Pies to die for

by • October 31, 2016 • Apres, HighlightsComments (0)560

Anchorage ups its pizza factor with two new additions

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Marco T’s Pizzaria on Fireweed Lane. Photo by Katie Pesznecker.

With our country never so divided, there is at least one thing we can all align on: Pizza.

Pizza is one of the most beloved foods in America. According to data site Statistic Brain, there are some 70,000 pizza joints in the United States – 9,000 in New York alone! We Americans on average consume 252 pounds of pepperoni a year and the average Joe will gobble down 46 slices of saucy, cheesy pie annually. In fact, 93 percent of us ate pizza in the last month. (Guilty!)

This $32 billion industry is always growing, and this trend holds true in Anchorage too. Longtime giant Moose’s Tooth is always packed at every hour of the day, and other local favs like eastside Muldoon Pizza and downtown’s Uncle Joe’s hold their own. In recent years, new players like dependable Flattop Pizza and Pool and foodie fav Fat Ptarmigan also launched.

Now we can add two more delicious pizza places to our local list: Marco T’s Pizzaria and Hearth.

Hearth opened earlier this year, nestling into prime real estate in the Midtown Northern Lights strip mall set between Minnesota Drive and Spenard Road. It’s adjacent to and was opened by the folks at popular brunch spot Middleway Café.

Hearth’s space is a cozy mix of modern and cabin-chic, with exposed industrial-feeling piping, light-colored wood, and bright Alaskana art, like paintings of muskoxen and motorhomes.

The showpiece of the place is the giant wood-fired oven, central in an exposed kitchen where diners can peek in on the chef and cooks as they busily assemble and shovel artful pies.

I tried the monthly special, called the Cherry Girl. As suggested, this pizza – inspired by a brewery in Hood River, Ore. – came with organic cherries, and also garlic, olive oil, house-made chorizo, goat cheese, kale, and fresh mozzarella.
I also opted for the Forest Gnome, topped with loads of mushrooms, cream, house-made ricotta, goat cheese, herbs, asparagus, grape tomatoes, parmigiana reggiano, and a balsamic reduction drizzle.

Sometimes pizza can leave the diner feeling bloated and greasy; eating at Hearth provides an absolute opposite experience. With the pies here wood-fired, the dough is thin and blistered with that distinct, smoky char. And toppings – although voluminous in number – are applied in a sparing, specific way that results in fresh, simple, creative pizzas.

The happy hour deal at Hearth is a steal: From 4 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close daily, appetizers like lamb kebob lettuce wraps, pork meatballs and veggie plates are just $7.

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Hearth is in the Northern Lights strip mall next to Middleway Cafe. Photo by Katie Pesznecker.

While Hearth stands on its pizza, the menu also offers up oysters, salads, and in impressive selection of beer and wine.
Not far from Hearth is Marco T’s Pizzeria. Marco T’s occupies the small building on Fireweed Lane that most recently housed Maxine’s. At first glance, interior remodels are minimal, but notable.

Marco T’s is the kind of place you want to root for because its founding story is perfectly charming: As told on the restaurant’s website, restaurant proprietor Mark Harlan was previously a logistics manager in oil and gas whose life was changed by a 2008 trip to Milan.
At a family-run restaurant, Harlan was shocked when consuming an entire pizza didn’t leave him feeling heavy and sluggish. He realized there was something to this Italian culinary approach of thin crust and light toppings. During subsequent trips, he visited the restaurant many times and soon sold his family and Italian friend Marco Terracciano on his dream of opening a similar place here.

The eatery opened this summer and currently features eight pizzas, all 11 to 12 inches, plus several salads, an assortment of panini-pressed sandwiches, and authentic deserts like gelato and tiramisu.

The pizzas are simple and also simply delicious. The crust is thin, but flavorful and garlicky. Toppings are classic and rustic. The chewy, buttery, fresh mozzarella lends authenticity and the ingredients are fresh and satisfying.

On a recent visit, I enjoyed the Bianca pizza, with olive oil, fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes and arugula. The pie was summery and tasty, with the peppery arugula balanced by the sweet tomatoes, and the gooey mozzarella binding the pizza together.

The pizza paired perfectly with a crisp white wine. Marco T’s wine list is extensive, and there are also six beers on draught in the small bar area.

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