Apizza (at Safeco Field)
The news cycled quickly through the Slice ranks: Bill Pustari, owner of venerated New Haven pizzeria Modern Apizza, just opened a concession stand at Seattle's Safeco Field. A pizza concession stand. For a Seattleite like me, 3,000 miles from Connecticut, the only natural reaction to such an announcement is to emit the high-pitched squeal usually reserved for prepubescent girls upon acquisition of backstage passes at a Justin Bieber concert.
One of the recent additions to Safeco Field's overhauled Bullpen Market (officially nicknamed "The 'Pen"), the brand-spankin'-new Apizza is accessible only to ticketholders, so just getting to it requires paying a premium up front. With a $15 bargain ticket to the cheapest seats available in hand, I strolled into the ballpark and made a beeline for the left field-adjacent 'Pen.
The staff waiting eagerly behind the counter were chipper and outgoing, but clearly not privy to the finer aspects of the pizza's construction, or even its pedigree. One employee had no idea who Bill Pustari was, never mind the fact that his name was listed on the banner hanging directly over his head (it was eventually confirmed that Pustari was nowhere on the premises). I can't really fault them; they can only know what they've been told.
Behind the cashiers, a trio of whole pies sat waiting to be served to the baseball-loving masses. I ordered a slice of each: cheese, white, and pepperoni, at five bucks a pop. It's still far too early to review Apizza against its myriad competitors, so what follows are merely my first impressions on this very young ballpark slice joint.
The obvious place to start was the cheese slice, glistening with a sheen of grease and already unrecognizable when compared to the photographs displayed on Modern's website. Modern Apizza, as described by the Kubanator, is made with a very thin crust and loads of cheese. Examining the slice from the Seattle outlet, "loads of cheese" would be an understatement. They've ratcheted up the cheese levels to excessive, weighing down the slice with a good third of an inch of Grande mozzarella. There was nothing wrong with the flavor of the mozz, but the sheer amount of it—and the oil pooling on top—made it extraordinarily difficult to eat more than a few bites without feeling bloated and a little queasy.
Despite some nice charring on the undercarriage, the crust was a failure. At the same width as the cheese layer—a third of an inch—it was far too thick to bake properly in Apizza's gas-fired Wood Stone oven. The bottom half was inundated with oily, blackened cornmeal, and the top half consisted of gummy, undercooked dough. Thin crust this ain't. The outer rim had little to no rise, a single blond blister, and virtually no flavor outside of whatever sugar was used to sweeten the dough.
Lurking between the king-sized mattress of mozzarella and disaster of a crust was a simple but overly sweet tomato sauce purported by the Mariners' press release to be from the same lot of San Marzano tomatoes used in the New Haven flagship. When the flavor of your tomato sauce borderlines on candy, you're putting too much sugar in it, and that's precisely what went wrong here. Coupled with the sweetness in the crust, it's flat-out overbearing.
Pretty much everything went wrong with the white pie. In addition to the aforementioned crust and mozzarella failures, this slice had the unfortunate fate of being topped with bitter, sulfury heads of broccoli and—I can't believe I'm saying this—too much garlic. I understand that garlic is one of the foremost flavors of the classic white pie, but here it clashed with the broccoli.
Yikes; two slices, two huge misses. Could the pepperoni slice possibly fare any better? Thankfully, it had two things going for it: the very fine pepperoni from Zoe's Meats, and a sprinkle of parmesan, which helped to balance the oversweet tomato sauce. It's no home run, but a solid grounder to first. (Obligatory baseball reference, CHECK.)
This outpost of Apizza's still quite new, but Bill Pustari's been in the business for years. I still have high hopes that he can turn this place around and implement a few major tweaks to the pizza to give Seattle the New Haven experience it deserves, and I'll be checking back when the weather's a little warmer to see how it's progressing.