A Hamburger Today
Phoenecia: The Mightiest Crust in Seattle
2716 Alki Avenue SW, Seattle, WA 98116 (map); 206-935-6550; phoeniciawestseattle.com
Oven type: Electric
The skinny: A delicious crust and some tasty toppings set this place up for greatness, but the red sauce needs work
Price: 10-inch pizzas $12 and up
Until last week, I had yet to find a pizzeria slinging pies with end crusts as disproportionately large as those found at Mozza in Los Angeles. So when I heard that a joint in West Seattle was serving pizza with a cornicione that could give Mozza's a run for its money, I double-timed it to Phoenecia to find out if it tasted as good as it looked. As it turns out, it did.
Phoenecia's crust is enormous, comprising four of the ten inches of pizza real estate. I have to thank nostalgia for the impact Phoenecia's gargantuan crust made on me: it tastes exactly like the fried bread my grandmother used to make. A crisp outer shell gives way to a soft, bready interior that's full of flavor (thanks to a two-day ferment). It's as irresistible as a hot buttered roll. Puffed and charred for two minutes in an electric oven cranked to 850°F, the crust at Phoenecia may not taste quite as sublime as Nancy Silverton's, but it's excellent in its own right.
Unfortunately, the 'Margarita' pizza had an acute case of Tomato Fail. The very lightly applied red sauce was a little pasty and lacked brightness. The pie came topped with halved cherry tomatoes that had a strange bitterness and an inexplicable fishy aftertaste. It's too bad that the tomatoes masked the flavor of the mozzarella (a blend of fresh and aged), grated Grana Padano, and the component I was most hoping to pick out, a swirl of basil oil.
My disappointment ended there, though, because the rest of the pizzas I tasted ranged from good to stellar. On the stellar end, the Zoe's Pepperoni pizza hit all the right notes. The pepperoni comes from, you guessed it, Zoe's Meats; it's made from pork shoulder and has a meaty, smoky, earthy flavor. Along with the pepperoni, a trio of cheeses (fresh and aged mozzarella, as well as Grana Padano) made this pizza a bit saltier than the other pies, but that's the way a pepperoni pie should be. The addition of marjoram and oregano added further depth to an already flavorful pie.
The presence of Mama Lil's Spicy Peppers is scientifically proven to increase the deliciousness of any pizza tenfold, and that is certainly the case with Phoenecia's Sausage and Peppers pizza (pictured at top). The well-seasoned pork sausage somehow manages not to get lost in the mouthfire produced by the bold, piquant peppers. The whole thing is a tad on the greasy side, so you'll probably want to knife-and-fork it for the first half of any given slice.
One of the specials offered on a recent night was a rosemary lamb sausage and grilled eggplant pie. The rosemary paired beautifully with the gamy and pungent ground lamb, while the eggplant was more muted.
Every topping on the restaurant's namesake pie, The Phoenecian, was well-selected and perfectly balanced with the others. Salty Nicoise olives, tangy Laura Chenel chevre, and slightly sweet sundried tomatoes make a heady and rich trio.
If your favorite element of pizza is the crust, then Phoenecia may be the pizzeria of your dreams. But the best part about dining at this West Seattle spot? You're just a stone's throw from this amazing view:
About the author: Adam Lindsley is a Seattle-based novelist and the author of the pizza blog, This Is Pizza. As a contributor for both Slice and A Hamburger Today, he is contractually obligated to say he loves pizza and burgers in equal amounts. Which is to say he is a polygamist.