WSB Extra: The 1st West Seattle Pizza Taste Test!

November 3, 2008 at 3:45 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle restaurants | 71 Comments

Ordering pizza tonight after a rough Monday? Tomorrow, as part of an Election Night event? You might find some info to savor in The 1st WSB West Seattle Pizza Taste Test, organized by WSB contributing photojournalist Christopher Boffoli, with volunteer help. They didn’t hit every pizza place in West Seattle, but a good sampling – read on to learn more about this beloved food and to see which of the ones they tried came out on top(ping)!

By Christopher Boffoli
West Seattle Blog contributing journalist

West Seattle Blog readers, particularly those who post in the WSB Forums, are an opinionated bunch. When I posted recently about a bad pizza experience, I was not surprised when the responses were spirited.

Despite the simplicity of pizza – a food that at its most basic is comprised of flat bread, tomato sauce and cheese – feelings about this beloved food are complex. After all, pizza is food. And eating is a sensual experience that not only sustains us physically but also is inexorably tied to memory and emotion. The qualities people most appreciate can also be strongly influenced by the region in which they grew up or where they first had pizza. There is a surprising diversity of pizza-making methods in the US and, like salmon instinctively returning to home waters to spawn, people tend to go back to the flavors and textures of childhood. This can complicate efforts to calibrate opinions on what constitutes a great pizza.

My own preference for pizza is informed by the experience of growing up in an Italian-American household in the Boston area and, later, from living in New York City. It would be impossible to tally the number of different pizzas I’ve tasted in my life — from limp, freezer-to-microwave pizzas, to slices grabbed at hockey games, to assembly line delivery pizzas from corporate chains, on up to pizzas handmade by my Naples-born great-aunts, pizzas baked in coal-fired ovens in New York’s Greenwich Village, even pies I’ve eaten in Italy.

Spend five minutes with anyone discussing this simple, accessible food and you’ll quickly learn how complicated the subject of pizza can be. It is fitting, then, that trying to distill the origin of pizza is a similar exercise in futility, as historians have widely divergent opinions about its provenance.

What experts do agree on is that pizza was probably born centuries ago around the Mediterranean. Records stretching back to the ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians contain references to flatbread on which oils and a herbs were cooked and eaten. Tomatoes – a completely New World food – were brought back to Europe sometime in the 16th century. But they didn’t make it onto the flatbreads until years later, as their relation to the Nightshade family led many to consider them poisonous. (Thomas Jefferson is often credited for helping to dispel that myth.)

When bread, tomatoes, herbs and cheese were finally united, only then did pizza cement its place in culinary history. Today there is still great regional diversity in the interpretation of pizza, even in Italy, the relatively small country that gets the most credit for inventing it.

Our modern pizzas are probably most closely related to those that originated in Naples and made by Italians who immigrated to the Northeastern United States in the early 20th century. At its genesis, pizza was made simply with a few cheap, readily available ingredients. But as with most American food, pizza was quickly appropriated and then re-imagined. Its popularity exploded around the middle of the last century, especially when GI’s returned from Italy after the war with a taste for what they had sampled abroad. Greek immigrants put their own spin on it and helped to spread its availability nationwide. Whereas Italian immigrants preferred a thin, stone-oven crust that could be folded, Greeks added more oil to the crust and baked their pizzas in pans.

As it proliferated, pizza was adapted regionally to suit local tastes. Some Rhode Islanders grilled their pizza crusts. In Philadelphia, a cheese-less version with only tomato and herbs became popular. Chicago came to be known for its deep-dish version. In the 1980s, California cuisine introduced Americans to Thai chicken pizza, taco pizza, BBQ chicken, and even a bacon-cheeseburger version. Multiculturalism brought together Canadian bacon with Hawaiian pineapple for a savory-sweet pizza that is now wildly popular in Australia. What took Europeans centuries to develop, the bounty of America advanced and amplified in only a few decades.

However, with reinterpretation and innovation also came commoditization. In order for corporate chains to get pizzas on every street corner and in supermarket freezers, the noble pizza had to compromise its flavor, quality and nutrition. What started in Italy as healthy thin-crust pizza, with fresh ingredients, low-fat mozzarella cheese, olive oil, and lycopene-rich tomatoes, eventually devolved into salt and fat0-laden monsters.

Fortunately, pizza has recently rediscovered its artisan roots, and Seattle has no shortage of pizzerias – places like Via Tribunali and Tutta Bella – which with wood-fired stone ovens have endeavored to celebrate the classic qualities of authentic Neapolitan pizzas.

When I recently lamented the shortage of Seattle pizzas that matched my New York City pizza experiences, many commenters on the WSB Forums eagerly recommended pizzerias tucked into obscure places all over the City. Still, some East Coast diehards seemed to harbor the fatalistic notion that Seattle did not have any pizzas that even came close to the best pizzas they’ve had in New York. They reason that the composition of the water prevents the crust from being right.

There may be something to this hypothesis. A recent article in New York Magazine chronicled the trails of chef Mario Batali, who is trying to perfect a NY-style pizza at his Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. Much of his focus has been on the chemical composition of the water (read more about that here). His work has also analyzed the harder-to-quantify taste characteristics that are imparted to pizzas by coal-burning ovens in which pizzas have been baked for decades.

The extensive Forum discussions about pizza made me hungry and curious about the current state of pizza on the West Seattle peninsula. There were a number of places close to home that I had yet to try. But the pizzerias I had sampled were disappointments, despite those who raved about them. I thought I knew when I tasted a good pizza. But I was curious about some of my fellow West Seattle Blog readers and their disparate opinions. The experiences conveyed on the Forums seemed scattered. It didn’t seem as though anyone had ever had the benefit of tasting a bunch of local pizzas side by side.

With the approval of the West Seattle Blog publishers, I decided to organize a group of WSB readers into a pizza tasting committee. Those who were approached were among the original posters in the Forums who seemed to have the strongest opinions about where to find good pizza in West Seattle. Fortunately, our pool of judges also reflected diverse regional backgrounds. I gathered the judges recently at a top secret West Seattle Blog tasting laboratory near The Junction. Pizzas were ordered from a selected group of West Seattle pizzerias and picked up (or delivered) as close as possible to the tasting so they would be hot and fresh when they were evaluated. We also used warming bags and a hot oven to maintain freshness.

Judges were given forms on which to evaluate the constituent parts of the pizzas: Crust, sauce, cheese and toppings. They then participated in a round-table discussion about what they liked or disliked about the pizzas. For consistency, and because it is statistically the most common, pepperoni was the only topping on the pizzas. The pizzerias chosen for this comparison were not told that their pizzas were being evaluated. Meet the judges – and then, the pizzas!

The Judges
Including myself (WSB handle: cjboffoli), the judges were: Dale and Joanne Brayden (JoB), Erik LaSeur (Erik), Sue Mariconda (Sue), Jan Seeley (JanS) and Shannah Striker (SMS).

Dale was born in Chicago and raised in Arizona. He has lived in the Pacific Northwest for 25 years. Joanne was born in Nebraska and has lived in many cities in both the East and West. She and Dale have lived in West Seattle for just over a year now.

Erik was born in Seattle and spent the first six years of his life in West Seattle before moving to Kent. He moved back to West Seattle five years ago and now works as a Feldenkrais teacher.

Sue was born and raised in New York City. She has lived in West Seattle for 3 years and works as a legal assistant.

Jan was born in Virginia but was raised in Pennsylvania. She has lived in West Seattle for almost 34 years and works as a massage therapist.

Shannah was born in Utah but was raised in the Seattle area and only recently decamped from Queen Anne and moved to West Seattle. She does financial reporting for an international investment management company.

The Pizzas

Abbondanza
6523 California SW
206/935-8989

Morgan Junction’s Abbondanza has garnered a fair bit of positive local media coverage for its hand-tossed crust (made from dough mixed daily) cooked in their gas slate Bari ovens. The owner’s family apparently originated in Naples, Italy and was shown the ropes by a relative who ran pizzerias in New York City. While they seem to have a loyal following for their pizzas and other menu items, some online reviews seem to hint that the quality can be inconsistent. The restaurant sometimes has live music. Abbondanza is also one of the few places in Seattle that have cannolis on their dessert menu.

What Our Judges Thought: The opinions of our judges were similarly mixed. Everyone seemed to appreciate the texture and chewiness of the crust. But Jan thought there was not enough cheese and sauce, and Sue thought the pizza needed more flavor. Joanne compared it to a “little black dress” in that it “needed accessories.” The other judges thought the pizza seemed average. “Just what you’d expect of a pizza,” Shannah wrote, “but nothing special.”

Amante
3239 California SW
206/933-7555

Amante Pizza delivers pizza from ten locations in the Seattle area and also has outlets outside of our region in Arizona and Maryland. Its West Seattle restaurant is near the corner of California SW and SW Hanford. Amante has extensive lunch and catering menus and — very much in the style of West Coast-influenced pizza — Thai, taco, BBQ chicken and even a salmon pizza.

What Our Judges Thought: Dale, Sue, and Shannah appreciated the spiciness of the pepperoni though Jan was bothered by the fact that there was a coating of cheese over the toppings which she felt should always be on top. Everyone seemed to have issues with the softness of the crust. These sentiments were echoed in a broader segment of online reviews in which some thought it was consistently undercooked. Sue thought it was “spongy” and Joanne said it reminded her of cake and lacking in flavor. Christopher, Shannah, and Dale noted the tastiness of the pepperoni. But Sue was the most critical of this entry, saying it tasted no better than “upscale frozen pizza.”

Giannoni’s
2600 SW Barton (Westwood Village)
206/935-1800

Named after the Italian grandmother of one of the owners, Giannoni’s opened to rave reviews just last year. They have attracted a cult following among East Coast pizza lovers for their hand-tossed pies and made-to-order slices. Though some online reviews suggest that this start-up has had some issues with inconsistent service, many others proclaim it as the “holy grail” of New York-style pizza in West Seattle. Their fans might be surprised to learn that the owners are actually from the Bay Area and sought to replicate the pizzas they knew in Northern California. Their menu includes sandwiches and salads. They’ve also dabbled in pastas. But the owners say they prefer to focus on their original concept: pizza by the slice.

What Our Judges Thought: The praise was nearly universal for this one. Shannah thought it had an excellent balance of “bright” sauce and salty pepperoni. She also loved the thin, light crust. Erik agreed, praising its overall taste. Christopher and Sue both loved the crust, though Sue wished it offered more support towards the center to hold up during bending. All of the judges praised the pizza’s flavor, with Dale noting its perfect parity of sweet and salty “umami” savoriness. Most of the judges thought it struck the ideal balance of crust, sauce and toppings. The only criticisms were from Dale, who thought the crust could have been crisper and Joanne thought it was too much like foccacia and not enough like pizza though she did note that the crust had a “nice back bite.”

Luciano’s
2341 California SW
206/933-1193

Luciano’s has three Seattle-area locations. And even though its name and the Venetian photo on its menu immediately conjure a notion of Italy, the neon sign in its Admiral Junction store advertising “gyros” offer clues to a menu and ownership with Greek influences. In addition to a vast selection of pizzas, calzones, pastas, sandwiches and salads, Luciano’s also delivers Greek specialities that include moussaka, dolmades, Greek lasagna and hummus. Like many of the pizzerias in our sample, they claim that their hand-tossed pizza is baked from dough that is made throughout the day and that their pizzas are topped with fresh, natural ingredients.

What Our Judges Thought: Christopher was intrigued to try this pizza again as it was an unpleasant pizza delivered from this restaurant that was the source of the original rant posted on the WSB Forum. The crust on that initial pizza seemed pre-made and frozen and the sausage pellets didn’t help. But the crust on the test pizza was completely different. It was actually a hand-tossed crust with an interesting yeasty flavor. Sue liked the yeasty crust as well as the texture of the cheese. She thought it had a nice, home-made taste. Erik called the crust “lively,” but Dale criticized its lack of crispiness, and Shannah thought it was too plain. Many of our judges enjoyed the pepperoni, which was of a large diameter and was thought to be both “tasty” and “crispy” though Dale disagreed, saying it was “basically ham.”

Pagliacci
4449 California SW
206/726.1717

Pagliacci was founded by a group of Italian cousins in the University District in the late ’70s. They now have more than twenty locations around Seattle, with a West Seattle restaurant in the Junction near the corner of California and Oregon. They offer a range of hand-tossed, brick oven pizzas, for delivery or eat-in (just a few tables, though). Standouts on their menu include their use of spicy artisan pepperoni from Salumi as well as seasonal offerings like fig and prosciutto.

What Our Judges Thought: Dale loved this pizza and immediately proclaimed it as his favorite of the competition. He praised its “fire-oven” taste, excellent sauce, and spicy pepperoni. Joanne liked it too, adding that she appreciated how the flavor of the sauce lingered. Shannah and Erik appreciated the thin, crispy crust. All of the judges appreciated the flavor and quantity of the pepperoni, though three judges noted that there didn’t seem to be enough cheese. Jan thought there wasn’t enough sauce. Christopher thought there was a strong saltiness to the pizza but liked it overall. Sue found fault with the overly chewy crust and took exception to the pepperoni, which she thought had an “odd aftertaste.”

Spiro’s
3401 California SW
206/932-5100

Owner Jim Voltsis serves Greek-influenced pizzas out of three Spiro’s locations in the Seattle area. The West Seattle location is only a meatball’s throw from Amante, near California and Hinds. In addition to pizza, Spiro’s offers the usual selection of calzones, pastas, and subs.

What Our Judges Thought: No other pizza garnered unanimously strong opinions as much as this one did. This pizza seemed to use a combination of Jack and Cheddar cheese as opposed to the traditional mozzarella and it wasn’t working. Our judges thought the color was “fluorescent” and “other worldly.” There was a lot of it too. The sauce seemed too scant under such a thick layer of cheese which slid off at the first bite. All of the judges felt that the cheese overpowered an overly “doughy” and “bready” crust, sour-tasting sauce and flat tasting toppings. At least two of the judges proclaimed it “not even as good as frozen.”

Talarico’s
4718 California Ave SW
206/937-3463

This Junction pizzeria has gained a loyal following since it opened in 2006. No other restaurant in our sample had such a profusion of online reviews. While most raved about Talarico’s self-professed “East Coast Pizza Pies,” some others had concerns about uneven service and their use of things like “canned mushrooms” on their pizzas. What is clear that, whether approaching them whole or by the slice, Talarico’s pizza requires a commitment, as the servings are massive. They only make 28” pizzas. In fact, when one of our judges stepped out onto the sidewalk after picking up the pizza, the sheer size of the box drew peals of laughter from passersby who asked her if she was “planning to play ping pong” and warned her against “strong gusts of wind.” Here’s Shannah with the box and pizza:

Some may give Talarico’s extra points for their pizzas named in honor of notable Italian-Americans, such as the “Tarantino”, the “Coppola,” and the “Sinatra,” as well as for the surly goombah on its sign, which gives The Junction its own little dose of bada-bing.

What Our Judges Thought: Joanne loved it for its “intriguing spice blend” and crisp crust. She thought the sauce perfectly balanced the pepperoni. She said it was her favorite of the competition. Dale enjoyed it too, comparing the crispiness of the crust to crackers. Most of the judges thought sauce was sweet and that the pizza overall had a good crispiness, with wide edges to the crust. A couple judges did note that they thought the sweetness worked against the overall balance of ingredients and that the pizza was a bit too oily.

And now – the winner!

The Winner: Giannoni’s Pizzeria

After spending hours sampling pizza at our secret West Seattle Blog tasting laboratory, the judges tallied their scores and discussed their choices. Then the group was asked to first come up with their top three and then to proclaim a number one winner for their favorite among the pizzas sampled in this 1st WSB West Seattle Pizza Taste Test.

Though the judges were not unanimous in their conclusions, it was telling that all had the same pizzas in their top three. Dale nominated Pagliacci; Joanne liked Talarico’s best. Indeed, all of the other judges included these two pizzerias on their short lists. But for five of the seven judges, Giannoni’s Pizzeria in Westwood Village was number one and the overall winner of our competition. We will be profiling Giannoni’s in a follow-up to this article, so stay tuned.

It should be noted in closing that pizza is a handmade product that often exists side by side with the astonishing uniformity of fast food. Hand-tossed dough, sauces, toppings and cheese can vary in quality; as such, the end product can be different on any given night. So personal tastes aside, it should be no surprise that experiences will differ. Even the pizzeria you love can have an off-night.

Though our efforts to evaluate this sampling West Seattle pizzas was designed to be fair and thorough, we know we didn’t sample every pizzeria available. We’d love to hear from you in the comments section if there is a place we missed that WSB readers want to see in any potential sequel!

71 Comments

  1. uh-hum. Why was I not contacted to judge? No free pizza ;)

    So are you going to tell us your comments on the rest? I liked Luciano’s barbecue chicken a lot. And I had some reeeeeeally bad pagliacci the other day. Did the restaurants know you were taste testing?

    I will have to try Gianonni’s!

    Comment by ellenater — 3:52 pm November 3, 2008 #

  2. I skimmed through this article because I’m mostly curious where the pizza came from that is featured on the home page of WSB? That pizza looks delicious!

    Comment by pbgirl423 — 3:58 pm November 3, 2008 #

  3. Damn straight it’s Giannoni’s.
    Out of those mentioned, they are tops.
    But it seems as if Chris and Sue are the only ones who can judge based on their past pizza experience.
    Living in the NW for years doesn’t teach you what good pizza is.

    Comment by dd — 4:04 pm November 3, 2008 #

  4. I am a big fan of Pagliacci, so I am glad to see it reviewed here. I will have to give Ginannoni’s a try sometime soon, as I would imagine it is a LOT cheaper than Pag’s. Thanks for all your uber-hard work here…must have been torture for you all. ;)

    Comment by JenV — 4:11 pm November 3, 2008 #

  5. Looks like I’ll have to try Giannoni’s! Haven’t been there yet even though I’m in Westwood all the time.

    Though personally I love Spiro’s. The dough is supposed to be like that–it’s Greek style, and I think you pretty much have to like Greek style pizza to like Spiro’s. Ditto the cheese.

    Comment by datamuse — 4:17 pm November 3, 2008 #

  6. Funny thing about that West Coast native/New York pizza thing. I finally went to NY state in 1990 and I was so excited to try the pizza, having heard all my life it was the pizza to end all pizza. And what I had at a little pizzeria in upstate NY (taken there by a good friend who assured me it was the most fabulous pizza for miles around) shocked me … it reminded me of something I’d had at a drive-in theater snack bar years earlier. Limp, greasy, etc. I am a fan of Chicago-style pizza (and a West Coast native so I guess that’s my “problem”) … I wish there was an Old Chicago around here; whenever we’re in the Portland area, we always stop by – TR

    Comment by WSB — 4:18 pm November 3, 2008 #

  7. Wow, very cool.

    I absolutely LOVE Spiro’s – that’s so funny.

    Oh well, guess I’m in the minority – although it always seems packed.

    I better try some others.

    Comment by Smitty — 4:20 pm November 3, 2008 #

  8. VIVA GIANNONI’S!!!! I’m an from New Jersey by birth and have lived in Seattle for 31 years.
    I had given up on pizza, until I tasted their, thin crust, non greasy jewels. This is my pizza
    favorite bar none. Too bad they dodn’t deliver.

    Comment by Marge — 4:29 pm November 3, 2008 #

  9. ellenater: The pizzerias were not told in advance that their products were being taste-tested. We wanted the pizzas to be representative of what anyone would pick up around 6:30pm on a random weeknight.
    .
    pbgirl423: I’m fairly sure the top picture is from Lucianos,
    .
    dd: Be careful. Ex-New Yorkers in Seattle are already too apt to gloat about our expertise when it comes to pizza. And I can tell you from first-hand experience that double threat SueM (Italian and a New Yorker) is one tough customer when it comes to pizza.
    .
    Smitty: One note about Spiro’s: When I called to place an advance order for their pizza there was some question as to whether they’d be able to process my credit card over the phone. But the man I spoke to was totally cool about it and told me not to worry. He said the pizza would be ready on time and said he’d call me if there was a problem and that he’d trust me to come over and pay for the pizza after-the-fact. They were generous and trusting in an endearing way that I think makes a statement on the quality of businesspeople in West Seattle.

    Comment by cjboffoli — 4:39 pm November 3, 2008 #

  10. Kind of wishing about now that I ate pizza more than once a year.

    Perhaps for your next taste test, you might include Olympia Pizza on Delridge? Lots of folks LOVE that place!

    Comment by d — 4:40 pm November 3, 2008 #

  11. We love Giannoni’s. Perhaps our family just lacks the negotiation skills to agree on a whole pizza, but I LOVE the pizza by the slice. Don’t forget to ask for the pizza by the slice punch-card!

    Comment by indaknow — 4:46 pm November 3, 2008 #

  12. Pagliacci = WAY over priced and really not all that good. Bleah.

    Comment by Scott — 4:55 pm November 3, 2008 #

  13. Great article. Surprised you didn’t review Pegasus though. We eat a lot of Pagliacci and Abbondanza – I haven’t tried Giannoni’s, but look forward to ordering one this week!

    Comment by JBH — 5:08 pm November 3, 2008 #

  14. Finally — the mainstream media is covering something of substance during these dire days!
    .
    OK, kidding aside: I find it nice that you can’t judge a pizza place by its cover. I (and I’m sure several others) have passed by Giannoni’s without giving it a second thought. It’s easy to do since it looks like every other business in that development (not a knock, just a thought). Now it’s No. 1 on the list of places to try in WS!
    .
    Thanks CB and judges. I can’t imagine it was easy to try and find something differnet to say about each of these spots.

    Comment by Bob Loblaw — 5:08 pm November 3, 2008 #

  15. It will pretty hard for me to try something different than Pegasus’s Tom’s special. Whodda thunk the Westwood Village shopping center could possibly have West Seattle’s best pizza? We’ll give it a try.

    Comment by Vanessa C. — 5:35 pm November 3, 2008 #

  16. You dare to review West Seattle pizzerias yet fail to include the venerable Pegasus? Shocking!

    Even more shocking, no one mentions the oversight until twelve comments in. =:o

    Otherwise, great reviews! You listed a lot of new upstarts for us to get out and try.

    Comment by Scott (no, the other Scott) — 5:42 pm November 3, 2008 #

  17. Thanks, cjboffoli. It is more accurate. We got Pagliacci on Halloween night and it was not good. Not up to their standard Greasy, limp, and dried out all at the same time. I am looking forward to slices from Giannoni’s. Has anyone tried the slices at Bakery Noveau? I am always preoccupied by the chocolate…

    Comment by ellenater — 5:47 pm November 3, 2008 #

  18. here comes ZEEKS – by next year, I predict this will be the winner. You never know Via Tribunali may have a west seattle home before too long. owner lives over here… Giaonni’s is bland and inconsistent

    Comment by THD — 5:47 pm November 3, 2008 #

  19. Actually, Christopher, I’m not Italian; that’s my husband who’s responsible for the Italian surname. :)

    dd, yes, I’m a New Yorker, but by no means do I consider myself a critic extraordinaire about pizza. I just know what I like. And as a New Yorker, I’m also very vocal about what I don’t like – LOL!

    Comment by Sue — 5:47 pm November 3, 2008 #

  20. I LOVE that you have done the hard work on this, but sadly, don’t agree with the results. The people at Gianonni’s are a delight, really nice folks, which is why I wanted to love their pizza. And indeed, they make a good crust, but I thought the cheese tasted kinda budget, like they weren’t using the good stuff to top my pie. I was disappointed.

    We typcially end up at Abondonza, where the pie is fine, but does not send us into fits of ecstasy.

    We eagerly await Zekes. Oh, and a side note: It’s not a pizza place, but they do make a lovely pizza – what’s the name of the little Italian place on Beach Drive…La Rustica. THAT is pizza, euro-style, the way we like it.

    Comment by pam — 5:56 pm November 3, 2008 #

  21. SueM: Sorry for the confusion. You spoke with such authority on pizza that I assumed you were a paisan. But I’m sure some other quality (singing voice? You jump shot?) still qualifies you as at least a double threat. :-)

    Comment by cjboffoli — 6:00 pm November 3, 2008 #

  22. It’s interesting how people prefer different types of pizza. I don’t really care for Giannoni’s, but I really like White Center Pizza. They are completely different types of pizza. The family who own White Center Pizza are Greek, and I think their menu has been the same for close to thirty years.

    Comment by Scott B. — 6:09 pm November 3, 2008 #

  23. I agree that leaving Pegasus out is a big oversight. I personally love the Greek pizza, but the Tom’s Special is also really good. I only wish they delivered because I am sometimes to lazy to leave the house.

    And I would like to see a review of Olympia as well, since I just had it for the first time recently. It was good, I want to know what the other experiences were.

    Comment by missaudreyhorne — 6:15 pm November 3, 2008 #

  24. i heartily disagree- abbodanza’s is by far the best pizza in the neighborhood! consistent quality has resulted in satisfaction with every one of my numerous orders.

    Comment by sean — 6:19 pm November 3, 2008 #

  25. Thanks for a fun, interesting, and educating story Christopher! And thanks too all the judges as well. As JenV mentioned, musta been tortutre! :p

    .

    I found it especially intriguing how many different cultures over time, have contributed to the evolution of pizza, what with varied cooking methods, different crust styles, and toppings. I can actually remember when the thought of pineapple on a pizza seemed odd to me, and now, I really like it.

    .

    This also gave me the thought that the possibilities are endless. My idea of a pizza that also incorporates another of my favorie foods? Pho pizza! ;)

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 6:25 pm November 3, 2008 #

  26. We did our best to have regional diversity among our judges and to test these pizzas under ideal conditions. But again, because pizza is a handmade product and is something that is so personal it should be no surprise that some readers will disagree with our conclusions. Also, even the best pizzerias can have a bad day. I suppose the only conclusion not articulated in the piece above is that, even in a neighborhood as compact as West Seattle, we’re fortunate to have so many different pizza places that everyone is bound to find a place they like eventually. I hope at the very least that this article will inspire readers to maybe try some places they don’t already know.

    Comment by cjboffoli — 6:27 pm November 3, 2008 #

  27. Amante’s “Bella Luna” is delicious, as is the “Seattle’s Favorite” – YUM!

    However, i would agree that their dough is sometimes a bit … underdone? Their pizza is positively AMAZING when reheated in the oven (no cookie sheet) or in a fry pan the day after. It crisps up the crust and everything comes together perfectly.

    Honestly, though, what I really love about them is that they are so darned nice. They’re efficient, but polite and friendly every time we call. And they always tell us 45 minutes, but invariably, even in bad weather, we have food at our door in 20 min.

    Comment by Aim — 6:33 pm November 3, 2008 #

  28. What about Garlic Jim’s? It’s not too bad… I’m anxiously awaiting for Zeek’s to arrive, so I can go back to getting my Thai One On pizza delivered. :-)

    Comment by ML — 6:38 pm November 3, 2008 #

  29. We love Spiros!

    Comment by GB — 6:41 pm November 3, 2008 #

  30. Do not support Garlic Jim’s. They have no regard for public safety. Pizza first, safety last!

    Comment by CB — 6:57 pm November 3, 2008 #

  31. Olympic Pizza…also Greek style. Had it for the first time about 2 weeks ago, and it reminded me of Spiro’s. We’re all different, with different tastes, so to each his own. While it might not be my fave, you might just love it.

    It was definitely fun doing this little experiment.

    So when are the ex-Chicago natives gonna pipe up and share their favorites, or not so?

    Comment by JanS — 7:13 pm November 3, 2008 #

  32. Pegasus is hard to beat, but Spiro’s is an easy second place in our family. In fact, I really enjoy all of them, except Pagliacci, it’s consistently soggy when it’s delivered.

    Thanks for the report! What food group will you be covering next?

    Comment by WesCAddle — 7:57 pm November 3, 2008 #

  33. CB – you need to back up that type of accusation with evidence or I will ask the moderator to remove it. I hate trashing of businesses without specifics or an attempt to work it out with the management.

    We love Luciano’s pizza and order it regularly. We also thought omitting Pegasus was a big blunder for this informal survey. I agree with the poster above who said that there are different type of pizzas for different palates – sometimes I want the greasy/cheesy NY pizza and sometimes I want something ligther and refined like Pegasus, Zeek’s or Luciano’s specialty pies.

    Comment by mellaw6565 — 8:02 pm November 3, 2008 #

  34. mellaw…what accusation do you think CB needs to back up? I thought this was a pretty positive review all around….what offense do you take out of it? sign me “curious”

    Comment by JanS — 8:23 pm November 3, 2008 #

  35. Actually the GJ thing that CB (NOT to be confused with cjboffoli) brings up has been discussed here previously. The previous owner of GJ’s even weighed in at one point, if I recall, and invited people to contact him with concerns. I don’t know what came of that, as the store changed hands some months back.

    Comment by WSB — 8:25 pm November 3, 2008 #

  36. We love Spiro’s, have for nearly 20 years. We order from Pagliacci often enough to be “frequent pie-ers” but Spiro’s is our favcrite with Jim, Susan and Dion. Go try the Vangelli’s or #22!

    Comment by fiz — 8:26 pm November 3, 2008 #

  37. ahhh…mellaw…I thought you were asking about something that Christopher said. I just saw the post by CB…so…as an old SNL character would say…never mind :)

    Comment by JanS — 8:30 pm November 3, 2008 #

  38. One more note, when I worked in Belltown a few years ago and our staff ordered Zeke’s, we found a few things that just weren’t as clean as one would expect. Maybe that’s been corrected.

    Comment by fiz — 8:32 pm November 3, 2008 #

  39. Dale read the article at 5.. by 6 he had called asking if i would like to meet him at plgliacci’s.

    his pizza was great..

    but so was the polenta appetizer, the meat cheese and olive plate and the soup.

    i don’t know if any of it is the best in West Seattle… but i do know it sure hit the spot tonight.

    thanks chris for a really fun experience…

    the company and the comments were almost better than the pizza.

    Comment by JoB — 8:33 pm November 3, 2008 #

  40. Spiro’s is fantastic! The fact that they use a variety of cheese is my favorite part of their pizza. It’s something different for a change and not to mention their italian sausage is the best in West Seattle. However, I do look forward to giving Giannoni’s a try. By looking at the picture of their pizza, it’s easy to see that their style is different than Spiro’s.

    Comment by j — 8:41 pm November 3, 2008 #

  41. Wow – great review. We will defintely try Giannoni’s. Also glad to see some feedback on Olympia – been wanting to try them.

    WSB – I also love Chicago style (really miss Zachary’s from Berkeley). You can order true chicago style online at http://www.loumalnatis.com/ I’ve done it many times – the pies are not large but definitely filling. Sauce and tomatoes on top over the toppings – just way I like Chicago style. They make it fresh and I’m assuming they do some quick flash freeze before packaging it in dry ice and styrofoam for the cross country trip

    Comment by Lou — 8:52 pm November 3, 2008 #

  42. We luuuuuuuuuuuuvvv Spiro’s! No, it’s not a really thin crust like some hoity toity N.Y. style pizza pie, but the crust has just the right crispiness. The cheese goes perfectly with the spicy tomato sauce,pepperoni, olives and sausage! Since the remodel it’s our familys favorite pizza. Try the small salad, it is the perfect accompaniment. Vive La Differance!! Life is GOOD!

    Comment by BigDoug — 8:58 pm November 3, 2008 #

  43. OMG Lou! I LOVED Zachary’s when I lived down there. So, packed full of yum!

    I hate Gianonni’s, way too greasy and floppy.

    Omitting Pegasus from a WS survey was an error. You will have to go back and include them in a further exploration of the subject…

    Comment by que — 9:21 pm November 3, 2008 #

  44. For the record, I had suggested Pegasus – I had never had it, but had heard good things through the Forum. However, with us already getting a pizza from Westwood and then if we also headed to Alki for one, the pizzas would’ve ended up cold and soggy by the time we ate them, and then we wouldn’t have had good things to say about any of them. So it was in no way a slight against Pegasus, but obviously we couldn’t test *every* pizza in West Seattle in one night and do any of them justice.

    Comment by Sue — 10:08 pm November 3, 2008 #

  45. Hey, that’s why we framed this as Taste Test #1, before publishing it. If there is a taste test #2, plenty more candidates – Pegasus, Garlic Jim’s, A-Pizza Mart, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Papa Murphy’s … doesn’t the Trattoria have a pizza? Will Cafe Revo have a pizza? Pizza Bagel from Zatz! Seriously, I don’t think I said this before … HUGE thanks to Christopher and the WSB Forum participating taste testers for carrying off … or maybe we should say carrying out … this extravaganza!!!!

    Comment by WSB — 10:19 pm November 3, 2008 #

  46. I suggest checking restaurants’ Health Dept. inspection records.
    King County Public Health Dept. restaurant inspection records
    or
    http://www.decadeonline.com/main.phtml?agency=skc

    Comment by Scott B. — 10:25 pm November 3, 2008 #

  47. I grew up with pizza as a staple in the Boston area. After ten years in Seattle I had given up on ever finding pizza I liked. Giannoni’s Pizzeria opened and since they offered slices I gave it a try. Once they learned that you NEVER cover pizza to go with aluminum foil… I found pizza that tastes like it was made in the North End.

    Comment by B. White — 10:30 pm November 3, 2008 #

  48. J — ditto on the Italian sausage! Add it to the Garden. Yummmmmm.

    Comment by fiz — 10:51 pm November 3, 2008 #

  49. B. White: How do you feel about Papa Gino’s?

    Comment by cjboffoli — 11:00 pm November 3, 2008 #

  50. Fun article I like it! I’m so sad I didn’t read this pizza post in the forum, I’m so very opionated.

    Each pizza trys to aspire to a certain style. So I have trouble with the generic comparisons. For example Spiros and Pegasus should not be compared to Gianni and Pags. As you said everyone has their own localized understanding of good pizza. Being from Albany Ny I was appalled to find that Buffalo People feel that nyc pizza sucks and that their pizza (lil pockets of grease) was the best.

    BTW what about Napolis in South Park, and Vince’s in Burien. I know they’re not “West Seattle” but they’re close. Frankly Lucianos and Amante are one step better than pizza hut, and thus a waste of stomach space. Napolis is one of my favorite east coast style pizzas (not thin crust but light and fluffy crust). Try the Napoli pizza without any toppings and you will enjoy the delicious sauce.

    Comment by Mike — 12:40 am November 4, 2008 #

  51. Also giving thanks to Christopher and fellow panelists, it was a fun evening of tasting and judging.
    That huge Talarico’s box (28″ pizza) was one of the more interesting moments.

    Comment by Erik — 1:34 am November 4, 2008 #

  52. I really loved Giannoni’s the first time I went, but the last 2 times the pizza by the slice has been incredibly oily and flimsy, like I couldn’t even pick it up without it flopping all over the place, leaving a greasy mess that could not be contained by the white paper plate.

    I want a consistently good pizza, like I used to get on just about every street corner in Philly!

    Comment by MAG — 4:12 am November 4, 2008 #

  53. If there is one thing that is true it is that pizza is a very personal thing. Pizza is so regional and your tastes are probably formed early. That said, I don’t get the Giannoni’s raves. Within the last month I had one of the the worst pizzas ever at Giannoni’s. But that’s one person’s opinion.

    Comment by KT — 7:56 am November 4, 2008 #

  54. While i understand that the logistics made it difficult, it is disappointing and just wrong that Pegasus wasn’t included in the “First WEST SEATTLE Pizza Taste Test”. Pegasus is a West Seattle institution, likely in business here longer far than the rest. Perhaps it is in a class of its own – i’ve yet to be disappointed (in over 20 years).

    Comment by B-squared — 8:05 am November 4, 2008 #

  55. Logistics was a significant factor especially when you consider how much the quality of pizza can change from the time it comes out of the oven. So while it would have been great to sample ALL of the West Seattle pizzas to do any more than we did would have overwhelmed this (completely volunteer) effort.
    .
    Otherwise, mea culpa on Pegasus. I’m a relative newcomer to West Seattle and Pegasus simply wasn’t on my radar. I’m sure I had seen a note or two about them on the WSB but I had no idea how widely popular they apparently are. In light of this and with Zeek’s on the horizon we just may have to reconvene the judges at some point early next year.

    Comment by cjboffoli — 8:23 am November 4, 2008 #

  56. Another problem that could have easily arisen, had the judging team sampled all, or even a few more pizza places in this initial sitting, is that their next project would have been to review area health clubs! ;)

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 8:44 am November 4, 2008 #

  57. The prosciutto and caper pizza at Abondonza is one of my favorites. I have to say as a former NY’er myself I haven’t been that overwhelmed by the pizza here, but it’s certainly not as bad as some other places. It’s not in West Seattle, but Tutta Bella in Wallingford has great pizza.

    Comment by westseattleite — 9:25 am November 4, 2008 #

  58. I’ve had all but one of these. Put two more votes on the ballot for Tom’s pizza at Pegasus on Alki. Salads rock too.
    Not only that, the view knocks the ball otta the park for my money!!!

    Comment by Dunno — 10:06 am November 4, 2008 #

  59. Spiro’s rules… especially the #8. At my office downtown we love Zeek’s, often order in for staff lunches. Pagliacci — ugh. Over-rated, Seattle Weekly readers hypnotized into voting the bland stuff best year after year.

    Maybe we should test for “Seattle-style” pizza…

    Comment by GPS — 10:08 am November 4, 2008 #

  60. La Rustica! La Rustica! I know, it’s not what you think of as a pizza place (I had been there 4-5 times before I even tried the pizza) but they do make a *very* nice pizza pie.
    -
    Also, please call me next time you’re setting up taste test #2…. ;-)

    Comment by JumboJim — 10:24 am November 4, 2008 #

  61. Mike (not MISW)….have you had any of the sandwiches at Napoli…just curious. That’s another thing that former east coasters have problems with out here.

    Comment by JanS — 10:33 am November 4, 2008 #

  62. I can’t believe that Giannoni’s Pizza was the winner! I totally believe the old joke “pizza is like sex. when it’s good, it’s good. When it’s bad, it’s still good”. I can’t say that about Giannoni’s pizza; it was the worst pizza I’ve ever had when I went there for lunch a few months back. Maybe things have changed but I doubt it. The pepperoni pizza I had was watery and runny and had zero flavor. Shame on you guys.

    Comment by SeaKyle — 1:28 pm November 4, 2008 #

  63. What a fun article to read! I do love Gianonni’s for the ability to order something other than the pepperoni/sausage/ham/bacon combo that The Dude prefers when we order a whole pie. My other favorite in WS is definitely at La Rustica – but they’re too far away from my part of WS to go to very often. And I always have to hit Pagliacci in late Nov/early Dec for the Pear Primo.

    For anyone in the east part of WS who prefers thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizza, there’s a Via Tribunali in Georgetown now, only a short drive away.

    I’d love to see a neighborhood-style joint like Mioposto (in Mt. Baker) open up in WS, but since we already have a Chow Foods representative here (Endolyne Joe’s), I’m not holding my breath.

    Comment by Jen — 2:21 pm November 4, 2008 #

  64. Considering I’m a West Coaster (and wouldn’t know a NY pizza if it yelled “Hey, buddy”) I can’t imagine life without Pegassus pizza, especially with the beach. We take our kids there every month and they know how to order a real pizza, not just cheese. I pity them as grown ups trying to find a pizza as good, and a view as spectacular. Maybe like most of WS, they’ll never leave!

    Comment by Fiona — 2:29 pm November 4, 2008 #

  65. Thanks for the report. I guess we are going to have to try Giannoni’s. When we need pizza (NY or Italian style, thank you, not Chicago or California) without heading to Columbia City or downtown, we go to Filiberto’s on Des Moines Dr in Burien. Yeah yeah, I know, it’s not West Seattle or even White Center, and pizza is the only thing there worth ordering, and the atmosphere is lacking, and the service can be neglectful. But the pizza is worth the trip.

    Comment by Max — 8:10 pm November 4, 2008 #

  66. cjboffoli Papa Gino’s pizza! I almost forgot about them. Ah yes, many a blister on the roof of my mouth memories. Once I discovered Pizzaria Regina though that was it for me. There just is nothing quite like a plain piece of pizza with the right balance of dough, sauce and cheese.

    When Abandanza opened they had someone tossing dough and it was excellent. But then I went back awhile later and it had changed to be like most of the rest… really good but not what I was looking for.

    Comment by B. White — 8:15 pm November 4, 2008 #

  67. I think it’s funny how opinionated people are about pizza. And one person can RAVE about a slice of pizza, and another person will HATE the same slice of pizza. Just goes to show, you have to try it all yourself!

    Comment by AJP — 11:57 am November 5, 2008 #

  68. A “West Seattle Pizza Taste Test” that doesn’t include Pegasus cannot be called a “West Seattle Pizza Taste Test.”
    .
    Period.
    .
    Pegasus is so universally loved, I would even go as far as to say that anyone “forgetting” it loses the right to call themselves a West Seattleite.

    Comment by Michael — 11:58 am November 5, 2008 #

  69. Michael: If you’ll kindly tell me where I can pick up my property tax refund, I’ll be happy to renounce my West Seattle citizenship.
    .
    I apologize that we did not include your personal favorite pizzeria on our list. Our aim was to inspire readers to maybe try pizza places that they may not have already known. So what good would it have done us to include a place that is already well known and “universally loved?” People who love Pegasus surely don’t need a bunch of strangers to affirm what they already know.
    .
    When you volunteer your own time and money to invite a group of perfect strangers into your home to test pizzas that you’ve frantically driven around collecting then maybe you can include whichever pizzas you like.

    Cheers,

    West Seattleite (for now) Christopher Boffoli

    Comment by cjboffoli — 2:44 pm November 5, 2008 #

  70. yummmmo! zeeks thai pizza is calling my name!!! heading to queen ann! the closest location……

    Comment by changingtimes — 5:03 pm November 5, 2008 #

  71. I love Giannoni’s. They make everything fresh, cut all of their own veggies (fresh, not frozen) and produce a slice unmatched by anyplace in WS.
    I wish people would realize that whenever you are dealing with handmade, fresh food, you are going to get some inconsistency. Food is tempermental and I have been there enough to know that if you have feedback or a complaint they will gladly accomodate you. Also, it’s “made to order” on a very thin crust, and maybe you shouldn’t load it up so much with greasy toppongs that it doesn’t hold up!

    Comment by Haylie Montgomery — 8:34 pm November 8, 2008 #

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