Two routes to pizza Nirvana

MEN ON A MISSION: Launched early last year, Pizzeria Bebu has a fervent fan base for its crisp-bottomed thin-crust pizzas with artisanal but ungimmicky toppings. Owner Zach Smith (Nico Osteria, RPM Italian) oversees the 40-seat spot and the sharply focused menu of 13 pizzas, five salads and a few small plates. His single-mindedness pays off with pizzas that have the courage of their convictions. Chef Jeff Lutzow (Nico Osteria, Publican) doesn’t shrink from boldly blackened, puffy perimeters on his pies, giving the crusts an almost caramelized undertone. He’s a virtuoso with the gas-fired brick oven: Toppings are cooked perfectly—no soggy middles.

WHAT TO HAVE: Hard to make a mistake. Half-and-halfs double the fun. We were most wowed by the Funghi ($20), whose fleshy wild forest mushrooms had real presence and whose roasted garlic, ricotta, pecorino and drizzle of aged balsamic were perfect partners. We love seafood-plus-ham combos, so we also dug the White Squall ($22) with its littleneck clams and house-smoked bacon on a panna (white) base. A market pizza changes frequently, depending on the season.

BEETS. REALLY. Definitely give this salad ($14) a shot. Its superpower lies in beets prepared two ways: roasted, and roasted and marinated, which produces an almost plumlike sweetness and texture. Tahini, almonds, arugula, sheep’s milk feta and mint add to the pleasure.

WHERE IT’S AT: In the Clybourn Corridor, Bebu is worth a cab ride on a slow day at the office. Or call it a business meeting and head north with colleagues for a pizza-fueled confab any day.

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