You can complain all you want that Spokane has a dearth of skyscrapers. But really, what makes a city feel cosmopolitan is a gross of small centers — neighborhoods with character-defining sensibilities — not a few huge building
After a period of long suffering, and many fits and starts, the South Perry district is becoming one such delight.
The best evidence: Places like South Perry Pizza are not only surviving, but packing out. Since opening in December, their open-flame-oven pizza has succeeded in turning the former Laundromat/auto-repair shop into a destination (along with the tiny Lantern Tavern) drawing people to the neighborhood at night the way the Shop, Perry Street Café, Liberty Park Florist and Lorien Natural Foods have been drawing people by day.
Inside, concrete floors have been polished and stained, and fresh paint added to the cinder-block walls, which are adorned with large colorful canvases by local artist Tina Sanger. While adults may enjoy gazing at the art, kids will delight in watching Chef Chris Deitz fling discs of pizza dough into the air, sauce the pies and slide them into the fiery oven.
The big garage doors are hoisted open on sunny days, creating a near-perfect spot for soaking up some rays, as my companion and I did on a recent weekday evening. We arrived early, as he was hungry from a long hot day in first grade, and I was eager to avoid the crush of hopeful diners later in the evening. We scored ourselves a spot in view of the flat-screen, with the sun to warm our backs while we watched the Mariners maneuver themselves out of a sure victory.
The menu consists of pizza ($10 to $13) and salad ($5). (OK, there’s also a flatbread “appetizer” that looks a lot like pizza, with olive oil, herbs and shaved parmesan cheese for $6; add a couple of bucks for Beecher’s cheese curds or roasted garlic. And the antipasta platter, whose ingredients can also be found on — wait for it — the pizza.)
I tried the bleu salad. The fluffy mix of spring greens was obviously fresh. Big chunky candied walnuts, bleu cheese crumbles, chopped red onion, halved red grapes added to the frolic. The bleu cheese vinaigrette is made in-house and it was a real treat — bits of fresh basil and lemon livened it up, creating a cool, summery treat.
Next up were pizzas. My small companion immediately insisted on the “Create Your Own” option ($9 plus $2 for each meat, $1 for veggies). After discussing the merits of fresh mozzarella, mascarpone and Sopressata salami, he opted for the tried-and-true Italian sausage with red sauce. On our server’s recommendation, I chose the artichoke with feta, Kalamata olives and roasted red peppers.
Some “artisan” pizzas rely on their crusty-goodness to so overwhelm your sensibilities that you fail to notice there are hardly any of those fancy toppings you ordered. Not so with my artichoke pie. Big marinated artichoke hearts fought for position among lots of sweet roasted red peppers and plenty of the pungent Kalamatas. The pizza was so generously sized that it could easily feed two. Delicious.
My partner’s creative effort was also a success. Crumbled salty Italian sausage was generously applied and blended with the cheese. Initially he was put off by the sprinkle of fresh parsley, but his doubts abated with the first taste. “This is good,” he said, as his greasy hands gripped his lemonade for a big slurp. “But I think it needs a little more sauce.” Point well taken. The saucing is definitely on the light side — more of the smear-of-color variety than a partner in the overall flavor of the pizza. And that’s too bad, because the glimpses of sauce indicated it would have been a happy addition. The crust is house-made in a two-day process with Shepherd’s Grain flour. The loving care shows — it is chewy yet light, sturdy enough to hold a load of toppings without becoming mushy.
The house specialty pizzas are a creative bunch — one of my favorites is the prosciutto with mascarpone, fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes. The house special will be my choice next time I visit — a can’t-miss combo of red sauce, sausage, pepperoni, mushroom and caramelized onions. I might just ask for extra sauce.
For dessert, there’s a fruit crisp and a brownie, both served with ice cream. The brownie ($6) is worthy of a visit even if you don’t have dinner. Warm-from-the-oven, it is accompanied by locally made Brain Freeze ice cream. There’s enough for two or three to share — but have your spoons ready when it hits the table, because it won’t last long.
With virtually everything from pizza dough to salad dressings made in-house, the restaurant still manages to keep prices very reasonable. On the downside, service can be a little slow and not always particularly attentive. Pizzas can take a long time to arrive. And if you arrive on a weekend evening, be prepared to wait — an hour or more is a regular occurrence. They don’t take reservations and there’s no “saving tables” allowed. But your patience will be rewarded with a wholesome meal and, if you’re lucky, a healthy dose of sunshine.
For more info, go here.