AWARD TOUR

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The winter villas and greenhouses outside Fiamme Pizza are gone, replaced with large, summer cabanas and patio furniture.

Even as COVID-19-restrictions are being lifted and indoor dining fully reopened, the Naperville restaurant is focused on its outdoor seating, the centerpiece of which are the nearly two dozen wooden, covered shelters that fill the entire parking lot.

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The exterior of Fiamme Pizza has multiple tiny villas and greenhouses surrounding the restaurant.

The Naperville establishment took creative and expensive approaches to provide outdoor seating for customers this winter amid a pandemic and indoor dining restrictions with domes, winter villas and greenhouses.

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It’s rare to meet a child who doesn’t love pizza. They crave the delicious chewy dough, savory tomato sauce, melted cheese, and all the toppings their little heart’s desire. This Neapolitan-style pizzeria boasts fresh ingredients and pizza baked in an 800-degree oven.

Kids love to watch the pizzaiolo build and bake a pizza right in front of their eyes. The pizza and salad lunch special is a sure bet, but there’s always Grubhub if your little one wants to pair it with a Pixar movie. 

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Looking for a date-night-worthy pizza spot? This warm, decidedly upscale spot is the city's best bet. Food-wise, 27-year-old chef Preston Gaspar holds fast to the restaurant's Neapolitan roots, going as far as to enlist imported double-milled 00 Caputo flour in his dough.

Pizzas hit the 800-degree oven for two minutes before emerging with their characteristic leopard-spotted crust. Got dietary restrictions? Fiamme has you covered, churning out gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan pies using separate utensils

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What we're talking about when we talk about pizza is, really, the crust. Toppings matter, of course, but the baseline for critiquing pizza is on merits of dough and cooking method. Think about it this way: If you don't have a good crust, you don't have a good pizza, no matter what's on top.

In Naperville, the 3-year-old Fiamme adheres to the strict guidelines of Neapolitan crusts: double-zero flour, an 800-degree brick oven that produces blistering pies in less than two minutes. But I'm drawn to the restaurant because of a seldom-seen variant called montanara, or pizze fritte — or, in more alluring terms, fried pizza.

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Enjoy a taste of Italy without traveling around the globe when you visit Fiamme Pizzeria Napoletana in downtown Naperville. Since 2012, the Italian eatery on North Washington Street has delighted diners with their traditional Naples-inspired dishes.

"Our goal is to provide the best Neapolitan pizza around, and I think we do that," said Rob Kmetz, Fiamme general manager. "We have actually had people come back from Italy saying the pizza there is exactly like we have at Fiamme."

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While the star at Fiammé is undoubtedly the pizza, the menu offers a fair amount of variety as well. Starters include traditional favorites like bruschetta and calamari, along with a handful of salads. In a nod to the impending fall season, we opted for a not-terribly-Italian harvest salad, featuring apples, walnuts, cranberries, and gorgonzola in a delicious balsamic vinaigrette.

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Paper-thin roast beef meets briny giardiniera on a standup crust. Sides of olive oil (plain and seasoned) for dipping mean no dough is left behind.

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