Men are different, especially when it comes to pizza. Jonathan Kauffman is a crust man. I am a toppings man. Kauffman is willing to spend serious money on serious pie; I don't like to drop more than an Andrew Jackson--and that'd better include enough leftover slices for at least another meal.
Last week, Kauffman regaled us with his Top 5 List. Here you'll find mine, the lowbrow to his raised brow. But first, a couple disclaimers: (1) If Harvey's Tavern were still around, it would outdistance this field by such a wide margin that I'd have to leave a page of white space between it and the runner-up, and (2) if the Cloverleaf were in Seattle instead of Tacoma, it would easily make this list, if not top it.
That being said, my Top 5 is as follows:
5. Round Table (numerous locations near, but not in, Seattle). I shed a tear when the last Round Table within the Seattle city limits--the U. Village store--closed in 2007. So many memories there, mostly triumphant ones, as it was the go-to celebratory spot for just about every Pee-Wee team I played on in my North Seattle youth. But damn that pie was--and still is--good. The key: A lack of bashfulness when it comes to interspersing cheddar into the standard mozzarella mix. Cheddar gets no respect. Neither does Round Table--until now.
4. Fiddler's Inn (9219 35th Ave. NE). The Fid used to have really thick, great pizza that took about an hour-and-a-half to emerge from the oven once you placed your order due to: (a) the amount of time it took to cook through, and (b) the backlog of orders vying for space in the Wedgwood tavern's small oven. In recent years, the kitchen has expanded (slightly) and the pies have gotten (slightly) thinner, which has effectively cut the delivery time in half. The pizza, which consistently makes use of fresh, unusual ingredients, is best enjoyed on a sunny, warm day on the Fid's communal picnic tables outdoors, with live Grateful Dead bootlegs emanating from the stereo within.
3. Tie: Pazzo's, (2307 Eastlake Ave. E.), Vince's (8824 Renton Ave. S., plus a handful of suburban locations). At first glance, Pazzo's and Vince's aren't all that similar. The former is in Eastlake, caters mostly to white people, and is basically a large tavern. The latter is in the Rainier Valley, caters mostly to black people, and is split down the middle between family-style Italian restaurant and R&B-loving lounge. But at first bite, they might as well be kissin' cousins, so similar in taste are their pies. Dry crust, huge sausages, generous amounts of cheese--both purveyors cook down-home tavern pizza at its finest, and I defy anyone to pick one from the other in a blind taste test. Hence, to do anything but couple them as a double-entry just wouldn't feel right, even if it makes this list a Top 6 in disguise.
2. The Northlake Tavern (660 NE Northlake Way). The super-heavyweight of Seattle pies, you're simply not going to find a more generous pile of toppings in the city than at the Northlake, a UW-area institution that features David Horsey drawings on the wall and checkered cloths on the tables. The pizza can take awhile to cook, for obvious reasons, but fortunately the Northlake has great antipasti and a vast beer selection to tide folks over while they wait for what'll be well worth it.
1. Italian Spaghetti House (9824 Lake City Way NE). I don't know quite how to explain why this unassuming family restaurant in an unassuming neighborhood takes the top slot, but I'll try: Take the very best attributes of every other pie on this list, combine them, and--voila--that's how good the Spag House's pizza is. Do dine in; the restaurant exudes a kitschy Italian charm, is staffed only by the most seasoned of waitresses, provides ample free bread and breadsticks, and includes a tin bowl of spumoni with its pasta dinners. It always feels like coming home, only its pizza is way better than mom ever made.