When I lived in England, I discovered what I missed most about America, and it wasn't cheeseburgers or big, fast cars or circumcised boys. It was pizza. British cuisine could make a grown man cry out for a little fresh veggie--anything, anywhere, for the love of god--and eating in England was devastating for a budding food junkie like myself. Homesickness compelled me to traverse that dreary island in search of the phantom pizza: Brits eviscerated pizza, wholesome and basic, into a horror show of ketchup and frankfurters on Bisquick. If nothing else, my time in the U.K. taught me to never again take for granted the art of pizza, a seemingly simple dish.

Which brings me to Fremont. And nostalgia. Remember Fremont back when? The recently expanded Fremont Classic Pizzeria and Trattoria adheres to Old Fremont attitude--distinctly unhip and very comfortable with its eccentrics, namely the kids who make this joint really swing with their mid-dinner serenades. Run by chef Paul Kohlenberg and family since 1988, this place has earned its solid reputation for some of Seattle's best no-nonsense pies. I tasted my first Fremont pizza years ago at a union meeting: Nothing strengthens organization like a good, thin-crust pizza, drizzled with just enough rich, deep tomato sauce and topped with appropriate provolone, mozzarella, Asiago, and Parmesan cheeses ($16).

I returned one fine summer evening with my family. New patio seating is sheltered from the busy street, laced with plenty of plant life, and affords a welcome sunny-day alternative to the cozy dining room. Tables swell with regulars and content, beery conversation. Next to us, several rowdy small boys (a food-service nightmare for most) and their exhausted parents slurped noodles, and their waitress called the boys by name, refreshing their parents' beers while keeping up snappy patter with the tantrum-prone toddlers. This unflappable server didn't bat an eye when Ruby, my avid crayon-nibbler, archly pointed her index finger and ordered up apple juice and kid-size (yet delicious!) cheese pizza ($4) by herself.

Besides employing waitresses with expert insight into toddler psychology and offering damn fine pizza, Fremont Classic Pizza has stepped up to new, ambitious seasonal appetizers and a whole range of Italian-influenced entrées. The latest menu is constructed around regular customers' desires (and there's a friendly note that says they will make your favorite item, even if it's not on the menu anymore) rather than chef-wanking exotica. Sadly, this reverence to customers results in an overabundance of chicken dishes. Good chicken dishes, but, nonetheless, chicken dishes.

That said, I was still impressed with the light, sweet Chicken Agradolce ($13), featuring zippy roasted chicken atop perfect al dente penne flecked with pine nuts and golden raisins--a dish tasty enough without falling prey to Olive Gardenesque Alfredo glue. The Morel Mushroom Fettuccine ($12) was impossible not to enjoy, thanks to the deep, woodsy morels that generously graced the slightly restrained cream sauce. The real standouts in Fremont Classic's departure from pizza and spaghetti 'n' meatballs were the seasonal appetizers: Grilled Ahi Skewers ($6) were not long for this world after arriving at our table. The portions, while not mammoth, were fine for the price, and the bed of wild greens proved perfect for sopping up the remaining juices from the medium-rare tuna. A slightly sweet balsamic dressing played off the bitter bite of endive, and punched up the meaty, roasted portabello mushrooms in the Endive Salad ($6.50).

Unlike many other neighborhood remodels, Fremont Classic has remained true to its humble pizzeria roots while venturing out into some solid fancier stuff. Way beyond mere comfort food, Fremont Classic's pizza still gives me that warm, breast-fed feeling deep down inside.

Fremont Classic Pizzeria and Trattoria

4307 Fremont Ave N, 548-9411. Sun-Thurs 5-10 pm, Fri-Sat 5-11 pm.

$$

Price Scale (per entrée)

$ = $10 and under; $$ = $10-$20; $$$ = $20 and up.

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