Meet the New King of Beacon Hill: Chef Jerry Corso

chef jerry corso.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Chef Jerry Corso's got the right touch for turning out pizza bliss at Bar del Corso.
Have you tried the best pizza in Seattle? Bar del Corso debuted just last month, but already it's generating gushing word-of-mouth. When you meet the man at the imported wood-burning pizza oven, it's no big surprise.

Jerry Corso has had a storied career, including a round-Italy cooking tour that gave him mad pasta-making skills and taught him the true pleasures of the table. When he returned to the Puget Sound area after working at a D.C. haute spot, Corso hit his stride at Harvest Vine and then spent a few years cranking exquisite noodles and creative cuisine at Betty.

Now he's at the helm of his own delicious destiny, while his wife Gina works the front of the house, and in this week's Grillaxin, the chef talks about how great it is to work in the neighborhood that's been starving for a restaurant like this.

SW: Do you remember the moment or the meal when you felt the calling to the kitchen?

Corso: In the beginning, back in small-town U.S.A., (Poulsbo), I got my first job at the Olympic Inn. They had a Seattle number, which was kind of a big deal for little Norway. The chef when I started was Swiss and, of course, his name was Pierre. He was a real role model.

How was cooking in the other Washington different than cooking here?

The other Washington, for obvious reasons, is a little more international. But by no means do they have an edge on Seattle when it comes to dining. I would say, though, my all-time favorite restaurant was Obelisk, the place I worked in D.C., and if I could have transported it here, I would never have opened Bar Del Corso.

What was the most memorable thing you learned during your time in Italy?

The best thing I learned in Italy was how to eat, and how to create a meal. It was really much more than just collecting recipes. I worked in quite a few places in Rome, Fiumicino, Alba, Nieve, Acuto, and in Orvieto.

When you returned to Seattle, you were working at Harvest Vine, right? I've heard people describe that time as magical. What made it so special?

Harvest Vine back then was special because it was 10 seats at the bar and three tables. That's really all one needs to say. As cooks, Gordon and I did everything, from taking the orders at the bar, picking wines, making espresso, ringing tickets, to, most importantly, cooking the meal. We did have Joseph around on occasion to hold the torch. He is one of a kind!

How long did it take to build out Bar del Corso?

Once we secured this space, it took a little over six months to build out, but so much more time was put in building up to that. I wish I had someone to follow me around to write about the trial-and-error process and, of course, the bureaucracy of it all. I did have a lot of good folks around to help, though!

When in the building process did you first feel the neighborhood's love?

The neighborhood has been awesome! This is where we live, and it is our priority to make them happy if at all possible. During the build-out, we had to eventually lock the front door because people wanted to come chat all too often, and tell you how happy they are.

pizza at bar del corso.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Pies are beautiful at the new hot spot on Beacon Hill. But come early, or expect to wait for a table.
Let's talk pizza. How would you describe the style?

The pizza is based on the Neapolitan style, but we follow our own rules when it comes to what we want to put on it.

Did it take a long time to develop the crust recipe?

Pizza dough is an ongoing process that is alive and susceptible to all the climatic changes of the day.

It's so good and so thin . . . how do you stretch it without throwing it?

With light hands.

What's your favorite pizza experience in Italy?

Napoli is the home of Pizza, but there is something about stepping into a Pizzeria a taglio in Rome for a kilo of pizza rosa, suppli, and beer!

If you were coming in to Bar del Corso for the first time, what would you order?

Everything. Anchovies, bottarga, tuna heart, mortadella, squash blossoms, baccala . . . and a vegetable off the board, along with a bunch of pies.

Check back for part two of Grillaxin for a recipe from chef Jerry Corso.

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