“Something new is coming,” the website for Fitzgerald’s has promised since the upscale Cathedral Hill pub closed earlier this month. That something has arrived: The St. Paul space reopened Monday as the Fitz, with fresh decor (think a low-key British colonial vibe) and a menu of globally inspired pizzas.
The offerings have been reimagined by recent Top Chef contestant and local top chef of our hearts Justin Sutherland—who's just about everywhere these days—along with chef Donald Gonazalez and Fitzgerald’s exectutive chef Graham Messenger.
“We’re trying to walk the line between a neighborhood place and something funky, creative, out-of-left-field,” Messenger said at a recent preview.
The 12-inch pies are sized to serve one to two people, and the geographical moniker of each hints at the ingredients. Some are familiar favorites: The Sicily pairs pepperoni with olives; the Naples is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and oregano (plus anchovies by request). Next come the pizzas with specialty ingredients like mint and preserved lemon, and a housemade fennel sausage makes an appearance on the St. Paul.
Then it gets really interesting.
The Osaka, which Messenger describes as “playful, kind of Willy Wonka” is a variation on a Hawaiian pizza, with Spam, pineapple chutney, Japanese mayo, sweet soy sauce, and bonito flakes. The Savannah is a seafood boil on crust, with shrimp, andouille sausage, corn, potatoes, and an Old Bay-spiked cream sauce. Breakfast for dinner fan? Try the Brooklyn, which layers cream cheese, smoked salmon, fresh dill, onions, and a sprinkling of everything bagel seasoning.
But does all this innovation deliver? For the most part: yup. The crust is solid—not too thick, not too thin, with a toothsome chew that serves as a fine backdrop for the array of flavors it’s paired with. We appreciated the mushroom cream and assortment of seasonal 'shrooms that make the Kennett Square a refreshingly complex vegetarian option.
As crazy as the toppings on the Savannah and Brooklyn sound, they’re tried-and-true flavor combos that work both off and on a pizza crust. About the only pizza that didn’t click for us was the Osaka, with the pineapple and sweet soy sauce translating to a sugar overload.
There are also a handful of 10-inch deep-dish pies, which serve two to four. “It’s what deep dish should be,” says Messenger. “The dough is like a focaccia dough—it’s nice and crunchy all the way through.”
He speaks the truth—we loved the crispness of the bottom crust. The spinach-stuffed West Loop was our favorite deep-dish, with greens serving as a counterpoint for gobs of mozzarella and chunky tomato sauce.
The menu is rounded out by several salads, ranging from a traditional Caesar and antipasto to a mimosa salad with endive, fennel, and dates. There are hearty sandwiches like meatball hoagies and Philly cheesesteaks as well as globally inspired appetizers. While coconut shrimp may not be on your short list of things to order at a pizza place, at the Fitz it should be: These are tender jumbo shrimp with a shatteringly crisp exterior that puts a certain seafood chain to shame.
In keeping with the globetrotting theme, cocktails are named for famous explorers, historical and fictional. Trekkies will appreciate the Captain Jean-Luc Picard, made with Earl Grey-infused vodka. We were partial to the Carmen Sandiego, a mix of vodka, elderflower liqueur, champagne, and grapefruit—it’s the cocktail equivalent of a self-assured woman’s sultry perfume.
Sexy craft cocktails, smoked salmon-topped pizzas, mimosa salads: You could certainly say the reimagined Fitz skews toward the funky, creative, out-of-left-field side of the equation.
Maybe that’s just what the neighborhood needs.
173 Western Ave. N., St. Paul