Perfect pizza parlor?
For this reviewer, Farm Star does it right
I try never to argue with people about pizza. It’s like arguing about which is the best color. “Oh, yellow is the best—it’s so festive!” “Yeah, but purple is so meta!” Hey, if you like that flaccid mound of rubbery cheese Little Caesars makes, so be it.
Yet some pizza establishments manage to rise above the potayto/potahto of personal taste and achieve a kind of objective excellence. Such a place is Farm Star Pizza, which manages to tick off every box on the list of Things That Make a Restaurant Good.
1. The food is politically correct. Co-owner Tim Sullivan (with his wife, Kitty) estimates that 90 percent of his ingredients are organic. They’re also locally sourced and seasonal. They hit the Wednesday and Saturday farmers’ markets weekly for produce supplied by local small growers like Pyramid Farms and GRUB. The ingredients that aren’t organic or local aren’t for good reason—real prosciutto has to come from Italy, for instance. Tim even goes to realms that were new to me—the chicken is not only free-range but also air-chilled.
2. It’s super high-quality. The parmesan is Parmigiano-Reggiano, the real Italian stuff. The flour for the crust is organic, which doubles the cost. The root beer is Sprecher’s, the ice cream is Tillamook.
3. It’s made in-house whenever possible. Tim even makes his own sausage. He apologized for not making the ice cream.
4. The place has charm and personality. It’s an idiosyncratic, pleasantly quirky restaurant. The bathroom (be sure to go) is outside, around the side, then down into the basement. Kitty does all the decorating—the lovely floral tubs outside, the American Rustic Bovine décor, and the rotating holiday theming upon entrance (Easter is currently featured). The music in the background when I was there last was classic 1960s: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Stand by Me.”
5. It supports local musicians. There’s live music Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, with friends of friends often taking a turn at the mike.
6. It’s artisanal in a good way. At its worst, the A-word means “pretentious” and “tries too hard.” Farm Star is guilty of neither. Yes, the pizzas do tend toward tony ingredients—braised leeks, sriracha slaw—and the flavors can get a bit intense, but overall the Sullivans make it all work, and you can always go mundane by ordering off the Build Your Own menu. The heart of Farm Star is down-home—there’s a jug of water you help yourself from and an upright piano for you to noodle on. Coke stands next to the Lemoncocco and kombucha on the drink shelf.
7. The food is excellent. The pizza crust is just about perfect—crunchy without being brittle, with a nice surface snap. The ingredients all sing with freshness. There are three regular sauces—red, barbecue and a heavenly nondairy garlic sauce—and the occasional outrider like creamy artichoke. The menu is extensive, but be alert for off-menu treasures. There’s always an unadvertised dessert (made by Kitty) under the glass cake cover, and there’s a root beer float that no one talks about but is simply the best root beer float in town, and a steal at $3.50.
Farm Star is a small and popular place, and the cinderblock walls reflect sound, so if you go at a dinner hour prepare for a crowded, loud, boisterous scene. If someone’s child is attacking the piano, the atmosphere can become an assault. If you want tranquility, go at off-peak hours. My last trip was at 11:30 a.m., and my partner and I were the only customers.