REDMOND — It took Redmond entrepreneurs Tony and Carolyn Scott almost 20 years to open their first restaurant, Woodblock, but only two years to follow up with their second, Spark Pizza. When Tony broached the idea to his wife in an email with the subject line “Pizza?” — she thought he was suggesting lunch at first, not another business venture.
The couple embarked on a pizza crawl through New York, Rome and Naples with Woodblock chef Savuthy “T” Dy to solidify the project. Having cooked for a time in Italy, Dy knew enough Italian to act as a translator. Back home, Spark chef de cuisine Kyle Cole (who worked with Dy at Book Bindery and earned his wood-fired pizza cred at Tutta Bella) tinkered with the dough recipe for weeks.
They settled on a mix of Caputo “00” flour and bread flour from Small’s Family Farm in Walla Walla. Olive oil, salt and a 48-hour rise add flavor. The result has more in common with New York’s finest, than the Neapolitan cugini. The thick, char-dappled crust has a bread-like tension and chew with a whisper of crunch around its fire-licked rim. Floppy but not droopy, the crust has enough body to support the abundant toppings. For me, it was love at first slice.
One of Spark’s most popular pies is the “Homage to Frankie’s,” the erstwhile pizza and pasta emporium in downtown Redmond that was developed out of existence after 23 years. The tribute surpasses the original. It’s topped with thimble-like pepperoni that curls in the oven’s high heat, crumbled fennel sausage from Ballard’s Cascioppo Meats, mushrooms, red onion and pickled peppers. Those oft-Instagramed “roni cups” also appear on the “Honey, Spice & Everything Nice” pizza, where they not only collect fat but also gather the honey that’s drizzled over the puddles of melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.
While morels last, you might luck into a seasonal special titled, “Morel of the Story.” (Puns on the menu are laid on as thick as the Ferndale Farmstead mozzarella on the pies.) At $25, it cost quite a bit more than anything on the regular roster, but what a pleasure it was to eat that lemon-zesty mingling of morel mushrooms, ramps and ramp pesto, arranged with a painterly swirl worthy of Monet.
Not every pizza integrated the ingredients as well. Toppings could have been more evenly distributed atop “In Prosciutto of Happiness,” an otherwise winning combination of salty-sweet ham, runny eggs, cherry tomatoes and just-wilted, lemon-kissed arugula. “Spring Fling” was something of a disaster. The load of spring greenery — asparagus, snap peas, kale — definitely looked flung. Random squiggles of basil pesto crisscrossing the top had dehydrated in the oven’s intense heat. It was one of several pizzas that came out looking pretty burnt on that busy night.
Evidently Redmond has been famished for wood-fired pizza. In the two months since Spark opened, they’ve often been slammed and occasionally have run out of dough before closing. They can only make about 160 dough balls a day, which is all their walk-in can hold.
The restaurant is small, too. About half of the 48 seats are inside the renovated craftsman bungalow, surely one of the last to still exist in Redmond. Chandeliers strung with crystal beads hang from a ceiling that looks like pressed tin. The rest of the seating is outside on a well-heated, covered deck. Right now, leafy trees shelter the breeze, but with vinyl sides on the way and plenty of blankets stashed in baskets next to the service station, the Scotts expect to use the deck almost year-round.
Right now, weekends can be a mob scene; weeknights are calmer. They don’t take reservations, but the staff will take your phone number if you want to stroll the neighborhood. Or you can order a drink and dawdle on the deck. The 30-minute wait our party was quoted on a weekend turned out to be half that, hardly long enough to quaff a beer (bottles and cans only, no refrigerator room for kegs), sip a glass of Sangiovese or polish off one of three batch cocktails: a bourbon-forward Manhattan; a pleasantly dry red sangria; and a bittersweet Negroni made with strawberry-infused gin.
Spark offers more than pizza, and the kitchen caters to as many dietary preferences as a pizzeria possibly can. (That includes the option of gluten-free dough.) “When in Rome Gnocchi” is another gluten-free choice and total comfort food. It’s a variant of gnocchi alla Romana, typically made with semolina flour and baked like a casserole. Here they use polenta and bake it in bubbling tomato sauce under a blanket of mozzarella. The same simple, ripe-tasting tomato sauce — made with good canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and salt — also did well by very tender, well-seasoned meatballs, a blend of veal, pork and beef.
The two salads I tried were both lightly dressed and sparingly salted but appealing, nonetheless. Plenty of chopped stuff (romaine, tomatoes, olives, cucumber, chickpeas, avocado, cheese) went into the chop salad. Charred jalapeño vinaigrette lent very little kick to the baby kale Caesar, and the lone boquerone disappointed this anchovy-lover, but lots of thin, lacy, garlic-rubbed crostini serving as “croutons” contributed punch along with crunch.
“Holy Mackerel Bruschetta” is very much like a salad. It involves a thick slice of rustic toast slathered with green aioli and a bevy of raw, cooked, crunchy, sweet and pickled vegetables. The beautifully moist, lightly smoked slab of mackerel that anchored the dish is indeed worthy of veneration.
Many more are likely to worship the root-beer float. To anyone who can eat pizza and then consume two scoops of Olympic Mountain vanilla submerged in Jones Root Beer (served in a side carafe so you can meter it out as you wish), not to mention the big, soft chocolate-chip cookie that comes with it, I say, “May the force be with you.” I’ll be nibbling the dainty, cornet-shaped “Obi-Wan Cannoli.”
Spark Pizza ★★★
8110 164th Ave. N.E., Redmond
Hours: Monday-Thursday 5-9 p.m., Friday-Sunday 4-9 p.m.
Prices: : $$ (starters and salads $10-$15; pizzas $14-$17)
Drinks: service bar only; limited batch cocktails, wine, beer, soda
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles