After Bainbridge Island restaurant Hitchcock's Monday night pizza pop-ups became a big hit, its James Beard-nominated chef Brendan McGill opened pizzeria Bruciato in Winslow last January. Already packed with locals and folks from the mainland, I recently stopped in to test the Italian-inspired pizza and drinks, and here are three impressions.
The Drinks: I suggest starting your whole experience like an Italian, with a choice from the Aperitivi menu that includes eight options served either neat or with soda and lemon. I went with Cocchi Americano, a wine-based delight fortified and flavored with spices, botanicals, Cinchona and citrus. It’s light, just a trace bitter and ideal with soda before a meal. There’s also a list of four cocktails, including a Bruciato Negroni that mixes that masterpiece’s gin and Campari with lesser-known Vermouth de Professore Rosso, which brings a lush herbal depth to the drink. Their Negroni is garnished with an orange slice and some house brandied cherries made with star anise, pepper and other spices. Italian lager Peroni is on tap along with a few local brews, and a compact but well-chosen wine list. Be sure to end your meal on an Italian note, too, with a sipper off the Grappa or Amaro (the herbal after-dinner treat) lists. The Poli Miele grappa infused with honey is a terrific choice if you aren’t already familiar with these bracing and lovely drinks.
The Food: Though the pizza is the edible show-stopper, don’t ignore the Antipasti. The Insalata Invernale, or winter salad, with slightly bitter heirloom chicories, kumquat, tart blood orange, crisp fried almonds, green olives and lemon was teeming with flavor. For olive lovers, there are marinated green Castelvetranos paired with fruity black Taggiasca olives, accompanied by fantastic flatbread dashed with spices and tomato sauce. The flatbread’s a good intro to the pizza, because it has the same characteristics that make the crust so splendid: thin, chewy with time-honored scorched blisters here and there (which are called “bruciato”), made with fine-ground Italian 00 flour. There are 12 pizza choices, all in the 12-to-14-inch range (traditional Italian again!). The classic Margherita was impressive: tangy tomato sauce, mozzarella, olive oil, basil. Simple and perfect. One tip: you can add a duck egg to the Margherita, and that yolk-y goodness isn’t to be missed. The Quattro Formaggi (grana Padano, gorgonzola, provola and mozz) was another top choice, with the cheese accented by crispy Red Dog farm winter greens. There are also Piatti (side dishes) for those really hungry, and Dolci; the house Tiramisu is worth saving room for, even with notable pizza.
The Space: Taking up half of Winslow’s old hardware store, Bruciato has a tall ceiling made from open wood beams in a slight curve that brings to mind the inside of a ship. There’s a long bar (15 bar stools), at one end of which is the white-tiled open fire oven and the pizza makers headed by Pizzaiolo Brandon Thompson. Parallel to the bar, there’s a line of two-top tables, with an unobtrusive bar rail on the other side. In the all-ages areas, you’ll find a row of tables on one wall, and a big communal table, a couple larger tables and a few more small tables nearer the floor-to-ceiling glass abutting the sidewalk–the glass is actually a door that can be opened in summer. The wood tables and concrete floors, low hanging lights, open piping on the ceiling and one white brick wall all help create an inviting industrial feel, underlined by the happy diners, bustling staff and that photo-worthy ceiling. When taken with the drinks and top-notch pizza, the Bruciato experience is definitely one to experience, and one that's well worth the ferry ride.