Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Eating out. Serious pie.

I have been meaning to try Serious pie., the new Tom Douglas restaurant, for quite some time, but the opportunity has not presented itself until tonight. Never mind that we just ate pizza for lunch a few days ago, or that it is nearly impossible to find street parking around the neighborhood (the number one reason why I do not eat at Palace Kitchen, a few blocks away, as often as I would like to). The Tom Douglas empire is centered around a refurbished brick building dominating one street corner just north of the heart of downtown, in the shadow of the Monorail. Dahlia Lounge anchors the complex, with the Dahlia Bakery tucked away on one side (on 4th) and Serious pie. (don't ask me why, but the period is part of the name, apparently) on the other (on Virginia).

Serious pie. is narrow and dim, full of polished wood and wrought-iron chandeliers; one long window looks into the bakery that produces (I assume) all the bread for the Tom Douglas restaurants, with endless gleaming counters and walls of ovens. At dinnertime the bakery is still and empty, but the tiny Serious pie. (seriously, that's how they write it, on the sign and on the menu and on the t-shirts worn by everyone who works there) kitchen is bright and crowded as the cooks stretch out pizza dough, scatter on any number of toppings, and shovel them into the roaring ovens. The communal tables that run down both sides of the room are counter-height, with comfortable high stools placed far too closely together so that I am in serious danger of elbowing my neighbor in the side with every bite, and it is impossible not to lose track of my own conversation as I get entangled with our neighbor's discussion of his son's recent trip to Los Angeles, and an upcoming trip to France.

The menu is brief, but I still want everything on it. We order a salad of slivered endive tossed with sliced figs simmered in marsala, which comes with a row of translucent slices of prosciutto twisted into rosettes; like all good things it is a study of contrasts, sweet-salty-bitter-crunchy-chewy-soft. Then our pizzas arrive, crusty oblongs placed on wooden boards, mine with pancetta and caramelized leeks and smoked mozzarella over a creamy tomato sauce. My dad's has clams and lemon thyme, showered with finely grated parmesan, tasting of the sea and of country gardens at dusk, when the smells of the earth and the growing plants seem more intense. It is different from the pizzas at Tutta Bella; the dough is more substantial, without being too thick, and there is not the, ahem, wetness that I associate with Neapolitan-style pizza. Is it better? Hard to say. I will need to eat more before I decide.

But before I embark on another pizza-eating odyssey, it's time for dessert, in our case a rhubarb-filled crostata. It is sweet and a little tangy, with a lemony zabaglione that seems to float above the crisp crust. The boy sitting next to us has a pizza covered in thin slices of potato, fragrant with rosemary, the scent of which wafts over as I finish the last crumbs of the crostata, and it is so enticing I almost want to try it, even though I am full. This is some Serious pie.

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