Down at the end of Madison Street — at 4235 E. Madison St., to be precise — there’s one of Seattle’s best independent pizza restaurants. Its name, not all that surprisingly, is The Independent Pizzeria.
Owner and pizza maker Tom Siegal explains how it all started” “I always knew I wanted to have a pizza place. I was in the wholesale wine business, working for a distributor. A couple of years ago, my friend and customer Fred Andrews, the owner of Madison Cellars, called me to tell me that the little wine bar in his building, Impromptu, was calling it quits.”
Before he came to Seattle, Siegal was a sommelier and cellar master at Windows on the World. He keeps up on the wine side, although the clientele in Madison Park favors domestic wines over imports.
Originally, Siegal said, he thought he’d basically do picnic takeout for the beach crowd. But now, it’s an evening place for the neighborhood. He opens at 5 and usually fills up right away, even though almost half the business is takeout.
Siegal’s oven is a Modena combo that runs on propane and on wood. “Personally,” Siegal said, “I don’t use wood, but it’s an option. The oven has a burner that’s like a flame thrower for fast heat.”
And to that age-old question for pizza joints, “What’s more important: the topping or the crust?” Siegal has a ready response: “The crust — not even close. That’s what I do. The toppings, they’re sourced, but the crust is mine.”
Because he’s from New York, he prefers a fuller-bodied crust with a crisp bottom. But here’s where things get tricky. You can’t call it a true New York pizza because Siegal uses local water, and even things like the humidity and air temperature make it a Seattle-style pizza. It’s a cross between a New York and a Neapolitan crust. It has a Seattle “terroir.”
To provide the required level of density, Siegal blends Shepherd’s Grain high-gluten and low-gluten flours. The dough proofs at room temperature. It’s not bread; it’s not a croissant. It’s not “deep-dish.”
When it comes to toppings, Siegal sources locally. The Syracuse — basically, a puttanesca sauce with optional anchovies — is an homage to his hometown. The Twin Peaks has locally foraged mushrooms. The Stevedore is what you might think a dock worker would have: a grinder with salami, provolone and Mama Lil’s peppers.
Stevedore, Farmer — very proletarian, working-class names for an upscale neighborhood? “Well, yes,” Siegal replied. “The names were a conscious decision. But that’s the point: It’s just pizza. You don’t want to overthink it.”
Other food news
A quick word here in honor of Cactus (4220 E. Madison St.) celebrating its 14th summer in Madison Park. There are offspring (Cacti?) far afield: Alki Beach in West Seattle, South Lake Union, Bellevue Square, even Kirkland. But it all started here, let’s not forget, and going strong.
Madison Kitchen (4122 E. Madison St.) has been open for a couple of months now and has started picking up good reviews. Longtime caterer and social worker Jim Goodall and his business partner, Linda Hanson, both natives of Vermont, launched the venture near 42nd Avenue East and East Madison Street (in the space formerly occupied by Park Place Deli) at the end of 2012.
Have I already told you about the new menu at Bing’s (4200 E. Madison St.)? Happy hour seven days a week, from 3 to 6 p.m. (including the $8 Signature Burger), and a kids’ happy hour (half-off all kids’ items, weekdays, 3 to 5 p.m.). It’s added gluten-free items and a “Bottomless Mimosas” feature for weekend brunches.
The former Tully’s at 4308 E. Madison St. is going to become a branch of HomeStreet Bank.
Where there’s real estate abuilding, restaurants are sure to follow. So consider this: Between East John and Madison streets, on 25th Avenue East in Madison Valley, what is currently a single-family home might become a three-story structure that includes five townhouses.
Can’t get into Harvest Vine (2701 E. Madison St.) on weeknights? It’s doing weekend brunches, as well. So is Luc (2800 E. Madison St.), for that matter.
No recent news from Thierry Rautureau, alas. We thought he was ready to announce plans for a new downtown location (and a few of his Facebook friends actually caught him talking about a very specific corner), but he’s backed away from that for the time being. He said he doesn’t want to rush into anything and has to see the big picture first — can’t blame him.
In the meantime, there are fond memories of a delightful lunch at Luc (when it’s open for special events). It started with a basket of Rautureau’s lovely pommes soufflés (they’re like puffed-up French fries, only better) and a dipping sauce of spicy and garlicky harissa aioli. I’m also a sucker for the white bean cassoulet with duck confit and lamb.
Everybody’s got a comfort food, and I’m fortunate that mine is country — French!
RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at Cornichon.org and Crosscut.com. To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.