Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. One of the newest “up and coming” areas goes by the acronym SoNo (south of North Avenue) – that area just along the Clybourn corridor easily accessible from the North/Clybourne Red Line stop. In Italian, “sono” also means “I am.” Add those two concepts together and mix that recipe with a dash of awesome food, and you find yourself at a superb restaurant called Sono Wood Fired Pizzeria. I was recently invited to try a number of items from the menu, and Sono is now on my “must return” list of restaurants in that area.
Chef owner John McLean has created a warm and sophisticated environment to highlight his tremendous skill in the kitchen. One if his primary focuses (hence the name) is the thin-crust, wood-fired pizza. According to McLean, “There are a lot of pizzas out there. Some are as thick as quiche, others are loaded with cheese, however I’m a huge fan of a crust that’s crispy, chewy and a bit smoky when cooked in a wood fired oven.”
I agree! And the pizza at Sono is all that and more. On my visit I sampled two of these delightfully crispy/smoky/chewy offerings. The pizza menu is divided into “PIzze Rossa” (red) and “Pizze Blanche” (white). On the “red” side the Soppressata Diavola (wood-fired onions, fiore di latte, basil ) has appeared on the top of many pizza lover’s lists here in Chicago – and for excellent reason. There’s just enough “heat” to give it a zing, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed by it. The blending of flavors, spicy and warm, are perfect with the smoky crunch of the thin crust and the basil adds a particularly nice spicy/herbal layer.
For a “white” pizza, try the Wild Mushroom (Fontina, crispy sage, white truffle oil). Mushroom lovers rejoice! This is a perfect balance of different wild mushrooms with just enough cheese to provide flavor without obscuring the mushroom flavors. The addition of the truffle oil (yes!) elevates this one up several notches. For fans of “umami” this one is a must!
But wait . . . there’s more! Wood-fired pizza may be the focus on the restaurant’s name but the rest of the menu is equally worth a try. The appetizer menu has a number of great options including a serving of Sono’s special “Made To Order” Mozzarella. Made in-house, this mozzarella appears in many of the other dishes (listed as Fiore di Latte) but just served alone with the wood-fired crostini and high-quality olive oil it makes a perfect starter to a meal.
The menu also offers a series of seven different Bruschette – available on the wood-fired crostini or in a gluten-free option. All of them combine ingredients in a very inventive fashion. If you’re like me and cannot make up your mind, simply order the Bruschette Flight and pick five of the seven. One of the most appealing for me was the Fig Bruschetta served with Granny Smith apples, gorgonzola, crisp coppa, and drizzled with balsamic. Even so, all the others were flavorful and well worth a sampling.
The salad menu also offers several different combinations, including the option of a flight of three. I tasted the Spinach & Arugula, the Wood-Roasted Beet, and the Zuchinni Carpaccio. All three were superb, but as a confirmed beet-lover I definitely recommend trying that one – a lovely blend of roasted beets, arugula, goat cheese, and tarragon vinaigrette.
The wine list is relatively small, but definitely intriguing. I tend to be a fan of lesser-known varietals, and to my happy surprise they had both a Gruner Veltliner and a Tannat by the glass. They were also testing out a Pinotage during my visit, and it proved to be a perfect pairing with the Soppressata Diavola pizza. If they have added that to the menu by the glass, I highly recommend the pairing.
Not to be outdone by the wine list, however, is the excellent craft cocktail menu. For a great aperitif, check out the Funky Beats Yo (Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Amaro, orange, simple syrup, bitter). This is their creative take on a Manhattan but definitely with a unique “twist.” For a digestif, my suggestion is the Negroni (Death’s Door gin, sweet vermouth, Campari). Strong (very strong) and well-balanced this is one of those wonderfully traditional Italian drinks that makes a perfect ending to a magnificent Italian feast.
Sono Wood Fired Pizzeria is located at 1582 North Clybourn Avenue, Chicago, IL. You can reach them by phone at (312) 255-1122. For more information, visit their website, follow them on Twitter or check out their Facebook page.
Note: All photos courtesy of Sono Wood Fired unless otherwise credited.