Brick House—Gia Mia Pizza Bar

August 2015 View more

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Call it “ubrickquity.” Just as the presence of a post office was once the civic requirement for a town’s very existence, so now is the wood-fired brick oven an apparent necessity on the west suburban culinary scene. From the tri-cities to Glen Ellyn to a mini-boom right here in Naperville, the brick oven has become the de rigueur kitchen accessory—the hot new trend, if you’re feeling shameless.   

NMAG0815_TableforTwo_GiaMia-0067_800pxIf this is indeed the new standard for dining relevance, the folks at Gia Mia Pizza Bar in downtown Wheaton are officially part of the conversation, with their imposing open-maw furnace anchoring the prime Hale Street space formerly occupied by the Genghis Grill. But with so many fires suddenly burning throughout DuPage County, the challenge these days is not just getting in the game, but figuring out how to stand out among the growing legion of blister-crust pizza-slingers.

Hot in Wheaton

NMAG0815_TableforTwo_GiaMia-0321_800pxAt Gia Mia, the strategy seems to be to simply take the best of what’s out there and apply enough love to make it something novel. To this end, owner Brian Goewey has borrowed plenty from his previous experience at fire + wine in Glen Ellyn, building his dining room around that all-important oven and his menu around the thin, chewy pizzas that emerge from it after just a few short minutes under a watchful eye and intense heat.

But this is less a sequel to Goewey’s former outpost than a different story based on the same general concept. From the sleek, blonde-wood hallway of a dining room to the small plates of mostly locally-sourced provisions to the titular 12-seat pizza bar, there are just enough unique touches to help distinguish Gia Mia from many of its wood-burning brethren.

Pizza and More

NMAG0815_TableforTwo_GiaMia-0046_800pxTaking full advantage of that big oven right off the bat, we started with an order of the piping-hot, rosemary-studded focaccia pizza bread, but found the appetizer slate just too loaded with tempting possibilities to stop there. So we opted for two more creations from opposite sides of the sweet-salty divide—lightly battered zucchini fritters and whipped ricotta with fresh honey complete with honeycomb segment.

NMAG0815_TableforTwo_GiaMia-0366_800pxWith more than a dozen different variations from which to choose, pizza is clearly the star of the show at Gia Mia, but given the attractive entrée options we decided to go big, sharing not only a straightforward four-cheese pie but a pair of well-executed pasta dishes as well. In doing so, we concluded that additional sides would push our meal into the realm of the ridiculous, and therefore reluctantly passed on a host of shareable vegetable and salad options, including charred cauliflower and heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella.

NMAG0815_TableforTwo_GiaMia-0234_800pxStill, the garden sacrifice proved prescient when the entrées arrived. The pizza was exactly the chewy slice of heaven one would expect, fired to perfection with a light sauce, a bit of sea salt and generous clumps of mozzarella, fontina, parmesan and grana pandano scattered about. The pastas proved equally persuasive—a large helping of massive rigatoni noodles bathed in a creamy, slightly spicy vodka sauce on one side, and tagliatelle anchoring a well-stocked bowl of garlicky white beans, crumbled sausage, rapini and plum tomatoes on the other. 

NMAG0815_TableforTwo_GiaMia-0117_800pxLike our dessert choice—a compact mug of wonderfully rich Italian cream pudding topped with blueberry sorbet and fresh blueberries—the pastas didn’t really have any direct connection to that hulking brick oven. But like everything coming from the Gia Mia kitchen, they seemed to embody its inviting warmth and communal spirit. There’s a reason it’s the focal point of the place, after all. 

Gia Mia Pizza Bar
106 N. Hale Street

Photos by Greg Shapps