Thursday, October 1, 2009

Belltown Challenge: Authentic Pizzerias vs. Non-Authentic Pizzerias

It's been quite a while since the last Belltown Challenge, hasn't it? Yeah, that's because it's been pretty hot for the last few months and the Challenge usually involves a lot of walking around taking pictures, and with my low tolerance for heat, I would usually come home a sweaty mess. So I simply procrastinated until fall. That's my story. I hope you understand.

OK, so today we're trying to see who has the numerical advantage, authentic or non-authentic pizzerias. Now, by non-authentic, I don't mean Domino's or Pizza Hut or anything awful like that. It's just American-style pizza as opposed to "talk-a with-a de hands and sing-a de songs of old-a Napoli" authentic-style pizza. Let's start with the non-authentic:

This is Zeek's on Belltown's northern border of 5th & Denny. They serve some very American pizza.

Bambino's at 4th & Cedar is right around the corner from Zeek's. Although their fare is more rustic and less thematic, the style is more east coast American than Italian. Plus, their pizzas come in more than one size. That's a dead giveaway for non-authentic.

Vela at 1st & Clay (although there is another entrance on 1st; that photo didn't turn out so good) is a newish pizzeria. They're actually a pizzeria and something of a nightclub, if you can imagine that. I can and I'll pass. I don't need to walk 8 blocks for drunk people to bump into me. I can just stand in front of the Rivoli and the same thing will happen.

Broad Street Pizza & Pasta at Western & Broad is even newer than Vela. It used top be known as Cucina De Ra, which became rather infamous for not paying its employees or vendors. What's a poor deadbeat owner to do? Change the name! Bingo, you're back in business!

Although they're not Italian-authentic, I'm pretty sure that Belltown Pizza at 1st & Wall has the best pizza in this crummy neighborhood. I highly recommend the Fire in Belltown. Added bonus: the wait staff is generally babe-tacular.

Let's turn to the authentic joints:

This is Serious Pie at 4th & Virginia. It's another Tom Douglas operation and a very good one at that. Although some of the toppings are non-traditional (potatoes, clams), this is pretty much the real deal: football-shaped pizzas that come in just one size.

Here's Via Tribunali here at 2nd & Blanchard. It's probably the most authentic place. I mean, their oven runs on wood. The pizza is good, and if you get there at the right time, it can be very cheap - as long as you don't mind a limited selection. And while we're talking about them, I have to say that I really like their decor. The high-backed, horseshoe-shaped booths are excellent for both large and small gatherings. If you're alone, sit in one, sip a Peroni and be the master of your domain.

OK, this place gets special, but only partial dispensation. It's La Vita E Bella at 2nd & Battery. It bills itself as an authentic Italian restaurant which is true enough. They do have some very good real-Italian stuff there. But they also serve some delicious genuine pizza. In fact, they were the first place in Belltown to deal the authentic stuff. But because they don't bill themselves exclusively as a pizzeria, they lose half a point. My blog, my rules.

So let's total up. Our final score is:

Non-authentic: 5
Authentic: 2.5

It wasn't even close. Non-authentic places kicked ass! But I'll tell you that LVEB was the only place you could get an authentic pizza until a few years ago. Now there are two more in the neighborhood. I look for the authentic trend to continue. So you best prepare yourself.


Lydia said...

Nice run-through, thanks. I think Broad Street Pizza is dead, too. It was a shame about Cucina de Ra. One snowy night (not snowpocalypse, the year before) I walked home late from work, starving, and they were the only place open. I was so grateful. They were way too expensive to go often, and once I got a bad meal and found it hard to try again, but still, it's too bad. Stupid dead street. OSP that closes too early. Deadly.

Jim said...

I ate at de Ra a few times right after the OSP opened and quite enjoyed myself. The food was good and it was nice to see an old-school higher-end restaurant open up there. The owner, Jim Malevitsis, is a good friend of my uncle John. But there was just something about the location that made you forget the place was there.

I have not been to Tribunali, but am very suspicious of "certified Neapolitan pizzerias" that have been opened by ex-Starbucks hacks. Tutta Bella's product manages to come out of the oven both soggy and burned. I've eaten at Serious Pie twice and loved it, though I don't like sharing tables with strangers. I'm way too Seattle for that.

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