Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year from your DC Pizza Blog!

Hello all,
It's been a great year of pizza and happiness. Now we just need your suggestions. What pizza places should we review in the new year? Two on my list are a place in Crystal City everyone's been telling me about... I want to say it's called Cafe Pizzaiola? And Mia's in Bethesda. Any others?

Friday, December 21, 2007

American Flatbread -- Ashburn, VA

Ever since this place got a good review in the WaPo, I've been wanting to check it out. The problem? I hate the suburbs, and Ashburn is about as suburban as it gets. Now, I grew up in the 'burbs, mind you, so I am allowed to make fun. I just have one question for you suburbanites: why do you have such big cars? What the heck is that all about?

Anyway, my friend Maria, who has been living in Denmark, was stopping in DC for a couple days during her whirlwind Christmas tour of CONUS (which apparently refers to the "continental United States") and was staying in a hotel out by Dulles airport. And since Gary actually works out in BFE / Redskins Park / Ashburn VA, I thought, what better time to try out American Flatbread?

In spite of getting lost about a half dozen times (thanks Mapquest), and getting flipped the bird by two different guys (it's always a man, isn't it?) in gigantic automobiles, and me screaming, "I hate the *@#?!& suburbs!!" about twenty times along the way, we finally made it there in one piece.

The interior of the restaurant is really cute and cozy. We got a seat right next to the wood-burning oven, which was quite nice on a blustery winter night. AND-- we had no wait in the nearly empty dining room (okay, score one for the suburbs-- no wait-- NICE).

I like the philosophy behind the restuarant-- they use fresh, organic, locally grown ingredients. Always a good thing. And their menu items have funny names like "Evolution Salad" (which was quite good, I might add).

On to the pizza. Wait, no, it's not "pizza", it's "flatbread." Mmmkay. I don't know what the point of that is... but whatevs. We got a veggie one with mushrooms and carmelized onions, and a pepperoni and peppers one.

I can't say the pizza, er, FLATBREAD, was bad. But I can't really say it's good either. Whenever I asked Gary for his rating, he'd get a confused look on his face. I kept saying, "I don't get this pizza." I don't even know how to describe it, really. Maria, for her part, thought it was awesome. Apparently, the only pizza in Denmark is Pizza Hut, and it costs about a half a million dollars. And with the exchange rate with the Euro, that's nothing to sneeze at. I asked for Maria's rating, and she said, "Ten." I explained that the highest rating was four stars. She reconsidered, and said, "Ten." I think all those days of eating pastries and fish has muddled her palate.

The crust was really crunchy. It was kind of like eating a pizza on overcooked Cosi bread. Which isn't necessarily BAD, it's just weird. The toppings did taste fresh, and the onions were yummy. There wasn't a whole lot of sauce; in fact I could hardly taste it.

I guess my main issue with the pizza is that it sort of made me feel... blah. Like I ate a big brick of crusty bread. I didn't have my usual pizza afterglow. Sitting on my couch after we returned to the city, Gary looked over at me and said, "I'd make a pass at you, but I have a giant pizza sitting in my stomach." That pretty much sums it up.

So would I travel back out to the 'burbs for American Flatbread pizza? I'm thinking... no.

Liza and Gary's rating: 2 stars

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Italian Pizza Kitchen -- Van Ness

Last Friday Gary and I (yes, it's me Liza, back to writing the blog... AHEM GARY) ventured up to his neck of the woods and went to Italian Pizza Kitchen in Van Ness. Some friends of ours have been encouraging us to go there, and since we do happen to be DC's pizza experts, we decided to give it a try.

Let's just say right off that the service was horrible. And the restaurant was freezing. I had to wear my coat during the whole meal. This is not a good thing. But they were playing some old Italian movie on the wall, so that gave it some atmosphere, I guess.

But most important-- the pizza. I really liked the crust-- it was thick and chewy and crunchy. The toppings left a bit more to be desired; they didn't have a freshness that you'd expect on a quality pie. But the thick crust made it good for reheating the next day. In fact, I think I might have liked it better the next day. My suggestion for Italian Pizza Kitchen-- order takeout and save the leftovers!

Liza's rating: 2.5 stars
Gary's rating: 3.0 stars

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Deeeeeeeeeetroit Pizza, y'all

I know this is a DC pizza blog, but I found this commercial and couldn't help myself. Anyone who lived in the Detroit suburbs in the 70s will be singing along. Notice it's a square pizza, which is typical Detroit style 'za.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Comet Ping Pong, Upper NW DC

So it was a warm Tuesday evening, two days before Thanksgiving, and Liza was after me to contribute to the blog. Liza has done all of the blog entries to this point, and I felt guilty. This is Liza AND Gary's Pizza Blog, after all.

Since I live in Northwest DC, where all the cool people in DC live, Liza decided to drive up from her home on Capitol Hill to meet me for some 'za. Nearby is the one and only Comet Ping Pong, a couple doors down from Politics & Prose.

Comet Ping Pong is known for its New Haven-style pizza. Liza says this kind of pizza is oblong shaped, has a crispy crust, and is a little oily.

We arrive around 8-ish. Parking is in the back. We walked around and saw the huge "COMET" sign above the restaurant. Can't miss it. Outside, there is a ping pong table set up. Get it? Comet Ping Pong!

We walked in and were greeted by a young male host who could not have been more than 20 years old. The tone was set. This appears to be college hang-out, for young and hungry American University students. It had a very trendy feel to it, too.

We sat at a table for two. Yes, all of the tables were made to look like ping pong tables. They were green, with a white line across the middle. Very clever!

Liza ordered some wine, while I ordered an Anchor Steam. You don't see many bars or restaurants with Anchor Steam, which is a pretty good beer in my opinion, so bonus points for Comet Ping Pong. By the way, there is a bar in the back, which looked like a cozy place to hang out. No TVs, though, so we won't be coming here to watch the Lions, Eagles or Spartans anytime soon.

Liza commented that the restaurant's decor looked a little too industrial. The walls were chipped, unpainted. It had a warehouse feel to it. Near the bar, on the wall, there were black and white photos of posing celebrities. Yay celebrities!

Comet Ping Pong appears to be striving for the post-apocalyptic among us. Perhaps that's why so many angst-ridden young people are drawn to the place. Beside our small table, there was a table of 8 college students strugglng to make sense of the world. They were busy chatting and text-messaging--at the same time. Marvelous!

Finally, pizza.

My first thought: These New Haven-style pizzas are shaped like footballs.

Liza had the butternut squash pizza with onions and garic. I ordered the smoky mushroom and onion cheese pizza. They were each sliced in about 8 pieces.

First of all, the pizza was a little droopy. I am not a big fan of droopy pizza. It was oily, as promised, so touching the pizza made my fingers messy. To eat my slice and not make a mess, I had to hold up the bottom of the pizza slice with my fork. The crust was crisp enough at the edges, though.

My pizza was very smoky in flavor. One taste, and I felt like I was in a smoke-filled log cabin in the West Virginia mountains. The onions were a little overpowering, too. There was just the right amount of cheese.

Overall, it was a decent pizza, but not spectacular. The pizza tasted exactly how it was supposed to taste, I just wasn't all that enthralled with it. A little too smoky for my taste.

Liza? You're up: "I thought my pizza was good, but the butternut squash flavor did not really come out." I have to agree. It was pretty bland. Very little flavor. In fact, the differences in our pizzas were startling. Mine had an overwhelming smoky flavor, while Liza's had almost no flavor at all.

So here we go. The score for Comet Ping Pong...

Gary: 3 stars
Liza: 2.5 stars

Now you know why I don't do these blogs as often as Liza. I ramble on and on and on...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My pizza might actually love me

My friend Sarah sent me this quote from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert:

"...Before I left room he gave me the name of a pizzeria in Naples that I had to try because it sold the best pizza in Italy. I found this a wildly exciting prospect, given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is from Italy, which means that this pizzeria must offer...I'm almost too superstitious to say it...the best pizza in the world? So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered--one for each of us--are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. "

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Pizza Wars" in the Washingtonian

Here's a pretty good article from the Washingtonian on the rise of "boutique" pizza parlors in DC:

Pizza Wars By Todd Kliman

Thanks to an explosion of boutique pizza places, 2 Amys and Pizzeria Paradiso are no longer the last word in tasty pies. Is this the start of a real Washington pizza culture? Or just a trendy boomlet?

Click here for the full article.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Red Rocks-- Columbia Heights

We're nothing if not trendy, so when we saw Red Rocks reviewed in the WaPo, we had to try the pizza at this new hotspot. We're also nothing if not geographically challenged-- when I told Gary we were going up to Columbia Heights, he looked at me strangely and said, "Is that in DC?" Yes dear, that is in DC.

Red Rocks really is a cute little place. It's in a converted rowhouse. We sat upstairs, and Gary mused that "we're eating in what used to be someone's bedroom." Indeed. I suggest asking to be seated upstairs; the downstairs was LOUD and crowded. They have some great happy hour specials, which we just barely made under the wire (we had the $4 house wines).

Service was a little slow, but friendly. I was a bit put off by the fact that every piece of dishware on the table had a chip or crack in it. But I digress. The pizza...

... was fabulous. I had my usual margherita, and Gary had a pesto pie.

The margherita was perfection. The crust was thin, light, chewy; the sauce had both a tang and a sweetness to it, and the cheese was SO fresh. The pesto pizza was good too, but that margherita... I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

Liza's rating: 4 stars, yes, 4 stars, people!
Gary's rating: 3.5 stars

As an aside, we went to Wonderland, a bar just down the street, for a drink afterwards. THEY HAVE MS. PACMAN. This makes Wonderland the best bar ever.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nicola's Trattoria-- Foggy Bottom

Last night we went to dinner at this little Italian place called Nicola's, which is on 23rd Street NW between M and N. Since that's not really our neck of the woods, we probably would never have found it except for Open Table. If you're not using Open Table for reservations... why the heck not? We got 1000 Open Table points for dining at Nicola's, so we said... what the hey. We were up for a drive on a rainy Thursday evening...

We hadn't updated the blog for a while, so I (Liza) decided a pizza was in order. Gary got a pasta dish, and we split a salad.

I had some quibbles with the meal-- like, a slice of pear in the salad still had the grocery sticker on it... HELLO-- but Gary thought it was some of the best Italian food he's had in the city. I must admit, the pasta was super yummmmmmmmy.

However, the pizza fell flat. I ordered a 9" mushroom pizza, that had mozzerella, portobella mushrooms, garlic, and sundried tomatoes. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately the pizza was just bland tasting. The crust was not well cooked (it looked white) and it was floppy.

Gary liked the pizza better than I did, because he's having the leftovers for dinner tonight. I'll be flying off to Chicago, but I can't say I'll miss having it again.

Our summary review of Nicola's-- go for the pasta, but pass on the pizza.

Liza's review: 1.5 stars
Gary's (pizza) review: 2.0 stars

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Source-- Wolfgang Puck pizza now in DC! (and not the frozen kind)

Monday night we ventured out to Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant, The Source, which is located downtown in the same building as the new Newseum. Since Puck is famous for his fancy-schmancy California pizzas, we decided to go sit at the bar, watch a little Monday Night Football, and try a couple of his chi-chi pizza pies.

There's a restaurant upstairs, but we sat at the bar in the lounge downstairs. It was kind of funny-- being a new restaurant, they were way overstaffed but yet we still got kind of odd service. It took us a while to flag down a bartender, and at the end of the evening she gave us dessert menus and then... left. No dessert for us. Bummer.

Apparently the staff is supposed to serve pizza slices with two forks put together like chopsticks. (Watching the staff actually try to accomplish this is rather humorous.)

But anyway, you might expect some service issues the first week a place is open. We didn't care, we were there for the 'za and MNF and Joey Harrington, because he's so dreamy. (<-- Only Liza thinks this! Signed, Gary)

Liza got the margherita, Gary got some fancy pizza with shrimp, pesto, peppers, and other goodies.

The margherita was okay. It was more of a California style, with tomato slices instead of sauce. The crust was thick-ish and chewy. The pesto pizza was SO flavorful. Really good stuff.

So for the first week on the job, The Source is doing just fine by us.

Liza's rating: 3 stars
Gary's rating: 3.5 stars

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It's National Pizza Month!

Did you know that October is National Pizza Month? In honor of the holiday, here's a few pizza facts:

National Pizza Month began in 1987.

The people of America eat around 350 slices of pizza each second, or 100 acres per day.

Pizza is a $30 billion a year industry.

In the U.S., there are about 61,269 pizza parlors.

Everyone in the United States eats about 23 lbs., or 46 slices, every year.

Each year in the United States, 3 billion pizzas are sold.

Children ages 3-11 prefer pizza over all other foods for lunch and dinner, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

36 percent of all pizza orders want their pizza topping pepperoni.

We consume around 251,770,000 pounds of pepperonis every year.

Americans prefer meat toppings to veggie toppings by a ratio of 62 to 100. Women order twice as many vegetable toppings than men.

Some popular pizza toppings in Japan are squid and Mayo Jaga (mayonaise, potato and bacon). In India they like pickled ginger, minced mutton and tofu. The people of Brazil prefer green peas for their topping. Russians serve pizza covered in mockba (a mix of sardines, tuna, mackeral, salmon and onions.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tom Sietsema likes 2 Amys, too

2 Amys was reviewed in the Fall Dining Guide in the WaPo:

"Thanks to the arrival of American Flatbread in Ashburn, Bebo Trattoria in Arlington and Comet Ping Pong in Washington -- as well as the ongoing good work of Matchbox and Pizzeria Paradiso, both in the District -- pizza enthusiasts have more places than ever to dig into pies of distinction. Still, the place I gravitate to most often is 2 Amys, home to Neapolitan-style pizzas that are as good for their crusts (yeasty, crisp and blistered from a wood fire) as for their toppings (which run to such mouthwatering enhancements as chanterelles with squash blossoms and grana). Named for the wives of the two owners, 2 Amys isn't just about great pizza. To start, there are lovely "little things," including lemon-kissed fried mussels, and first-class charcuterie (salami-like cured boar is a current favorite). And I wouldn't dream of leaving without a bit of cheese or something sweet, maybe grapefruit panna cotta with a lashing of caramel sauce. The wine list brims with unusual finds (and truly helpful descriptions), and a mere question about one of them might prompt your server to pour you a gratis taste. Diners pay a price for the thrill of first-class dough, though: The main dining room, with its tile floors and pressed tin ceiling, bounces noise around. Discerning adults know to head for the more intimate bar in the back."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Papa John's at FedEx Field

Okay, I have never been more hot than I was today. It is frickin' October, people, and I sizzled like a piece of bacon as I sat in the sun watching the Lions / Redskins game at FedExField. WTH? And on top of that, the Lions got whooped, 34-3.

Anyhoosle, I got a cheese slice at the field. The pizza is Papa John's and I split the slice with guest judge Jenn.

Any pizza you get in a stadium is rubbery. That's just the way it is. But, it had a decent crust and the sauce is sweet, which I like.

It's also a thick crust, which you don't find much outside the Midwest. (For more on the topic, check out this excellent blog, Slice.)

But, it's still stadium pizza. Okay for a nosh during the game but not something I'd go out of my way to find.

Liza's rating: 1.5 stars

Jenn's rating: 2.0 stars

PS-- Highlight of the day: I got to meet former Michigan State running back TJ Duckett.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

OMG, a Celebrity Chef Made My Pizza!

Last night we went across the river to Bebo Trattoria in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, VA. This is a relatively new restaurant from celebrichef Roberto Donna. I could list all his accomplishments, but let's just sum up by saying the dude was on Iron Chef... OMG! (For a TV obsessed Gen Xer like myself, this is big stuff.)

We had heard good things about the pizza, but bad things about the service. Actually, we had quite good service... you might even say "hovering"... so I guess they have taken the bad comments to heart. The only weird part was that when we walked in, the host asked us if we had reservations and we said no, so he told us he had a "special room" for people without reservations. And he seated us in this curtained off area by ourselves. Odd. But then more people got seated there so it wasn't so weird. Anyway.

We split the mista salad as usual, and they served it in a bowl. Then I thought, why doesn't everyone serve salad in a bowl? Salad should be in a bowl, right?

We also both got a nice glass of wine-- Gary, unlike the guy in Sideways, almost always has a merlot. Someone told me that when dining in authentic Italian restaurants you can't go wrong with a Chianti. (I have always shied away from Chiantis because of the Silence of the Lambs connotations...) Well, I ordered a Chianti and it was SO smooth. I usually opt for more fruity wines but this one was excellent-- I may become a Chianti convert.

But this is a pizza blog right? So down to business. I got a red pizza with eggplant, and Gary got the margherita pizza. When our pizzas were served, the waitress said that "the chef was making the pizza today" and by "the chef" she meant THE chef, the man, the celebrichef himself, Roberto Donna! Whoooohoooo! So I was ready to dig in and realized the pizza wasn't cut (just like at 2 Amys) and it was hotter than hell. Or a woodburning oven, one of those two. So our waitress kindly came back with a pizza cutter and cut up our pies.

The pizza was most like the pizza I ate in Italy (which makes sense, since the chef is Italian, duh). It was characterized by a crust so thin that you could read a newspaper through it, and it was quite crispy. Gary complained there wasn't enough cheese, but that's how they make pizza in Italy-- thin crust, light on the sauce, light on the cheese, with a drizzle of olive oil.

I found the pizza to be quite yummy, but Gary wasn't impressed. However, it must be noted that he is suffering from a cold, so his taste buds may not be up to the usual blogging standards.

All in all, I think my American tastes prefer the pizza at Sonoma, but for authenticity, you can't beat Bebo. Gary didn't like the pizza as much, but as noted, he's playing hurt.

As we left, we saw "the man" himself in the kitchen-- they have an open kitchen located right near the door, and passersby can see the chef working. He was making a pizza and looking happy as a clam. If nothing else, you'll know that at Bebo, your pizza is made with love.

Liza's rating: 3.0 stars

Gary's rating: 2.5 stars

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jerry's Pizza and Subs-- National Airport

On Friday night we were in the Northwest terminal, waiting for our delayed flight, starving. Anyone who's flown out of the A terminal at National knows that the food options there are nill. So, we opted for a couple of cheese slices from Jerry's.

When you have to blot the grease off your pizza with a napkin, it's not exactly screaming "quality." The crust was burnt, the cheese was rubbery, and the sauce was blah. The best thing we can say about Jerry's is that it didn't give us food poisoning.

Liza and Gary's rating: 1/2 star

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar - Capitol Hill

Last night Gary and I had our first pre-wedding class at St. Peter's-- we had a book group with other couples talking about readings on the 8th, 9th, and 10th Commandments. So after all that deep thinking, we figured we should discuss the topics some more over a little wine and pizza, so we went a few blocks away to one of our favorite Capitol Hill restaurants, Sonoma (at 2nd and Pennsylvania, SE). Since the 8th Commandment says I shouldn't lie, well, this blog will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

One of the reasons I love Sonoma is that not only do they have a huge wine list, but they also have a 3 ounce pour called a "taste" in addition to the standard "glass", so you can get a really nice wine at a reasonable price. It can be a challenge to get a table on the weekends, but on 9:30 on a Monday night, there were lots of open tables. We had a nice spot outside on Pennsylvania Avenue.

We split a mendocino salad and a red pizza with mozzarella and wild mushrooms. We agreed that the thing we love about Sonoma pizza is the sauce. The red sauce is sweet but has a little bit of a spicy bite to it. Delish. The wild mushrooms are so flavorful and the crust has a nice crunch. My only quibble with Sonoma pizza is that the crust gets a soft in the middle, making their pizza kinda "floppy". But still, a damn fine pie.

Gary's rating: 3.5 stars

Liza's rating: 3 stars

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ella's Woodfired Pizza -- Chinatown

The great thing about Ella's is they have good pizza FAST. We got there after 7 PM last night (Friday), and were able to make our 7:50 movie a few blocks away at E Street Cinemas. (We saw Across the Universe-- Liza gave it a big thumbs down, Gary thought it was merely okay. Says Liza: "If you're going make a movie with Beatles songs, RESPECT THE MUSIC" -- but this is all fodder for another blog.)

As is our custom, we split a mixed green salad (which was better than 2 Ames, BTW) and we each got a pizza. Liza had the traditional margherita (tomato sauce, mozzerella, and basil) and Gary got the wild mushroom pizza with goat cheese and spinach.

All in all, this pizza was good eatin'. The margherita had a nice combination of light sauce, cheese (although an authentic margherita pizza uses buffalo mozz, I'm just sayin'), and olive oil. The crust was crispy but didn't have the chewiness you expect from a woodfired 'za.

Gary describes his pizza as "run of the mill"-- good to "scarf down" but not rich in flavor. The ingredients lacked the smoky goodness of the veggies on the pizza we got at 2 Amys.

Ella's is a nice pizza, but not among DC's elite.

Gary's rating: 2.5 stars

Liza's rating: 2.5 stars

2 Amys -- Cathedral Heights

2 Amys, 3715 Macomb Street NW, is one of our favorite pizza places in DC. It seems like it's everyone else's, too. In fact, we're going to make our first million by opening an ice cream stand right outside of 2 Amy's, so we'll have a built-in customer base of people sitting outside on the steps waiting an hour for a table on any given weeknight. Since we're usually starving by the time we get there, we typically end up across the street at Sushi Sushi rather than waiting for a table. But, on Saturday, September 15, after a long morning of car shopping, we ended up there for a late lunch. In a word-- yummmm. We decided to forgo the delicious fried risotto balls and split a mixed green salad and a pizza. Although the pizzeria is known for its authentic Neopolitan style margharita pizza, on this day we opted for one of the day's specials-- roasted eggplant, peppers, garlic and smoked mozzarella.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Heavenly! (The pizzeria is, of course, only a stone's throw from the National Cathedral. Coincidence? We think not.) The best thing about the pizza at "2 Ames", as Gary calls it, is the crust, which manages to be crispy, smoky, and chewy all at the same time. This is the gold standard of DC pizza!

Gary's grade: 4 stars
Liza's grade: 3.5 stars

Pizza Lovers Unite!

Hello and welcome to our pizza blog!

Pizza has been a passion of mine since I was just a kid growing up in Fraser, Michigan. I used to make my Mom take me to Carmen's, our local pizzeria, to get their famous (well, famous to me) $1 deep dish slice. Yummy!

These days, Carmen's is "Pizza Castle" and is half pizza place, half dollar store. Gotta love the 'burbs. But this hasn't diminished my love of pizza in the least.

While deep dish is still my favorite, I've come to appreciate the authentic Italian thin crust pizzas, too. These days I drag my very patient fiance, Gary, around DC searching for the best pizza in the city.

Gary is a pizza fan who grew up in Philly-- South Jersey, to be exact. Growing up, his favorite pizza spots were Three Brothers in Hammonton, NJ and Mack 'n' Manco in Ocean City, NJ. This past summer, he took me to another favorite, Angelo's, in Ocean City, where I got run over by an old lady in a motorized scooter/wheelchair contraption. So, I'm not feeling a lot of love toward Angelo's, although the staff got me some ice, which was nice.

Anyway, feel free to comment and chime in with your favorites! Is there a pizza place you want to see reviewed here? Let us know.

Happy pizza-ing and enjoy the blog!