A great birthday today, with lovely cards and presents (well, except for the little "present" one of the cats left me), and a delicious dinner at Serious Pie. Owner and chef Tom Douglas was working in the kitchen and prepared our pizzas!
A few people asked me for a review of Serious Pie, so here are my first impressions:
The salads are eye-opening and thoroughly delightful. Mine was celery, white anchovies, and grated cheese, and it was a refreshing and inspired combination. Laura had the proscuitto with sliced apples -- again, inspired. (No one in our party tried the rustic bread soup with olive oil, which I've heard only good things about.)
The pizzas are in a class by themselves. The crusts are at once thick and thin and at once fluffy and crisp, putting the crusts at ultra-trendy Via Tribunali (thin, and too frequently soggy at the center) to shame. When I lived in Italy, I did not get south of Rome, so I can't tell you what an authentic Neapolitan crust is. But I lived nearly 10 years in New Haven, home of the renowned Pepe's Pizza (which I believe is a Salerno pizza) and the crust at Serious Pie would make most Pepe's fans cry with joy.
That said, the Pepe's crowd would want to order the mozzarella (buffalo) and tomato (San Marzano) pie, which is only traditional pie on the Serious menu. The other pies are what I'd term "neo-traditional" -- tasteful combinations I'd expect to find at adventurous new restaurants in Italy, not the whacked-out inventions of some American fusion stylist. So: the potato, rosemary, and garlic pie was purely Italian in flavor, as was the mushroom and truffle cheese. For me, the triumph was the cherry bomb peppers with sweet fennel sausage pizza. Very south-central Italian! I like the way Serious Pie handles meat, and I can hardly wait to get back there and try the Penn Cove clams, spicy pancetta, and lemon thyme pie.
(Hmmm...maybe tomorrow night?)
I hate to end my review on a down note, but dessert was a disappointment. The cannoli made with Old Chatham ricotta was way off the mark. Heavy sprinklings of cinnamon and a hailstorm of dull-tasting pistachios on the plate did nothing to help tiny cannoli shells, heavy with either a whole wheat flour or perhaps too much cooking oil. All of this utterly overwhelmed the delicate, slightly watery ricotta. (For reference: The traditional Italian cannoli (such as you'd find in New Haven, or New York City) is all about a rich ricotta filling, fortified with shaved chocolate or chopped citron, exploding from a light crispy housing of shell. In Seattle, Tutta Bella serves a modest, pleasant cannoli.)
Unfortunately, Serious Pie offers only two other dessert choices: a cranberry hand pie (which sounds like it belongs over at Fado Irish pub) and an affogato of honey ice cream with hazelnuts and a dousing of espresso. That sounds like it wandered over from Douglas' Greek restaurant, Lola. So, Serious Pie needs some serious dessert. While I'm sure Douglas is deliberately eschewing the cliche tiramisu, fresh fruit gelato (Northwest raspberries with just a touch of those cranberries?) is always in good taste. Two other possibilities that come to mind: an almond cookie (think soft biscotti) with perhaps a hint of fennel and salt to dip in vin santo (or a vin santo sauce); and a panna cotta drizzled with a subtle espresso liquor.
Finally, it's worth nothing that when we arrived at 6 p.m. sharp on a Monday night there was plenty of seating. When we left shortly before 8 p.m., it was an utter madhouse, with lines out the door. Plan accordingly.