Delancey, Seattle, Washington

(This post is being simulcast on the Seattle PI and Tastingmenu. I encourage readers of each to check out the other. End of announcement.)

Two weeks ago Seattle readers had a chance to shoot their arrows at my post about Ten Restaurants that Seattle Needs Now. Note number 11 (yes, it was the bonus entry):

11. Pizza. Actual real good New York pizza. (BONUS #11) — While I’m not a fan of NYC’s bagels, just about any random pizza place you walk into on any corner in Manhattan is going to be way way better than the best pizza you can get in Seattle. I don’t know if it’s the water, or the temperature of the oven. And no, I don’t want to bake it at home. My oven is not suitable for baking a pizza no matter how many bricks I jam in there. Memo to the next person who’s dying to open a restaurant that serves lots of salmon and other pacific northwest specialities [sic]. The salmon are endangered and I’m sick of them anyway. Good pizza… not endangered. Just impossible to find. Like the sasquatch. When you open your new pizza place, a trip to Totonno’s on Coney Island will be necessary for reference.

Anyone offended by my putting eleven items in a ten item list can now rest easy. Number eleven has been delivered in the form of Delancey. I’ve known through friends that for months that Brandon Pettit was slaving away at creating incredibly high quality authentic pizza here in Seattle. The oven gets to 900 degrees, the pizzas don’t bake… they are essentially being fired in a kiln… like they’re supposed to be.

The pizza I desire, the pizza I need, is the pizza that I tasted at Totonno’s on Coney Island in New York. The dough is thin and unevenly cooked but in a good way. Splotches of burnt blisters and stretches of chewy goodness. A Totonno’s pizza is not carefully cooked, it’s blasted. And frankly, nothing else compares. Savory sauce, fresh mozarella, possibly some basil, it’s not thick, it’s not deep, it’s a grilled disc with all the ingredients, textures, and flavors in perfect balance.

This is what Brandon has created at Delancey in Seattle. It is unquestionably authentic, and incredibly delicious. Seattle finally has real pizza. To those people who urged me to leave Seattle if I wasn’t happy with its lack of quality pizza, I urge them to never go to Delancey. The presence of extraordinary pizza in their town would clearly upset them to the point that they might have to leave themselves.

It’s really unfair to go to a new restaurant on the second day with any intention of forming a judgment. I rarely write about restaurants I don’t like, and I was fully prepared to give Delancey multiple chances over the next few months before forming an opinion. But my enthusiasm for the pizza we ate: a Brooklyn with mozarella, grana, and basil, a pepperoni, and a crimini mushroom with thyme was so overwhelming that I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone.

Delancey pizza isn’t a uniform food. It’s a combination of ingredients that only stay connected in a very narrow window. Think of the dough, the cheese, sauce, and veggies/meat as elements from the periodic table that only combine when conditions are just right. A few degrees off in either direction and you have a mess. The crimini mushroom pizza wasn’t a block of cheese and dough with sad dessicated mushrooms dotting the landscape. It was all the ingredients joining together voluntarily to present a varied experience for your mouth. Crispy grilled flavor, subtle cheese, oh there’s a hint of the thyme, the mushroom is cooked just right… not overcooked but rather… soft and almost buttery, and so on.

Delancey has other items on the menu. It also has wine. It’s a sit down restaurant and doesn’t take reservations except for parties of six or more where it has one table available per night. Personally I would prefer they strip out all the tables, get rid of the waitstaff, and make nothing but pizza all day and all night. But that’s my selfish desire to increase the output. In truth, having a bit of a sense of how hard Brandon has worked on Delancey, I wouldn’t presume to tell him what to do. Especially given how good the pizza is on only the second day of being open to the public. So instead, let me say this: any young pizza dreamer who hopes to one day make incredible pizza should go intern for and work for Brandon. Maybe one day he’ll let you open up another branch of Delancey that’s closer to my house. But my sense is that it will take you years to earn his trust that you’ll do it just so. So you better get started because I’d like a branch of Delancey to open closer to my house as soon as possible. Until then, I’ll be making the trek to Ballard on a regular basis. And if I look a little doughier over the next few months, blame Delancey.

(My camera should be back from Canon this week. Apologies in advance for the pictures as they were taken on a loaner. I promise to go back to Delancey and take better ones.)

See all our Seattle writeups and photo galleries as well as addresses for all the Seattle restaurants we write about at our Seattle restaurant guide on Tastingmenu.

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6 Responses to “Delancey, Seattle, Washington”

  1. Aaron says:

    I’m a little late to the party as I just found this and the original “10 Restaurants Seattle Needs Now” post. Glad to read you have a standout pizza joint. I don’t live in Seattle but have always enjoyed my visits and think you have a great food scene.

    That said, a few footnotes:

    1. Totonno’s in Coney Island actually burned down earlier this year. It is “supposed” to re-open this month, although that date is the latest of several pushbacks:

    http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2009/07/when-is-totonnos-opening-new-projected-date-is-late-august.html

    2. Montreal “bagels” are in fact pretzels and do not deserve to be anointed with the B-word. And citing a “bagel” from Toronto (where, in fact, they mistakenly think bagels are indeed a kind of bread) suggests a dangerous proximity to the Canadian border.

    3. Top Pot Donuts stand tall among the pinnacle of my donut eating experiences anywhere. To have them available natively any time you want is a blessing. To pine for Dunkin’ Donuts makes about as much sense as a Sicilian wishing for Domino’s to open.

    But you’re absolutely right about blast cooking pizza. It is The One True Way.

  2. hillel says:

    Wow Aaron… given how much vitriol these two posts have generated in terms of comments over on our page at the PI, I’m stunned that someone can disagree with me on some points, even give me a hard time, and yet be funny, and not a jerk. Congratulations. You are officially the commenter of the month. :)

    In terms of bagels, i agree that the Montreal ones are pretzely and the Toronto ones are bagely. That said, there’s nothing better in my opinion. So I’m sticking to my guns!

  3. Jebediah Webb says:

    Bon Appetit magazine had a recent article about this. It is available online here:

    http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/2009/09/opening_a_restaurant

  4. It’s funny the way New Yorkers–no Americans–are fused to the kind of pizza they grew up with. I ranted for years about the lack of good, thin crust pizza in Denver. I opened a spot that serves just what I craved, I find it to be perfect–but while some clients agree wholeheartedly, others call it flaccid, skinny, rant about the lack of sauce or cheese. The pizza place gets more Yelp reviews than my other three restaurants combined–and the comments are all over the board, each writer longing for the perfect pizza that will bring back that first date, or first beer, or first family outing without a fight–or just good laughter over the kind of food that doesn’t require “getting.” Reading your list reminded me that “good pizza” used to be on my list for Denver’s Dining Needs . . .

  5. Jenny says:

    I can’t WAIT to make the trip up from Portland to go to Delancey! I have been reading about the process of opening the restaurant for months, and now that it is open and getting such fantastic reviews I am going nuts! We have a few great spots in Portland (Kens, Apizza Sholes), but I am curious to see how Delancey compares.

  6. My family and I took a trip here when I was about 12. I’m from Houston, so I really remember it being uber cold. I remember we ate at a restaurant that had the best pizza ever! I agree they are one of the top in the US!
    -Sylvia

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