Monday, November 2, 2009

Impressions: Delancey

1415 NW 70th Street
Seattle, WA 98117
(206) 838-1960

I can't think of a single pizzeria in recent memory that's opened with more buzz than Delancey in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Mega-popular food blogger Molly Wizenberg of Orangette used her not-inconsiderable charm on her flock to champion her husband Brandon Pettit's vision for sublime Neapolitan and New York-inspired pies long before anyone had tasted a bite, but the hype didn't stop there. Pettit managed to build up an impressive following on Twitter (at last count, nearly 2,500 followers) as he detailed the day-to-day minutiae of putting together an artisan pizzeria in a space that needed substantial renovations. News that he had fine-tuned his recipe after visiting such pizza goliaths as Di Fara in Brooklyn, Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Ken's Artisan Pizza in Portland, and Mozza in Los Angeles had the foodies foaming at the mouth. Even New Yorkers heard the whistle of the rumor train barreling down the tracks toward them, demanding their attention: a serious addition to American pizza would soon be birthed, not in Manhattan or Brooklyn, but in the country's grey-swathed shoulder. No, not Maine, the other shoulder.

Naturally, such fervent expectations are eventually met with the inevitable smack of reality, and oftentimes it can be sobering just how spectacularly those assumptions of greatness have misfired. Praise the pizza gods then that this was not the case with Delancey.

I first visited Delancey a few weeks after it had opened with my siblings and a friend, arriving at the restaurant fifteen minutes before it opened. A line had already started to form at the door, so we took our places dutifully and watched as the tail behind us lengthened with each passing minute. Soon enough, though, the doors open, the smell of baking cookies drifted out, and we were ushered inside to a four-top possessing the distinct advantage of being located next to the restaurant's large street-facing windows, allowing much natural light to fall beautifully on our food.

We began with a salad of sweet corn, basil, and cherry tomatoes tossed in a shallot vinaigrette, which was clean and crisp and very fresh. Delancey offers a nice selection of beers on tap, though one we had wanted to try, the Chucanut Helles, had been tapped out the night before, and they had not yet procured a replacement. We chalked it up to First Month Syndrome and went with the tasty Hales Red Menace instead.

It wasn't long after we placed our order that our pizzas arrived (oh how I love the abbreviated cooking times in a blazing hot wood-fired oven!), steaming and giving off the irresistible scent of freshly baked bread. The sauce looked bright, the cheese gooey and inviting. We quickly tore into our fare and were not disappointed.

We split two pizzas that visit. The first was the Brooklyn ($12), a cheese-lover's go-to pie with the house tomato sauce topped with both fresh and aged mozzarella (a combo I always find impeccable for pizza), along with basil and grated Grana, a hard cheese from Italy that's very close to Parmigiano-Reggiano, salty and sharp (essential qualities in a cheese, I say).

This really was a great pie. Brandon's sauce has superb tomato flavor, with tones of garlic playing in the background. His crust bears the appearance of a more artisanal pie, with plenty of blackened bubbles and blisters, but is as soft as any Neapolitan pie I've eaten. The hole structure is airy and light, with a wonderful chewiness to it.

This crust tastes of sourdough and the terrific smokiness of burning wood, and to leave the cornicione uneaten is unthinkable. It's too good to leave behind on your plate, and I doubt very much you'll have any other notion than to finish each slice in its entirety.

Our second pie was the Pepperoni ($13.50), which is the Brooklyn with the addition of gourmet pork shoulder pepperoni from Seattle-based Zoe's Meats. This pepperoni is leaner than most pepperoni you'll find, and as such is a little less greasy than most. It tastes great, though I wish it were cut just a little thinner so it would crisp more in the oven. This is just a matter of personal preference, though; there's absolutely nothing wrong with this pie, and the addition of this fine meat to the Brooklyn took it to a level I for one found very satisfying.

Rounding out our first trip to Delancey was the Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Cookie with Grey Salt ($3.50). At first glance this dessert appears to be just your ordinary average chocolate chip cookie that someone had spilled large-grained salt on, a prospect some might find confusing in theory. However, having sampled the unparalleled sea salt-enhanced butterscotch budino at Mozza in LA, I knew just how powerfully the addition of good salt can transform a dessert from the decent to the decadent. So I dove right in. The cookie, still warm, is soft, chewy, and thick, the bittersweet chocolate chips melting on your fingertips. On its own, it's a fine version of a standard chocolate chip cookie, but that sea salt...too good.

About a month or so later I hit Delancey again with nearly the same crew as before. Brandon had worked out some of the kinks in his new venture (though somehow that Chuckanut Helles was still tapped out!), and I'd heard the pies coming out of the oven were better than ever. He also offered a wider variety of pizzas on the menu, and I was very eager to sample his take on the sausage pie.

Of course I ordered it straight away. The Sausage Pie ($15) begins with the base of the Brooklyn and includes pork fennel sausage, which is made in-house. This excellent sausage is crumbled over the whole of the pizza, assuring that every slice will pack that sweet, meaty goodness you're expecting. So far, this is my favorite pizza at Delancey, and the one I will recommend to fellow pizza enthusiasts, though next time I'll see about tossing some peppers or chilies into the mix.

Having inexplicably skipped it during my first visit, I also ordered the house Margherita ($12). It's a first-class Margherita, on par with the best I've eaten in Seattle. That great tomato sauce, creamy fresh mozz, potent basil (cooked on the pie), and swirl of olive oil works so well, it's hard to imagine improving on it. If this is your first trip to Delancey, order it.

We also tried the Zoe's Coppa this trip, a sort of antipasti plate with deliciously salty capicola sliced so thin you could read through it and house-made pickled peppers that were alternately spicy and sour, sweet and potent. This dish lasted about ten seconds before our party removed every trace of its existence from this world. It's a great little dish, but at $8 a tad on the pricy side. Mitigate the cost, as we did, by splitting it among several diners (and fight dearly for those pickled peppers).

In just a few short months Delancey has raised the bar for pizza in Seattle and established itself as the primary destination for the city's lovers of the pie. Wait times can be brutal, so I recommend getting there within 10 minutes of opening time, or after 8 p.m. But no matter how long you end up having to stare at the seated diners and curse their existence for taking up precious table space, I can promise you this: your meal will be well worth it.

OVEN: Wood

RECOMMENDED: Sausage Pizza, Grey Salt Cookie


  1. Makes my stomach growl... it's also lunch time though. That char is ridiculous. She will be mine. Oh yes! She will be mine.

  2. Watch for the Seattle Times Sunday paper for November 15th....Rumor is Delanceys will be on the cover of Pacific Northwest. We happened to talk to the press as we waited in line one night. Now everyone will know!! Molly and Brandon are the BEST! But also think the lines will become like Chris Bianco's in Arizona...Brandon's pizza is better!

  3. Thanks for the heads-up, Kimberly! I'll keep an eye out for that this Sunday.

  4. So we just got home from Delanceys....Brandon told us who was sitting next to us at the bar....Adam from SLICE blog!!!! We shared a slice of our pizza with him. Always a fun night at Delancey!!

  5. Also....still no name on the front of the pizza place. Brandon told us tonight a guy is coming monday to paint it on. 4 cars drove by slowly looking around as we waited in line....we said YES... this is Delancey!

  6. That's hilarious, Kimberly. Adam was just here in Portland on his West Coast pizza tour, and he said he'd be heading off to Seattle next to check out Delancey, among other pizzerias. I'm actually in the process of writing up our Portland Pizza Crawl, so that should be up sometime today I believe.

  7. Do you live in Portland? Also do you write for Slice? I always seem to stumble upon blogs dealing with pizza!! Also check out the newest blog I found today...called Anticiplate. Kari is the new prep gal at Delancey. Beautiful food on her site and interesing story about her background. Off to Delanceys now...I'm so excited!!

  8. Yep, I am currently in Portland. I've talked with Adam Kuban about writing some pieces for Slice, but we'll see if it pans out. The Pacific NW needs some representation!