It's rare that I find myself writing about pizza and Bethesda, or even all of Montgomery County. It's almost as if pizza is a four-letter word out there, but I think Mia's Pizzas in Bethesda is a refreshing addition of the DC metro pizza scene.
For those of you that love 2 Amy's or Pizzeria Paradiso, you'll feel right at home at Mia's. The menu incorporates the good things from both and adds a slightly suburban touch for the kids. I used my son's presence as an excuse to order a "little mac 'n cheese", which I really wanted for myself. Upon first tasting, it came off as bland, which actually made it perfect for my 2 year old. Then I added a hefty portion of crushed red pepper and salt and it was perfect. This is by far the cheesiest mac 'n cheese I've eaten in a while. Kraft don't have nuthin' on this.
Be warned that the crostini appetizer, which is often on the special menu, is not like your typical crostini. Don't expect little crispy toasts with spoonfuls of toppings on them because it's closer to a salad than anything else. The homemade focaccia is the basis of the crostini, which I don't find to be particularly good bread and can be bought on its own for $2.50 with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and hot pepper for dipping.
If you're actually in the mood for a salad, there are many well presented options to choose from at Mia's Pizzas. The mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad is nothing original, but is very well executed. Slices of ripe yellow and red Roma tomatoes are the highlight of this dish with the addition of sweet heirloom grape tomatoes, peppery arugula, balsamic vinegar, and of course, fresh mozzarella. On a recent trip to the grocery store I tried to reproduce this salad. $5 for the mozzarella cheese, $2.50 for the arugula, $3 for the basil, $5 for the tomatoes, $10 for some balsamic vinegar, and $10 for some halfway decent extra virgin olive oil. $35 later, I was wishing I drove to Mia's and spent the $6.50 instead (although I'd made enough for 6 or so people to eat, but there's only Amy, Noah and I, and Noah's not much into mozzarella cheese...or tomatoes...or just about anything lately).
One of these days I'll go into how cursed I am because my son is one of the pickiest eaters on the planet.
On to the main event...the pizza. I'm surprised that I was able to even stomach the idea of eating pizza after my recent trip to New York. For me, pizza is all about the crust. You could use the freshest mozzarella cheese, great sauce from San Marzano tomatoes, but if the crust tastes like white toast, you're worthless in my opinion.
Mia's Pizzas has a nice chewy crust which at times can be a little thicker than I like, but it has a good yeasty flavor. The cooks have a tendency to leave a thick ring of uncovered crust around the edge which can be disappointing. The toppings and sauce are very good quality and tasty. My favorite toppings are the salami, pepperoni, and hot peppers, but I have yet to try them all.
I'm probably a much tougher judge of pizza after eating some of the best pizza in the world on my NYC trip, but Mia's pizza could use a longer cook time as could most pizza that comes out of a wood oven, so if you're like me and you like your pizza with a nice ring of char, then ask for it well done. Usually I just order the Margherita with a couple toppings, if any at all, because it really doesn't need any. Some of the pre-configured pizzas are good too, like the Il Forno or Jorge's Inferno, so give them a try too.
If you're not in the mood for pizza you can order a meatball sub instead, but ask for an extra couple spoonfuls of sauce to keep it from being dry. The meatballs themselves are good enough to eat on their own which you can have if you order the appetizer portion (and you'll notice just about everyone does in fact order that).
At Mia's in Bethesda, I was brought instantly back 25 years to my childhood in Connecticut, picking fresh strawberries with my mom and brother and then returning home to slice them and to put them on top of the warm, fluffy biscuits my mom had made when I ate the strawberry shortcake. It was on the specials menu at the time, and I've had good luck with all of the special desserts. My son goes gaga for the homemade cupcakes, which you'll notice (mostly) only the kids are eating. They're very dense and heavy and not fluffy like you'd expect. Nevertheless, we'll always be ordering one.
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Street. Bethesda is good for parking Sun. through Thurs. but Friday and Saturday (when the valets come out) your only option is the garages. Either way, make sure you bring lots of quarters for the meters.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: Bethesda
Reservations: Not Taken.
Baby-Child friendly rating: 3 diapers. Plenty of high chairs, bathrooms with plenty of room, crayons and a not so quiet dining room make this an ideal dining location with children.
Amy's Bathroom Rating: Clean and dependable.