Interview with Nella Grassano: chef and restaurateur of Nella Pizza e Pasta

Nella Pizza e Pasta: an authentic Neapolitan restaurant

Where did you grow up and how did you end up in Chicago?

I was born and raised in Naples, Italy. The story of my trek to Chicago is rather romantic. I met my husband Frank, a resident of the Bridgeport neighborhood, when I was visiting Chicago. My grandmother introduced us. We decided to get married and live here.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

I’m from a four generation of a pizza making family, and I learning the craft of Neapolitan pizza at the age of six.  This immediately became my passion.

Why was Hyde Park chosen as the location for NELLA?

We were approached by the University of Chicago and they asked if we would like to locate in this new building [1125 E 55th Street]. We live close to Hyde Park. At the time, our restaurant was a big commute to Lincoln Park. This was a marvelous chance to build a great restaurant that is close to our home.

What makes NELLA different from the American caricature of an Italian restaurant?

Nella Pizza e Pasta is an authentic Neapolitan restaurant. When I hear about local cuisine, I do laugh. That is Italian cuisine. In Naples, we are on the coast. Therefore, our cuisine is heavy on seafood. We do not have a ton of heavy sauces on our pastas or dressings on our salads. If you come to Nella, you will be eating as our family eats in Naples.

What’s your ‘Last Supper’ meal? Your ‘Death Row’ meal, as Anthony Bourdain puts it.

Insalata mista, Our wonderful fritto misto and our Nella D.O.P. pizza. Oh, and a nice Italian red wine.



1125 E 55th Street
Chicago, IL 60615

(773) 643-0603


Sunday: 9:30am – 10:00am
Monday – Thursday: 10:30am – 10:00pm
Friday: 10:30am – 11:00pm
Saturday: 9:30am – 11:00pm




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