Bambino's Pizzeria in Belltown has been slowly gaining a reputation in town for their pizza-friendly craft beer selection. Eater sat down with Bambino's co-owner and pizzaiolo Belle Coelho to hear the pizza shop's story and to learn about the delicious art of pairing beer with pizza.
How did you get your start?
My parents were political refugees from Portugal and I was born in France. I worked in New York in finance for a while, moved to San Francisco and got a job waitressing at a pizza parlor. I loved it, and ended up managing five stores. My partner Dave (Ryer) and I moved to Seattle six years ago to help a friend, Anastasio Varkaris, open Bambino's. We bought the place from him two years ago.
What was here before Bambino's?
This corner, Fourth & Cedar, used to be a Korean deli. The brick pizza oven was made for us by Woodstone out of Bellingham. It was quite a project bringing it in.
Why do you need such a large oven?
We have to make something like 60 pizzas every morning for catering and office delivery. That's when it's really great to have such a massive oven. It's gas-fired, and we add wood for additional heat. It runs at 800 to 900 degrees in the morning so we can turn out the volume.
The oven also has a heated stone hearth so we get a really good crust on the bottom of the pies. We warn our customers that the crust is darker and crisper than most American pizza. And we put the sauce on after the toppings so the crust doesn't get soggy.
Not VPN (Vera Pizza Napolitana), though, right?
We use Double-Zero Caputo flour and proof our dough for 48 hours, but we can't keep up with all the other rules.
What's more important? The crust or the topping?
Definitely the crust. I'm a crust person.
What about your toppings?
We have 37 toppings on the menu. The most popular is the Calorosa. It's smoked mozzarella, Italian sausage that we make here in-house, bacon and pepperoni.
The most unusual?
The Calabrese, I think. It's got Mama Lil's peppers and cayenne.
And what's your favorite?
A plain Margherita, just San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil.
Do you have trouble getting San Marzano tomatoes?
Our supplier is Merlino. We were using the Carmelina brand but they switched us over to Ciao.
How's your customer mix these days?
In the beginning, 90 percent of our business was catering, delivery and takeout. Now that's down to 60 percent. We have 50 seats for our eat-in customers.
You've started a pretty impressive beer program. Tell us about that.
Craft beers, yes. It's a whole array of different tastes. I was never much of a wine person, but the beer really appeals to our customers. We have seven rotating taps and dozens of bottled beers, all small breweries from around the world. We sell bottles to go, and fill growlers, too. We do most of our business with Click Wholesale Distributing. For craft beer, they're one of the very best in the country.
What's your best-selling beer?
Pliny the Elder, from the Russian River Brewery. Once a year they also release a Pliny the Younger, and we have a line out the door!
And the one you just poured for me? It has a lot of flowery notes.
Isn't it interesting! It's from a brewery near Siena in Tuscany called L'Olmaia Karkadem. It's actually brewed with hibiscus. I love Italian beer.
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