Monday, September 9, 2013


In the past ten years, DC has experienced a really heartwarming explosion of great pizzerias. I followed this transformation with great joy. I don't go to Italian restaurants often because I think I can either cook Italian staples myself or wait to gorge on real Italian delicacies on my next trip back home. Great pizza, however, cannot be easily replicated in our kitchen and, most importantly, cannot be humanely eaten only once a year (that's what sets us apart from animals, by the way). Here are my picks for best pizza in DC. You'll notice a predilection for Neapolitan-style pizza, but it couldn't be any other way. I went to Naples on a pizza pilgrimage and let me assure you: You'll never going to eat anything as wonderful in your entire life.


#1 Menomale, Brookland (DC)

This Neapolitan pizzeria opened last year, a week before I moved away from that neighborhood (terrible, terrible timing). Founded by a Neapolitan pizzaiolo, this place serves one of the most authentic pizzas I've had out of Naples. The crust is perfectly chewy, salty, and nicely charred, also thanks to a state-of-the-art wood-fired oven that takes about a quarter of the restaurant's space. Some of the toppings puzzle me (chicken? turkey?), but you can't go wrong with their Calzone Verde or their Prosciutto Cotto pizza. They also make pizza-dough sandwiches. They're called "Panuozzo", I tried them all, and they are amazing.

Prosciutto Cotto pizza at Menomale. There are more pics of my 2-year-old eating
a Neapolitan-style pizza than is considered normal.

#2 Pacci's, Silver Spring (MD)

When I first tried their pizza some 3 years ago, I remained speechless for a second, my eyes popping out of their sockets with pure joy. This was for me the first Neapolitan pizza outside DC. The crust was absolutely perfect, and all of their toppings worked wonderfully together. Their "Focaccia di Napoli", a pizza crust topped with prosciutto di Parma, arugula, olive oil, and shaved Parmigiano is perfect. Truth be told, though, I have not been back in a year. The last three times I dined there, I could not see the Neapolitan chef that was there at the beginning, and there was something less exciting about the pizza that I could not identify. It was always very good, but just not as perfect. That's why it takes second place.

#3 Redrocks, Columbia Heights (DC)

I love this place in the summer: It has the perfect Italian pizzeria vibe. Their crust is another success, and the pizza options are very good (I won't go for the pineapple pizza, although you will find it in Italy, too, but that's me). Their roasted olives appetizer is one of my favorite things to eat in this town. Simple, not expensive, delicious, and just fun to eat.

#4 Comet Ping Pong, Chevy Chase (DC)

Tom Sietsema from the Washington Post declared this the best pizza in town a few years ago. I had not tried it then and was skeptical: I had seen the pizzas on a few outings to Comet Ping Pong, and it did not look right. Then I finally dined there, and I have to say I was very impressed. This is not Neapolitan pizza, but it would not disappoint a Neapolitan. The toppings' combinations are unusual, but work amazingly well, and the crust is flavorful and nicely cooked. Sorry, Comet and Tom. You were right. (What's up with their website, though?)

#5 Roscoe's, Takoma Park (MD)

Another Neapolitan-style pizzeria that does a fantastic job with the pizza dough. It's wonderfully soft and chewy, and salted just right. The menu options are a little too foreign for me, so I stick with a Margherita topped with one other ingredient. The Cafone pizza, though, with sausage, rapini, and smoked mozzarella is also a winner. They also make kids' pizzas which are the perfect size for a toddler (and with a couple of crust pieces left for Mamma, thank you very much).


#1 The Italian Store, Arlington (VA)

I'm sure you're not surprised. Who does not know about the fantastic pizza slices at The Italian Store? The dough is chewy and flavorful, the sauce tastes fresh, and there's just the right amount (a ton, but not two) of cheese to make it trashily stellar. Their white pizza with garlic, fontina, and mozzarella is amazing, too, but I would not go beyond one slice. If you're making pizza at home their dough is just the best around. Please stop buying it at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. This is the real thing.

Home-made pizza with dough from The Italian Store. That's love.

#2 Vace, Cleveland Park (DC)

This is different from any other pizza I've ever had. I suspect this is more like a Sicilian pizza, since the dough is more bready, almost like a focaccia. Any Italian I took to this place LOVES it. The crust is thick, crispy, and flavorful, and the tomato sauce is abundant and delicious (usually you get only the first). Their white pizza with spinach is also one of my favorites. I like to order pizza with ricotta salata, which is not an ingredient you find often on take-out pizza. Vace does also a great job with cured meats, which are fresh, trimmed of unnecessary fat, and sliced thinly as they should be. Not many delis and supermarkets around here can do that, believe me.

#3 La Villa Pizzeria, Upper 14st Street (DC)

I have to admit, I have not ordered many pizzas for delivery since I moved here. I was scarred by the liquid "butter" oozing from my first and last Pizza Hut Supreme, the cardboard-dough of my first and last Domino's pizza (ironically, it was their revamped recipe), and the childishly and insultingly sweet dough and sauce of my first and last Papa John's pizza. When I ordered a pizza from La Villa, though, I was instantly hooked. It is heavy, it is over-cheesed, but oh-my-god after the first bite I could not get it out of my mind for DAYS. Perhaps it's my pregnancy megalo-appetite talking, but I can eat their pizza anytime. And in all fairness, their list of toppings is pretty great, with caramelized onions and roasted eggplants among the choices.

And now for the inevitable question... What about 2Amys? Well, I am really sorry to say this, but it just does not do it for me. I know it's supposed to be authentic Neapolitan pizza, with D.O.C. certification to boot, but this pizza does not taste Neapolitan to me. It's good, but never great, and often the toppings do not quite come together as they should. I went back many times, but I'm always underwhelmed. I will say though that I definitely applaud 2Amys for bringing Neapolitan pizza to DC and back into my expat life. I could not have lived without it, and now you can't, too.

And now, dear reader. What should I add to the list?

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