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Salt and Water at its best with traditional toppings

The ghost of a Canadian shop begs the question: does shellfish belong on pizza?

Crab meat, artichoke, enoki mushrooms, and brie cheese
Crab meat, artichoke, enoki mushrooms, and brie cheese

The past couple months, the name of a Canadian pizza shop has stared back at me from a perpetually growing list I keep of new restaurants to try. Steveston Pizza Company started out in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia back in 2008, and became a smash hit. I can’t say that anything about its pizzas make it distinctly Canadian, but without a doubt a few of the toppings employed by the restaurant mark its pies as distinct.

Place

Salt & Water

127 University Ave, San Diego

To be sure, Steveston does offer standard pizza toppings, including pepperoni and — yes — Canadian bacon (though in Canada they call the stuff “back bacon”). However, it became regionally famous for its use of seafood: shrimp, prawns, crab meat, and even lobster tails. The lobster tail pies start at roughly 100 Canadian dollars, and one featuring lobster ratatouille, tiger prawns, smoked steelhead trout, white truffles, and osetra caviar sells for $850 (currently around $650 American dollars).

A tiny pizza shop with all-outdoor seating at the west end of Hillcrest

Safe to say, even in pizza-dense San Diego, we haven’t seen the likes of caviar pie. Safer to say, I wasn’t about to spend caviar level cash to write about a tiny pizza restaurant at the west end of Hillcrest.

That’s where Steveston landed sometime this spring, occupying a small brick storefront on University Avenue, just before it doglegs into Mission Hills. I might not venture that way for caviar or lobster tail pizza, but it’s fair to say the seafood-rich menu stoked a fire in my imagination. I would have to check it out.

Yelp photos show the sign changed sometime in June.

Except, when I drove by in early July, the marquee letter lights standing above the entrance no longer spelled “Steveston.” Instead, they had been changed to read: “Salt & Water.” Judging by dated photos on Yelp, this happened sometime between June 9 and June 22.

Which means the restaurant lasted as Steveston for maybe two months. To make things a little more intriguing, it looks like the place had been called Salt & Water to begin with. A late 2019 report from local restaurant watcher Sandiegoville previewed the opening of a pizza joint called Salt & Water at the site, including a photo of the same sign with the same marquee lettering.

A winning pepperoni and basil pizza, with the 'roni buried under the cheese

Whatever happened originally to dash the plans for Salt & Water, then later reverse the plans for Steveston Pizza, I will leave to gossip and speculation. What mattered for my purposes is that, even though the menu changed along with the brand-refresh refresh, it didn’t change much. Those big-spender type pies are nowhere to be found, but Salt & Water continues to make pizzas with surprising seafood toppings.

There’s a shrimp and pesto pie, and one featuring salmon two ways — baked and smoked — along with green olives, spinach, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and some sort of lemon mustard sauce. Each of these were under consideration at $30.

But my wife and I decided on the so-called Mr. Crab pizza: artichoke, enoki mushrooms, basil, brie cheese, and crab meat. It’s $27 for a roughly 12-inch pie (about enough to feed two people).

I would never have thought to put crab on pizza, and I remained skeptical. But, I reasoned, how many wonderful crab ravioli dishes have I enjoyed over the years? When you really break it down, don’t pasta and pizza basically use the same ingredients? Why shouldn’t crab work on pizza just as well as it does in a stuffed pasta?

I’m going to keep on wondering. In the past, I’ve enjoyed crab melts, crab mac and cheese, and crab Rangoon (crab and cream cheese wontons). But this combination of crab, mozzarella, and pizza dough didn’t do it for me. The crab dominated the flavor, yet clashed with the textures associated with a good pie. Even my wife — who loves crab more than any other ingredient, and frequently eats two-percent of her body weight in a single sitting — wouldn’t reach for a second slice.

Fortunately, when I visit a pizza place for the first time, I always order the basic pepperoni, to establish sort of a baseline for judgement. And the Salt & Water pepperoni pie is terrific! It’s a slightly steep $20 (also for a 12-inch pie), and the pepperoni is stacked under the cheese, so it doesn’t crisp in the over the way so many of us like. But it’s garnished with strips of basil, boasts a truly well-flavored sauce, and good quality cheese (not the rubbery stuff you find at cheap pizzerias). They even toss a couple balls of raw mozzarella in the center of the pie. The crust is thin, with pliant, tender edges.

The small counter restaurant offers all-outdoor, patio seating, and I’d label it worth a revisit. Just maybe not for the shellfish toppings. At the counter, they told me they keep a few of the Steveston ingredients on hand in case people come asking about them. And I admint, another Steveston Pizza holdover does look intriguing — fig, chicken, honey, and gorgonzola. But I’d rather see Salt & Water put that Canadian business behind it, and focus on what it appears to do best: make pizzas palatable to a home town crowd. With pride.

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Crab meat, artichoke, enoki mushrooms, and brie cheese
Crab meat, artichoke, enoki mushrooms, and brie cheese

The past couple months, the name of a Canadian pizza shop has stared back at me from a perpetually growing list I keep of new restaurants to try. Steveston Pizza Company started out in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia back in 2008, and became a smash hit. I can’t say that anything about its pizzas make it distinctly Canadian, but without a doubt a few of the toppings employed by the restaurant mark its pies as distinct.

Place

Salt & Water

127 University Ave, San Diego

To be sure, Steveston does offer standard pizza toppings, including pepperoni and — yes — Canadian bacon (though in Canada they call the stuff “back bacon”). However, it became regionally famous for its use of seafood: shrimp, prawns, crab meat, and even lobster tails. The lobster tail pies start at roughly 100 Canadian dollars, and one featuring lobster ratatouille, tiger prawns, smoked steelhead trout, white truffles, and osetra caviar sells for $850 (currently around $650 American dollars).

A tiny pizza shop with all-outdoor seating at the west end of Hillcrest

Safe to say, even in pizza-dense San Diego, we haven’t seen the likes of caviar pie. Safer to say, I wasn’t about to spend caviar level cash to write about a tiny pizza restaurant at the west end of Hillcrest.

That’s where Steveston landed sometime this spring, occupying a small brick storefront on University Avenue, just before it doglegs into Mission Hills. I might not venture that way for caviar or lobster tail pizza, but it’s fair to say the seafood-rich menu stoked a fire in my imagination. I would have to check it out.

Yelp photos show the sign changed sometime in June.

Except, when I drove by in early July, the marquee letter lights standing above the entrance no longer spelled “Steveston.” Instead, they had been changed to read: “Salt & Water.” Judging by dated photos on Yelp, this happened sometime between June 9 and June 22.

Which means the restaurant lasted as Steveston for maybe two months. To make things a little more intriguing, it looks like the place had been called Salt & Water to begin with. A late 2019 report from local restaurant watcher Sandiegoville previewed the opening of a pizza joint called Salt & Water at the site, including a photo of the same sign with the same marquee lettering.

A winning pepperoni and basil pizza, with the 'roni buried under the cheese

Whatever happened originally to dash the plans for Salt & Water, then later reverse the plans for Steveston Pizza, I will leave to gossip and speculation. What mattered for my purposes is that, even though the menu changed along with the brand-refresh refresh, it didn’t change much. Those big-spender type pies are nowhere to be found, but Salt & Water continues to make pizzas with surprising seafood toppings.

There’s a shrimp and pesto pie, and one featuring salmon two ways — baked and smoked — along with green olives, spinach, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and some sort of lemon mustard sauce. Each of these were under consideration at $30.

But my wife and I decided on the so-called Mr. Crab pizza: artichoke, enoki mushrooms, basil, brie cheese, and crab meat. It’s $27 for a roughly 12-inch pie (about enough to feed two people).

I would never have thought to put crab on pizza, and I remained skeptical. But, I reasoned, how many wonderful crab ravioli dishes have I enjoyed over the years? When you really break it down, don’t pasta and pizza basically use the same ingredients? Why shouldn’t crab work on pizza just as well as it does in a stuffed pasta?

I’m going to keep on wondering. In the past, I’ve enjoyed crab melts, crab mac and cheese, and crab Rangoon (crab and cream cheese wontons). But this combination of crab, mozzarella, and pizza dough didn’t do it for me. The crab dominated the flavor, yet clashed with the textures associated with a good pie. Even my wife — who loves crab more than any other ingredient, and frequently eats two-percent of her body weight in a single sitting — wouldn’t reach for a second slice.

Fortunately, when I visit a pizza place for the first time, I always order the basic pepperoni, to establish sort of a baseline for judgement. And the Salt & Water pepperoni pie is terrific! It’s a slightly steep $20 (also for a 12-inch pie), and the pepperoni is stacked under the cheese, so it doesn’t crisp in the over the way so many of us like. But it’s garnished with strips of basil, boasts a truly well-flavored sauce, and good quality cheese (not the rubbery stuff you find at cheap pizzerias). They even toss a couple balls of raw mozzarella in the center of the pie. The crust is thin, with pliant, tender edges.

The small counter restaurant offers all-outdoor, patio seating, and I’d label it worth a revisit. Just maybe not for the shellfish toppings. At the counter, they told me they keep a few of the Steveston ingredients on hand in case people come asking about them. And I admint, another Steveston Pizza holdover does look intriguing — fig, chicken, honey, and gorgonzola. But I’d rather see Salt & Water put that Canadian business behind it, and focus on what it appears to do best: make pizzas palatable to a home town crowd. With pride.

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