Four months after the planned first firing of his new pizza oven, Al Calozzi's finally secured the permit to sell tomato pies at his eponymous Pioneer Square cheese steak joint.
"We had thought that we'd be starting sooner, but we're pumped up," says Calozzi, who started selling pizza last week. "We're having great reviews non-stop."
Calozzi makes his pies in the Trenton, N.J.-style, which means the hand-tossed crusts are thin and the cheese - sliced, not shredded - goes beneath the sauce.
In addition to the traditional plain tomato pie, Calozzi is topping slices with sausage and pepperoni from Salumi. A fourth variety is available every Friday, when Calozzi runs a special: "It could be a white pie, we could throw some clams on there," he says.
When it comes to pizza, I'm probably better versed in Detroit and Dayton's contributions to the genre, but a slice of Calozzi's pepperoni pie was remarkably reminiscent of a pizza I had last summer in Seaside Heights. The underbelly was nicely crisped, the chewy crust had a good smack of salt and the cheesing was appropriately spare. But the standout was the zesty sauce, which Calozzi credits to his brother.
"He puts a little black pepper down in the center, it's something my mother did," he says, adding the flavor's also boosted by "a little herbs and a little secret stuff."
The pizza isn't cheap by Jersey standards: Calozzi charges $4, or nearly double what folks might pay for a slice back east. But, as Calozzi points out, tomato pies are ubiquitous on his home coast. Here, the extra cash being asked of customers amounts to an exclusivity tax.
"It's authentic, that's all we're trying to do," Calozzi says. "We want to introduce Seattle to something completely different."
Restaurant hours will soon be adjusted to accommodate pizza fans; Calozzi already stays open until 4 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but plans to soon move closing time from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on other weeknights.
"We want to get people familiar with tomato pie," Calozzi says.