Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana

I was helping my mom with something the other day and we decided to go out for lunch. I wasn't in the mood for anything particular; neither was she, although by the time we were able to go out it was after 1:30, and we were both quite hungry. She suggested a restaurant on Green Street called Matsuri, a Japanese restaurant to which I had never been.

"It's really good," she said. "Even your dad liked it."

So we went to Matsuri. Only two other tables were occupied and they stuck us at an impossibly small table for two with uncomfortable wooden chairs. Against the wall were a few larger tables with cushioned benches. My mom said she would rather sit at one of those. We walked over to one.

"Is it okay if we sit here instead?" my mom asked the hostess.

"Just two of you?" the hostess replied. "No. These only for four people."

I looked around the room. There were several of these larger tables, and all of them were empty. As I mentioned, only two other tables were occupied in the whole restaurant.

"It's 1:45," my mom said. "Do you think you will need this table?"

"Only for four people," the hostess replied.

I asked the obvious question: "Would you rather have us go somewhere else than sit here?"

"That's fine," she replied, yanking the menus out of my hand.

So we left. Hey, it's their business, their rules. If they really would rather have had us sit at that tiny table than have our money, so be it.

I suggested we try Settebello, a Neapolitan-stye pizza restaurant that opened less than a month ago on Colorado Blvd in the Playhouse District. It is the third location of a mini-chain that has stores in those two other famous bastions of Neapolitan pizza: Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. (Actually, the chain is owned by Brad Otton, the former USC quarterback who did an LDS mission in Italy and decided to open restaurants in American using Neaplitan pizza styles.)

There was a parking space right in front and the hostess showed us to a table in the almost-empty dining room. I decided to do an experiment.

"Would it be okay if we sat at that table?" I asked, indicating a table a few feet away that was closer to window.

"Sure," she said, "wherever you want."

Some of the antipasti sounded really good, however all I was really wanting at this point was to get some pizza into my mouth as soon as possible. I asked my mom which pizza she was going to get and she mentioned one that I had my eye on, too. We decided to get two different pizzas so we could share.

"Would you like the pizza cut or uncut?" the waitress asked. I loved that. Neopolitan pizza is traditionally served uncut and eaten with a knife and fork. (Of course, just because I loved the fact that she asked didn't mean I was actually going to get my pizza uncut; I requested it cut.)

The server walked away and my mom and I chatted for less than five minutes before our pizzas were brought out to us. I have been served food this quickly before, but never pizza.

"How hot is your oven?" I asked the waitress.

"I think 1000 degrees."

My mom had the Vico: sausage, fennel, red onions, Mascarpone, mozzarella, and basil. She loved it, although, as I said, we were both quite hungry at this point. I tried it and, while I loved the sausage, overall I did not love the pizza. I really liked it, and the rest of the toppings were almost as good as the sausage, but the whole was less than the sum of the parts.

And this was why: I wasn't crazy about the crust. Settebello uses a proprietary dough, with flour imported from Italy. It yields a crust that is spongy, almost cake-like. I guess I should have requested the pie uncut and eaten it with a knife and fork. Because when picking up a piece, the toppings fall all over the place and the floppy dough is difficult control. The Neapolitan pizzas I've eaten in the past have all had a touch of crunch to the crust. This had none. In a 1000-degree oven, a few more (or fewer) seconds of cooking makes a big difference in either direction, and this could have used a few more.

I chose the Bianca: prosciutto, arugula, shaved Paremesan, mozzarella, and olive oil. Again, the toppings were absolutely delicious. The prosciutto was as good as any I have ever had topping a pizza. But it was impossible to eat each slice - the pies were cut into four large slices - without the toppings falling off.

Each of the pizzas was thirteen dollars. That's certainly not cheap, but it's less expensive than the Luggage Room and about the same price as California Pizza Kitchen, and superior to both. (Although I didn't love the crust, it's ten times better than what they use at CPK.)

I will certainly return to Settebello again, but I don't think I will ever return for a quick lunch like this. It's not the kind of place that is made for such a meal. But a return trip with a few friends for dinner? Maybe four people so we can order several pizzas to share, with a bottle or two of Brunello di Montalcino open on the table? Now we're talking.

And next time, definitely a knife and fork for the pizza. It's not my preferred way to eat it, but when in Naples...


Gastronomer said...

What a bunch of bastards at Matsuri. Glad you guys recovered nicely at the pizzeria.

So, Mormon pizza, eh?

Michelle said...

Your pizza looks prettier but your moms looks better.

Emily said...

I like how you still called that rude lady the 'hostess'. She certainly didn't have the mostest.

JustinM said...

Gastronomer and Emily: I just think she was one of these officious types, and not too bright, so she had it in her mind that those tables were only for four people. Even when it was dead and a woman wanted to sit on a cushion instead of an uncomfortable wooden chair, the girl was not bright enough to think Okay, this isn't really a big deal, I should make sure I get their business.

But I could be wrong - maybe the owners insist that two people can never sit at a four-top. Maybe they are okay with not getting our business that day. Whatever, they have the right to be inflexible like that and I have the right not to give them my business. And I never will.

Michelle: You nailed it.

Anonymous said...

mitt romney pizza!

Adam from GrubGrade said...

I've walked past the one in SLC a few times back when I lived in Utah. Each time I ended up walking over to ACME burger for a burger though. I've meant to try it out next time I find myself downtown. My parents were there a few years ago and loved it. They offered me some day old pizza in a box, but I didn't try it for fear the lag would destroy my perfect fantasy of this place.

paul said...

Yummm!This pizza looks delicious!

JustinM said...

Adam and Paul: The toppings were very good, so if the crust was just a little more done I think the whole thing would be great.

Dave W said...

This place looks great... definitely have to give this a try!

Melissa Good Taste said...

I just had a rude hostess experience with a gal at Artisan in Paso Robles. She actually pushed my arm and step me away from the hostess desk and said to take a seat. WOW! She was lucky I wasn't wearing my black belt! Hi Yaw....

Anonymous said...

You're the 2nd person who has tried this new pizza joint and found their pizza lacking.

And yet another dining room nightmare story! No surprise here. This time from Matsuri.

Pamela from Montana said...

The pizza at Settebello is a "true" Naples pizza...the kind of pizza that you are referring to is a Roman pizza. Their crust is a little crispier...Neapolitan pizza is softer and chewier do to the lighter Italian flour and higher baking temperature. The Roman version is typically made with thicker wheat flour and cooked at a lower temperature for a minute or two longer to get the crispy, artisan crust that you are looking for. Granted I am not an employee or a pizza connoisseur but did visit there on Friday night and had this very conversation with Brad :) and I did stay at a Holiday Inn LOL :)

JustinM said...

Hi Pamela. Thanks for the info. I've never had something described to me as a Roman pizza, but I've had many pizzas labeled as Neapolitan. Maybe that just sounds better? I guess Roman pizza is what I prefer - the gummy, spongy crust didn't really do it for me at Settebello. I just felt the delicious toppings could have used a tastier crust.

Funny thing is, I've had pizza in both Rome and Naples, but I was a teenager and don't remember the difference.

(I also had pizza in Montana once. But that's because I'd been at a minor league baseball game in July and didn't realize, when it was daylight out, that it was already after 10PM. So I went to Papa John's. It was merely okay.)