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Big Mario's Pizzaiolo Jordan Neff and Mario Vellotti

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[Photos: Ronald Holden]

The sidewalk is always full at 10th and Pike, an ever-changing parade of Capitol Hill's singular residents, partygoers and curious visitors. The kitchen at Big Mario's faces the street, and the pizzaiolos put on a good show. Eater sat down with pizzaiolo Jordan Neff and partner Mario Vellotti(yes, Big Mario) to find out more about their New York style pizza.

From the way you handle the dough, this probably isn't your first pizza kitchen?
I've been tossing pizzas since forever, man. Been here since November. I'm one of eight pizzaiolos.

How is Big Mario's different from other places you've worked?
I was at Pagliacci, but they were smaller pizzas, 17-inch. These are 18-inch pies. And the sauce here is a little spicier. A lot spicier, some say.

How does it work?
There's always a crowd outside. Half a dozen clubs in the neighborhood, couldn't count how many bars, taverns and coffee shops. People on the street, they can get their slices through the window. People come in, they pick up a couple of slices at the front, they find a booth or a seat at the bar and order drinks.

They don't order whole pies?
We'll do a whole pie for 17 bucks plus two bucks a topping, but this isn't a whole pie kind of place, except for delivery. We cut our pizzas into eight slices, $2.75 for the cheese pizza, or $3.25 for the pepperoni. The deep-dish Sicilian in the square pan, that's $3.75.

Keeps you busy, I see.
Totally. There's two of us here right now, it's still early, it's still light out, and we're making pies one right after the other. Five, six pies on the display shelves at any given time, and there's half a dozen pies in the top deck of the oven. A Baker's Pride, by the way, that runs at 550 degrees. We generally keep the bottom deck free to reheat slices if we're asked.

They named it for you! You're the real thing?
Mario Vellotti: I was born in Naples but moved here in '64. I grew up in Brooklyn, Bensonhurst. This pizza's the real thing.

Aren't you also involved with Via Tribunali?
Mario Vellotti: The same owners, but it's two different concepts, Neapolitan-style pies and New York style slices.

You're open really late.
Mario Vellotti: When we started, two years ago, Seattle didn't have a place that was both slices and a bar. A dive bar, some might say. New to Seattle, but very familiar on the East Coast and in San Fracisco, for example. We're open until two-three-four in the morning.

A lot of drunks late at night?
Mario Vellotti: Not too bad. We take care of them. They're just hungry.

--Ronald Holden

· All Pizza Week Coverage on Eater Seattle [-ESEA-]

Big Mario's Pizza

815 5th Avenue North, , WA 98109 (206) 453-5841 Visit Website