Bar del Corso has been very much the talk of the Italian pizza town since it opened earlier this summer in Beacon Hill. It had been recommended to me by real Italians even, so I thought: this must be good.
I enjoy the fact that there is a relatively classy pizza joint in Beacon Hill, thus forcing Seattleittes out of their typical Capitol Hill/Fremont/Ballard caves and be in a neighborhood where hey, it’s a real city neighborhood with fantastic diversity and yummy hole-in-the walls. So the fact that there’s a well-reviewed Italian joint (that is pretty snazzy yet not über pretentious) in Beacon Hill forcing people to get out of lala[downtown]land gets a golf clap in my book.
The food on the other hand, was kind of an emotional roller coaster. I’ll explain…
Of course there was a mild wait for seating, for being a no-reservations kind of place. But I was pleased to know I could be comforted by an (orange bitter and campari-stiff-like) Antico Americano while the wait.
Bar del Corso has a pretty impressive rotating seasonal specials chalkboard. For it finally being summer, there was a Prosciutto e Melone starter that couldn’t be passed up.
And there were fresh figs on the side:) In theory, this is a fantastically refreshing yet savory treat that is served throughout Italy during the warmest months. The prosciutto should melt in your mouth just like the cantaloupe and have a salty, honey floral melange finish. But this prosciutto was a tad tough for my liking. I was also confused by the figs. Figs I think are paired best with nuts, like pistachios. I feel compelled to mention here that I have some Persian tones to my upbringing, melon and figs are very much apart of Persian eating. I will say, I seldom if ever saw melons and figs on the same plate. I think it’s because the flavors of figs dominate and cancel the subtle ones of melon. Throw in very cured chewy Prosciutto and you got yourselves a full on palate tug-o-war. I would’ve even preferred dates to be the side though than the figs. So the verdict is, great seasonal idea for a starter but it didn’t quite tickle my fancy.
The next started on the agenda were Vongole alla Marinara, which were clams sautéed in white wine and cherry tomatoes
Bar del Corso has an open kitchen set-up, so I caught the cook out of the corner of my eye from the bar making le vongole. I had a feeling they were diving in an overheated pan and would be barely splashed with the marinara. The cook gave me an odd linecook sense. That he was in the kitchen because he had linecook experience, and not because he went to culinary school nor had a sincere interest in food. Hey but who am I to judge. When was the last time I worked in a kitchen? But those vongole were pretty overcooked, rubbery and dry, and the marinara was disproportionately detectable and sitting at the bottom of the bowl. So perhaps my intuition was on to something.
Now on to the good news and upward swing of the coaster. Heirloom Tomatoes and Burrata Mozzarella, my favorite. Dazzling with sea salt, balsamic, nutty/fruity olive oil and basil. The sea salt crystals were plopped on as if they knew that there was going to be flavor burst explosions once hit with the fresh nectarous tart tomato and the chompers. The Burrata, aaaahhh forget I ever praised Ethan Stowell for his Burrata, this burrata was soft. This burrata was SILKY. Grassy and sweet creamy. It was a true and through.
My only complaint is that it was tiny! But that’s the meaning of quality over quantity. Oh, and another complaint, the olive oil leftover tomato seed and balsamic juices were left in an innocent puddle all lonesome. I would have gladly sopped them up with some bread or leftover pizza crust had they left the juice/oil plate or brought an weensy piece of pane to begin with! Which brings me to my next and last topic: La Pizza Ortolana
Smokey dough. Smoked Mozzarella. Deep wilted bitter greens to offset the creamy sour-dough and cheese. Crispy salty ambrosial coppa salumi. When you bite in, you almost think Seattle and Italy are the same geographic gastolocale. Well, I must say I never witnessed “wilted greens” on any pie in Italia, nor did I see some fancy coppa either. They just say salame over there. There are 3 ways Italians usually describe salumi on le pizze: salame, salame piccante (the closest equivalent of coppa) prosciutto crudo e cotto. Basta. I like how American pizzerias try to get all fancy with the Italian reciPIES. To me, the dough “pasta”is what sells me. It was airy, smokey, sour, salty and slightly chewy. With those little charred spots that assure you it was wood oven fired, just like the Italians do it (better). Overall, this place is a great concept. The menu at 1st glance is simple and has strong authentic Italian-like selections. I started to reminisce about the last time I was at Roman hole-in-the-wall when I saw the Suppli al Telefono on the small plates menu. You can tell the owner intentionally structured the menu based on how a real casual slightly spendy metropolitan pizzeria in Italy would appear. I appreciate all the ways that it is Seattle inspired and Italian rooted. They merged together what I missed about Seattle dining (the decor, the trendiness, the comfinesse, the experimental mixing, GREENS, etc) and all the things I will never forget about Italian food. But I could only sense the heart from the owner by proxy, the people in the kitchen attempting to execute this persons vision didn’t convince me. Other than the dough. The pizza dough couldn’t dishearten anyone. It was a very individualistic unfriendly atmosphere. It was quite stale. And some of the starters confused me. But perhaps Bar del Corso is trying to establish its personality, piano piano (slowly but surely). I would recommend you take a visit, but stick to a pizza pie and a salad. Ask for bread for the olive oil remnants, you’re going to thank me.
Last thought: By the way, I thought it was a little adorable for the restaurant owners to have a custom designed wood oven in Italy shipped over. When you walk in, take a peek. Its got Bar del Corso written all over it