Do you like pizza? Then don’t move to Seattle. The dearth of decent pizza in this town is one of the great mysteries of the West. I’ve eaten more mediocre slices of cheese + paste + cardboard than I care to admit since moving here. New York thin crust, Chicago deep dish, take-and-bake – if it’s local, it’s probably bad.
Which is the primary reason Tutta Bella is such a goddamned treasure.
Tutta Bella serves authentic Neapolitan pizza, and they are not shy about letting you know it. CERTIFIED BY THE ASSOCIAZIONE VERACE PIZZA NAPOLETANA is engraved on nearly every surface of the restaurant, and you can’t wait for a table without hearing the Story of Tutta Bella. Naples is the birthplace of pizza blah blah the owner Joe Fugere traveled to Naples to hone his pizza skills and crush his enemies in battle yada yada the VPN certification is only conferred on those who have walked through the shadow of the valley of death, etc. It’s a story as old as time.
But the pizza rules, if you enjoy Neapolitan style pizza. The basic margherita is easily the best on the menu, and really highlights Tutta Bella’s greatest strength – the fresh Pomodoro San Marzano tomato sauce. Sweet and tangy and distinctive, used sparingly so as not to overwhelm the toppings (which are also used sparingly so as not to overwhelm the pizza crust). The margherita is perfectly balanced, with slices of mild, fresh mozzarella cheese, chiffoned basil and a touch of olive oil. The pizzas are wood-fired in a brick oven, so the crust is soft with blackened blisters on the top. It’s also got great flavor (bland, flavorless crust is the most criminal and prevalent pizza offense in Seattle). There are about ten other pizzas on the menu to choose from, but I rarely make it past the margherita (although the “Four Seasons” is fun, with roasted mushrooms, peppers, onions and ham divided into quadrants).
The other thing Tutta Bella does surprisingly well are salads! From their basic house salad (white beans, red onions, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers and balsamic vinaigrette) to a perfectly prepared caeser with focaccia croutons and anchovies available upon request, the greens are good. The Salerno salad is particularly tasty, with crunchy cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and creamy mozzarella balls. And lots of cracked black pepper all around. The wine list is inexpensive, and features a number of wines from Tuscany.
I’m partial to the original restaurant in Columbia City, but Tutta Bella has opened other locations on Stone Way and in Westlake. The Columbia City location is spacious, with lofted ceilings and crowds and noise, as a neighborhood pizza joint should be. Go enjoy a glass of Super Tuscan and eat a slice of certified neapolitan pizza. You’re not likely to find much better around here.