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Originally published Friday, April 6, 2012 at 5:33 AM

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Dining Deal

Pizza stars at Cornuto in Phinney Ridge

Cornuto, a Phinney Ridge pizzeria, does not accept reservations, but it is worth the wait for a table.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Cornuto

Pizzeria

7404 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle

206-812-0416

Hours: 4-11 p.m. Sunday- Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday

Etc: Visa and MasterCard accepted; no obstacles to access; street parking; full bar; takeout orders

Prices: $$

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Phinney Ridge is becoming quite an eatery row. And nestled just next to the vegetarian shrine Carmelita is a cozy new spot serving some of the best Neapolitan-style pizza around.

Narrow and compact, Cornuto wedges in a small bar, several mini-booths and — buon appetito! — a traditional, white-tiled Neapolitan pizza oven.

A youngish clientele gathers at the bar for a happy hour that includes free, bite-sized servings of several wood-fired pizzas if you buy a drink (cocktails served, and there's a substantial wine list). In warm weather, you can eat on a small back patio.

At such an intimate place, with no reservations accepted, you may well wait awhile to be seated. It's worth it. (You can also phone in a to-go order.)

The menu: High-quality ingredients, homegrown and from Italy, are served. Starters include a mixed green salad with a savory-sweet honey-balsamic dressing ($7); attractive, oven-made crostini ($3); and a pricey but choice plate of bufala mozzarella and thin-sliced, long-aged prosciutto di Parma ($14). There are also several pastas ($12-$15). But a divinely fresh and thin-crusted pizza, flavorful and surprisingly light and crowned with sweet Italian tomatoes and other toppings, is the star here. It is served hot, with nicely charred crust, fresh from that wood-stoked oven just steps away.

What to write home about: The 12-inch pizzas come in 16 variations ($10-$16). All have a balance of crunch and melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. The Funghi ($15) was a favorite. It's topped with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, grana padano and mushrooms roasted in olive oil and fresh herbs. Also delectable were the savory Capricciosa with mushrooms, artichokes and olives ($15); and the Diavolo ($15), generously scattered with thin sliced, mildly spicy pepperoni that does a tarantella on your taste buds.

What to skip: We had no regrets ordering the Linguine Bolognese, with perfectly cooked noodles resting under a delicious veal-based sauce ($12). But the portion was modest, and the pizzas are more distinctive.

The setting: Simple, with dark wood and bar, and cool white hanging lights, it is intimate without being claustrophobic.

Summing up: Two pizzas, a Linguine Bolognese and a shared salad served two well (with half a pizza for leftovers), and could have fed three. Total tab, without tax or tip: $49.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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