Words by Natalie Broulette | As an adopted New Yorker who moved to Seattle a little more than two years ago, I've learned that great pizza in Seattle is about as hard to come by as bad pizza in New York. I know Northwesterners are sick and tired of East Coasters coming in and knocking their cuisine, and I don't mean to say there isn't good pizza here. Tom Douglas's Serious Pie is a contender, Tutta Bella serves up noble Neapolitan, and even local chain Pagliacci has its charm. But for me, none possess the, let's call it "cravibility" of New York pizza.
The much-buzzed-about restaurant became the Great Pizza Hope of Seattle long before its doors even opened. Why? Because the pair behind the operation is food-focused author and Orangette blogger Molly Wizenberg and her husband, Brandon Pettit, a composer turned chef, formerly of New York. Thanks to Wizenberg's blog entries tracking the restaurant's progress and Pettit's loyal Twitter following, Seattleites have long been rooting for this little venture/experiment to succeed. Fortunately, it does.
Named for Pettit's favorite subway stop in New York City, Delancey is tucked away in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood among residences, a bakery, and a yoga studio. The space manages to be both modern and homey in its minimalism. The light fixtures are refurbished and handmade, the chairs are mismatched, and the tables consist of concrete poured into metal frames. But the centerpiece of Delancey, or of any great pizza place for that matter, is the oven, which summons you in from the sidewalk.
After sampling the country's best pizza, including Di Fara in Brooklyn and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Pettit went about formulating his own dough recipe and building the wood-fired oven. His research paid off. Delancey's crust is thin, chewy, and lumpy in all the right places with those telltale black bubbles around the edges.
I once shared a pizza with a Seattleite who refused to partake because the crust was "burnt." People like this probably won't care much for Delancey's Neapolitan-style pizza, and God help them. The rest of us can rejoice in the Napoli-meets–New York–meets-Northwest blend of influences and ingredients that really makes Delancey shine. Thankfully, this doesn't equate to salmon or geoduck pies on the menu, but rather locally grown, traditional ingredients—down to the Northwest-milled flour—prepared with old-school technique.
I sampled an extra-cheesy Margherita pizza called the Brooklyn that was a pleasing lesson in the basics. The tomato sauce possessed a certain sweetness, and the fresh herbs weren't tampered with. Each slice was rich and cheesy with its trifecta of grana padano and both fresh and aged mozzarella. I also tried the Padron, the same faultless building blocks topped with roasted padron chilies. Each pizza on the menu is intended to highlight a few key ingredients—thyme and crimini mushrooms in one case, zucchini and anchovies in another.
In similar fashion, the appetizers—cured meats and simple salads—are all about clean and basic flavors. One starter called Billy's tomatoes featured generous slices of the red pseudo-fruit piled with white corn and basil and perfectly dressed in a shallot vinaigrette. It was unfussy and delicious.
And dessert, typically a throwaway at a pizza joint, was an unexpected highlight. Unable to choose just one, I had a bittersweet chocolate chip cookie with gray salt and chilled peaches in wine. The cookie was crunchy on the outside and bursting with gooey chocolate on the inside. The white wine-soaked peaches were sophisticated and delicate, and the remnant alcohol was positively ambrosial. No chewy, toothache-inducing pizookies here.
There's not even a sign on the door yet, but Delancey has proven to be traditional yet inventive, modern yet unpretentious, and certainly worthy of the hype. It seems we've gotten the best of both coasts. I imagine the place will garner a loyal following, and two-hour weekend wait times will become the norm. I advise going early and often, or whenever the craving strikes.
1415 NW 70th Street, Seattle WA 98117