Delancey in Ballard offers dinner-plate-size pizzas with crusts that practically swagger, according to Seattle Times restaurant reviewer Providence Cicero.
In Ballard, where the food scene has an amazing vitality, the hub of the action may be Market Street, but micro dining ‘hoods are sprouting elsewhere like runners from a strawberry plant. One of them is along Northwest 70th Street east of 15th, home to A Caprice Kitchen, Honoré Bakery and Seattle’s latest pizza-parlor sensation, Delancey.
Named for a street on the Lower East Side of the city that never sleeps, Delancey is owned by Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg, whose delightful food blog Orangette (a standout in an overcrowded field) chronicled their courtship, marriage and the gestation of their restaurant, which opened over the summer.
Twenty-eight-year-old Pettit is the pizzaiolo, and he looks the part. Dressed in a thin, white T-shirt, his forehead wrapped in a bandanna, he hovers over the applewood-fired oven like a helicopter parent, constantly shifting and turning the pies like the perfectionist he admits he is. (I saw him dump a pizza one night that evidently wasn’t up to his standards.)
Delancey’s pizza is not so much New York style as New York inspired. The uncooked tomato sauce has a touch of sweetness, along with garlic and oregano. The crust practically swaggers: It’s flexible, with a great chew, and withstands some serious char — the blackened, blistered edges are as poufy as a starlet’s lips.
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Several pizzas are topped with a blend of fresh and aged mozzarella. Some get a dusting of grana (a mild, parmesanlike cheese), applied by servers after they emerge from the fire. In some cases servers also snip fresh basil onto the hot-from-the-oven pies: The heat releases the herb’s fragrance, but the taste stays vibrant.
The delicate dough is stretched to dinner-plate size, with toppings doled sparingly — sometimes too sparingly. With so much cheesy acreage between crumbles of house-made fennel sausage, the meat barely registered. Padrone peppers that adorned another pie were sparse, too, but a far more emphatic a presence.
A foraged mushroom and marjoram pizza, made with crème fraîche instead of tomato sauce, had no shortage of fungi, but it was my least favorite. The oven’s fierce heat dried the cream and fresh mozzarella a bit too much, though it did wonders for the lobster mushrooms and tiny chanterelles. It was the only pie that provoked an urge to reach for the little dish of salt and red-pepper flakes on the table.
One pizza will feed two, though you may not want to part with half. Frankly, none of us had trouble polishing off a whole pie, even after sharing an appetizer salad.
The gorgeous tomato, corn and basil ensemble available in September has given way to baby lettuces and radishes garnished with grana and tossed with Champagne vinaigrette. Pettit makes his own vinegars and also puts up the pickles that accent plates of salumi.
He has hopes of making fresh mozzarella someday. For now, it comes from the same Los Angeles company that supplies him with burrata. That not-quite-runny, not-quite-firm white cheese is served as a starter with laudable simplicity: a pinch of pink salt, a splash of golden-green olive oil and toasted baguette slices.
The slender, serene Wizenberg toils behind the scenes where among other things she creates compelling desserts. Her salted, bittersweet chocolate-chip cookie is iconic. Her plum crumble, new to the menu, gets the ratio of pastry to fruit just right. There’s more crumble than fruit, and she tames the sweetness and flatters the tartness with a dose of cinnamon and a dollop of her own crème fraîche.
The couple opened Delancey on a tight budget. With imagination and the help of family members who donated design expertise, they’ve made the spare double storefront visually intriguing. Cylindrical pendant lights hanging above the five-seat counter facing the pizza oven are fashioned from asparagus pickling jars. Antique cider jugs became chandeliers. Wizenberg’s framed photos add welcome color to the white dining-room walls.
Delancey may be in Ballard, but it feels very much Lower East Side.
Providence Cicero: email@example.com