The Eminence of Pizza
It's Good Enough to Reverse the Curse
The curse has been broken. The injunction has expired. The space of doom has been transformed to a space of happiness—still a very weird space, but a happy one. Red Line has pizza, and the pizza is good.
Red Line is in that strangely shaped building sunk into the hillside at East Olive Way and East Denny Way. An inordinate number of occupants have come and gone in the space—the Flame, Hamburger Mary's, Settebello (long ago), forgotten others. No business could last; some locations are just like that. Just before Red Line opened a couple years ago, a manifesto posted in the window discussed, among other things, the de-dooming of the premises in some sort of exorcism and the imminence of pizza.
It opened. No pizza. Katy Carroll, the owner, had worked for Pagliacci for almost 10 years, and apparently the Pagliacci powers-that-be weren't too keen on the pizza angle. Lawyers were involved (never good); the making of pizza was forbidden for two years. The brick oven, its gaping maw all ready for pie, was relegated to making pressed, hot sandwiches of the panini style—fine sandwiches, but not the kind of thing that springs unbidden to your mind as a vision of the next thing you want to eat.
Sandwiches are still served at Red Line during the day. Because the oven needs to be much hotter, the making of pizza doesn't commence until 5:00 p.m. In its style, the pizza is somewhere between the certified-authentic Neapolitan (very thin crust, topped delicately—pizza Seattle is lucky to have at Tutta Bella and Via Tribunali, but pizza that can leave one feeling like an appetizer has been consumed rather than a meal) and the New York variety (like, well, Pagliacci or Piecora's big, floppy slices, also very fine in their own way). All Red Line's pies ($7.95–$11.95) are just a foot across; the crust is quite thin, but the small circumference lowers the floppiness factor. The extra-hot brick oven gives the crust love in the form of just a hint of carbon here and there on the bottom, a perfect near-burn. The tomato sauce, deployed with a light hand, tastes bright and has tiny bits of fresh basil in it. The cheese—whole-milk mozzarella, provolone, fontina, and parmesan—is applied neither sparingly nor overwhelmingly. Toppings, like CasCioppo Brothers spicy Italian sausage, aren't food-service level, nor are they supergourmet (though the seasonal special with asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto, oval shaped and served cut in strips on a wood board, nearly qualifies). It's a pie in balance, a pie that takes the middle path, a pie that's right on. It's not entirely dissimilar to Pagliacci's; it's what you'd hope for if someone who worked at Pagliacci made you a pizza at home, if home had a brick oven.
Red Line's interior is indisputably, nearly indescribably odd. It's sort of aggressively California-casual eclectic; the room is many angled and painted in a questionable array of colors, with a half-dozen different kinds of light fixtures and a peculiar area with a chalkboard wall. If you let a kindergartner decorate, it might end up like this.
But now that the pie is in place, the doom dispelled, Red Line's space feels more cheerfully unique than disturbingly random. It's airy; a garage door rolls up for a nice breeze and seating outside in summertime. People play chess and hang out and type on laptops (Wi-Fi is free). Purposefully bad movies (e.g., Top Gun) are occasionally screened. One of the unendingly nice employees draws a nonthreatening cartoon skull in red Sharpie on every bill. A bucket of six Session beers on ice is $9, and with a pizza it's attractive to both the eye and the soul. Such a bucket of beer might even have a Pope bottle opener attached to it, and it might be served to you by Carroll's girlfriend (saying, "It's the Popener!").
Screw the sandwiches—Red Line should have pizza all day and (in an ideal world) all night.