Seattle may not be known for its pizza, but the pie situation here has evolved enormously. These half-dozen newish places make us super happy.
Someone said on social media recently that Seattle doesn’t have good pizza. People say a lot of nonsensical stuff on social media, but this was especially bothersome. It’s true, we used to exist in something of a pizza wasteland — the choices few, and none spectacular. We’re not pizza snobs. We absolutely acknowledge that spots like the Northlake Tavern have a place in the socio-historical pizza pantheon. We still order from Pagliacci. We love a slice from Hot Mama’s, too.
But consider the enormous pizza evolution our city’s undergone. Even big-time chef-moguls like Tom Douglas, with three branches of Serious Pie, and Ethan Stowell, with three editions of Ballard Pizza Company, are getting in on it. Capitol Hill’s gotten five — five — new pizza places within the last year (Dino’s, Sizzle Pie, Ian’s, Pizzeria 88 and Meltdown!?).
When we thought about the pizzerias that make us extremely happy, right here, right now, a half-dozen came to mind right away. With all due respect to the old favorites, our choices are on the newer side. If you still think Seattle doesn’t have any truly great pizza, welcome to the future.
Italian Family Pizza
1028 Madison St., Seattle; 206-538-0040; facebook.com
The Italian family in Italian Family Pizza is very much for real: the Calozzis, from Philadelphia. They’ve got excellent accents. Steve Calozzi and his wife, Jennifer, moved here and gave Seattle something beautiful in 2012: Italian Family Pizza.
Italian Family Pizza first opened downtown, on First, but development displaced it (“They’re leveling this place here, and they’re not looking back,” Steve said). A prolonged search for the right spot ended just recently at the corner of Madison and Boren, in a former check-cashing joint. The interior isn’t fancy, but it doesn’t need to be with pie this good. The tomato sauce is not too salty, not too sweet, not too acidic. (If you don’t like white pie, or clams, or garlic, well, there’s probably no help for you, but if you’re at all on the fence, try this combination here.) Toppings are deployed in just-right amounts: not too crowded, not too sparse. And the crust — a little thicker than Neapolitan, with exactly the right amount of salt and blackened bubbles and chew — is pretty much perfect.
The large is enormous, a small is more than enough for one person, and the prices make this place one of the best values in Seattle. Bottles of Budweiser are $1.50 right now, too, all the time. Welcome to Italian Family Pizza. — Bethany Jean Clement
Bar del Corso
3057 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle; 206-395-2069; bardelcorso.com
Jerry Corso was among the local early evangelists of Neapolitan-style pizza. The fanatics consider his to be a work of art: charred, blistered pizza with a smoky, wheaty-chew, accented with nutty, aged cheese. The canvas is fluffy but firm enough to hold all the tangy-salty topping combos. His salame piccante, with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers and grana cheese, has been on the menu since he opened on Beacon Hill in July 2011. It never gets old. You waited in line to eat it — might as well go all in and get the buffalo milk mozzarella ($3 extra). That pizza is revelatory. — Tan Vinh
Dino’s Tomato Pie
1524 E. Olive Way, Seattle; 206-403-1742; dinostomatopie.com
Brandon Pettit did an obsessive amount of research before opening Delancey in Ballard with his partner Molly Wizenberg in 2009, and the wood-fired pie there is considered by cognoscenti to be among Seattle’s best. We’re only neglecting Delancey in favor of Pettit’s new place, Dino’s Tomato Pie, which richly deserves recognition for filling a particular pizza-hole.
There’s plenty of very good thin-crust pizza in the city, so what Dino’s does with its square pie is even more precious. It’s thick, in a Sicilian mode, but the inch of crust is honeycombed with air bubbles, never heavy. The bottom’s burnished, and the outer edges give the gift of bonus caramelized cheese. To get the pie just right, Pettit had four brick ovens made to his specifications on-site; then, he says, he figured out that the pans had to be properly blackened, too.
Dino’s, on the curve of Capitol Hill’s Olive Way, has windows on the corner and a dark, old-school-style bar in the back; like a mullet, it’s business in the front, party in the rear. Those drinking elsewhere nearby should note that lifesaving slices are now available. — B.J.C.
Pizza with beer? That conjures images of a pie the size of a bike tire with gut-busting toppings sitting in a puddle of pepperoni grease; the pitcher is usually a watered-down lager. Then Matt Storm came to save the day. Or at least that’s how I felt when he opened The Masonry in Lower Queen Anne in summer 2013. He showed that craft beer and Neapolitan-style pizza can be a cheesy-malty love affair.
His wood-fired pizza crust is thin but pillowy, charred but not bitter, slightly crispy but not crackerlike crunchy.
Storm, who worked at beer-geek haunt Malt & Vine in Redmond, brought that suds fetish over to The Masonry, which showcases acclaimed, rare and cultish microbrews such as Monkish Brewing Co. from Torrance, Calif., and Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales from Ann Arbor, Mi.
He’s opening a second pizzeria in Seattle next year. — T.V.
The Independent Pizzeria
4235 E. Madison, Seattle; 206-860- 6110; theindiepizzeria.com
An often-overlooked hero of Seattle pizza, The Independent opened in 2010 in Madison Park, just before you end up in Lake Washington. In the summertime, the place converts to almost all outdoor seating, some of the city’s most pleasant; the inside’s a funny little triangle of a room with a neat flagstone wall. The place feels like one you’d stumble upon on vacation, casual and quirky and sweet, with people in their swimsuits walking down the street.
The pizza at The Independent is serious. The crust is very thin, yet possessed of enough character that it doesn’t flop in the middle, offering a notably chewy-bouncy bite. The bottom is just barely scorched in spots, and a blackened bubble rises on top here and there for a campfire taste. Could the crust use a tiny bit more salt? You’ll eat every bit of it while thinking it over.
The tomato sauce is neither sweet nor acidic; the mozzarella is used in moderation. All in all, it’s a pie of delicious balance and unusual subtlety. — B.J.C.
Windy City Pie
Pickup or limited delivery only, windycitypie.com [Eds. note: now at 1417 Elliott Ave. W., Seattle; no phone]
[Eds. note: Windy City Pie now shares a space in Interbay with Batch 206 Distillery.] Picking up Seattle’s best Chicago-style pizza feels something akin to a drug deal. It requires driving under four overpasses on a tortuous path to an unpropitious ’hood and ends on a street corner where you exchange dough for pizza dough.
That’s because Windy City Pie is technically a catering business. Chicago transplant Dave Lichterman makes his pizza out of a rented commercial oven in Sodo, then meets you on the corner of Airport Way South and South Charlestown Street with the deep dish when you text him upon arrival.
His “Classic,” garlicky house-made sausage, comes with a sweet, smoky layer of caramelized onions, mushroom and red bell peppers, gelled into globs of mozzarella to balance the spicy red sauce. Cheese was caramelized onto the crust for a salty, nutty zing. — T.V.