Pizzeria Seven Twelve may very well be the best restaurant in Utah Valley. I’d maybe expand that geographic region, but they’re all about local food so why bother. On their website, the chefs/owners (Joe and Colton) explain that the restaurant arose out of the desire for sustainability. They say they want to change the way restaurants run. I say “let them!” These guys know what they are doing. The best part is that I can afford to eat there. No food snobbery here.
On the wall hangs a quote from Alice Waters: “When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.” The best and tastiest ingredients, as Waters has so persuasively demonstrated, are most often found locally and in season. It might be a bit of a hard sell that you can find such wonderful local ingredients in Utah Valley since most local food production is for export, but these guys have done a great job of making use of what’s available. Hopefully their success will persuade more local food producers to make high quality seasonal food available to restaurants and consumers alike.
One of the great features of the restaurant is the wood fired oven imported from Europe (I guess we haven’t yet perfected those locally yet) where they do virtually all of the restaurant’s cooking. As you can see, the oven is out front and you get to see the chefs living it up as they do their thing. Both times I’ve been there they’ve really seemed to be enjoying themselves.
In their quest for fresh and fine ingredients they do some of their own food production, making their own sausage as well as mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.
Their dinner menu consists of “A Little Something . . .” (not quite appetizers, not quite entrees), “Greens . . .” (salad), “Pizza . . .”, and “Sweet . . .” (dessert). My wife and I have found that ordering one thing from each category to share leaves us perfectly satisfied. Well, almost each category. We haven’t yet gotten dessert–we fill up on the savory stuff. We’ll have to pace ourselves next time.
From “A Little Something . . .” you HAVE to order the short ribs.
Try it all, but don’t miss these. They cook them overnight in a big pot sitting in the embers of the previous day’s fire. They are served over a square of perfect polenta and topped with horseradish cream an au jus. The meat is so tender that my wife and I ignore our knives and just use our forks to pull off a piece. The horseradish cream adds just a hint of tangingess and will win over anyone who thinks they do not like horseradish (like my wife). The polenta is the best I’ve had–I’m pretty sure there are tiny bits of fresh corn in there along with the coarse corn meal. This is a dish you will wake up in the middle of the night craving.
Tonight we ordered the fresh house made mozarella salad.
It is very simply prepared with the cheese over bitter greens and breadcrumb croutons, all dressed with a lemon olive oil vinaigrette. Clearly the cheese is the star of this dish and it really shines. A fair dose of salt and the sweetness of the lemons mellows out the bitterness of the greens and brings the flavors together, while the bread crumbs provide a nice crunchy texture.
We also got their pizza topped with prosciutto, soppressata (a thin sliced sausage-type meat), garlic, and tomato. It was divine.
See that char on the crust? That is exactly what you are looking for in a good pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. Don’t you dare send it back. I think that my favorite thing about this pizza was that every element of it was superb. I would take a bite and be struck the exquisite flavor of the tomato, noting how the other ingredients compliment it so well. But the next bite would feature the meat in just the same way, then the garlic, then the cheese, then the crust. It was perfect.
The tragedy of the night was that we didn’t get dessert. All of their desserts look amazing. We love panna cotta and are set on trying that one, but the brownie sundae and the fruit cobbler look just as good.
Tonight was our second visit to the restaurant and we were both happy (because we like the philosophy of seasonality) and sad to see that some of the tasty items we had last time were not on the menu. The particular stand-out was the sweet potato off “A Little Something . . .” It features roasted bite sized pieces of sweet potato served tossed with spinach (barely wilted by the potatoes), matchsticks of thick cut bacon, pecan halves, and a vinaigrette. So simple and so delicious.
We’ve actually made our own copycat version of it several times to rave reviews (although it still lacked that certain something that it had at the restaurant). Try it, you’ll like it.
- Peel 2 sweet potatoes and cut them into pieces
- Toss with olive oil and roast in oven at 350-400° (or 712°?) until the edges just begin to brown
- cut several pieces of thick cut bacon (the best you can find) into matchsticks and cook them until nicely browned.
- As the bacon begins to cook, toss in a handful of pecans. Be generous here.
- Put the bacon and pecans on a paper towel to drain the fat.
- Toss it all over several handfuls of baby spinach and dress with a basic olive oil vinaigrette (1:4 vinegar:oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, mustard if you like it)
I’d love it if we could get some advice from the folks at P712 on where to get good local ingredients for home cooking in Utah Valley (and any tips or corrections to the recipe if they’re feeling generous). If we don’t hear from them in the comments here I’ll have to ask them the next time I’m there.