Chef John Sundstrom of fine-dining Lark fame brings upscale-quality ingredients to his pies, getting into the where’s-the-city’s-best-pizza game.
At Southpaw, chef John Sundstrom’s new wood-fired pizza place, they don’t sell slices. Or, rather, the slice has been rebranded as a “quarter” — that’s a quarter of a 15-inch pie, which, as slices go, isn’t especially enormous. A quarter at Southpaw costs $6 (a whole pie’s $22). And that’s vegetarian — to add meat is $1 per quarter, and between $3 and $5 per whole pie, depending on the kind.
A $2.50 slice of pepperoni from Hot Mama’s over on Pine will probably still look worth the walk to starving Seattle University students. But for those in search of Seattle’s best pizza — and willing to pay a premium for it — the question is: Are Sundstrom’s pies worth the price?
For background, Sundstrom’s the chef of longtime fine-dining favorite Lark, with its highly praised food and painstakingly local sourcing. In 2015, his first venture into faster/more casual territory, Slab Sandwiches + Pie, made our Seattle Times top-20 new cheap eats list. (Get the 12-hour brisket sandwich!)
926 12th Ave., Seattle (Central District);
206-323-5278; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily; southpawpizza.com
Southpaw’s space will be familiar for longtime Sundstrom fans: It’s where the intimate first iteration of Lark used to be. Overhead, the room’s exposed wooden beams look lovely. Down below, wall graphics of (presumably southpaw) boxers with slogans like “right in the kisser” and a giant-screen TV lend a neo-sports bar feel. But you’re not here for the design.
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The pizza: Southpaw’s name “is a nod to doing things a little differently… somewhere between Neapolitan and New York style.” The crust achieves a few nicely blackened blisters without any sogginess, and it seemed as if a little sprinkle of salt had been smartly applied to the edges for extra savor. It’s made with a custom blend of wheat milled by fifth-generation Smalls Family Farms in Walla Walla.
Red sauce has Bianco DiNapoli organic tomatoes, and other ingredients are taken equally seriously. “We’re not just backing up the pizza supply truck to unload standard mozzarella,” Sundstrom says, and the Left Hook pie is a delicious example of the quatro formaggi form, with Kurtwood Farms’ coveted Flora’s Cheese, buttery straciatella, whole-milk mozzarella, and Grana Padano. Other toppings include wild mushrooms, lardo, organic egg and black kale. Starting to see where that $6 price tag comes from? (Service is also included.)
The “pizza bones”: Listed as just “Straciatella,” this is Southpaw’s sleeper: two huge, puffy, chewy-but-tender breadsticks with extra-large portions of both the salty-spreadable cheese and an herby, marvelous pesto-hummus, plus mixed olives.
The salads, sides, and sweets: Local greens come with (too few) candy-striped beets, mint, and a smoked pine-nut tahini dressing; a seasonal sugar-pie pumpkin salad has pecans, dates, and blue cheese for added interest. There’s also burrata, chile butter/ndjua roasted potatoes, and more. For dessert, zeppole with blackberry jam and house-made soft-serve both sound great.
The upshot: While what’s best is always subjective, serious pizza lovers will want to give Southpaw a try — and serious food lovers will too.
Prices: A quarter-pie of Left Hook ($6), one of Contender ($6), a local greens salad ($9), and an order of straciatella ($9) came to $30 before tax, with service included.