Don't Go There
Into the Gentrified Wilds of the Central District
Most lazy eaters in Seattle have a dozen options for having food delivered directly to their doors. But those of us in the "heart of the CD" have to fend for ourselves. I've never lived farther than a few blocks from the city's best fried chicken (Ezell's) or cheese steaks (that great new/old place at 23rd Avenue and Cherry Street) or barbecue (BBB Barbecue) but none of them will bring their bounty to me. There is, of course, one great exception to this rule—Piecora's New York Pizza (1401 E Madison St, 322-9411, www.piecoras.com), which has delivered to the CD for more than a decade. Apparently "New York style" means "comfortable walking up to black peoples' doors late at night."
The Central District, defined roughly by Madison Street to the north and Jackson Street to the south, drifting into Leschi to the east and First Hill to the west, is one of Seattle's oldest residential neighborhoods. It's also been the locus of one of the most dramatic demographic changes in Seattle in the past decade—in the past 120 years, its four square miles have been reincarnated as, by turns, a Danish ghetto, a Jewish ghetto, a Japanese ghetto, an African-American ghetto, and, most recently, a white, upwardly mobile, gentrifying ghetto. But even so, it remains the densest nonwhite neighborhood in Washington; it suffers from the highest violent crime rates in the city, and almost 20 percent of us are still below the poverty line. Restaurants that don't bat an eye when asked to deliver to the mansions of north Capitol Hill balk at addresses south of the border. (Before you send my editor 10,000 e-mails pointing out the exceptions to this rule, please know that we're sure there are exceptions, but not among the half-dozen restaurants we tested.)
Piecora's delivery is, of course, frustratingly slow, with wait times averaging 45 minutes and extreme cases taking as long as 90 minutes. But it's worth every minute. Piecora's calzones arrive piping hot and stuffed to bursting with fresh ingredients. The menu offers six or so basic combination ideas for pizzas and calzones, but mix 'n' matching from the list of 33 ingredients (including a great house-made pesto) will keep you busy for months. You'll also find a handful of pasta entrees on the menu, but they're nothing to write home about. Who orders pasta to be delivered, anyway?
There's also something I love about the fact that Piecora's won't make a "small" pizza. They've decided how big a pizza should be, and if you can't eat all of it, they'll deliver you a "half pizza," which is just that—a semicircular half of a normal-sized pizza.
Dear Piecora's, the Danes, Jews, Japanese, African Americans, and whiteys of the Central District thank you for braving the dangers of our 'hood.