If you are a Delancey regular, rid your mind of its particular charms before you step into owner Brandon Pettit’s new pizza place on Capitol Hill. Dino’s Tomato Pie eschews the Ballard favorite’s clean aesthetic in favor of a decor and menu that evoke the 1980s New Jersey of its owner’s childhood and the pies that helped define it—specifically Sicilian square pizzas and the round New York/New Jersey types.
The large space dominated by a huge bar is purposefully tacky, with dark wood-paneled walls, fake flowers, faux-marble tabletops, and, everywhere, awkward family photos celebrating weddings, proms, sports events, and anything that screams bad perms and pastels. There’s even a gaudy chandelier hanging in the back that appears to be dripping with crystals—but which, in fact, is made of plastic. A large wooden frontispiece marks the bar and frames a mirror on which daily happy-hour specials are written, including $4 batched cocktails (like at Delancey, there’s a Negroni on tap, as well as an Old-Fashioned, a Blue Rickey, and sangría made with orange Fanta). Be sure to check out the bathrooms too, dark save for eerie red lighting from the ceiling, a black toilet, a black floor with glitter, and a glowing holographic painting of a cobra. Not really Italian, just fun and weird.
Unlike Delancey, there are no artisanal salads or special seasonal appetizers on the menu. There is just a salad and a “fancy salad.” The fancy salad consists of arugula, shaved fennel, and Fra’ Mani soppressata and comes in a silver mixing bowl, along with two smaller silver bowls and a bottle of dressing (essentially a creamy balsamic), allowing you to toss and dress it yourself (a nice touch). But all the ingredients are top-notch, as one would expect from any Pettit operation.
As for the pizza, I realize that discussions of what makes New York (or New Jersey) pizza authentic nearly always derail into superciliousness. But here’s what this former New Yorker thinks: Let’s start with the round pies. These are the closest to the real thing I’ve found in Seattle. And when I say the real thing, I’m referring to the kind of pizza you’d get at the original Ray’s or Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn—a crust, with some black spotting on the bottom and sides, that is thin yet thick enough to fold over without cracking as you walk and eat. It’s also not gooey with cheese or overly sauced; those two elements are in perfect balance at Dino’s. And there’s just enough oil (read: grease) to ensure optimal flavor.
The Sicilian is, of course, square. It is also characteristically thicker, as is the ilk that predominates in old-school New York pizza joints. However, Dino’s Sicilian is not as thick and puffy, though it still has that kind of golden, almost creamy texture in the center. While it’s twice-risen here to ensure a thicker slice, our server told us that there is less yeast in the recipe, which makes the pie less doughy and chewier. In fact, it’s incredibly chewy, which took a little getting used to (I think it’s the same dough they use to make their superb dense garlic knots). The pizza is also extremely crispy on the sides, in part because it’s twice-baked, but also because Parmesan is added to the crust and the tray, even more so on the edges to really char it up. It’s really good pizza, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Sicilian-style has never been my favorite, but this is one of the best versions I’ve discovered.
The regular pies are available as 18-inch only and start at $19 (slices are available after 10 p.m.); the Sicilians are slightly larger and cost $3 more. Indeed, the pies are huge and can easily feed four. There are six combinations to choose from, including a basic pepperoni and a pesto. But the add-on toppings are as wonderful and varied as you’ll find at Delancey—kale, broccolini, roasted leeks, pickled chilies, mortadella, fennel, and more. However, “Dino would like you to know that more than three toppings will be expensive and won’t be any better.” Who’s Dino, by the way? Nope, it’s not a reference to some famous Italian mobster or Brooklyn grandfather with a chain of pizzerias. It’s simply a reference to Brandon, as in “Brandino.” Cute.
A bowl of dark Valrhona chocolate was the only choice for an after-dinner sweet. Unfortunately, after two slices of Sicilian, I had to opt out. There are worse things in life. Dino’s Tomato Pie, 1524 E. Olive Way, 403-1742, dinostomatopie.com.