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The Short Version: Spacca Napoli is an award-winning pizzeria that serves traditional Neapolitan pizzas in Chicago. Under the leadership of Jonathan Goldsmith, the neighborhood restaurant has become a must-visit for pizza lovers the world over, and even Italian natives say the pizza is like a slice of home. It may be cheesy, but many daters choose to dine at Spacca Napoli to enjoy a traditional meal made with love.
Jonathan Goldsmith brings a bucketful of passion to everything he does. When he was a social worker, the teenagers nicknamed him Gazpacho because of his enthusiasm for good food.
Now, as a pizzeria owner, his unbridled enthusiasm is the secret sauce behind his success. Jonathan opened Spacca Napoli in 2006 to bring a taste of Napoli to the streets of Chicago.
After years visiting and living in Italy, Jonathan fell in love with Italian culture, and he admired the hand-crafted care that went into Italy’s wood-fired pizzas. He wanted to cut a slice of that life and carry it overseas, so he got into the kitchen and began making dough the old-fashioned way. That’s how Jonathan and his wife, Ginny Sykes, became the heart and soul behind the Spacca Napoli menu.
Spacca Napoli turned heads with its authentic Neapolitan pizzas, and word quickly spread about this casual pizzeria’s friendly service and five-star food. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Spacca Napoli is one of the most popular and unique pizzerias in the city, and Jonathan takes great pride in his work. Although it takes a lot of effort to run a restaurant this large, Jonathan told us he absolutely loves coming to work every day. So much so, in fact, that he spent his 60th birthday working.
If you’re planning a date night with a special someone, you can book a table at Spacca Napoli to treat yourself to a saucy evening in a one-of-a-kind locale.
Spacca Napoli has a warm and inviting atmosphere, and that starts with the staff. Their smiles and uplifting attitudes make everyone feel as if they’re part of a big, extended family.
Jonathan compared the restaurant’s team to spokes on a wheel. “Every facet and every role is essential to having a good dining experience,” he said.
About 40 staff members work together to make Spacca Napoli something special. Their goal isn’t to crank out hundreds of pizzas in a day, but to lovingly prepare hearty, wood-fired pizzas packed with fresh ingredients. It takes time and attention to do it right, but the end result is well worth the effort.
Many local Italians enjoy this restaurant because its savory aromas and flavor combinations remind them of home.
“Thank you for bringing Chicago the original Neapolitan pizza, which is the emblem of Naples my beloved hometown,” said Rosario Postiglione, who cried when he first took a bite of Spacca Napoli’s authentic pizza. “In a fraction of a second, the best memories of my Neapolitan life went through my mind.”
From the classic Margherita pizza to the beloved Pistacchio pizza (which was created by friend and fellow pizza maker Roberto Caporuscio), Spacca Napoli packs a punch in the flavor department, and you can’t go wrong with anything on this menu. The bar serves wines from every region of Campania. Spacca nurtures strong relationships with its winemakers.
Couples young and old can sit down at Spacca Napoli, have a hearty Italian meal, and make unforgettable memories at one of Chicago’s favorite restaurants.
When asked about his plans for the future, Jonathan said his focus is to keep making pizza using the traditional Neapolitan techniques and ingredients that have beloved for centuries.
“It’s O.K. to stay small and not grow,” he said. “Just do something and do it well. Take care of your staff, give back to the community, and make good food.”
Jonathan never expected to be in the restaurant business. He spent years jumping from career to career. He started out as a clinical social worker in adolescent psychiatry. Then he got his real estate license, working both in sales and construction. Income from apartment rentals supported his family while living overseas in Italy. While there, he worked as a janitor at Ginny’s studio in Florence, and as a bagnino (cabana boy) in Puglia/
Whatever he did, he made sure he always had the flexibility to travel with his wife and live in Italy for months at a time.
Then, one auspicious plane ride to Italy in 2003 changed everything. Jonathan knew this would be his last hurrah before starting a new career — he just didn’t know what that career would be.
As luck would have it, Jonathan was seated next to a Neapolitan man who owned an Italian cafe in New York’s Little Italy. They struck up a conversation about their lives, and the man said, “You should open a pizzeria. Flour, water, salt, and yeast, and you’ll make a lot of money.”
Those words ended up being prophetic. Jonathan made a special trip to Naples to see how they made their pizza so special, and he came back knowing that was what he wanted to do.
In a city where deep-dish pizza is all the rage, Jonathan dared to be different and bring an old-school classic to the forefront of his kitchen. “Most people had their doubts at first,” he recalled in an interview with Serious Eats. “Luckily, I had the opportunity to do my homework, which I believe is one of the most important reasons we were able to make it.”
Both Chicago residents and tourists head to Spacca Napoli when they’re hungry for an artisanal pizza. It’s a casual, walk-in pizzeria where people of all backgrounds can feel comfortable. It’s not unusual to see couples occupying a table for two and sharing a pizza on a special date night.
“When it comes to an ultimate pizza experience, Spacca Napoli delivers with the flavors of Italy,” wrote Blake L. in a Yelp review. “Actually they are as close to Italy as you can come.”
Chicago resident Natasha said Spacca Napoli was her new Saturday night date spot. “Definitely one of the coziest, tastiest, romantic pizza places I’ve been to,” she said.
“My husband and I come here for every anniversary,” said Carolyn A. in yet another review. “The pizzas are incredible — the best in the city, in my opinion — and the staff and atmosphere are always impeccable.”
Jonathan compared taking a date to Spacca Napoli to “bringing someone home to your mother.” It’s an opportunity to share food you love with a person you love. The local pizzeria has a special place in the community, and many couples enjoy landmark dates and celebrations here.
“Spacca Napoli can offer people a sense of ownership and connection,” Jonathan said. “When planning a date, you want to go somewhere special, somewhere where you have this connection to people, to food, and to each other.”
Jonathan jumped into the restaurant business with his pizzaiuolo training and the food and hospitality experience of his youth, and he relied on the quality of his ingredients and the magic of Neapolitan pizza to bring in customers. Spacca Napoli continually astonishes and delights people with its wood-fired pizzas, and it’s always cooking up something new. This casual yet lively pizzeria is perfect for family celebrations, after-work meals, and romantic date nights.
People can explore Spacca Napoli’s menu to get a taste of Italy and savor their time together. The pizzeria is cheesy in all the best ways, and it can facilitate many evenings of laughter and conversation.
Over the years, Jonathan has won over local Chicagoans, visiting Italians, and many other foodies about town. Spacca Napoli’s quality pizzas may get people in the door, but it’s the service and atmosphere that keeps them coming back day after day and year after year.
“As long as we stay true to what we’re doing, we could go for 100 years,” Jonathan said. “In some ways, we’re just beginning.”