If the lines for ferries to Bainbridge suddenly get a little longer, Brendan McGill might be to blame. The James Beard semi-finalist chef/owner of Hitchcock Restaurant on Bainbridge and Hitchcock Deli in Georgetown tells Eater he'll open Bruciato brick and mortar this summer on the island he calls home.
Island residents have already formed a deep love for McGill's pizzas, which he serves on Monday nights at Hitchcock for his Bruciato pop-up, rotating 12 pies with seasonal ingredients. Coming in July (fingers crossed), the Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas will be available daily from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. in a space with 80 to 100 seats. The size of the restaurant, McGill says, depends on whether he'll be able to build out a mezzanine level to take advantage of high ceilings in the well-preserved mid-century building.
Eater asked McGill about his expansion plans, his spiffy new oven, and how he's filling a need on the island.
Where did the name come from?
"Bruciato" refers to the flame-blackened blisters on the crust. It's one of the tenets of Neapolitan pizza. If you make a cracker crust-style PNW pizza, you couldn't get certified. The word means "burnt," and that's what the VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) certifiable pie looks for.
Have you already begun the certification process?
No, but when I worked for Via Tribunali, we had the official people come out and get certifications for all the pizzerias that were open at the time. Preceding that, I went to Naples and staged at the Il Figlio del Presidente. We're going to get VPN-certified for Bruciato, but we have to open first.
What was in the building space before, and what needs to be done before the opening?
The landlord who just bought this building is going to do a massive tenant construction on it. It's just a shell right now.
The thing everyone on Bainbridge will tie it to is the old hardware store, which was the heart of the community for so long. A home furnishing store tried to make a go of it after that, and then Storyville bought it after it went out of business. They were camped on it for, like, three years I think. It's a pretty tasty piece of real estate, at least for this community.
It's a pretty tasty piece of real estate, at least for this community.
What are the landlord's plans for preserving the character of the building?
It's a six thousand-square-foot piece of space, and we'll have two thousand of that. They're putting up a beautiful dividing wall and maintaining the original rafter work and the gorgeous ceilings; it's really beautiful up there. I think the building is from the 1940s or '50s. There's a bunch of offices and stuff going into the back of the building, so it'll be a multi-use.
We have Les Eerkes doing the architecture and design. He's a veteran of Olsen Kundig and did the Charles Smith tasting room, MistralKitchen, and a bunch of other gorgeous designs.
In order for it to be certified, which ingredients have to come from Naples?
The flour is the Le 5 Stagione that we sourced from that stage in 2009 when I was working for Trib. We were direct importing it then, and we'll have that. So, the flour, the tomatoes, the olive oil, and the buffala mozzarella have to come from Campania. And all the rest will be our stuff.
How much are you sourcing from your own farm, Shady Acres, and your Mangalitsa pigs?
As much of the produce as applies to our menu, we'll bring from our farm. And we'll definitely be using the Mangalitsa hogs for plates as well as toppings.
We're going to make all the charcuterie: the salumi, prosciutto cotto, Spanish-style chorizo, soppressata, get jiggy with some head cheese.... Its official name is "porchetta di testa," and it's a pig head roulade.
We've also been doing a bone marrow pizza for years at our pop-up. We lob the bone in the oven, then pop the marrow part out, slice it into discs and put it on the pizza. It renders out and congeals as it cools, so it's like the "cheese."
What kind of oven are you getting?
It's a Stefano Ferrara oven, which is like the gold standard, made-in-Naples oven. We've been using a Valoriani for the pop-up, which is another nice Italian forno, I believe from Tuscany. It's what they use at Delancey. When we were in Naples, we went to the Stefano Ferrara factory and met him and kicked it. They're really pretty ovens, and I believe it'll be the focus of the room.
What will the menu look like: all pies or some other dishes too?
We have a menu of some antipasti and some small plates with some traditional Southern Italian dishes, like arancini and polpettine. But I also like to cook little fishes, so we'll probably have sardines roasted in the wood-fired oven, chicory salads...even fish charcuterie, like cured smelt in the boquerone style. Plus, we'll serve pickles and all the stuff that's fun to eat with your pizza, that makes things a little more of a rounded meal.
For our Bruciato pop-up, we probably have like 12 pies. We change them at the pop-up at whim. Some of it is seasonal, based on the produce, so instead of doing kale with the quattro fromaggi, we'll put on beet greens.
We definitely have plans for happy hour and late night. It'll probably be a truncated menu, with just pizza and salads.
Brandon Thompson, who's been at Via Tribunali, Tutta Bella, and Queen Margherita, will be the pizzaiolo. And I'll be designing all the antipasti, piatti, and dolci.
Plus, we'll serve pickles and all the stuff that's fun to eat with your pizza, that makes things a little more of a rounded meal.
How does the location fill a need on Bainbridge?
There aren't any other wood-fired pizzerias on Bainbridge. There's a couple other pizza places, but I'm not sure how I'd categorize them. Our Monday night pop-up has been so well received. We get to see all the kids and families of the people who we normally see at the bar. We're planning on a nicely integrated play area for the kids, and there will be occasional live music acts. And we're hoping to get the community involved with a crowd-funding campaign, too.
Follow along for updates on Bruciato, opening this summer on Bainbridge Island at 240A Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island, 98110.