Barcello’s “Brick” Oven

Michael Nagrant / 04.03.08

Yesterday, Chicago magazine’s Dish reported on Mado restaurant, a new venture from Robert and Allison Levitt (del Toro, La Tache, 312 Chicago, North Pond vets) opening in the old Barcello’s space (1647 N. Milwaukee). Two days ago, I was in the space working on a story (stay tuned) about the new restaurant, I was fascinated by this behemoth of an oven, a 50 year old or so vintage Middleby-Marshall pizza oven that they’d inherited from the old Barcello’s folks (in addition to a trove of icons depicting the Virgin Mary and an old bottle of mezcal with a worm at the bottom).

The oven is as big as the hull of a Bluebird schoolbus and looks a little like it could double as a cremation chamber (Rob Levitt joked that his sous chef Chris Turner said he was going to lock the restaurant interns in it.) Though it occupies like 200 square feet, it works, so it’s likely going to stay in the space.

What’s especially interesting is that Barcellos was famous for touting it’s “Brick Oven” pizza (at least the previous owners were). While the Middleby-Marshall is possibly lined with refractory brick, it’s a gas-powered commercial conveyor style oven. It’s certainly vintage, but it’s not old and charming like a real brick oven. Unless the old owners removed a second brick oven when they left, and that would be doubtful with an oven like the Middleby taking up so much real estate, their claims about “brick oven” pizza are a little hollow. Though, the future is what matters, and Rob and Allison should prove to be great stewards of the new space. I can’t wait to bring you the full story.