When is a pizzeria not really a pizzeria? When it’s Fremont East’s Radio City Pizzeria. Under the new watch of partners Jake Leslie and chef Sean Collins, the Downtown restaurant has reinvented itself from a middling by-the-slice joint to a true dining destination, and it’s hardly even about the pizza.
Not that Radio City’s pies aren’t good. Collins, a Windy City native, proudly showcases the square-cut characteristic of his hometown on the “house pies,” using a much-improved dough recipe. (The larger New York-style pizzas maintain the more traditional triangular-cut slices.) Granted, growing up in Chicago I never had anything as exotic as the Pork Pie ($12), combining guanciale (pork jowl), chorizo and just-hot-enough pickled jalapeño. But those square slices are still a comforting reminder of my youth in an easy-to-eat format, and the pizza itself is sublime, smokiness intertwined with heat in each bite.
But there’s so much more at Radio City. There’s the crisply flavored crudo ($10), seasonal slabs of raw fish adorned with sea salt and roe delivering hints of salinity and contrasting texture. Not your typical pizza accompaniment, right? The buzziest dish is the beef heart tartare ($12), because beef heart. If you didn’t actually have to utter those words while ordering it, you might be unaware you’re eating offal. The dish is practically devoid of characteristic minerality. Consider it a gateway to other organ meats.
The new menu maintains Italian heritage, especially in its pastas. Collins most recently cooked at Rose.Rabbit.Lie., a restaurant that offers some of the Valley’s best pastas, so it’s no surprise his RCP creations are spot on. The cold noodles ($9) could be the quintessential summertime dish, spaghetti strewn with broccoli rabe and kohlrabi swimming in bright tomato water and topped with Grana Padano cheese and sharp boquerones (anchovies), an incredibly well-balanced bowl that leaves you wanting more.
Even better might be the sanguinaccio ($11). Served with pasta ballerina and a constantly evolving pesto cream, the blood sausage brings that mineral taste without overpowering. The pesto, a classic basil-based version during a recent visit, was simply divine. You might want to order a side for dipping.
Creative vegetable small plates like rosemary potatoes with onion ash and crème fraîche ($6) and warm beets with whipped mascarpone ($8) round things out, and there are incredible new things to drink, too. RCP might have the city’s most eclectic draft beer selection. Cultivated by Leslie and bar director Bryant Jane, the 10 handles rotate frequently and have recently included rarities like rife-with-rye Fistful of Kroners from Kentucky’s Against the Grain and the hauntingly good, gin barrel-aged Queen of Hearts from Pelican Brewing. With these interesting brews, this reimagined restaurant would be a destination even if it were still slinging merely passable pizzas—but it’s not.
Passersby probably won’t think twice about this “pizzeria,” but now that you’re in the know, get there before everyone else figures it out.
Radio City Pizzeria 508 Fremont St., 702-982-5055. Daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.