Veraci Pizza vs. Delancey
Ballard is bloated with pizzerias—17-plus dot the North Seattle hood, like so many pepperonis atop a pie. But it’s Veraci ’s portable oven that changed the game. The shared enterprise of Marshall Jett, Errin Byrd, and Krista Elledge—one couple, now divorced, and a sister—was just a wood-burning DIY dome six years ago. Jett and Byrd would hitch the stove to a trailer each Saturday at the Ballard Farmers Market, offering slim slices accessorized with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, red onions, and chevre. They made it for fun, for extra money, and to feed Seattleites a healthier, tastier ’za.
A catering company emerged, and four years later came a permanent pizzeria on Market Street. From the start, Veraci’s founders decried the typical overly cheesed pie, anchored by a fat carbo-bomb of a crust and buried in toppings. Jett rolled Veraci’s wispy crust by hand so it was barely there, almost brittle, its outer edges hollow. He administered veggies, meats, and cheeses with a light hand so that his customers could slow down, eat six or seven slices, then leave the table feeling “wonderful, like they just ate some sushi.”
Then, last summer, came Delancey. Darling Delancey. The steamy-windowed storefront just a mile and change north of Veraci was the precious progeny of Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg, an oh-so-cute couple whose courtship, marriage, and foray into the restaurant biz was well documented on Wizenberg’s world-famous, food-fixated blog Orangette. Its opening marked Seattle’s first artisan pizzeria of the New York style, where pizza makers use coal-burning ovens to churn out individually sized pies. But there’s no coal at Delancey, just a wood-burning flame box whose interior temp peaks at 900 degrees. “A wood-fired oven makes the pizza look and smell better, and makes bubbles in the crust,” explains Pettit. “I like bubbles.”
That bubbly crust begins life as organic, local flour from Shepherd’s Grain, the pepperoni is supplied by Zoe’s Meats, and the pork-fennel sausage made in house. Delancey’s bright, slightly sweet tomato sauce goes into the oven uncooked on top of a disk of dough that is blasted from below while whirling, radiant heat scorches its edges with tongue-coating char. This crispy edge is spongy on the inside, and best showcased on the Brooklyn pie, made with aged mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, and Grana Padano. The result is sweet and salty, earthily aged but fecund with freshness, burnt then doughy.
The hour-plus wait is as much a testament to Orangette’s fame as to its food: Most Delancey guests silently hope to catch a swing of the lady blogger’s apricot-hued ponytail. Surprising, then, that this aware crew often finds itself, well into that first slice of the Brooklyn, deep in the clutches of a forget-you’re-in-public, sauce-splattering pizzagasm.
BOTTOM LINE: The only pizzeria in Ballard firing up a truly ecstasy-inducing pizza is Delancey. But if the wait gets too long, find healthy, cracker-crusted delights down the street at Veraci.