Most Seattle pizza places are sorely misguided. Restaurants break their backs trying to mimic New York-style pizza (Big Mario’s) or Detroit-style pizza (Hotel Hotel) or Neapolitan-style pizza (Via Tribunali) or Iowa-style pizza (Domino’s). Searching for incredible pizza in Seattle can be a huge letdown when everyone’s trying so hard to copy everyone else that they miss the point -- which is to just make it taste good.
But, as someone who grew up in New York, I can assure you - it does not have to be this way. “Everybody Hurts” does not have to play in your head on loop every time you daydream about a good Margherita. Because there’s Bar Cotto. Not only is this the best pizza in Seattle, but it’s pizza that could win a boxing match with NYC pie.
Ethan Stowell is the guy behind some of the best Italian restaurants in Seattle, but this pizzeria and cured meat palace is our favorite of the bunch. What makes Bar Cotto phenomenal in a sea of “great” pizza in Seattle is the way the crust stays charred and crisp throughout the entire pie, with nary a soggy middle in sight. When we dip our little crust bits in their spicy chile oil, we forget about New York pizza. We don’t even care about it anymore.
The rest of the menu is a bridge mix of hand-sliced salumi, crostini, and vegetables all worth ordering. There are pies that have tenure here, but also some that rotate with the seasons and are always great. Take into account the excellent wine list and creative cocktails, and Bar Cotto is a restaurant where you could come for any occasion and bring anyone you want, even if it’s just a Wednesday dinner to mix up your workweek.
Other Bar Cotto perks have nothing to do with food - it’s in the heart of Capitol Hill, for starters. The small dining room is never too crowded to not be able to get at least two seats at the bar at 8:30 on a Saturday night, or squeeze in a reservation for your party of nine with a week’s notice. Plus, they play Backstreet Boys and old-school Britney.
When you need pizza in your life, Bar Cotto should always be your first choice. It’s too late to book a ticket to JFK anyway.
This is always what we want to be drinking when we are eating pizza. Gin, lime, rosemary, and lambrusco. It’s like if the two best things to drink with pizza (red wine and soda) had a love child. We could drink four of these, and you should too.
Bar Cotto slices its salumi to-order, and it always makes for an awesome kickoff to your meal. We don’t love that over the past two years the selection has dwindled from two handfuls of cured meats to just one handful, but they kept the spicy coppa, so we won’t whine about it.
These little salty fried bread rectangles are not optional to wrap your salumi around. When they arrive to the table you’ll think you just received a bowl of Totino’s pizza rolls, but rest assured: you most certainly did not. Keep in mind that if you have more than three people, you’ll need two orders.
Yes, you’ll groan when the health nut at your table suggests getting some sort of vegetable. But then you’ll remember you can order this. It’s just raw escarole, toasted hazelnuts, and mustard vinaigrette, but it’s stupid good. Definitely a fresh app that won’t fill you up, because you didn’t come here for a salad.
Thick bacon and a citrusy mustard on grilled bread. Good choice if you’re here for small plates and cocktails, but not worth the appetite buzzkill as a prelude to pizza.
There’s a reason why we aren’t mentioning the Margherita, and it’s because of the Bufala. You’ve got really good buffalo mozzarella, tomato, pecorino, and olive oil from Tuscany, all getting friendly on a perfectly crispy crust. This is Bar Cotto’s best pie, and it’s what you’re ordering. Get it and cover it in chile oil and laugh and cry and enjoy this fleeting moment while you have it.
Your friend loves bacon, and you aim to please. The Guanciale pizza has the same concept of the Bufala, but with a bright, liquorice-y bite from the fennel, and pork fat that melts in your mouth. If you just drooled on your computer, that’s disgusting, but also totally justified.
There is life after tomato-sauced pies and the pesto pizza is exhibit A. It also has super thinly-sliced fingerling potatoes and sopressata, which both get toasty after their time in the oven. Solid choice.
If you are of the sort that thinks Hawaiian pizzas are inherently wrong (we used to be that sort), this is the pie that will convert you. The jalapeno packs some serious heat, but the caramelized pineapple sweetens it up in a subtle way that doesn’t make the whole bite taste like a fruit cup. You want this even if you thought pineapple had no place at a pizza party.
We don’t care if you have to run into the bathroom and splash some water on your face and give yourself a pep talk in the mirror first. You have to eat this: warm chocolate chip cookies with fresh mint gelato in between, along with a trough of chocolate ganache (infused with hot peppermint oil) for dipping/ultimately licking. This sandwich is worth every penny, but if it’s someone’s birthday, you’ll probably get it for free with a candle jabbed through the middle.