Bainbridge Island just got a little more precious. With the addition of Bruciato (236 Winslow Way E,. 201-3462) from Brendan McGill of Hitchcock Deli fame, the island is now home to possibly the highest-end pizza joint I’ve ever entered. Here the Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pies are topped with ingredients like poached purple potatoes, organic stinging nettles, and duck egg. In other words: Don’t come for pepperoni. And if it’s meat you want, think along the lines of prosciutto, pork shoulder, or pork belly.
The 15 featured pizzas (generally in the $16–$20 range) are specialized to the point where ordering half of one type and half of another isn’t an option. This means that, unless everyone can agree on the toppings, you’ll likely end up with more pizza than you can eat. With our 10-year-old daughter in tow, it was a challenge to find one to her liking, but she surprised us by going gaga for the cipollini. We all did, actually. With a light coating of pomodoro (tomato) sauce, it’s sweetened with honey, which, due to the addition of fresh herbs and cana de oveja (a sheep’s milk cheese), never becomes cloying. Silver-dollar-size caramelized cipollini onions give it a sweet/savory dimension that plays off the honey and herbs beautifully.
The dateri e prosciutto, which also had sweet and salty notes, was less nuanced though still tasty, with ultra-thinly sliced piles of prosciutto, mozzarella, dates, and balsamic. Least successful, and the one I most eagerly anticipated, was the ossa di manzo, featuring beef bone marrow, pickled red onion, and watermelon radishes. Unfortunately, it was overly cheesy, the beef bone marrow presumably somewhere in the melted mozzarella. I’d have liked it as a sauce that finished the pizza, allowing that rich, meaty funk to spring forth. The pickled onions in curly ribbons were lovely, though, and the radishes an unexpectedly good touch. Those three pizzas fed five of us, but we needed to supplement them with a couple of “Piatti”—not a problem, as both were excellent.
The polpo con ceci consists of a whopping Pacific octopus, cut into inch-thick chunks and bathed in a broth of its own savory juices, along with chickpeas, celery, and black pepper. If you tire of octopus served up the same old way—on a plate with a smear of a purée—and feel like you never get quite enough of it, this is the dish for you. The contorno is equally distinctive, a veritable wood-fired garden of Eden, with lightly charred cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, and, when we were there, tender, vegetal triangles of Jerusalem artichoke. This dish can change depending on what’s seasonal, but it’s all lightly tossed with a salsa verde and finished with zesty fried caper bread crumbs.
While the pizzas, antipastas, and piatti aren’t cheap, the cocktails and wine are the real wallet-killers here. My Negroni was $14, and on the entire wine list there was only one red in the $30 range. Most wines run $40 and up, which feels wrong at a pizza place. It irked me. What annoyed me more, though, was the way everything was dumped on our table all at once. In all fairness, the server did ask if we were OK with things coming out as they were ready and, according to fine print on the menu, it’s “Italian-style” for the small plates to be served as they are prepared. Still, I took her question to mean there’d be pauses between dishes. Whatever the case, it meant that we had to eat fast so our pizzas didn’t get cold, and have them push another table against ours just to fit everything. It turned what should have been a great dining experience—at $175—into a stressful one. Do yourself a favor and dictate the pacing you prefer.
Besides the fancy pizzas, the interior itself resembles an upscale farm-to-table affair, with the requisite wooden rafter ceilings; stacked logs as art next to the white, igloo-style oven; a long, languorous bar; and tables topped with glass candleholders in a fetching shade of reddish-pink. Bruciato seems to be for people more interested in the Brendan McGill brand than in actual pizza (nothing against the pizza). Indeed, there’s not a pizza place in Seattle that matches this one’s chic. If you want to try it, you’d better get there close to opening time at 4 p.m., and when summer hits, forget about it, or set a timer and prepare to line up—for a spot in the restaurant and in the subsequent ferry line to get back to the city.