The pepperoni pizza of my Round Table youth revisited me the other night. It arrived in the form of an oversize slice blanketed with melted mozzarella, the basic grated stuff, with the slightest brown specklings from the oven. What little tomato sauce lurked beneath was bright as the glow from the arcade games clustered beyond the tables at Mark Fuller’s new pizza bar, and the pepperoni had those curled-up edges that transform each circlet into a tiny basin, the pools of grease within a promise of amplified flavor: Nobody’s eating healthy tonight.
In the cold, clear light of 2018 adulthood, that chain parlor pie wouldn’t taste nearly this good. But Supreme’s pepperoni (known as the “Double Pep”) evokes those Wednesday-night dinners after ballet lessons and red pebbled plastic tumblers full of crushed ice and fountain root beer. Here, glass lampshades from the Mike and Carol Brady school of design filter their singular glow onto walls of faux brick and knotty pine, just like in my memory. Supreme may serve the platonic pepperoni of my childhood, but it isn’t available to any actual children, unless you get takeout. This place is 21 and over.
Funny that the guy who spent half a decade holding down West Seattle’s higher-end dining scene at Spring Hill is also the guy writing the playbook on our new casual dining landscape. In 2012, Fuller heeded people’s devotion to Spring Hill’s limited-edition fried chicken and morphed his upscale restaurant into casual Ma‘ono. That was rough, he remembers. “It was either close or move on, adapt to survive.” Once Fuller started making more relaxed Hawaiian-leaning food, though, something happened—his friends started coming in. “As it became more fun, I started having more fun with it.”
Lately, his sense of fun extends down California Avenue to New Luck Toy, the Chinese American neodive Fuller opened with a partner in 2016. And all the way to University Village, where a Ma‘ono walk-up window inside Rachel’s Ginger Beer sells fiercely good, ferociously spicy fried chicken sandwiches. Now, in his third project in the Junction, he’s turned his attention to pizza.
Supreme serves a dozen pizzas plus a grand total of three sides—Caesar salad, lemon-pepper wings, and garlic knots—in cardboard trays. Broad pies cut into eight massive slices come with those flimsy, white fluted-edge paper plates of yesteryear’s picnics, if they come with plates at all. As with New Luck Toy, Fuller swears this is a bar, not a restaurant, which is why cocktails outnumber types of pizza and the whoosh and churn of the slushy machines provide the backbeat to a Montell Jordan bravura ’90s declaration, “This Is How We Do It.”
Know this, though: Supreme produces the most masterful pizza crust you’ll ever find served in the company of boozy creamsicles and root beer slurpees. It’s just this side of rustic, chewy and slightly blistered from the deck ovens. Pies are ostensibly New York style, though NYC purists might have a few choice words (and gestures) for anyone who tries to pass this sturdy crust off as such. Two slices and you need an immediate nap. But even an extended layover in the glass case can’t foil this pizza: The daily by-the-slice offerings emerge crisper, but no less appealing.
Fuller’s culinary cred manifests itself in other subtle ways. A dash of vinegar (and no sugar) sharpens the tomato sauce; there’s actual anchovy in the caesar dressing. The Double Pep is Supreme’s biggest seller, but clearly an experienced palate drives topping combos like the Bomb as Sausage—Italian sausage, swiss chard, and ricotta with cherry bomb peppers to lob in some heat. Fuller, who has family roots in Hawaii and lived there in high school, performs a minor miracle with a Hawaiian pizza that isn’t gross (bright sauce meets bright pineapple, and Portuguese sausage is a brilliant substitute for floppy Canadian bacon). He also performs a major one. That root beer slurpee, a carefully engineered balance of sweetness and booze, may actually justify the existence of whipped cream vodka.
“Are you waiting for a table?” I thought the server was addressing me in order to take down my name and ensure an orderly transition next time someone vacated those red Naugahyde stools. But all she had to offer was moral support, and some advice for navigating the Saturday-night chaos—“You’ve got to really jump on it.” And with that she was back to ferrying cut-glass tumblers of pomegranate kamikazes and frozen jungle bird cocktails, and breaking the news that the kitchen had run out of garlic knots.
If Fuller gets to have more fun with casual spots, that’s partly because his new formula (paper plates, heady booze sales) minimizes restaurants’ more harrowing aspects, like labor costs or fine dining’s brutally thin margins. Supreme has all of eight tables, some so small they can barely hold an 18-inch pie; have fun plucking paper napkins from your neighbors’ dispenser. When a server brings ranch dressing for the lemon-pepper wings, it’s a Costco-size bottle of Hidden Valley. Fuller’s singular gift is making this feel like actual fun, not financial viability at the expense of hospitality, even if service at times is maddeningly intermittent.
The chef credits his culinary lieutenant, Cam Hanin, for reining in some of his original ideas, which included pies topped with taco meat or spaghetti noodles. It’s Hanin, though, who devised the pizza that pays tribute to Ma‘ono. It’s dressed with fat slices of fried chicken breast and kimchi, plus a vivid marigold patchwork of melted American cheese squares. Not many people order the Ono, says Fuller. But they should. Once you get past the sensation of sinking your teeth into a slice of pizza only to encounter that bouncy processed texture, it’s a kimchi-spiked nostalgia remix.
In an increasingly expensive town, in a throwback space just a few neon Rainier signs short of ironic, Fuller has adapted to survive. It’s a testament to his skills that he makes it seem so appealing. Kind of like pizza topped with kimchi and American cheese slices.