This Ain't No Joke

Serious Pie Seattle, WA 25.Nov.09
eat: Italian Bread Soup, Pizzas: Yukon Gold Potato/Rosemary/Olive Oil, Penn Cove Clams/Pancetta, Cherry Bomb Peppers/Sweet Fennel Sausage, House Salumi/Walla Walla Onions/Sardegna
sip: Campodelsole Sangiovese 06

In the past few years, my sister, her hubby, and our Seattle entourage have started a night-before-Thanksgiving tradition where we load up on carbs before the big day. In 2007, it was uber-cheesy macaroni and cheese (from the New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny. Click for the fab recipe here ). '08 was Joe’s delightful linguini with white clam sauce. We are like marathon runners training before the big race; however, instead of fueling our bodies for 26 miles of running, we are essentially expanding our stomachs to allow for more eating. This year, to keep the tradition going, and also to satisfy my ongoing urge to try new places, we went to Serious Pie, the downtown pizza joint owned by the prolific local chef, Tom Douglas.

Normally Serious Pie is jam-packed with lines spilling out the door, but since it was the eve before Thanksgiving AND a nasty storm, we arewhisked to our seats immediately. Serious Pie is a cozy spot that I like to call “Medieval Urban”; the communal tables and glowing fire of the pizza oven harken back to pubs in ancient times, yet the sleek lighting fixtures and glass-walled view of the adjacent bakery add a modern edge. We begin our meal with an Italian Bread Soup - a tasty potage of salty chicken broth, earthy kale and croutons so buttery they were impermeable to soggy-ness. It is a satisfying amuse-bouche that both warms our damp bodies and tempts our tummies for the upcoming feast.

The procession of pizzas starts with the Penn Cove Clam,
House Pancetta,
and Lemon Thyme Pizza. I grew up near Pepe’s Pizza, the famous New Haven pizzeria whose clam & bacon pizza has such a cult following that people order it frozen to be delivered across the country. The version at Serious Pie is insanely good; the briny, local clams combined with salty bacon is a fantastic (and totally un-kosher) flavor combination. In Seattle, seafood simply tastes better thanks to the "just plucked from the sea" freshness; plus, the sea-scented air adds another dimension to the sensory experience.

The Yukon Gold, Rosemary, Olive Oil Pizza is a naughty, rich, "oil dripping down to the chin" pie. One may be worried that the starchy potato would be overshadowed by the bready crust, but instead the potato's earthy-ness and complexity is highlighted. Speaking of the crust, the crucial foundation to great pizza, I find it wonderfully airy and yeasty, with just enough cornmeal dusting and wood-charred edges. Normally, I find that crust is tertiary to topping quality and sauce, but this complex crust is as good as any fine loaf of freshly-baked bread. Or, as the website aptly states: "Serious Pie is a pizzeria with a bread baker's soul" . Fyi, like many gourmet pizzas, this crust needs to be eaten fresh; when I brought a pizza home one night, I found it overly chewy and bland even when reheated.

Next up is the House Salumi, Walla Walla Onions, and Sardegna Pizza The salumi du jour is a magnificent, rosy-hued Coppa (cured pork shoulder) that is made in-house. The coppa, which blankets a generous 3/4 of the pie, pairs nicely with the tangy Sardegna (sheep's milk cheese), and sweet onions.

Finally, the Cherry Bomb Pepper and Fennel Sausage Pizza arrives. This interpretation of the classic Italian combo of sausage and peppers is heightened by the top-notch quality of the ingredients. The sausage is a carnivore's delight - meaty, juicy, and packed with flavor - while the peppers are pungently pickled and sweet. For drinking, there is an inexpensive wine list, with most bottles priced under $40 as well as a small, but well-curated selection of beers. We enjoyed the fruity and smooth Campodelsole Sangiovese '06

Serious Pie is a prime example of the artisan pizza movement that's sweeping the nation. There have been those that complain about the non-traditional toppings, lack of tomato sauce, and high prices. However, I like how these gourmet pizzas are stages on which quality ingredients - like burrata, guanciale, and squash blossoms - can shine. It's also a great way to eat well without breaking the bank.