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Balena Serves Chicago's Most Expensive Pizza

By Sarah Freeman
December 5, 2013
Photo by: Nick Murway

With 20 grams of freshly shaved black and white truffles, a sprinkling of Cinco Jotas Jamón ibérico de Bellota, wood-fired crust and a glass of 2008 Gaja "Dagromis" Barolo to wash it all down, this pizza party is not for the stingy. The new, oh-so-over-the-top truffle pizza at Balena is available for the duration of European truffle season, now through approximately early January. Originally this pie was priced at $500, then marked down to $250 and finally settled at $99 - an insane bargain considering the amount of truffles and quality of jamón gracing it. The restaurant is not making a profit off of the extravagant pizza.

Why, then, did Balena put this truffle-covered masterpiece on the menu? Because when importer, gourmand and modern-day pirate Rodrick Markus of Rare Tea Cellar comes to you with some of the finest imported truffles and most expensive ham in the world, you show it off. In the words of executive chef Chris Pandel, the other mad genius behind the pizza, “I’d go out and get it for 100 bucks, but you have to know what you’re eating.” For the record, what you're eating is jamón taken from only the rear leg of a pure-bred pig raised in a single pasture of Jabugo, Spain, black truffles harvested from the forests of Perigord, France and Alba white truffles flown in directly from Italy. You are eating the most expensive pizza in Chicago.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    The pizza starts with Balena’s traditional pizza dough, which is hand stretched into a 12-inch circle and placed on a wood paddle.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    The dough is covered with a cream sauce made with truffle mortadella, leeks, heavy cream and a splash of vermouth.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    The cheese is very sparse on this pie, but it still tips the gourmet scale with a combination of Taleggio, Fontina and mozzarella.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    The pizza is then baked for about six minutes until the crust puffs, forming airy bubbles that develop a dark brown char.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    Once the pizza is removed from the oven, extra thick slices of the Cinco Jotas Jamón ibérico de Bellota are added.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    After the ham, the pizza gets its first shaving of truffles - the black truffles from France - followed by scallions and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    The Alba white truffles come next in a furry or aromatic goodness that fills the restaurant with the rich and earthy scent.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    Once the chefs are done making it rain with 20 grams of truffles (the average truffle weighs 12 to 15 grams), the crust is brushed with olive oil.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    The pie is sliced into eight pieces - that’s $12.50 per slice. Sure, you could buy an entire pizza for that, but it will not come covered in a mountain of truffles.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    The suggested wine pairing for the pie is a 2008 Gaja "Dagromis" Barolo. The wine comes from the same aromatic region of Italy as the Alba truffles.

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Places Mentioned

Balena

Italian • Lincoln Park

Food24 Decor23 Service23 Cost$53
 
 
 
 
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