Gourmet Pizza

Spike Mendelsohn Doesn't Make Tiny Pizzas

If variety is the spice of life, then D.C.'s pizza scene is bland.

In fact, it's boring.

Want a pizza in D.C.? Here's what you'll get: an over analyzed 8 inch pie, cooked to a crisp in a 7,000 pound stone oven hand carved by Sicilian grandmothers, blessed by the Pope and shipped to America by the decedents of Amerigo Vespucci. The toppings, what few there are, will be sustainable, local and if you're lucky, "interesting."

The foodie culture - in which I am a participant - has transformed the simple pizza pie from a meal into social discourse. And every now and then, that's fine. I like the pies at 2 Amy's and Pizzeria Paradiso (to say nothing of the pizza at RedRocks, Matchbox, Pizzeria Orso, Ella's, Lost Dog, Seventh Hill, Il Canale, Comet Ping Pong or Pete's Apizza), but I can't tell the difference between a Neapolitain-style, New Haven-style and a thin crust pizza (if there is one). And every now and then I want a slice of pizza that I don't have to think about and can't finish in two bites. Sometimes I just want a slice of pie and a cold beer.

Spike Mendelsohn gives me that.

94770023Instead of precious pizzas for one, Mendelsohn's Capitol Hill pizza shop, We, The Pizza, peddles in large pies and large slices. The pizzas are the size of traditional New York style pies, but thicker, which the Top Chef alum refers to as Capitol Hill style. Although he likes New York-style pizza, the additional thickness helps support the toppings. Yet, they're not so thick that you can't fold them.

The toppings range from cheese and pepperoni to roasted potato and pancetta. And while Mendelsohn is quick to note that he sources locally, uses fresh ingredients, makes his sauces in-house, etcetera, etcetera, his slice of pepperoni glistens with enough pork grease to make me not care. The 30 kids lined up at the register don't care, either. It doesn't matter to them whether Mendelsohn pronounces mozzarella correctly or whether the cheese came from a grass-fed buffalo or cow. They want pizza, not a culinary experience (unless you count gawking at celebrity chefs).

Pie2 What I like most about We, The Pizza is that it manages to be different by being familiar. They're not cranking out the best pies I've ever had (Geno's East), but they are producing solid, tasty pizza. Look at the photo to the left. Where's that pizza from?* RedRocks? Pizzeria Paradiso, maybe? 

That's the problem, isn't it? When everyone is making the same pie, the only thing that separates them is quality (which is relative), location (which is relative to where you are) and for me, beer selection (that's why I like Pizzeria Paradiso so much). Otherwise, there's no damn difference between most D.C. pizzerias. Their pies are as redundant as they are flimsy. After a while, I get tired of the delicate little pizzas that cost me $20 a pop (and if I'm dining with my wife, let's make that $40, because I'm 6'2", 195 pounds, so the one pie ain't going to cut it).

I'll say again, I like the many of the pizzas served around town (sit down Jumbo Slice and Pizza Mart, you make mediocre pizza for twentysomethings too drunk to know better). I just want a few options, and that's what We, The Pizza gives me.

94770020Mendelsohn agreed that the District is oversaturated with Neapolitan-style pizzas, which created a market for his New York-cum-Capitol Hill pies. Although his pizzas are considerably bigger than the Neapolitan-style pizzas, his stainless steel ovens are easier to use and maintain than the wood-burning pizza ovens that are de rigueur for the typical D.C. pizzeria. Besides, for all the fire and fuss, Mendelsohn said most Americans don't like the Neapolitan-style pizza's soggy, soft crust.

He's right. Most folks aren't as wrapped up in the authenticity of the pizza experience. They just want a good slice of pie.

Every Friday night, my wife's parents enjoy a couple of beers and a pizza at ABC Pizza, a small pizza chain in Florida that's as authentically Italian as Popeyes. It's their thing. While they've enjoyed the pizzas at 2 Amys, and my mother-in-law raves about Pizzeria Paradiso, they still love their Friday night pizza at ABC. Sure it's familiar. Sure it's simple. But it's good pizza, and that's what keeps them going back every week.

94770001"When you go into the pizza business everyone thinks you have to be Italian. We have a few Italian touches here and there," Mendelsohn said, "but this is a true American pizzeria."

It is a true American pizzeria. It may have taken a Top Chef to give D.C. a simple, American pizzeria, but we're better for it. 

We, The Pizza
305 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
(202) 544-4008

*Comet Ping Pong

Pizzeria Paradiso

Recently, I've been working more at my real job's Georgetown office, which gives me the opportunity to eat at Pizzeria Paradiso's Georgetown location, a much roomier and less crowded space than its older sister in Dupont Circle.

Lunches here are calm and relaxing. There's rarely a wait (at least at the Georgetown location) and I find that it's a good place to stop and have a business lunch with coworkers. Service is prompt and usually congenial (and is anything but perfunctory), but try to get a table for dinner or lunch on the weekends, and you'll find it's a different story. I stopped by last Saturday and there was a very long wait so I had to find somewhere else to eat lunch.

The pizzas come in two sizes, 8 inch and 12 inch, and range in price of $9 to $11 for the 8-inch pizzas and $15 to $17 for the 12-inch pizzas. My favorites so far are the salty Bottarga, with an egg, garlic and of course, bottarga, and the Atomica, with tomatoes, salami, olives and black pepper flakes. As you all know, pizza for me is all about the crust, and while Pizzeria Paradiso's toppings are fresh and of a high quality, I find the crust is a bit dry and not as chewy as I would like. It's just personal taste though. For everyone that agrees with me, there's probably someone who prefers it that way.

There are a couple appetizers that I'd recommend you order. I love the tuna and white bean salad, which is covered in olive oil. The white beans are firm and not out of a can as far as I can tell, which means they are either getting them from a high-quality supplier or soaking the beans themselves. Also the milky-white mozzarella with sundried tomatoes and olive oil is always sure to please, even for the pickiest eater in your group.

It's also worth mentioning that on Tuesday nights, Pizzeria Paradisa has a special they call "Two for Two-sdays." The special is meant for two people and includes an antipasto plate with salad, mozzarella and sundried tomatoes and some charcuterie; a 12-inch pizza of choice, a dessert sampler, and a bottle of wine for $50. While your choices for the bottle of wine are limited to one of two bottles, either will go well with the pizza. Overall, it's a very good deal. The bottle of wine normally costs close to $30 by itself.

I haven't been too happy with the panini I've ordered. The marinated roast pork panino had more onion on it than roast pork -- I counted two slices of meat which wasn't quite what I was expecting. The bread was very thick as well, and when combined with the lack of meat, made it seem like I was eating a bread sandwich.

Just a little tidbit of knowledge for you. I did a little research on Panini and the proper ways to make them, and it turns out that a real panino (not panini which is the plural of panino) is made with grilled ciabatta bread. Perhaps the panino I had was made on Ciabatta bread, but it seemed a little thick to be Ciabatta to me.

The recently opened Birreria is a welcome addition to the Georgetown bar scene in my opinion. The bar has 18 taps and over 80 microbrews available, including (what I would say is my favorite that I've tried there so far) the J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale, which is matured in casks of either Calvados, Sherry, Port or Lagavulin casks for flavor. They also have a couple Rogue drafts on tap including Imperial Stout and Shakespeare Ale. If you come during happy hour from 4PM to 6:30PM weeknights, you can get $3 selected drafts and bottles, discount pizzas and antipasto plates. Hell, if it's a Monday or Tuesday, you might see me there...

Pizzaria Paradiso
Dupont Circle
2029 P Street NW
Washington, DC
(202) 223-1245   

3282 M Street NW
Washington, DC
(202) 337-1245

Dupont Circle and Georgetown
Mon-Thurs: 11:30 am to 11:00 pm
Fri-Sat: 11:30 am to midnight
Sun: noon to 10:00 pm

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Find a lot in somewhere that let's you park all night for $5. Street parking is hard to find.
Not Allowed.
Closest Metro:
Foggy Bottom
Not taken.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 3 out of 4 diapers.


I'm not really sure how to classify Matchbox. They have a menu similar to Chef Geoff's or Cafe Deluxe, but maybe a little fancier -- and then they have pizza. There's ALWAYS a crowd and people tend to make a big deal about the place. I went there at 2:30 on a Saturday and I still waited 20 minutes for a table -- it must be the location.   The MCI Center is the ideal area for a restaurant like Matchbox, where you can get a wide variety of dishes that satisfy everyone in your crowd. (Although Matchbox isn't great for seating a large crowd.)

The layout of the restaurant takes full advantage of its location in a thin row house. Downstairs, you have the bar and pizza oven, which take up most of the first floor. The second and third floor are where the tables are. Overall, the restaurant can only hold a mere 59 people according to the Fire Marshal.

Our hostess was very helpful. We were there with Noah, and she was very interested in both him and Amy. How old is he? How are you feeling? We get that just about every place we take him too, and who can blame them? He's a beautiful baby. The hostess was able to get us a table for four, which was nice because we could put Noah's carrier in a chair while we ate.

We had some of the infamous mini burgers. They come in batches of three, six, and nine for $7, $11, and $14 respectively. They're worth every penny in my opinion. The brioche buns are coated in about a quarter stick of butter each. The burgers are made with what seemed to be fresh Angus beef and topped with pickles and cheese (if you like). I could do without the mountain of onions strings, which seem like filler and are more of a distraction than anything else. I think the next time I go to Matchbox, I'll get two orders of the nine mini burgers.

To soak up some of the grease, we had a salad as well. The Bistro Salad was mixed greens with pear and toasted bread topped with goat cheese. We only ordered a half portion for $7, but it was plenty after the burgers. I rather liked the method of having a full piece of toast (rather than little croutons), buttered and toasted, and then topped with the goat cheese. It allowed you to tear off pieces of the "crouton" and mix it with the salad. The goat cheese was tangy like it should be and went well with the sweet vinaigrette.

For the big finale, we had the Matchbox Meat pizza. It came topped with tiny pepperoni, bacon and a spicy Italian sausage. While the toppings were fresh and flavorful, I wasn't all too crazy about the crust, which was weak and bland. Pizza, for me at least, is all about the crust. If the crust doesn't rise at the edges, there's something wrong with it. Also, the cheese and sauce went all the way to the edge of the crust. Eh.

I also have to note that the bar at Matchbox serves Magic Hat #9 on tap which gives it huge points. I know it's not the only place that has it on tap in the area, but still it's a great beer.

I think I'll be back to Matchbox the next time I'm over by the MCI Center. The mini burgers are worth the trip alone and I'd like to try some of their entrees rather than the pizza.

713 H St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 289-4441

Open Monday through Friday, 11:00 AM - Close
Saturday 12:00 PM - Close (no clue what "Close" means. This is what the web site says.)
Closed Sunday

Dress Code: Casual
Smoking: Allowed at the bar
Closest Metro: Metro Center
Parking: There's not very good street parking in the area and there's no valet. Take the Metro.
Reservations: Not taken.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 3 out of 4 diapers. The stairs make for a difficult trek with the baby carrier and stroller, but the hostess made up for this with how accommodating she was.

You'll notice the new baby-friendly rating which is my diaper scale. No, this doesn't count the number of times we have to change Noah's diaper at the restaurant. It's just my ranking of how accommodating I think a place is for people with a baby.

Sette Osteria

eh. 'twas nothing special. Sette is basically a 2 Amys rip-off in a swanky location.

Ok, that is probably not enough for a review, but that about sums it up. Friday night, Amy and I went to Sette Osteria in Dupont Circle. I decided to try it was because I received recommendations for Sette from a few of my friends after reading my review of Olazzo. They said I should try the pasta at Sette if I liked Olazzo.

Now, before you read the rest of this entry, I have to be honest with you - I was sick. I'd been coming down with something all week, and Friday, when I was at work it finally hit me. Hard. So my taste buds were probably not at their full tasting capacity. Nothing was going to keep me from going out though. I had no temperature so I medicated myself up with Theraflu and we were off to Dupont Circle. I tried calling ahead but Sette Osteria doesn't take reservations. On the phone, the hostess said that there was no current wait for a table for two. By the time we arrived at 7:30 though, there was a 45 minute wait.

I looked back at Amy and she shrugged her shoulders, "Where are we going to go, Etrusco?" she said with a sarcastic tone.

"Ok. Fine. I hope this place is worth a 45 minute wait though"

We went over to the bar, which was large and very crowded. There were no seats so we just stood for a while and ordered a couple glasses of Zinfindel. After a while a chair opened up so Amy could sit down. Looking at the wine list, the first thing I noticed was how expensive the glasses of wine were. They charge $8 for a glass of Ravenswood Zinfindel and that was one of the cheaper glasses on the menu. You have a choice of a half glass of full glass. Most of the half glass prices are the same as you would be charged for a full glass other places. Just a tip, if you plan on having more than one glass each, order a bottle from their extensive list of wines. (Gee, isn't that a helpful tip?) Bottles of wine are fairly reasonable ranging from $22 - $80, with a majority of them below $40.

We were seated almost exactly after 45 minutes AND ONLY AFTER I REMINDED THE HOSTESSES THAT WE WERE STILL WAITING. After we sat down, we were greeted very quickly by our waiter asking us if we needed anything to drink which I appreciated. (I really appreciate it when a waiter greets you right after you sit down.) The best thing about the whole meal was the service.

Half of the menu was dedicated to pizza and the other half to the appetizers, pasta and specials. Appetizers or Antipasti, range from $6 - $8.  They had the usual tomato and mozzarella salad, which we saw other people ordering and looked very fresh, but we wanted something different. There were a few that really looked interesting to me, in particular, the panzaroti (mini calzones) and gateau di patate (potato cake with salami and smoked mozzarella). They came out pretty soon after we ordered. The mini calzones tasted all right. They are better in concept than execution. I would have to say the best dish of the night was the potato cake, which came with marinated red and yellow peppers.

For entrees, we tried both a pizza and a pasta, opting for the lasagna and the proscuito e rucola (prosciutto and arugula) pizza.  Standing at the bar, I saw both coming out and they both looked mouth watering. They looked a lot better than they tasted. The lasagna was overcooked and did not have enough sauce. I make a better lasagna. The lasagna I had a couple weeks ago at Olazzo was much better. The pizza was ok but nothing really special. I would equate it to that of Pizzeria Paradiso with a better tasting crust, but toppings that were not as fresh. 

We thought about ordering dessert, but decided that I needed to get home because I was getting sicker by the minute. The bill came to $85 before tip. We had 3 glasses of wine each (mostly because we waited forever for a table), 2 appetizers, pizza and lasagna. Most of the cost of the meal came from the wine, and like I said before, we would have saved a lot by ordering a bottle of wine instead of the glasses.

Sette Osteria
1666 Connecticut Ave NW (Corner of R and Connecticut)
Washington, DC 20007

Mon-Thu 11:30am-2am
Sat 11:30am-3am
Sun 11:30am-Midnight

Dress Code: Casual
Reservations: NOT Accepted
Closest Metro Stop: Dupont Circle
Valet: After 7 PM Sat. and Sun. $8

2 Amys

It's been a while since I posted anything about 2 Amys, which is totally ridiculous considering how often I eat there. The thing is, I could've done a post about every time I've eaten there, but I would bore the hell out of you, my readers, and we might as well call this the 2 Amys blog.

So last Thursday, we were throwing around ideas of where we wanted to go. I called Amy on the way home from work and told her, "I don't feel like cooking tonight so let's go out somewhere - YOU PICK."

To which she replied, "What else is new? Anywhere? Even Ethiopian?"

"Sure, even Ethiopian", I grunted.

When I got home, Amy was out walking Ceiba, and the first thing I asked was where she wanted to go. Surprisingly, she offered two choices - Meskerem or...yep you guessed it, 2 Amys. So obviously we ended up going to 2 Amys, otherwise the title of this post would be Meskerem and not 2 Amys. So we walked the 4 blocks to Macomb Avenue and when we got there, there was a surprisingly short wait. We were seated right away.

Our 2 Amys trips latelyTomato_bread_soup are defined by the specials menu. This time, there were a few good special appetizers that peaked our interest, including a tomato-and-bread soup and potato and prosciutto croquettes. None  of the special pizzas looked interesting to us, so we just ordered the Norcia. We also ordered a couple glasses of wine. I really enjoy the wines at 2 Amys - They're all quality Italian wines. Most bottles run between $20 - 30.

The tomato and bread soup was really salty. I think the chef could have laid off the salt a bit. However, it still tasted great. Proc_croquettesThe broth had a ton of olive oil and fresh basil in it which were good things. The potato and prosciutto croquettes were very good. Just the right amount of flavor in a fried appetizer. I really wished I had some marinara or something to dip them in.

The norcia pizza was fantastic as usual. I mean, you really can't go wrong with this pizza. NorciaTake a great crust and put a little marinara sauce on it. Top it with some fresh mozzarella, roasted yellow and red sweet peppers, and salami (oh and of course, olive oil) and you've got yourself a pretty damn good pizza.

Lately, Amy and I have also been ordering the cookie plate which has become a staple on the menu. You get eight cookies including sugar, biscotti, truffles and another kind of cookie that has changed every time we've order it. They've been great every time. I recommend ordering some coffee or cappuccino to go with them.

Now I want to talk a little bit about the atmosphere - there is none! I mean seriously people, this is a pizza place. If you want fine dining, you really need to go elsewhere. The dining room can be a bit loud, but I think it's pretty much a problem with the design of the place. The ceiling is an old-fashioned tin ceiling so it echos really bad. Also the service can be a little inconsistant, but is more often good than bad.

In the end, the bill usually ends up costing us between $50 - 80 after tip, which is reasonable considering we usually order a nice bottle of wine, appetizers and dessert. Lately, we have been trending in the upper part of that range.

Here is my original post on 2 Amys.

2 Amys

I'm going to sum up this review in one sentence...

Two Amys is hands-down, the most wonderful place in DC to get gourmet pizza.

Go there now!

Now for my review.

Located near the corner of Wisconson and Macomb in NW, 2 Amys is the most kickass gourmet pizza in DC.  Notice that I said gourmet pizza, and not just pizza. There are sometimes that gourmet pizza just doesn't cut it. When I want a slice of plain old New York-style pizza, I go to Vace on Connecticut Ave., or one of those places on 18th St. in Adams Morgan with the oversized slices. (Best drinkin' food there is.)However, if I want to sit down for an excellent Italian meal, I go to 2 Amys.

2 Amys is loud, loud, loud and busy. If you are looking for ambiance and romance (and I can't stress this enough), don't go there. There is a small bar in the back where you can wait, but there is seldom space to sit or stand. If you go any night (even weekdays) between 7 and 8:30 you are looking at a 30 minute wait or more.

What 2 Amys does have though, is excellent food. Most of the menu is in Italian, but don't hesitate to ask the friendly servers...they're used to it.  To start with, the appetizers are some of the best I have had in the city. Suppli a Telefono is an unusual appetizer: risotto rolled into balls, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and then deep-fried. The app-sized meatballs (Polpettine) are perfect precursor to a pizza. They bake them in a shallow dish with homemade marinara sauce. We'll often get these and dip our pizza crusts in the leftover sauce. Mmmmm, tasty.

The pizza, as I said before, is the best in DC. 2 Amys is a member of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), which is a pizza-makers' guild that enforces the authentic Neapolitan pizza recipe and process. As an AVPN member, 2 Amys must follow strict rules about everything used in the pizza -- from the types of flours and yeast used for the dough to the tomatoes and cheeses permitted as toppings.  The pizza is made in a giant wood-burning stove that you can see at the entrance. As the pizzas come out of the oven, the cooks throw a generous swirl of extra-virgin olive oil on them. Quiet, olive oil is good for you!

The crust tastes better than any other I have tasted -- seriously. That's says a lot from someone whose family comes from NY and has probably eaten more pizza than any of y'all growing up. The toppings are fresh and original. Where else can you get a pizza with cockels (clams) on it -- and in the shell no less? Anyway, most of the time we usually get the Norcia which has salami, sweet peppers, garlic and mozzarella.

My wife and I have been to two Amys so many times that we order off the specials menu more and more. It is rare that we get a special that we do not like. Antipasto with fresh cheeses, fruits and meats, or an excellent green bean and speck salad.

The special desserts are our favorite part. I highly recommend the homemade ice cream (especially the chocolate barley malt or chocolate chip pistachio, if they have it.) Also, if they have the baked apple pie, order it as soon as you sit down. The one time they had this, it sold out and I was the last person to get one. Your momma's apple pie deoesn't stand a chance against this (sorry mom.) My wife does not even like apple pie and she could not get enough of this.

(Unfortunately, this can be a common occurance -- 2 Amys often sells out of the specials, sometimes relatively early in the evening. So if you've had a long wait, or are just there late, save yourself the torture and don't look at the specials menu to see the amazing stuff you can't have.)

Another highlight is the wine list. 2 Amys has many Italian wines that aren't served anywhere else. If you order a glass, they don't serve it in a typical wine class. They serve it in a regular drink glass and fill it up generously. One glass at 2 Amys is usually about 2 normal glasses of wine elsewhere -- perfect for all you alcoholics out there.

I could go on and on about how wonderful the food is at 2 Amys, but you will have to go and try it yourself to believe me.  See you there!

2 Amys
3715 Macomb St. NW
Washington, DC

Mon 5pm-10pm
Tues-Sun 11 am-11 pm

Dress Code: Casual
Reservations: Not Accepted