Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Restaurant Review

Just got back from the latest star in Seattle's dining scene, Tutta Bella's Neapolitan Pizzeria in Upper Fremont.

Ironically (for me at least), the massive space this veritable pizza factory occupies is a former print shop, one in which I actually worked. I half-expected the miasma of printer's ink and solvent as I walked up the familiar front steps, but even though it was early evening, the kitchen was humming and the only smell was a delightful one wafting out from the massive twin brick ovens.

Make no mistake, this is a big, open restaurant with minimalist wall treatments, few dividers and little adornment. It's meant to be a loud, family-style bistro, with plain wood tables and unfinished ceilings. Though we were shuffled off to a far corner of the restaurant, the service was excellent. The girls' sodas (bibite) were quickly refilled and our salads arrived within ten minutes of ordering. The Caesar was wonderfully fresh with a spicy dressing. The small easily fed two, while the large, as I was told, would serve 4.

Of course, most people are coming to Tutta Bella's for the impossibly thin-crusted Neapolitan style pizzas. With the fresh tomato sauce and the excellent organic toppings, the eleven inch pizzas are just right for one person. Even my youngest daughter finished hers with no problem. The pizzas matched the decor--tasteful, understated, even Spartan.

Prices for pizza ranged from $7.95 to $10.95. The Caesar was $5.50 for the small or $8.50 for the large. Finish up with the ever-changing gelata specials or the incomparable bucket of tiramisu, big enough to serve three or four, but just right for two. Get a dessert, and a single-shot of Antibassi espresso is complementary.

Other Seattle restaurants have tried to make their fortune in the thin-crust pizza game, but have had to compromise along the way, usually be offering non-pizza options. Tutta Bella succeeds in making the pizza joint a restaurant destination and a special event. Get there early and even then plan on parking on the street, as the parking lot will probably be full. A second Tutta Bella location is in the resurgent Columbia City neighborhood, on Rainier Avenue South. There will probably be more--look for one on the Eastside soon.

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