A few years ago, I was meeting one of my mentors at the Rattlesnake Bar at the Ritz-Carlton. (Yeah, we can be fancy at times.)
I think I ordered a Manhattan, then wings. (They were fancy wings, too.)
“You really like wings,” they said. “Like, really.”
Well, yeah, I guess the last four, five, OK, maybe 11 times we had hung out, I had gotten wings. But where we were, wings were on the menu. And they're my go-to. I'm really not a huge chicken eater, but when it comes to wings, I can't get enough.
So that's why I'd like to introduce a regular article on wings. We have enough in this town to talk about (thank God for that), and I have time to write (since that's my job and all). I'd like to call it the Weekly Wing column; that's appropriate and cool, right?
Branding aside, let's get into this first one, shall we?
I'm starting out with Tutta's Pizza in the West End. That's right, a pizza place — one that's been on TV for smoked meats on top of its pies, and that's all fine.
But the wings are phenomenal.
Truly: When people ask me where I go for the best wings, this one is always on the list, usually the first one I mention.
These are not your bar wings. You know the ones: small, drum or flat, covered in sauce to where you need seven napkins. These are real cuts of meat: You get the entire wing, the drummette, wingette and tip.
They're actually listed as “jumbo wings” on the menu, and the $3.50 price tag for each is worth it. After all, you're not getting a dozen. You can easily make a meal out of three, and that package is $9.50.
In fact, owners Jeremy and Amanda Scott recently raised the price of the wings (they hadn't raised a single price in the last two and a half years) without complaint.
“I really thought people were going to start complaining about it, but once they get them, nobody ever comes back and says the value isn't there,” Jeremy Scott says.
There are plenty of flavors to try. In the wet category, there's original Buffalo, barbecue, garlic-butter, Parmesan or orange chicken. In the dry rub options, you have lemon-pepper or salt and pepper. You can also just get them “naked,” if that's your thing.
“The orange chicken is the sleeper sauce. Everyone really loves that one,” Jeremy Scott says.
The Buffalo sauce also is solid. These aren't drowning in the sauce, either, which makes for a cleaner eating experience. Plus, when there's too much sauce, vinegar suddenly becomes an overpowering flavor, so I'm grateful that's not the case here.
The really special one is the salt and pepper. These simple flavors complement the meat, rather than cover the flavors of the chicken. It is a wonderful, respectful, ideal representation of the chicken wing.
Then you can dip it in sauce. Because wings. Sauce options include barbecue, Buffalo, ranch, serrano-ranch and blue cheese. If you usually opt for the ranch cup (or you're like those of us who get both ranch and blue cheese) go ahead and opt for the serrano ranch. It's another level of complexity without being all that spicy.
“We started doing the wings in the restaurant from day one,” Scott says. “We did them for parties and special events through the food truck three and a half or four years in,” which would've been around 2016.
I'm not sure how I got around satisfied with wings before then, now that I think about it. But that's intentional by Scott and his team.
“I think what makes our wings special is, we make sure they're huge; they're like Pterodactyl wings. One of my least favorite things is getting a little nobby wing with no meat on it. I wanted something that was more valuable for your time and energy,” he says. ”We also take the time to handle them appropriately. When we get the wings, they go through steaming and spices — that's mostly salt and pepper — so when we fry them, there's a lower burn point, so they're nice and crispy without having the breading.”
And breading's what usually hides the lack of meat factor on a wing, at other places, anyway. Better flavor, more meat and fewer carbs? We're in.
Tutta's Pizza, 1710 N. Record St., Suite 110 (West End). tuttaspizza.com