260 South 200 West
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101
Date of Visit: Saturday, July 12, 2008
Time: Dinner - 6:30 PM
Number of Diners: 2
Food Quality: 6
We happened to be in the area of the "Best New Restaurant in Salt Lake City for 2008" at early dinnertime this fine evening. We decided to try the place that Longisland Guy had pronounced to be "very thin crust," "NOT NY style," and "far too small." I love thin, Neapolitan style pizza, and so his negative review sounded pretty good to me. This restaurant is new to the area, but had promise, as it was copied from a successful sister restaurant in Las Vegas. We declined the valet service and found free street parking, in the shade, about a block away (this IS Salt Lake City, after all!). The place was mid-sized, tastefully decorated with sketches and lithographs of Naples, and a bit noisy. An enormous gas-fired brick oven dominated the room, boding well for good Neapolitan pizza. We were well ahead of the dinner rush and were seated immediately. Levi, our waiter, brought us some iced tea to take the edge off the heat while we perused the menu. Like ourselves, all the patrons were dressed casually in shorts and casual shirts. The menu explained the history behind the name Settebello.
Settebello is the most valuable and sought after card in the popular Italian card game scopa. A deck of scopa cards consists of 40 separate cards in 4 different suits. The suits include clubs, swords, cups and gold. The Settebello is the nickname given to the seven of gold.The menu consisted of several salads and several pizza choices, complemented by a few appetizers and gelato for dessert. The menu also noted that the restaurant is the only Utah member of Verace Pizza Napoletana, another good sign. From the website - Some of the differences between an authentic Napoli style pizza and its American cousins are:
Whichever player holds the settebello at the end of a hand is awarded a point. The settebello can also aid a player in winning a point for the primiera as well as for the player who holds the most gold cards. A typical game of scopa is played to 11 points. Scopa is an extremely popular card game in and around Napoli.
-THE OVEN: Made of brick and heated from 800-1000 degrees Fahrenheit. In these conditions a pizza takes only 45-60 seconds to cook completely. Our oven is manufactured by Acuto in Napoli Italy.I found the wine list recommended one red and several whites from the Campania region, which surrounds Naples and is the same area that produced the flour and tomatoes for the pizza, making a great trifecta of terrior. I saw they included one of our favorites, MASTROBERARDINO Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio for $35, and ordered a bottle.
-THE ITALIAN TOMATOES: Usually in the style of San Marzano, these tomatoes bring less acidity and a fresh taste and are never mixed and made into a dark heavy sauce.
-THE FLOUR: Imported from one of the oldest mills in Napoli, Molino Caputo. The flour made by Caputo is world renowned for its ability to make an elastic chewy crust. There is no substitute for Caputo flour for pizzerias in Napoli.
-THE CHEESE: Only fresh mozzarella (known as fior di latte in Napoli) or buffalo mozzarella is acceptable. Most pizzas are also sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano.
What we had with menu descriptions...
Fresh Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Basil.
Mixed Greens, Italian Vinaigrette, Cracked Pepper, Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.
QUATTRO STAGIONI 10.99
Margherita Divided Into Four Sections. Each Section Topped Separately With Wood Oven Roasted Sausage, Salame, Roasted Mushrooms, Calamata Olives. (pictured here)
Crushed Tomatoes, Pancetta, Wood Oven Roasted Fennel Sausage, Roasted Mushrooms, Toasted Pine Nuts, Mozzarella, Basil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The salads came right away, and both were quite good. The Caprese, easily large enough to have shared, was very generous with mozzarella and tomatoes, but very sparse on the fresh basil. Levi provided us containers of balsamic vinegar and olive oil along with imported Italian sea salt and peppercorns in separate grinders. The Insalata was perfectly dressed in light vinegarette, and loaded with fresh, mixed greens. When the wine arrived, I told Levi to pour away, confident that we would love it.
But it was not meant to be - I took a tiny sip, cool and refreshing. My wife sampled hers and made a very unhappy face. I tried a generous mouthful and was rewarded with well-chilled, slightly effervescent vinegar! My wife verified the diagnosis, and I inspected the cork, which was undamaged. Of course the wine was NOT corked (contaminated with bacteria), but it had apparently been cooked in the bottle to become vinegar. Levi immediately took the bottle away and returned with another. Same problem to a much lesser degree! Levi opined that the Utah state liquor stores were often careless in their handling of wines in the summer, leaving them in railroad cars, trucks, or tin warehouses in the summer heat. We all suffer under the state's burden of carelessness. I asked if the restaurant ever was able to return for refund, and he said, "sometimes." It's not as if any of us (whether individuals or restaurants) are free to take our wine-purchasing business elsewhere!
Upon sending two bottles back, the manager had to be consulted. Apparently she can easily taste vinegar and within seconds Levi returned with her apologies. We decided to try something new to us, going with the menu's recommended red, TERREDORA AGLIANICO - "Intense ruby red with violet reflections, it is surprisingly long in the mouth with notes of mature red fruits and displays the structure necessary for long aging." It was a bargain at $30, and in addition to the menu descriptions, it had a very strong bitter character that complemented the sweet and salt of the pizzas perfectly!
As for the pizzas, by themselves they were sort of OK. The crust was delicious and chewy, almost rubbery. And the tomatoes (smashed, not sauced) were incredible. The toppings - olives, sausage, pancetta, etc. were quite tasty, but far too salty for our taste. Notable exceptions were the mushrooms and peppered salame. And the center of each pizza was quite soggy. It occurred to me immediately that we should have resisted our American urge to over-top the pizza and gone with the simple Margherita. But the fresh basil that is one of the four key ingredients (tomatoes, cheese, basil, and olive oil) was again quite scarce. We know from our own garden that it is early season for basil, but the restaurant should not have been so stingy (or poorly stocked). Adding the wine (not brilliant by itself) to the pizza made a combination greater than the sum of the parts, and made the overall experience good. Levi was fast and nearly invisible as a server, and he and the manager were gracious in working with us on the wine-vinegar. Perhaps another visit with more basil and fewer toppings would improve the food score. We were too full to do more than sample the gelato on display at the front.
It should be noted that the leftover pizza fared well - remaining tasty, chewy, and delicious after being re-heated a day later.
Settebello - Tentatively RECOMMENDED
Highs: Quality ingredients, REAL pizza Napoletano, good service (for SLC)
Lows: Salty toppings, chronic shortage of fresh basil
Bon Appétit! - W. Ego