I think there are two people in my life that do not enjoy pizza. They, I believe, must be the only two in the world that say they do not like pizza. I mean, they must be lying. There are at least a hundred different types from three dozen countries with their own traditional preparations. I’m sure you can find one type to love…
Pizza has existed since the beginning of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. In the 16th century, a flatbread dish in Naples was named ‘pizza’, a word that appeared in Medieval Latin in 997. It was a dish of the poor people, sold on the streets for a century before being sold out of a professional kitchen. In 1843, diversions of pizza toppings emerged and in 1889, to honor the Queen of Italy, Margherita di Savoia, chef Raffaele Esposito created the “Pizza Margherita” of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. Since then, immigrants from all over the world introduced us to the different variations including what we know now as Chicago, New York, Sicilian, Neapolitan, and lavash styles.
I grew up on the knowledge that pizza was junk food that you get from Dominos or the snack our friend Frankie often made, a Sicilian style with a thicker crust of focaccia, brushed with home-made tomato paste, red onion and herbs. When I moved to Seattle in 2004, I wanted to broaden my knowledge of the subject and received a recommendation from one of my cooking instructors to try Via Tribunali, where they make a Neapolitan style pizza, the soft, thin crust, a simple sauce of crushed tomatoes and sea salt, olive oil, and small amounts of toppings such as mozzarella di Bufala, salame, funghi (mushrooms) and herbs, usually oregano or basil. They have four locations around Seattle, in Fremont, Georgetown, Queen Anne and their first location in Capitol Hill. Ever since visiting there once, I’ve been hooked! Their pizza is near perfection and the closest to the tradition I have had since my travels in Italy. A close second is Mistral Kitchen. We have a similar oven and same mission for the Neapolitan style pies. The key and success of their style is the wood oven. Here is an excerpt from the Via Tribunali website I came across while researching their craft:
“A pizza cannot be called Neapolitan without spending 60-90 seconds in anything less than a wood-fire brick oven. Unlike conventional ovens, an authentic wood-fire brick oven can achieve the desired 450° C temperature to create the ideal cooking environment necessary for the perfect pizza crust.
Via Tribunali is unique in that it features an authentic handmade wood-burning brick oven. Everything used in the construction of the oven was imported from Naples, including the bricks made from the ashes of Mt. Vesuvius and the master craftsman who assembled it. In Italy, brick ovens are considered and art, no different than fashion in Milan or glass in Venice. Using Vesuvius bricks allows the wood-burning oven at Via Tribunali to achieve higher temperatures than those made from regular bricks. Understandably, the oven’s unique characteristics and aesthetics have made it an icon at Via Tribunali.”
It is this philosophy and commitment to tradition that keeps Via Tribunali my number one recommendation for pizza in this city!
Queen Anne location, next door to Top Pot Doughnuts for, ya know, if you didnt get enough bread to eat here first.
Yesterday, we visited the Queen Anne location for brunch. The walk up the hill was mildly painful but the food was worth it. The menu is a good size of seven pizzas, a few salads and fruit plates. We ordered the Sasiccia E Cippola, italian sausage with caramelized onion, fresh mozzarella and organic egg as well as the Mezza Luna, a calzone filled with Nutella and banana. The pizza was good, though a little small and in need of tomato sauce.
I am obsessed with having tomato on my pizza so I asked for a side of sauce which they happily delivered. The egg was over easy, cracked on top just before entering the wood oven. The crust was consistent with their recipe; soft, just the right amount of char, and the onions gave a nice sweetness against the cheese and egg. The Mezza Luna was as expected, sweet and nutty with a good balance of char on the crust. They have a great ‘Make Your Own Mimosas’ deal. For $25 you can get a bottle of Prosecco and a carafe of orange juice! It was fun to mix and share. We ordered a fruit plate as well which was all perfectly ripe and a simple mix of strawberries, grapes, pear, orange, and apple.
Queen Anne location, view from the upstairs.
We did cheat a little bit, I have to admit. I had a Rue La La coupon for half off our bill. Had it been full price, I would probably would have been okay with it. The service was great and knowledgable. However, I would have liked the pizza to be the size that we all know and love from the dinner menu. Maybe fromage and olive oil bases are traditional for breakfast pizzas, but I would like the acidic tomato sauce with the egg.
Although I am Sicilian, I would have to say that Neapolitan style is my favorite! I know, blasphemy to my ancestors! Whether you prefer deep dish, cracker crust or Brooklyn style, who can resist anything made in wood oven? Non io i miei amici!