Pagliacci Pizza is, and will forever be, the pie of my early 20s. It fueled all-nighters, student council meetings, lunches in the quad, and was—I'll be the first to admit—the bait with which we Italian Club officers enticed hungry freshmen who were, at least tangentially, interested in Italian Studies or conversation practice. The latter of course improved with every slice of margherita.
On the University of Washington campus Pagliacci is the prevailing pizzeria with counters in dorms and the student union building cafeteria. But its location on The Ave (at precisely 4529 University Ave NE) is the first and original Pagliacci anywhere, ever. It's here, back in 1979, that three Italian cousins opened a signless pizza joint in the University District. The space has undergone many a renovation over its 40-year run, but no other decor defines this location as much as the movie posters—old and new, foreign and domestic, all in Italian—that cover the walls, a tradition that's endured since the early days when cofounder Dorene Centioli-McTigue's trips to Rome meant poster hauls.
But just as the film reel unfurls until there's no story left to tell, after nearly 40 years of New York–style pies Pagliacci will close on July 26.
"Both the Ave and our business have changed," said co-owner Matt Galvin, who added that Pagliacci will continue to expand elsewhere. The three campus locations remain, plus the 25 others throughout Seattle and beyond.
As a final bow, though, the U District location will give away free slices on July 26 from 11 to 4 (two slices per person).
Pagliacci predates The Great Wave of Seattle Pizza, that ongoing undulation of pizzerias that have opened in the last few years—Dino's, Portland transplant Sizzle Pie, Supreme, Bruciato, and...actually just see yourself to this compendium of Seattle pizza. While Seattle's proliferation of pizza continues, Pagliacci has a triangle-shaped place in this former Ave-dwelling college kid's heart. If you lived above the neighborhood's pizza institution for a year in an apartment as crusty as the edge of its hand-tossed pie, you certainly would too.