Delancey and Essex owner and pizza savant (and cocktail and burger enthusiast) Brandon Pettit has big news: He’s opening a bar and pizzeria on Capitol Hill, in a promising corner spot where Olive meets Denny.
To be clear: Pettit and his wife Molly Wizenberg are not opening another Delancey. A guy with a mind this curious doesn't do the same thing twice.
Pettit says the new spot will be more bar than restaurant, and will serve square, thick-crust pizza baked in pans, a style that began in Sicily but evolved into an East Coast staple (variations are called grandma pie or tomato pie).
He has dubbed the place Dino’s Tomato Pie, an homage to famed Jersey pizzeria Joe’s Tomato Pie as well as his friends’ habit of calling him Brandino, a sort of fake Italian nickname for a guy who legitimately loves Italian food.
These pizzas are typically the domain of parlors and taverns, not subway-tiled restaurants with wine lists. They’re even a little cheesy, says Pettit—in an endearing sort of way. “I like the idea of doing something a little bit trashier and more Jersey, more authentic to the flavors I grew up with.”
Granted, Pettit’s take on “trashy” still involves local ingredients like housemade guanciale, Zoe's Meats pepperoni and, kale from Willowood Farm in Coupeville. Customers will specify either a white or red sauce base, and select off a list of toppings. The rest of the menu will be short, simple, and likely involve a Jersey salad (Pettit's term for a pile of iceberg or romaine lettuce with the most basic of vegetables on top) with housemade versions of dressings that usually come in green-capped plastic bottles: Caesar, ranch, or creamy Italian.
Dino’s will have a takeout counter up front and a sit-down bar in the back, a setup not unlike fellow Capitol Hill pizzeria Big Mario’s.
The idea of an East Coast Jersey-style pizzeria presented itself when Pettit was scouting locations for a possible distillery. Then Montana owner (and ginger beer doyenne) Rachel Marshall alerted him to a corner space coming available in her 1924 brick building, its potential obscured by the most recent occupant, a Western Union money mart.
“It definitely felt a bit like cheating on Ballard,” says Pettit of his Capitol Hill plans, but Marshall took him on a neighborhood walk that included stops at Lark, Juicebox, and Kurt Timmermeister’s new Kurt Farm Shop, selling him on the district's neighborhood vibe.
(The distillery idea is still in the works, just waylaid a bit by this pizza project.)
If all goes well, Dino's Tomato Pie will open this fall. After things get up and running, Pettit will ultimately add calzones and maybe even round, thin-crust (read: Delancey-style) pies to the menu.