Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stupid Stereotypes Shattered

We are back in Salt Lake City after a fourteen-month absence, and the city continues to amaze me. If you had asked me before our previous visit, I would have guessed that the Mormon presence (estimated at around 50% of the city’s population of 186,000+) would make for a dour and austere city. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, LDS members tend to dominate the civic and business life of the city. But look under the surface, and you will find a lot of surprises. No one has a precise figure on the number of GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) citizens, but judging from the number of newspapers devoted to this community, they are organized and active. Drive down the freeways, and billboard after billboard advertises for “gentlemen’s clubs.” There is a large indie film and music scene. And while Utah has a reputation for unfathomable alcohol laws, thing are getting better. (Hey, I’ve lived in Pennsylvania where arcane alcohol laws were born.) And, Salt Lake City is one of the most amazing food cities we’ve visited. So much for dour and austere.

We began our four food-filled-days visit with a return to two of our favorites. We started at Ruth’s Diner for breakfast; I won’t repeat the story of Ruth and how she came to locate her diner miles away from civilization in Emigration Canyon. You can go back to our blogs on 7/1/10 and 7/2/10 for that. But we remembered our second breakfast at Ruth’s as one of the best ever.

Again, as soon as we were seated, the server brought a plate with two of their famous
“mile high” biscuits. Except they didn’t seem to be as “mile high.“ Still, we managed to eat both in short order with the raspberry jam found on each table.

I had been craving the Eggs Florentine from last year and a quick web check of the menu showed that they were still on the menu. Imagine my disappointment when the menu didn’t list them. “They’re no longer available?” I asked the server. “No.” she replied. Back to the drawing board. Instead I chose the Fresh Asparagus Omelet stuffed with asparagus, chopped tomato, and smoked gouda and topped with hollandaise. With this came a side of hash browns with bits of onion—most of which Chuck ate.

I really can’t fault the quality of the omelet—it just wasn’t the Eggs Florentine that I wanted. On the other hand, Chuck’s favorite—the pecan cinnamon roll French toast—was, and that was his selection.

Sadly, this was nowhere as good as we remembered. Where are the crisp edges from carameli-zing the roll? Isn’t the portion much smaller? Isn’t the toast a bit chewy as if the roll was stale? And where was the heated syrup? Nothing cools pancakes or French toast like cold syrup.

What had been a 5.0 Addie breakfast last year manages no more than 3.0 Addies now.

So it was with no small degree of concern that we headed out that evening to Settebello, home of the best pizza we have eaten anytime anywhere—and that includes Florence, Italy. Has our memory magnified the greatness of this pizza? Fortunately, no. (For information on Settebello, the meaning of the name, what it means to be Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN), and the source of their ingredients, go to our blog on 7/8/10).

We started by sharing a Bianca with prosciutto crudo, arugola, parmigiano reggiano, fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil. Baked in a wood-fired brick oven, the crust came with the charred edges and bottom crust that we enjoy, but other diners find off-putting. The crust and cheese were baked and, when removed from the oven, topped with thin slices of prosciutto, arugula, and shaved parmesan.

As you can see from the photo, the crust is ultra thin, but is slightly chewy like a good Italian bread. And the flavors range from salty (cheese and prosciutto) to peppery (arugola). Marvelous.

But why stop there? Time for one more pizza—the classic Margherita with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, parmigiano reggiano, extra virgin olive oil. What I find most amazing about this pizza is the sauce—it’s crushed tomatoes with a bit of salt. Period. No garlic. No herbs. Just fresh tasting San Marzano tomatoes. This contrasted with the mild and creamy fresh mozzarella raises pizza to a new level.

Well, Settebello was a 5.0 Addie pizza last June (2010) and remains a 5.0 Addie pizza today.

In fact, Settebello is now the Number Four (out of 497) Salt Lake City restaurants on tripadvisor.com. As LynnSurre said on tripadvisor: “I love pizza—proper Italian pizza—made with great dough (not nasty pastry type dough) and genuine Italian ingredients and cooked in a wood oven so that it is charred and wonderful. It is almost impossible to find this type of pizza outside of Italy, but we found it in Settebello. I've eaten pizza all over Italy, and this really does compare to the best of them.”

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