In 1992, the brothers Adam Cone and Aaron Croselycone opened a very rock-'n'-roll pizzeria on Lenora Street in the heart of Belltown, which was then a bit unruly. Yet like the city and music scene it was attached to, Belltown was entering a boom, and World Pizza was among its foremost neighborhood hangouts, staying open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to feed a frenetic after-show crowd.
WORLD PIZZA 672 S. King St., 682-4161, CHINATOWN
Cone lived near Belltown at the time, in the Diller Hotel on First Avenue. "Belltown was pretty rough when we were first there," he recalls. "But there was something always appealing about that—that kind of apocalyptic thing."
The end of World Pizza occurred in 1996, when the brothers shuttered their restaurant. But, says Cone, "We always wanted to reopen."
This past summer, the brothers (Croselycone's surname incorporates his wife's) did just that, albeit in a different neighborhood (Chinatown) and a lot later than expected. "We wanted to take a few years and do other things," explains Cone, who opened World Pizza in a King Street storefront that once stood perilously close to the now-deceased Fortune Sports Bar. "We didn't realize it'd be such a lengthy period of time. I really believed in what we were doing, and it's nice to share that with another generation."
A lot changed for Cone and World Pizza during the restaurant's 15-year hiatus. He has a family now, and lives on Vashon Island. The pizzeria no longer caters to night owls ("I'm not inclined to want to be there at that hour anymore," he says); instead, it doubles as an espresso bar by morning. And the pizzas, which always leaned vegetarian, no longer contain meat. Back in the '90s, Cone topped some slices with dry-cured pepperoni. But with the emergence of nearby Field Roast, he's found a suitable meatless substitute that, as this devout carnivore will attest, comes impressively close to the real red circles.
World Pizza's signature pie, however, features roasted potatoes, garlic, and rosemary. Set atop a cracker crust, it's a decadent offering, complemented nicely by a layer of extraordinarily spicy (for pizza) red sauce. Making use of such toppings as kalamata olives, cherry peppers, wasabi pineapple, and fresh basil, Cone's creations dispel any notion that vegetarian pizza lacks verve.
Initially, Cone thought to decorate his restaurant in "a cheeky Chinese-takeout motif." But Chinatown's neighborhood council, which he consulted leading up to his opening, advised him not to. Instead, World Pizza's decor is red and woody, with the stereo alternating between Curtis Mayfield and Van Morrison on a recent Friday night. It's an inviting atmosphere for washing down a week's worth of work with a pitcher of Manny's, and it's about the only non-Asian restaurant in Chinatown, which, with just a pinch of culinary diversity, could evolve into the sort of dining district people venture to when they're not necessarily in the mood for noodles.
"It has that feeling of 'No one's here doing this,' and that feels good," says Cone of his new venture—and neighborhood. "It's a nice thing when it's not all figured out, and you can participate in defining the flavor of a very strong community."