Wednesday, March 23, 2011

delancey

''It's very fancy on old Delancey Street, you know'' – Lorenz Hart  

Welcome to the real thing.  You know you’ve found it when you’ll drive halfway across town at half past four to satisfy a hankering for really great pizza.

Situated on a quaint residential street in Seattle’s North Ballard neighborhood, Delancey is a place like that.  In addition to mighty fine pizza, they’ve got the unassuming location, the diverse and bustling crowd, an uber-amiable wait staff and food that falls somewhere between comforting and inspired.  Consider it the destination you’d gladly burn fuel for; which is good, because unless you live in the neighborhood or accidentally stumble upon their doorstep, it’s not exactly next door.  Then again, don’t most sought after places require a measure of seeking out?

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Should you miss the 5pm seating, be prepared to join clusters of patient dinner folk parked just inside the front door.  A decidedly hip, albeit unpretentious hostess predicts wait times and takes drink orders with unsurpassed warmth and poise.  And with a glass of wine in hand, the wait is entirely bearable.

The entry is home also to the tiny pizza kitchen, upstaged by a narrow counter and a handful of French barstools.  These coveted perches offer diners an ideal vantage point from which to witness owner and chef Brandon Pettit while he works intently beside the glowing woodfire pizza oven he built himself.  Pettit’s mop of brown curls, encircled by a rolled up bandana, sway to-and-fro as he shapes each pie with tremendous passion and intensity. 

In fairness, Delancey is more than just one man’s dream.  Pettit’s wife and cohort in business, local author Molly Wizenberg, has been by his side from the get-go.  Their restaurant came to fruition in 2009, shortly after Ms. Wizenberg wrapped up her first book, ‘A Homemade Life’.  Not surprisingly, Wizenberg threw herself into the role of restaurateur with the same fervor and gusto she summoned when writing her bestselling memoir.

The dining room’s spartan interior seamlessly unites a minimalist aesthetic with retro funk furnishings and a few welcome pops of color from framed photographs suspended on whitewashed walls.  Hanging lamps in red orange enamel cast a warm glow on the buzzing scene below.  A kitschy communal table, circa 1965, offers a nostalgic nod to grandpa’s rec room, sans shag carpet and avocado-hued walls.  Smaller, poured concrete tables paired with vintage chairs, offer yet another thoughtful juxtaposition of old and new. 

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Much like its surroundings, the menu is concise and unfettered.  Seasonal salads and pizza toppings abound and local, organic produce prevails.  Standing pizza offerings are punctuated by specials such as the ever-popular clam pie or one with stinging nettle pesto.  The Jersey is an old-school tossed salad with classic Italian vinaigrette, ribbons of purple cabbage and carrot, crunchy golden croutons and a snowfall of grated parmesan.  In summer months, try the sweet corn, feta and Billy’s tomato salad, all sunshine and tang laced with the sultry sweetness of just shucked corn.  Cooler months bring the likes of grilled treviso scattered with buttery breadcrumbs and topped with tendrils of preserved lemon and paper thin parmesan shavings.

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Pizzas are thin crusted and slightly larger than a dinner plate.  With salad and dessert, one is easily enough for two light eaters or one ravenous diner.  The toppings are balanced, fresh and alive with flavor.  An array of choices include a few cheese variations, pepperoni, sausage or hot salami, a white pie and my favorite, the crimini with fresh mozzarella and thyme on an olive oil base, to which I religiously add prosciutto.  The salty, savory combination of mushrooms and prosciutto accented by a subtle hint of fresh earthy thyme is nothing short of miraculous.  Add to this the pristine canvas of a well-crafted crust and its a done deal.

Pettit’s crust is a divine culmination of his visits to beloved pizza kitchens throughout the states as well as those in Italy.  He has honed a product reminiscent of some of the best; while distinctly his own.  You will crave this crust long after sinking your teeth into its burnished exterior, resplendent with thin, crackly bubbles, giving way to a chewy, satiny center that is airy yet substantial.  The flavor is layered, robust and almost nutty with a depth that is lacking in most thin crust pies.

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Wines at Delancey are often local and always well-priced.   Pettit and Wizenberg are staunchly committed to offering luscious, affordable options; each selection carefully considered to compliment their menu offerings. 

The welcome addition of pastry chef, Brandi Henderson, formerly of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, is the icing on the proverbial cake.  In the heat of summer, Henderson’s dreamy cloud-like pavlova topped with delicately sweetened, whipped Greek yogurt and fresh local raspberries is cool and creamy, tart-sweet perfection.  Come autumn, her spicy ginger cake with roasted pears and luscious butterscotch is pure poetry.  For a simpler finish, Delancey’s trademark bittersweet chocolate chip cookie with a touch of grey sea salt is always on the menu.

Delancey is open Wednesday through Saturday, 5 pm – 10 pm and Sundays, from 5 pm – 9 pm.  Phone- 206.838.1960

Be on the lookout for The Pantry at Delancey, where Pettit will partner with Brandi Henderson and Olaiya Land to create a community kitchen offering hands-on cooking classes, family-style dinners, private events and locally sourced catering. 

Delancey on Urbanspoon

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