August 2, 2008

Pizza Man: Life is a Circle

Agostino_w_pizza.JPGSeattle certainly doesn't lack for pizza parlors. In the Belltown Court complex, for example, three places on the same sidewalk: Belltown Pizza (the building's original pie-maker), the recently-opened Branzino (pizza appetizers), and La Vita è Bella (which added a pizzeria six or seven years ago).

There's a true Sicilian, Agostino Trentacoste, once again standing in front of La Vita è Bella's pizza oven. He had crossed paths, briefly, with original chef, the legendary Mamma Enza (now at her own restaurant, Sorrentino, on Queen Anne) before moving to Hawaii three years ago. His Sicilian pizzas are thin-crust, not overloaded with toppings.

There are over 300 pizza places in Seattle, and only 20 or so are called Domino's. That leaves a lot of room for individuality. If you've moved to here from out-of-state, you no doubt grew up with whatever style of pizza dominated your home town, which would have depended on which Mediterranean immigrant community settled there (northern Italian, southern Italian, Greek, even French); Trenton isn't New Haven, Chicago isn't LA. (Obsessive foodies: discussion of regional pizza styles here.) Most Americans want a ton of toppings and a mountain of gooey cheese, but traditional Italian pizza is humble food for poor folks. A dollop of tomato, a bit of cheese, some herbs. Tastes better if the dough is freshly made, even better if the oven is wood-fired.

Perhaps it's the simplicity: Seattle's Neapolitan pizza empire, Via Tribunali, is growing apace. Coffee king Mike McConnell (founder of the Caffè Vita chain) and his chef, Dino Santonicola (a true Neapolitan), have three stores going (Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Georgetown), and a fourth, at 43rd & Fremont, about to open. And, yes, another in Belltown, where Crocodile once lurked. McConnell's original backer for the pizza ventures was none other than Peter Lamb, the restaurant guru whose most recent venture is Branzino. And Via Tribunali's lone non-pizza offering is a lasagna, which they outsource to the city's preeminent lasagna-maker, none other than Enza Sorrentino...who also happens to have a wood-burning pizza oven.

La Vita E' Bella Pizzeria on Urbanspoon Via Tribunali on Urbanspoon Sorrentino on Urbanspoon

Posted by Ronald Holden at August 2, 2008 9:28 AM | TrackBack

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