Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tutta Bella

(Columbia City Location)
4918 Rainier Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98118

Tutta Bella has gone through a pretty significant cycle over the years... it started as a confused and confusing place, not sure whether it was a full-service restaurant or some kind of Italian Cafeteria. Then it got its program down: the wait staff was organized, the procedure was clear, and the pizza was great and felt like a good deal. Now, the wait staff is excellent... attentive and quick, but the pizza has gone way down in quality and the prices have gone up. I realize that Tutta Bella is Seattle's lil' Pizza darlin', but it seems to me the reputation is currently carrying more weight than the reality.

I am definitely a fan of thin crust Italian style pizza, and these guys have, over time, really botched it. We ordered two pizzas, the Quatro Stagioni (Four Seasons), which comes with artichokes, roasted red pepper, roasted zucchini, and herb mushrooms, and the Regina Margherita (Queen Margherita), which includes fresh mozzarella and basil, and opted for the $1 addition of chopped tomatoes.
The "Pomodoro San Marzano" sauce on each was unremarkable, an unfortunate reality considering the effort made in using special tomatoes. But the real lameness comes from the crust, again, a shame considering they have gone through special efforts to use authentic wood burning pizza ovens. About an inch in from the outer edge the sog starts, and it continues, getting worse towards the center such that a slice, thin and and scarcely topped, slumps and sags with no structural integrity, totally soggy fresh from the oven.

The topping are tasty and interesting, but poorly distributed and not quite plentiful enough. The Margherita had so little cheese (non-uniformly distributed), that there were a couple unfortunate slices that had nothing on them but wet sauce and a dissolving bottom crust.
The salads, on the other hand, are excellent. They are huge and delicious. There are two vegetarian salads, the Insalata di Mista (House Salad) with mixed greens, slivered onion and carrots, kalamata olives, roasted red pepper, white beans, and balsamic vinaigrette, and the Insalata di Salerno (Salerno Salad), which is made with Romain hearts, small fresh mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and crunchy fennel in a Dijon balsamic vinaigrette. (Both pictures show the Salerno.)
I love the them both... the Large version of either is big enough to completely gorge one person (and I have a near endless appetite for a salad chopped by somebody else), or satisfy a whole table in more reasonable rations. The house salad has enough stuff on it to feel hearty, and the Salerno is both refreshing and decadant with the fresh mozzarella and fennel.

They have a variety of desserts including gelato in a small array of flavours, and I made a small faux pas by mistaking the price for the number of scoops. The waiter was a little bit surprised but happy to oblige my request for the 6 scoop option.

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Seattle