I stopped by the opening last night of Pizzeria Fondi in Puyallup's Sunrise Village Shopping Center – the upscale(ish) retail mall that includes the tenants L.A. Fitness, Target and the restaurants The Ram and Qdoba Grill.
It was a slow night for the new pizzeria, with servers and kitchen staff outnumbering the handful of diners. The restaurant is a fast-casual concept where diners order at the counter, take a number and a table and wait for the food to be delivered. The food is a slightly abbreviated menu compared to the sit-down versions of the chain restaurant owned by Restaurants Unlimited. The Gig Harbor Fondi location, like Puyallup, is a fast-casual restaurant, but the Seattle and Kent locations are sit-down restaurants with a longer wine list and more menu choices. (Restaurants Unlimited also owns Stanley & Seafort's, in case you're keeping tabs.)
Pictured here is the prosciutto and arugula pizza from Fondi, $12.95.
The fast-casual concept translates into a much needed quicker dinner option in that end of South Hill that seems an endless corridor of marginal fast food restaurants, ubiquitous Thai and teriyaki take-out places. And parents rejoice: Fondi is a place to enjoy grown-up food and beverages in a kid friendly environment. Yes, they have kids meals, too.
The menu and wine and beer selection reminded me more of a sit-down restaurant – the choices are abundant and fetching on first glance. More than a dozen pie choices start at $9.95, with the option to customize any pie. Three calzones, three baked pastas and four panini sandwich choices round out the menu that also includes five salads and two soups. Prices are reasonable – starting around $4.25 for a small salad to $6.50-$8.50 for panini sandwiches and $6.95-$9.95 for baked pasta dishes.
The counter order thing takes some adjustment. I was a touch overwhelmed by the large menu – it's a lot to digest for a quick-order-your-food-now! concept. My instinct was to grab a paper menu and wait to the side of the counter until I figured out my choices.
My dining partner and I shared a pizza and lasagna. The prosciutto and arugula pizza ($12.95) we ordered showcased what makes Fondi unusual – a brick oven that cooks pizzas at a really high heat, resulting in pizzas that are blistered, crispy and delicious. The company calls it Neopolitan pizza. I call it tasty.
My pizza pie arrived with just a bit of char at the edges. The crust was crispy and solid, although it did suffer from a touch of flop in the center of the pie and probably could have been cooked a few minutes longer. Still, it had all the attributes I like in pizza –just enough tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and not too many toppings to weigh down the crust. A slice of prosciutto topped each of the six slices, and a pile of fresh arugula was mounded in the center.
The meat lasagna ($9.95) arrived about 10 minutes after the pizza. I was expecting a larger portion for that price. The lasagna was just a few layers of basil-specked ricotta cheese, a small sprinkling of Italian sausage, pasta and marinara sauce. I liked the sturdy texture of the pasta and basil-punched flavor, but more meat and cheese, please.
For beer and wine, there are 10 wine choices (by the glass or bottle) and six beers. My dining partner and I shared glasses of the house Fondi amber lager ($4) and Birra Moretti ($4.95).
The tiramisu ($5.95) was delicious, although not a traditional version of the Italian dessert. Chocolate cake was sandwiched between rich, creamy layers of marscapone mousse. It also, inexplicably, was handed to me at the counter when I ordered it, rather than brought at the end of the meal after the lasagna made its late appearance. That may be by design. The cake was handed to me straight out of a refrigerator cooler. As it sat on our table, it had time to come closer to room temperature, which is my preferred way to enjoy a sweet treat like tiramisu.
The atmosphere was what you'd expect from a suburban pizza place in a slick shopping mall – a cavernous space with semi-hip decor –cool red pendant lighting, modern paint choices and bright red seats with a funky woven pattern. I was surprised to hear techno music playing when I entered (What? in South Hill? Seriously?), but the soundtrack went adult contemporary by the time my pie arrived.
Where: 10404 156th Street E. (next to RAM), Puyallup
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
Menu here: http://www.fondi.com/pdf/fondi_puyallup.pdf