Pizza may hold great promise. After all, it originates from Italy, a country which, when measured by IQ, contains the smartest people in all the world. The Italian capital is the ancient seat of the Roman Empire. Even the word “capital” is derived from the Latin language which developed there. One food seemingly synonymous with Italy is pizza. Whenever I see a pizzeria, I think it will at least have an Italian theme.
Earliest records of the word “pizza” date to 997 A.D., where it was found on an ancient lease stipulating 12 pizzas be delivered on Christmas and Easter to a landlord. However, baked breads have been made in the area now known as Italy for at least 7000 years. A likely predecessor to pizza was the bread focaccia. Known to the Romans as “panis focacius”, this bread is thought to originate with the even more ancient Etruscans. Similar to pizza, focaccia is a baked bread which sometimes has toppings such as cheese.
By the 16th century, a bread known as “pizza” was sold on the streets of Naples, Italy. It was originally a food associated with poverty. However, as time passed pizza gained a more noble connotation. In 1889, the “pizza Margherita” was invented to honor Margerita of Savoy, the queen consort of Italy. Its toppings of tomato, mozzarella and basil represented the colors of the flag used by the newly formed Italy. By the late 19th century, pizza had arrived in America. It was originally sold by street vendors who would carry pizzas atop their heads in metal washtubs. It sold at only two cents a slice.
It was with these ideas of greatness and historical background I set out to find a quality pizzeria in the University District. I decided on Pagliacci Pizza at 4259 University Way NE.
It has always seemed full of patrons, and I had a satisfying dining experience there a few years ago. Before entering, I had my sights set on a slice of pizza Margerhita, given I now knew its story. They didn’t have pizza Margerhita at the time though, so, I decided on one slice of a similar pizza with toppings of four kinds of cheese, basil and tomato. One slice was $3.49, much more than the historical pair of cents.
Something about the atmosphere and interior design made the restaurant feel more spacious than it actually is. There were at least 20 patrons, but I didn’t feel packed in despite the restaurant’s small size. Seating was either at large tables with high chairs at the center of the restaurant, or closer to the ground at low tables along the walls. Visitors could choose their own seat depending on availability. All the high tables were mostly occupied, while only two people were seated at the tables below.
The restaurant had changed since my last visit. Slices used to be served in wooden baskets. Now, metal platters are used instead. In my opinion, both are superior to the alternative of plastic plates. It’s simply a more novel serving method. Also, metal and wood are more directly from the earth, so it gives the experience a more natural appeal. Further, the slices were thinner than I’d remembered and seemingly had less tomato.
Overall, I would give the pizzeria an above average ranking. I could actually distinguish the fresh, bready taste of the pizza dough. What won me over was they had olive oil as a condiment. When added to my pizza slice, it greatly complemented the flavor. Other places could improve by making olive oil a condiment choice. I will probably visit a Pagliacci pizzeria again, either in the U District or at another location of this Seattle area chain restaurant.