Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Eating. pizza. (Via Tribunali).

It was just past 7 o'clock when C. and I staggered out of work, starving and exhausted. Let's just walk towards my place, I said, and see if anything looks interesting. (I am so eager to get out of there and find something to eat that I leave my cell phone behind). If all else fails, we can always order pizza. The neighborhood is full of restaurants and bars, and there is no end of choices. If anything, there are too many choices, and it is impossible to decide.

We walk down Pike Street, lined with funky boutiques and bars and restaurants, ooh and ah at brightly patterned handbags and messenger bags in store windows. Past the pub where I go for burgers. Past the Mexican place that's supposed to be good. (Nah, not in the mood for that tonight). Past dark coffeehouses and people lounging on the sidewalk smoking. And then a sign catches my eye, and I screech to a halt. Via Tribunali.

There are a number of pizza places springing up around Seattle that boast thin-crust pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens with any number of toppings. San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, prosciutto, herbed mushrooms, salami - no pepperoni and bagged cheese here. I live in Mt. Baker, which has Mioposto (opened earlier this year), and the nearby Columbia City standby Tutta Bella, so I have never ventured towards Via Tribunali. Supposedly there's always a long wait, and I don't have that kind of patience (which is also why I never go to Tutta Bella; it's always packed). But tonight we just happened to be there, and there are two seats open at the bar.

Via Tribunali is a tiny hole-in-the-wall, with glass doors opening onto the street. There are a few tables, some booths lining one wall, and a long bar with woven-seated stools. A round wood-fired oven roars near the bar. Everything is made of dark, polished wood, and it is noisy in the narrow, high-ceilinged space. It has only been around for a year or two, I think, but it has the patina of a place that has been there for decades. I feel as though I were in Europe as we climb onto our stools at the far end of the bar.

I like eating at bars. Sitting high up on a stool, watching the bartenders moving swiftly around, pouring drinks, making espresso at the behemoth of an espresso machine. Light gleams on the glass bottles of liquor; in the mirror behind them I can also watch other diners in the booths. Next to C. are some bottles of Brunello di Montalcino, and if I hadn't been so tired I would have ordered a glass. On the counter in front of me is a bowl of heirloom tomatoes, different colors, all bumpy and misshapen. At my elbow is a hulking prosciutto-slicer, gleaming and dangerous-looking, holding a baby-sized piece of prosciutto. One end has two metal rivets clamped to the skin, stamped with a number. This is one serious ham. I almost expect to see the name of the cow from which the prosciutto comes as well. The machine blocks my view of the oven, but I can just see the pizzas being slid onto the hot stones from a wooden peel. A tall, bearded man tosses salads with his bare hands, lays translucent slices of prosciutto across plates and arranges antipasti.

We've ordered the house salad, a pizza with prosciutto and mushrooms. The salad has mixed wild greens, arugula, I think, something faintly bitter. There are chunks of mozzarella, the creamy kind that comes apart in ropy shreds, fine slices of ham (what they call prosciutto cotto, I think), sweet cherry tomatoes, tart little olives. A dish of sharp contrasts - sweet bitter creamy salty juicy - barely slicked with olive oil and a faint whisper of vinegar. And then the pizza arrives, the crust thin and chewy and crisp and dotted with barely burnt spots. The toppings are scattered with a light hand, the prosciutto so thinly sliced it seems to melt into the cheese and disappear into the crust. Which is as it should be.

The perfect end to the day.


Juanita J. Sanchez said...

Ahhh! You are a master of words. Are you tired of hearing that yet?

lauritajuanitasanchez said...

If I ever come to Seattle I'm looking you up. I'll need to know where to eat.