fire + wine—Fire Works

July 2014 View more


Photos by Greg Shapps

Once upon a time, the southern end of Lake Michigan was the coal-fired heart of the U.S. steelmaking industry, its shoreline shadowed by the massive coke ovens required to keep pace with the manufacturing demands of the global economy. Fast-forward several decades and multiple boom-bust cycles, and the days of big steel in this part of the country are a faded memory at best.

Yet here in the Western suburbs, it seems as though the big ovens are rising once again, only this time not in the service of automakers and shipbuilders, but of hungry diners seeking thin, chewy, blistered-crust Neapolitan-style pizza pies. While several new shops have sprung up just within the past year or so, a young veteran of this growing pizza belt is fire + wine in nearby Glen Ellyn. It’s a cozy, brick-encased and mostly subterranean space that opened its doors in 2012, changed its name from flour + wine in 2013 and today packs them in as one of the liveliest and most popular destinations on Main Street.

Think Small

CMAG0714_Table_Fire+Wine_9_800pxOf course, there’s more than just pizza here, with the dozen or so wood-fired pies taking their place amid a wider array of salads and pastas. When it opened, fire + wine took the place of a tapas-style Italian restaurant, and the small plate concept lives on in the current incarnation as well, with a variety of shareable more-than-appetizer choices tempting the palate at the outset. But pizzas still loom largest here, meaning that most folks tend to include at least one to share among their selections.

CMAG0714_Table_Fire+Wine_129_800pxThat was certainly the case at our table, even though we kicked things off with a pair of those delicious small plates. The reputation of zucchini fries has been besmirched over the years, probably by one too many associations with the slapdash tempura nightmares of a hundred county fairs, but we had the feeling that this place would pay a little more attention to detail, and the crispy vegetable strips that arrived at our table soundly endorsed that confidence. We also indulged in an Italian bean dip, a rich concoction of garbanzo beans, olive oil, and tahini that was served alongside a pile of warm pizza crust wedges, an auspicious harbinger of the pie to come.

It All Adds Up

CMAG0714_Table_Fire+Wine_52_800pxFrom a pizza slate that included a wild mushroom and kale option and a “Rocketman” combo of chili oil, broccolini and calabrese chiles, we opted for something of a standard in this milieu, the Parma Classic, featuring mozzarella, olive oil, plenty of garlic and razor-thin slices of salty prosciutto, all topped with fresh arugula leaves. This was a pie that was perfectly happy to be the best representation of the form it could be, without resorting to any silly gimmicks or left-turn variations for the sake of simply attempting to do something different. We also sampled a rigatoni dish studded with chicken, spinach and baby mushrooms and dressed in a roasted red pepper cream sauce that confirmed the compact roster of pasta choices as a worthwhile consideration.

CMAG0714_Table_Fire+Wine_105_800pxCurious about what this kitchen might do for a finale, we took but a glance at the dessert menu, if only for completeness, but the intriguing possibilities read too well to pass up. The budino was a delicious butterscotch parfait topped by a thick layer of caramel and flecks of sea salt, while the Italian doughnuts were lightly fried scraps of dough sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with an impossibly rich chocolate sauce for dipping.

Coming in, we assumed the addition sign in place of the word “and” in the restaurant’s name was just a stylistic choice. Amply stuffed a couple of hours later, we realized it was a gastro-algebraic sentence just waiting to be solved: fire + wine = satisfied.

fire + wine
433 N. Main Street
Glen Ellyn