno. A bold and spicy pepperoni, sourced from Chicago's Paulina Meat Market, gives this pizza its name, but it's hardly the only star topping. A show-stopping jalapeño pesto emerges from the mozzarella and red sauce base. Frankly, I didn't expect the pesto—scattered in creamy, spicy little dollops—to work quite so splendidly as it did.
Checking the underside of Reno's pizza reveals a beautifully marbled pattern of char. Sure, that oven may be a hand-me-down, but Reno is rocking it with pride.