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New Detroit-Style Pizza Arrives in West Seattle from a Self-Taught Chef

Moto opens for business Friday with four-cheese pies, Filipino flavors, and a 100-year-old sourdough starter

A closeup of pizza with four kinds of cheese, tomato sauce, and mushrooms
Moto’s cheese pies use a mix of mozzarella, brick, Tillamook 12-year aged cheddar, and pecorino.
Lee Kindell

Like many who looked for baking projects in COVID times, Lee Kindell has a name for his sourdough starter. The chef-owner of the new West Seattle pizzeria Moto — which makes its debut Friday, January 22, at 4526 42nd Avenue SW — calls his “Betty,” and it was gifted to him by a master baker friend. According to Kindell, the sourdough starter is 100 years old, an age that’s the stuff of legend in some baking circles.

Kindell uses the starter in the Detroit-style pizza he’s serving at Moto, all made by hand with an 18th century wooden dough trough, which the chef says may be more time consuming, but gives his creations a lighter, airier crust than similar thick pies. The fermentation process for the dough is three days long, and Kindell makes every single pie himself, inspired by one of his idols — chef Domenico DeMarco of the famed Di Fara in Brooklyn.

Born in the Philippines and raised in Bremerton, Kindell has worked in the Pacific Northwest restaurant scene for most of his adult life (mostly in the front of the house at larger chain’s like the Schwartz Brothers restaurants), and has taken cues from his travels around the world, from Italy to Asia. Influences from his Filipino background show up in Moto items such as the Mang(Mr) Pig pie, made with lechon kawali (crispy pork belly), Sriracha sausage, calamansi, pineapple chimichurri, and sweet liver sauce. The cheese pies feature a mix of mozzarella, brick, Tillamook 12-year aged cheddar, and pecorino. And there’s a pizza topped with Dungeness crab, dill, and thyme, along with a couple of vegan options, using locally sourced ingredients.

In all, there are eight main pies to start off, and the option to order a gluten-free version. Eventually, Moto will add a few sides, as well as a selection of soft serve ice cream — Kindell says he plans to bake his own ice cream cones from a Transylvanian recipe he found that dates back to 1782, in keeping with his general old school vibes.

It’s a lot of work for a one-man operation — but Kindell doesn’t seem to mind. After honing his skills for the past 15 years, he speaks of the pizza-making process with a sense of awe and joy. “When I felt dough, realizing it’s literally alive taking shape in my hands, it was all over,” he says. “My love language is to feed the people from my heart through my food.”

Moto will start as takeout-only until Kindell says he can get his “sea legs” under him. The restaurant itself is tiny at 600 square feet, but there’s a large front yard that he’s looking forward to opening up for outdoor seating soon. He’s also looking forward to joining a thriving pizza scene in Seattle that seems to be pop-up driven at the moment, but has also seen some wider variety in recent years, including a greater emphasis on thicker Detroit-style pies, like the new Sunny Hill.

As for Moto’s location, Kindell says he loves being near the Junction, even though West Seattle has dealt with quite a few issues over the past year. The neighborhood has not just been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the bridge closure has snagged travel to and from the area since last March — with no clear relief in sight.

Despite those challenges, Kindell still has high hopes for the future. “I’m playing the long game,” he says. “West Seattle has such a strong community that I believe can help get us through until things get better. But I really do believe my pizza is so good, people will find their way around the bridge to get here from other neighborhoods, too.”

MOTO

4526 42nd Avenue Southwest, , WA 98116 (206) 420-8880 Visit Website

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