Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Margherita Wars Recap

Gary and I had a great time meeting up with the pizzablogger for the Margherita Wars on October 24! . All photos below are courtesy of the pizzablogger.

We started off at one of our favorite DC pizza places, 2 Amys. As usual, they did not disappoint. Great crust texture, a little bit of sauce, and fresh cheese. Yummy.

Next we went to my personal favorite, Red Rocks. The crust was a bit more charred, and there was more sauce and it was a bit sweeter.
We finished our leg of the journey at Coal Fire Pizza in Howard County. Honestly, I did not care for this pizza at all. A little too thin for my taste and way too burnt.

The verdict? Gary and pizzablogger definitely preferred 2 Amys. For me, Red Rocks and 2 Amys were neck-and-neck, with maybe a slight advantage to Red Rocks.

In other words, we confirmed what we've known for a long time now-- we have some mighty fine pizza here in Washington, DC! The pizzablogger went on to two more establishments in Baltimore. His full recap can be found here.

Gary and I have been pretty busy recently and haven't been able to get out much to try new pies, but we have a couple restaurants on our radar for future reviews. If you have any suggestions, please write them in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Margherita Wars!

You may have been wondering what all these goofy notes and pizza blogger stalking is all about.
Well, dear readers, it's time for.... the MARGHERITA WARS!
Who has the best pizza-- DC or Baltimore? We're spending some time sampling pizza tomorrow in order to find out!
The Margherita Wars; Settling The Score
One day, one margherita, one day to be the best
Saturday, October 24th
2Amys (Washington DC)
RedRocks Firebrick Pizzeria (Washington DC)
Coal Fire Pizza (Ellicott City)
Joe Squared (Baltimore)
Iggies (Baltimore)
Your consigliere panel for the event:
Representing DC pizza interests: Yours truly, Liza and Gary of Liza and Gary’s DC Pizza Blog. To represent the capital city, DC’s definitive pizza experts will take part in the event and offer their own take on the proceedings.
Representing Howard County, MD pizza interests: HowChow, the best food blog in the Baltimore area, will make sure the visit to Coal Fire Pizza in Ellicott City will be treated with fairness and that there will be no disrespect thrown out by the DC and Baltimore interests.
Representing Baltimore pizza interests: Baltimore's own pizzablogger. He’ll be tasting and snapping away with his camera.
Check our blogs next week for our updates!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A pizza mystery...

Today when Gary and I got home from work, the strangest package was waiting on our doorstep.

Imagine our surprise when we read the letter inside:

Youtz guys down in DC got some nerve makin threats up here in Baltimore. Lemme tell ya something, DC has got nothing on Baltimore.....you hear that? Nothing.

As the DC pizza experts, you unknowingly has gottun yourself involved in a beef. If you don't help settle the score, well let's just say youza better be buying some plane tickets to a far away location.....capiche?

Oh yeah......you tell Tommy the Tomato that if he even thinks about throwing any more weight around in Baltimore, he's gonna end up in a canning jar. You hear that.....A JAR!

--Sourdough Sal

We're not sure what this means, but it is similar to the type of letter we noticed the pizzablogger received just a few days ago:


More to come...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Seventh Hill-- Eastern Market

Recently my beloved Ben and Jerry's near Eastern Market closed down. Sadness! Where was I going to get my Chunky Monkey fix? But when I heard that a pizza place would be opening in its place, my frown turned upside down. It opened up on September 24, so Gary and I decided to give Seventh Hill a try.

We went on a Friday night, and it was only their second day open, so it probably is not fair to do a full review, but I'll give you our first impressions of the place.

The space was taken over by the owners of Montmartre, a French restaurant next door. The wood fired oven is made from bricks brought all the way from France. Now the French can make a great pastry and a delicious bottle of wine. But of course, our question was: can the French make a good pizza pie? We were there to find out!

Even though it was new, there was a line all the way out to the sidewalk. You go up and order at the counter, and then you can either take out or try to snag one of the few tables either inside or outside. The pizzas are all named for neighborhood spots, like the "Garfield Park" or the "Navy Yard." Gary and I tried out the Capitol Hill-- basically a margherita with tomato, basil, and mozzarella, and a Barrack's Row with tomato, mushroom, spinach, red onion, and mozzarella.

The toppings were fresh and flavorful. The crust wasn't droopy, which is a big pet peeve of Gary's. My only issue with the pizza was that the crust tasted overworked. It was too hard, and not chewy like a nice crust should taste. Hopefully this was a first week glitch, because otherwise Seventh Hill is a nice addition to the neighborhood.

Liza and Gary's rating: Since it's newly opened, our rating will be "incomplete." We'll try this place again and report back at some point.

Anyone else had experience here that you would like to share?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sette Bello - Arlington, Va.

Liza celebrated her 37th birthday on August 28, and unfortunately I could not celebrate with her because I had to work the Washington Redskins-New England Patriots game that night. I promised to take her out for dinner the following night, as long as she chose the restaurant.

Italian food--specifically risotto--was her craving.

Not pizza? Well, Liza has not been in the mood for pizza lately. More on her big news some other time.

We headed to Sette Bello, a fine Italian restaurant in Arlington. We have been to Sette Bello before--we had one of our first dates there--and enjoyed ourselves. It is very modern in decor, very spacious and even a little romantic. The food is consistently good.

Upon arrival, Liza and I elected to split a salad to go along with my glass of Pinot Noir and her iced tea. I ordered the Pomodorini Pizza, which has fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, arugula and shaved parmesan cheese. Liza ordered a Risotto Primavera with sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini and smoked mozzarella. Hold the zucchini, Liza asked the waitress.

Service was slow on this night, so we waited a bit.

The waitress said the pizza was a 12-incher and "perfect" for one person. I would beg to differ, but I could take the leftovers home. The presentation of the pizza was magnificent. Arugula was spread all over the pizza and contrasted with the white mozzarella and the cherry tomatoes.

This was a thin-crust pizza and it had major droop. The arugula and parmesan just dropped right off the first slice. I used my fork to hold it up and eat it.

The pizza tasted fine if you really like mozzarella cheese--it was literally caked on there. Beyond the droop, the end of the crust was nice and chewy. Unfortunately, the cherry tomatoes were a mild disappointment--they lacked the tangy tomato flavor that would have gone perfectly with the mozzarella.

Liza's risotto arrived with zucchini, but she ate it anyway. (It would have been nice if the waitress made up for her mistake with a make-good, but whatevs.) I ate it, too. This risotto was awesome. I loved the taste of the sun-dried tomatoes and the smoky flavor of the mozzarella. Four stars for the risotto!

As for the pizza, the Pomodorini was good quality, but with a little more love, it could have been better.

Gary's Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ulah Bistro -- U Street

Liza and I have noticed that President Obama has been an occasional diner in the Washington, D.C., area since his arrival in our Nation's Capital last year. According to The Washington Post, our illustrious President has dined at Five Guys in Alexandria, Ray's Hellburger in Arlington and the posh Citronelle in Georgetown.

What? No pizza?

What's up, Barack?

It has also been noted that President Obama has visited Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street. Ben's is a D.C. landmark, of course, and the place seems to have a lot of character. Reminds me of a neighborhood diner where all the locals gather. There is always a lot of hustle and bustle outside Ben's Chili Bowl--a lot of people just hanging out, perhaps because it's open until 4 a.m. on weekend nights.

Ben's does not serve pizza, though.

Across the street from Ben's is Ulah Bistro, a hip bar and lounge. It is a two-story restaurant, plus it has an outdoors seating area which blocks the front door of a bank. (Not sure how the bank feels about that.)

Liza and I were guided to the upstairs and we sat at a window table, overlooking U Street and Ben's. There were some comfy-looking couches across from our table, adding to the trendiness of Ulah. Perhaps I could take a nap after my meal...

Of course, Ulah's menu is eclectic, featuring a variety of salads, seafoods, burgers and steaks. And pizza. Ulah has a wood-fired oven and the restaurant offers all of the traditional pizzas, plus a Ulah special that adds crab meat.

I wasn't that hungry on this evening, so I let Liza do the ordering. She selected a watermelon salad and a margherita pizza. (Liza always orders a margherita.) The watermelon salad was interesting--the combination of watermelon, cherry tomatoes and feta cheese had an odd flavor.

The pizza was a good size for two and it was literally dripping with cheese. The ingredients were fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

At some point, the Ulah chefs must have poured a load of salt on the pizza, because there was a definite taste of saltiness to it. I could live with it, but this upset Liza's sensitive tummy.

I thought the crust was outstanding--among the best that I've had so far in D.C. It was soft and chewy, just how I like it. I had promised myself just one slice, but I had a second slice just to confirm the quality of the crust.

I ate tooooooo much, though. The couch beckoned.

Overall, I thought the pizza was decent quality, although I agree it was very salty. Unfortunately, Liza couldn't get past the saltiness.

Gary's Rating: 3 stars
Liza's Rating: 2 stars

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nationals Pizza, Capitol Hill

Too tired to go out for dinner on Friday night, Liza and I settled for take out. Recently we received a flyer on our doorstep for Nationals Pizza, a new pizza delivery place on Bladensburg Road NE serving Capitol Hill.

The flyer and web site for Nationals Pizza suggests that it's somehow connected to the Washington Nationals baseball team. There's a baseball diamond in the logo and a photos of baseballs with a cursive "N" scribbled on it.

A closer look indicates there's really no connection between the local nine and this pizza delivery joint.

The question: Why would any business try to capitalize on the presence of the Washington Nationals? Putting it kindly, the Nationals are pathetic right now.

Wouldn't they do better by calling themselves Philly Pizza, where they could capitalize on the success of the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Philles? Wouldn't they do better by calling themselves Detroit Pizza, where they could serve Liza's favorite deep dish 'za while capitalizing on the Detroit Tigers, in first place in the AL Central?

Maybe someday the Nationals will be good and excited Capitol Hill residents will order Nationals Pizza after every win.

Back to Friday night, this may come as a shock, but Liza was not in the mood for pizza. She ordered a helping of Cheesy Bread with dipping sauce.

I wanted pizza, and I get what I want. Nationals Pizza had a pretty good selection, including the Triple Play Cheese Pizza, which consists of cheddar, feta, mozzarella and parmesan, and the Home Run Pizza, which features a host of veggies plus hot peppers. They also feature Jamaican Specialty pizzas, with such concoctions as Jerr Chicken Pizza and Cocoa Bread Pizza.

And then there's the National's Tuna Pizza. Tuna on pizza? I don't know about that. Said Liza: "Gross!"

I ordered a 12-inch medium National's Veggie Pizza, minus the black olives. It had mushrooms, green peppers, onions, tomatoes and extra cheese.

Our food arrived promptly in 30 minutes, which is better than some of the other pizza places we've ordered from around Capitol Hill.

For pizza in a box, National's Pizza looked appetizing. The toppings were generous enough, although they could have put on a few more mushrooms. And the extra cheese was golden brown, lightly melted over the toppings.

There was a little droop as I picked up the first slice, which faithful readers know is a pet peeve of mine, but it wasn't too bad.

The pizza had a good veggie taste, courtesy of the toppings. The tomatoes and onions, in particular, offered a good flavor.

The crust? Unfortunately, it needs work. The crust was hard and flavorless. It was like eating cardboard. Not good.

Maybe I have a soft spot for Nationals Pizza because they seem kind of plucky. Maybe I've had some bad D.C. pizza lately and I'm settling for mediocrity. Maybe I'm just happy in the afterglow of a Phillies world championship. But I just can't give Nationals Pizza a poor rating.

Gary's Rating: 2.5 stars

-- Liza comments on her Cheesy Bread! "This is not a Cheesy Bread blog, obviously, but I will say that the Cheesy Bread was gooey, cheesy goodness and it was satisfying."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cava-- Barrack's Row / Capitol Hill

A weekend ago, I traveled to Las Vegas for a Bachelor's Weekend for my friend Neil, while Liza helped host a Bachelorette's Weekend near Charlottesville, Va., for Neil's bride-to-be Steph.

Crazy fun times for the both of us. Details? As you know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (including my money). And what happens in Charlottesville...well, who cares, I was in Vegas!

As an aside...big shout out to Sirrico's Pizza at the New York New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino for the late-night pizza offerings. Good stuff.

Liza and I spent four days apart for the first time since before our wedding. Back together this weekend, we decided to try a relatively new Greek restaurant called Cava on 8th Street on Capitol Hill.

Cava used to be Marty's, a modest bar and restaurant with traditional American fare. Marty's is most notable as the place where Liza and Gary first met and hatched our plans for pizza blog-dom!

Of course, we were sad to see Marty's go out of business. If only they had offered pizza on the menu...Sigh.

Now Marty's is Cava. The restaurant does not take reservations, so on weekend nights you can expect to wait for a table. They offer their food mezze style--small plates of food similar to tapas, but slightly larger so that it can be shared. As Liza knows, this can be a little discombobulating for me because you have to order multiple plates and they usually come at you fast and furious.

We ordered a village salad, saganaki (No "Opa!"?) and spanakopita. All very good, especially the saganaki. So kudos to Cava.

And then there was the pizza.

One of Cava's menu options was arto tyri, or Greek style pizza. It comes on a grilled flatbread with Greek cheeses.

It arrived cut and separated into eight small slices, which was fine considering the three other plates we had ordered. It was kind of like fingerfood.

This pizza--if you could even call it that--was as basic as it comes. It was grilled bread with a garlicky cheese cooked on it. Gobs of feta cheese were added on in an attempt to give it a Greek flavor. And that's it. Oh yeah, there was an arugala salad on the side.

The pizza was very bland and unremarkable, and lacked a distinctive taste that would suggest it was Greek. What about some olives? Spinach? Tomatoes?

Said Liza: "Bread and cheese does not a pizza make." (Liza suggests that if one wants some great Greek pizza, visit Niki's in Greektown, in Detroit. Now THAT'S some good eatin'.)

Gary's Rating: 0.5 Stars
Liza's Rating: 0.5 Stars

Cava's other dishes were very good, though. And they had a good wine list (although no draft beer at the bar, which was odd). So Liza and I both agree it's not fair to evaluate Cava on its pizza dish. We would both go back to Cava for dinner--we just would not order the Greek style pizza.

Pizza Bloggers Unite!

Our little 'ol pizza blog continues to gain admirers and fans. On the heels of our inclusion in an article in the Washington Post magazine, Blog Pizza reviewed our blog...and they came away impressed.

Read the full review here. Blog Pizza says what we do is pizza blogging at its best. We get 4 stars! Much appreciated.

By the way, I'm getting increasingly involved with online social networking sites at my job. And so Liza and I are developing a Liza & Gary's D.C. Pizza Facebook page as well as a Twitter page. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Does Pizza Promote Delinquency?

Some people would argue that Washington DC doesn't have a pizza culture, but I disagree. You know what I'm talkin' about-- a good ol' Jumbo Slice at 3:00 AM. Love it or hate it, that's DC pizza, folks.

Well, apparently Councilman Jim Graham hates it, because he has recently proposed legislation to limit the sale of pizza slices in Adams Morgan.

I know that pizza has been accused of expanding people's waistlines, but this is the first time I have heard that scarfing down a slice is a gateway to a life of crime.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GQ's 25 Best Pizzas in America

GQ recently came out with a list of the 25 Best Pizzas in America. My personal all-time favorite, Buddy's Pizza in Detroit, was #15. There were several Detroit pizzas on the list-- I have always been of the (biased) opinion that Detroit is one of the best pizza cities in the nation. The reviewer, Alan Richman, ranked New York as the top pizza city; San Francisco was second, followed by Detroit at number 3 and Chicago was fourth.

However, Richman only visited ten cities. Sadly, no DC pizzas were featured.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Circa-- Dupont Circle

Last Sunday, Gary and I ventured to a Dupont Circle studio to take a photography class. After practicing our shutter priority and aperture priority and ISOs and other stuff I don't remember the name of, we decided to take a stroll through "the Pont" and find some dinner.

Actually, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Every time we drive down Connecticut Avenue for some reason-or-another, I always say to Gary, "I want to try out that Circa place." With its outdoor seating and cute sign, it looked so cozy and inviting. So try it we did.

We were seated immediately at a table near the window. The seats were big and comfy. Bonus points for Circa!

I also appreciated that the dining room had a ceiling. Why is it that so many restaurants make you feel like you're eating in a warehouse? Exposed duct work in the ceiling might have been cool and unusual at one time, but in my humble opinion that design element has played out. Way out. Another point for Circa for not making me look at their ventilation system.

But the ultra-super bonus points came when I ordered a glass of wine, and our sweetheart of a waiter carded me. Considering I was in high school when Flock of Seagulls were cool, I was quite taken aback. But happy ... Oh so happy.

We didn't come to Circa with the intention of getting pizza. In fact, we didn't even know that pizza would be on the menu. But it was ... and as dedicated pizza bloggers, we felt it was our sworn duty to our readership to try it out. We ordered a standard margherita pizza.

Our wine was served in giant wine glasses. They made a nice little twinkly sound. We had a lovely salad and waited anxiously for our pie. We watched several dishes come out of the kitchen that looked delicious. We were excited. This was gonna be good.

Unfortunately, the pizza could not have been more disappointing.

The pizza arrived and it looked like a pizza I would get from a box at the supermarket and bake at home. The sauce had almost no flavor and no spices, which is unforgivable for a restaurant that serves primarily Italian food. The crust was flat and undercooked.

I had the distinct impression that the crust was pre-made and they just threw on the sauce and cheese and tomato slices and tossed it in the oven. It tasted like something you would get in a stadium or in an airport.

No love went into making that pizza.

It's a shame because Circa seems like a nice place overall. But sadly, they may have one of the worst pizzas in D.C.

Liza's rating: 1.0 stars
Gary's rating: 0.5 stars

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rustico -- Alexandria, Virginia

Friday night, and Liza and I headed across the bridge to Alexandria for a bite to eat. Rustico, pronounced "R-oo-stico" per the hostess, was our destination.

Liza had called for a reservation, but she was told Rustico does not hold tables during dinner hours. Instead, they put us on a "waiting list." Waiting list? I had visions of the Redskins Season Ticket Waiting List and wondered if we should have put our names in, say, 20 years ago.

A table opened up within minutes of our arrival, though, and we were promptly seated.

We sat down and eyed the napkins on our plates. They were rolled up into tight little balls with a piece of the napkin sticking up. Kind of looked like a little sword. So, of course, Liza and I immediately burst into a sword fight. En gard!

We're goofy pizza bloggers.

Rustico is a combination bar/lounge and restaurant. There is an impressive beer menu, with "30 brilliant taps book-ended by two massive coolers holding more than 331 different types of ales, lagers, ciders and stouts."

According to Rustico's web site, executive chef Frank Morales III hosts Saturday custom pizza-making classes that also help you pair beer with pizza. (Cost is $98, seems a little pricy for pizza and beer...Just saying.) The "hefty list of beers includes options for nearly every topping--from chocolate-friendly lagers to Brussels-loving Belgian Saison."

Liza and I were excited. Rustico appeared to be a place where the chefs take their pizza seriously. Bring it!

We shared a Beer Flight called "The Breakfast of Champions"--it was German beers, Liza wanted to pay homage to her heritage, I suppose. (Liza is 100 percent German, for those not in the know.) All four samples were top notch, excellent choices as we started to unwind from a week of work.

And we ordered the Roasted Mushroom pizza, which included swiss chard and goat's cheese.

It should be noted that Rustico uses a wood-fired grill and oven to cook their pizzas. So we were expecting high quality.

Now Rustico claims to be "an American celebration of the authentic, seasonal pleasures...inspired by the cucina rustica of Southern Italy, where traditions of cooking emphasize the freshest seasonal ingredients prepared in simple, yet soulful ways."

Hey, we got soul and all, but this is pizza we're talking about here.

We didn't find it particularly soulful and inspiring having to look at portraits of peas--yes, peas--on the walls of the restaurant. Whatevs.

We unrolled our napkins when our obligatory salad arrived. The pizza was served shortly thereafter.

Rustico was generous with the mushroom and goat's cheese toppings. There was a slight droop to the pizza, but it was not unmanageable. It held up steady after the first bite.

As expected, the goat's cheese tended to dominate the flavor of the pizza, which is fine because we like goat's cheese.

The pie, cut into eight slices, had a good flavor. With the toppings, I thought the pizza was succulent (hey, there's a good food critic word--maybe we really are food critics!), but Liza noted it was "a little greasy."

We both thought the mushrooms were very tasty, but Liza thought the swiss chard didn't add very much in terms of flavor. I had a couple bites where I enjoyed the swiss chard, but otherwise I would agree.

The crust was crispy, which we liked until we got to the edge of the slice. "It should be a little bready and it was just hard all the way through," Liza commented. "I didn't like that."

I enjoyed the pizza a little more than Liza, but I think we were both expecting something more from Rustico.

Gary's rating: 3 stars
Liza's rating: 2.5 stars

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Matchbox-- Barrack's Row / Capitol Hill

What better way to celebrate our newfound celebrity--welcome, new readers!--than with a pizza outing.

We went to Matchbox on 8th Street SE on Capitol Hill. Liza had been here before, but this was my first official visit. (We've also been to the Matchbox in Chinatown.)

We know that there are dozens of pizza restaurants still to be reviewed--we welcome suggestions, by the way--but since we live on Capitol Hill, we stayed local. And we think it's unfair to review a pizza place just once, so memo to pizza restaurateurs: "We'll be back."

Matchbox calls itself a "Vintage Pizza Bistro." I like the sound of that. And the restaurant is very nice--it's a converted warehouse and spacious. But it's crowded all the time. There seems to always be a 15-45 minute wait for a table.

When Liza is hungry, she doesn't like to wait. And usually I don't like waiting for a table, either. But there were two seats at the cozy bar, so we settled in for a glass of red wine, watched a Nats-Phillies game on one of the TVs, and waited for our table.

We wondered why no one was coming up to us asking for our autographs.

People! Pizza experts in the house! Hellllllloooooooooooooooooo?!

So we were finally seated 15 minutes later.

Matchbox boasts what they call an "authentic wood-fired masonry oven where the fire has burned constantly since the day we opened. Modern gas and electric ovens cannot produce the intense heat needed--over 800 degrees--to achieve the crispy, smoky crust that our oven provides. With dough made fresh daily in-house, our goal is to make the best pizza in DC!"

We admire their ambition.

Well, Liza and I ordered a 10-inch Oven-Dried Tomato and Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella pie. (Isn't that basically a Margherita?) Matchbox pizza chefs must like to put meat on their pizzas, because most of the offerings had steak, ham, meatballs or chicken as toppings.

Now, on Matchbox's menu, it mentions that "due to the extreme heat of our oven some charring or blistering of the crust is to be expected."

Thanks for the warning, but my initial reaction was: "This is not acceptable."

When our pizza arrived, on one side of the 10-inch pie the crust was black and charred. Very disappointing. Seems to me that, by putting the warning on the menu, the pizza chefs are settling for burned pizza. A good pizza chef would find a way to minimize any "charring or blistering of the crust."

Matchbox chefs cook with a very thin crust--it had a cardboard feel to it--and the charred side of the pizza had a smoky flavor that leaned more toward burned than smoky.

The non-charred side tasted fine--Liza mentioned, as she has in previous reviews of Matchbox, that she liked the sauce. It had a good zesty flavor with a hint of basil. The oven-dried tomatoes, one on each slice, were a red blob because they had apparently melted in the searing heat of the oven.

The verdict: This is not the best pizza in DC. In fact, we've both had better pizza at Matchbox before.

Gary's Rating: 1.5 stars
Liza's Rating: 2.5 stars

(It should be noted that, at the Matchbox in Chinatown, we also had pizza with charred crust. We rated that pizza 2.5 stars. The Matchbox--Barrack's Row, in my estimation, pizza was worse. Liza felt it was the same.)

Whoa-- We're in the Washington Post Magazine!

Today Gary opened the Washington Post Magazine and suddenly I heard him say, "Oh. My. God." I didn't even look up... I guess I thought he was just being dramatic about something... and he shoved the magazine in front of me and said, "LOOK!"

Holy cow, our little ol' blog got a mention in the WaPo!

In Candy Sagon's article, Foodie Free for All, there's an inset titled "Web Sites for the Restaurant Obsessed." Right there, in black and white, "Liza and Gary's DC Pizza Blog"! OMG OMG OMG!

Who knew we would end up as cyber celebrities?

I can't seem to find the inset in the online version of the Post, but if I can find it, I'll link.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kavanaugh's Pizza Pub, Glover Park

I have lived in the Northwest part of Washington, D.C., most of the last 14 years, so perhaps I have a bias toward that section of the city.

Especially Upper Northwest, and Glover Park--the area feels kind of suburban, and yet still connected to the city.

Now I live in Northeast D.C. on Capitol Hill, with Liza, and it's a wonderful life.

Every now and then, I find myself yearning for the days where I would wander to the Zebra Lounge (now it's a wine bar) for a caffe mocha in the morning, read the newspaper from front to back, do some quick grocery shopping at the local Giant, stop in Potomac Video (now out of business) for a classic foreign film, jog through the hills of the neighborhood, hang out at the National Cathedral's Bishop Garden and read books, watch a high school baseball game at St. Alban's, stop in at 2 Amy's for pizza or Cactus Cantina for some Mexican grub, and just enjoy the day.

Life changes, though.

Speaking of change...Liza and I recently reviewed Faccia Luna in Alexandria. Well, up until 2004, Faccia Luna also had a branch of its restaurant chain in Glover Park right on Wisconsin Avenue. It was reborn as Kavanaugh's Pizza Pub. Apparently, the new owners of the establishment--a husband and wife team--previously worked at Faccia Luna and decided to buy the restaurant.

A pizza place with an Irish surname attached to it? I'm Irish and all, but count me as skeptical.

Liza and I arrived on a Friday evening hungry for some pizza. Inside, we noticed a lengthy bar along one side of the restaurant, with men kicking back enjoying their ales. Looked like a decent place to unwind with a quick beer, watch some ESPN2, grumble about the Redskins and Nats, and wait for "Norm!" to arrive.

Liza and I decided to enjoy the spring evening and we grabbed a table outside. There were some families, with their little ones running around, crawling underneath plastic tables and chairs and crying at the injustice of being so young.

I suddenly had visions of Chuck E. Cheese, and I grew scared. Very scared.

Honestly, this didn't seem like a place for quality pizza. I was actually a little surprised to see quite a few people leave with pizza for takeout.

We ordered a half-carafe of red wine and a Caesar Salad to start. We were mildly impressed with Kavanaugh's menu, which included a good measure of appetizers, fresh salads, burgers and cheesesteak sandwiches and pasta entrees.

For the main course, we decided to split a pizza. Kavanaugh's offers "wood-fired pizza," and all of the traditional offerings were available: Margherita, Pomodoro, Primavera, Florentine, Roma, Genoa.

Kavanaugh's also offers you the chance to "Make Your Own Pizza!" Fine with us. They offered 27 different toppings, but we kept it simple and added toppings of spinach and mushrooms. We chose the 12-inch pie, but you can also get a 10-incher and 14-incher.

The pie arrived split into eight slices. The toppings were spread generously. Looked very appetizing.

Liza and I were immediately taken with the sauce on the pie. It had a sweet flavor that mixed well with the mozzarella cheese, spinach and mushrooms. Bite after bite, taste after taste, and the pie surprised in its flavor. The crust was cooked perfectly, making the last bites of a slice as enjoyable as the first.

What a surprise. Liza and I were expecting run-of-the-mill grub from Kavanaugh's, not top-notch pizza.

Admittedly, I was more enthralled with the pizza than Liza. She wasn't as thrilled with the cheese, and she suggested that buffalo mozzarella cheese would have given the pizza a fresher taste.

But Liza also raved about the crust and the sauce: "It was sweet, but not too sugary."

All in all, Kavanaugh's is just another reason to spend more time in Northwest D.C. (Hint, hint.)

Gary's Rating: 4 Stars!
Liza's Rating: 3.5 Stars

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No Pizza On Menu At Commander's Palace Restaurant in New Orleans

Liza and I like to venture out to other parts of the world now and then, and so we recently departed Washington, D.C., for a trip down south to New Orleans.

Of course, we had to go to Commander's Palace, regarded as one of the top restaurants in the country. It was recently featured on "Top Chef," one of our favorite reality shows. Last season on "Top Chef," we rooted on Crazy Carla, who hails from Washington, D.C., because we figured she would probably make the best pizza of the finalists.

Commander's Palace is located in the Garden District in New Orleans, not far from the homes of actor Nicolas Cage and the Mannings. (They are the NFL's first family, apparently).

We arrived promptly for our 7:30 p.m. reservation, dressed to the nines, and were seated in a beautiful upstairs dining room. We sat down and looked at the menu. And looked. And looked.


No pizza.

This was very disappointing. How could one of the great restaurants in the country not have pizza on the menu?

Instead, I had to settle for a Gumbo soup as an appetizer and a Crawfish and Cognac entree. Liza had a salad as a starter and Red Snapper for her main course. We enjoyed bread pudding and creme brulee for desserts.

Now the meals were superb, to be sure. The Gumbo was, in a word, awesome. And I enjoyed the Crawfish so much that I insist Liza call me "Crawdaddy" from here on out. The ambiance was romantic and the service was impeccable--we liked how dishes were served in concert by multiple waiters.

But, alas, no pizza.

Gary's Rating: 0 stars
Liza's Rating: 0 stars

Disappointed, we headed to Cafe Du Monde for some beignets.

And back to D.C. for some pizza!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Banana Cafe & Piano Bar, Barrack's Row/Capitol Hill

In my years of dining experience, I've come to realize that you have to be in the mood for Mexican or Caribbean food. It's not the type of food you can eat randomly.

Now, apart from chips and salsa, Liza is rarely in the mood for Mexican food. When she is, I'm on it. I enjoy spicy meals and spicy flavors. I actually like Taco Bell, but I keep that on the down low because Liza thinks Taco Bell is "yuck-o."

So this evening we go to the aptly named Banana Cafe & Piano Bar on 8th Street SE along Barrack's Row. Call it a big yellow oasis in the middle of the city. (The Piano Bar is upstairs and has a different menu.) It's a combo Mexican-Cuban-Puerto Rican-Tex Mex restaurant and the menu has all sorts of Caribbean-style dishes.

It's always very loud at Banana Cafe. Kind of hard to have a quality conversation when there's a roar of conversation all around you. In any event, a smiling waiter placed the obligatory chips and salsa on our table, and Liza and I went to work. We were hungry. She ordered a glass of white sangria and I ordered a Corona.

Liza was there for her favorite: plaintain quesadillas. She loves plaintain quesadillas. This is not a plaintain quesadilla blog, though.

I ordered Cuban Pizza. It's the only pizza item on the menu and I had to try it.

It came with a fresh salad. (I could have opted for French fries instead of the salad. But who eats French fries with pizza? Or Mexican food? Not a good combination.)

This Cuban Pizza is a personal size pizza. The menu says it is topped with Picadillo consisting of ground beef and pork, ripe plantains and mozerella (sic) cheese. The fine chefs at Banana Cafe also lopped on some peas, corn, diced red peppers, onions and parsley. What a concoction! I'm surprised there are no banana slices on there.

By the way, Liza is a vegetarian, so she is going to have to sit out this review.

The pizza toppings were piled on and as I picked up the first slice, I was wary the entire thing would fall apart. It didn't. No droopiness, either. Well done.

Now the crust was thick--which helped keep the generous toppings in place--but it was a bit rubbery. Not good. This is a Mexican restaurant, though, so I suspect the chefs are not twirling fresh pizza dough in the kitchen.

The Picadillo ground beef and plaintains combined for a sweet flavor. The ground beef seemed to add a taste of barbecue to it, actually. Some might say the ground beef tasted like a Sloppy Joe, but that doesn't do the this concoction justice. It's probably the same ground beef the chefs use for their tacos.

Overall, I enjoyed the Cuban Pizza. It was something different: a unique pizza dish in a city where Margherita pizzas are all too prevalent. Plus, with the salad and chips and salsa, it's a quality meal for just $10.95.

Maybe you have to be in the mood for Mexican food. If you are, then give the Cuban Pizza a go.

Gary's Rating: 3 stars

Monday, March 9, 2009

Posto-- Logan Circle

Last Thursday, Gary and I went out with our friends Steph and the Chef to Posto.

It was Dining Out for Life night, where restaurants donated a percentage of their profits to the worthy organization Food and Friends. Posto, and their sister restaurant Tosca, donated a full 100 percent of their sales that evening to the cause. Well done, Posto!

We got there early, which was good because by 6 p.m. the restaurant was packed, and loud. After getting a nice bottle of wine, we decided to order an appetizer...Pizza!

After reading a review that said the pizza at Posto was not very good, I was a bit leery. But we needed to try some pizza for research purposes, of course, so we all split a pie called the "caprina." It had tomato sauce, goat cheese, roasted peppers, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes--an appetizing combination.

Since I went into it with such low expectations, I was plesantly surprised. I found it to be a pretty reasonable pie.

Gary was a bit chagrined that he bit into a slice and a cherry tomato exploded all over him. He wiped his cheek and lips, looked around the restaurant to make sure no one noticed, and then continued eating.

He thought the first slice (the one with the exploding tomato) tasted bland, but the second slice he was able to taste a good combination of goat cheese, tomato sauce and peppers.

Overall, I thought the pizza was flavorful and the crust was decent. I wouldn't call it the best pizza in the city, but it certainly wasn't the worst. (How's that for a wishy washy review?)

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

Monday, March 2, 2009

Moroni & Brothers-- Petworth

Since I have a snow day today (YAY!), Gary says I must write our latest blog entry.

Yesterday Gary and I made a visit to our financial planner. She says that I should not cry because my IRA has lost half its value. She says that recessions are good. She says that the economy partied too much, and this is just the hangover. She says that it won't last forever.

She said a lot of other stuff too, but mostly I sat there for an hour and a half thinking, "I need a drink."

After we left our financial planner's office in Silver Spring, we drove down Georgia Avenue through the Petworth neighborhood. First, we stopped at Safeway to pick up a couple groceries. This ended up being an hour long ordeal, since DC residents go a little nuts before a snow storm, and folks were stocking up like they were entering a bomb shelter for the next three months.

By the time we left, I was hungry. No, make that starving. When I am hungry, I am grouchy, as Gary can well attest. He knew he had to get some food in my belly ASAP. Therefore, we stopped at the first place we saw-- Moroni & Brothers Restaurant.

Moroni & Brothers had the odd combination of brick oven pizza and Latin American fare. The ambience was not like your typical pizza joint-- the Spanish language version of American Idol was on TV, and the lighting was dark. Gary was none too pleased that we sat at a table with a dirty tablecloth. But, they had plenty of City Papers on hand for browsing before the meal-- and I did! Sorry Gary, I was just too grouchy to chat at that point.

We each ordered a glass of the "Rosso" Venti, which was described as a pizza wine. Pro-- only $4 a glass! Con-- it was served cold. Call me a wine snob, but red wines are supposed to be room temperature, or just a bit cooler. I am just saying. But actually the wine was pretty good once it warmed up a bit.

We ordered the primavera pie, which had mushrooms, red onions, and green pepper. I thought the pizza had a nice crust thanks to the wood brick oven, and the toppings were decent.

Gary was perplexed why each of his slices seemed to have different flavors (not that there's anything wrong with that). His first slice was dominated with a strong green pepper flavor. In another slice, he noticed a strong tomato sauce flavor, which had a spicy bite to it. Later, he was impressed with the flavor of the mushrooms on another slice.

Other than that, Gary thought Moroni's had basic pizza fare.

He also commented that primavera pizza usually consists of more vegetables than just musrooms, onions and green pepper. How about some spinach? Tomatoes? Broccoli? Let's get creative, people!

Despite Gary's misgivings, we both finished off the pie--four slices each--which is a testament to how hungry we were.

All in all, Moroni & Brothers was a good find. I left much happier with a full belly. And in this economy, when you can spend $30 on a meal for two, including tax and tip, that's a winner in my book.

Liza's rating: 2.5 stars
Gary's rating: 2.0 stars

Friday, February 20, 2009

Faccia Luna, Alexandria

Every once in a while, I like to surprise Liza with a "mystery date." Basically, I announce that we're going out to dinner and I don't tell her where we're going.

As we drive to our destination, I try to trick her, swerving the car to suggest that we are going in one direction when actually we are going elsewhere. Then I swerve the other way, back on course.

This is not safe, but I think it's funny.

Liza has a theme song for these dates: "Where in the World is Gary Taking Liza," sung to the theme song of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego."

So on Friday evening, I was driving to Old Town Alexandria as Liza was singing her tune. On Washington Street, there is a pizza place called Faccia Luna. Best I can tell is that the Italian translation of Faccia Luna is "Face On the Moon."

Faccia Luna apparently evolved from an idea by two frat boys from Penn State. When told of this, Liza the Michigan State grad uttered "Boooooooo."

The restaurant is a chain with branches in Arlington, Scranton, Pa., and State College, Pa. The original D.C. location was in Northwest on Wisconsin Avenue, not far from where I used to live pre-Liza.

Faccia Luna calls itself an urban trattoria and it specializes in wood-oven pizzas. I like the layout of the restaurant. You can actually get a booth, and thus some privacy, instead of sitting side by side with complete strangers. The restaurant has an Italian feel, with pictures of daily life in Rome, Venice and other Italian locales framed on the wall.

Liza and I were seated at a booth. She ordered a pinot noir while I had a chianti. Then we ordered a Caesar salad and a Pomodoro pizza. The Pomodoro has fresh tomatoes and garlic, and we asked for some basil as well. (The menu, incidentally, also has some pasta dishes.)

First comment is on the Caesar salad. Now I know this is a Pizza Blog, but can I say this was one of the weakest Caesar salads I've ever had. The lettuce was kind of worn and there wasn't much dressing. Liza was equally unenthusiastic, calling it "average." Not a promising start to this meal.

The pizza arrived seconds after we were done with salad. It was cut into six slices, enough for the two of us.

Cooked in a wood oven, the pizza crust was very well done. Despite the toppings, the crust didn't droop and didn't fall apart after a bite or two. Tasty, too.

I thought the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese had a real nice flavor. Then I took a bite of what had to be a garlic clove, or something.

All of a sudden, all I could taste was garlic.

I enjoyed the rest of the slices, particularly the tomato and basil flavor, but the garlic taste was not going away.

Hello, garlic breath.

Liza summed up our thoughts on this: "We ordered a garlic pizza, so what can you expect?"

If this were our first date, then we probably wouldn't be kissing afterwards. But since we're married, we can kiss to our hearts content.


Overall, we both thought this was good, solid pizza. We liked the layout and atmosphere of the restaurant. Plus, with our garlic breath, we'll be able to fend off vampires and werewolves howling at the Face On the Moon.

Gary's Rating: 3 stars
Liza's Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lost Dog Cafe & Gourmet Pizza Deli, Arlington

Liza wants a dog. She wants a little Pomeranian that can hop around and cuddle with her. Unfortunately, we have signed a lease that does not allow pets on the premises.

Liza is sad about this, so of course she turns to comfort food...Pizza!

Lazing on a Sunday afternoon, we decided to head out for a pie. Liza wanted to check out the Lost Dog Cafe & Gourmet Pizza Deli in Arlington. Woof!

Now the Lost Dog Cafe is part of a charming strip mall--is that an oxymoron?--that also includes a restaurant called the Stray Cat Cafe. Same owner? Based on the restaurants' web sites, I would say Ruff Ruff!

We walk in through the deli entrance and must wait 10 minutes for a table. Grrr...

As we wait, I check out the impressive beer inventory on hand. There are the regulars, of course. And there's Dogfish Head India Brown Ale and Flying Dog Tire Bite Golden Ale. And there's a great selection from overseas, including Ireland, Germany, England, Belgium and Italy. Woof!

Finally seated, we take note of the decor while our waitress--freshman year in college is my guess--takes the order from a twosome who were seated after us. We see artwork of--what else?--dogs all over the wall. It's appropriate, of course. But nowhere did I see the classic "Dogs Playing Poker." What's up with that? Howwwwl!

We perused the menu and liked the variety of pizzas available as well as the clever names. There's the Popeye Pie (with spinach), the Big Red Pie (with lots of sauce), the Pitbull Pie (with pastrami, salami, pepperoni and red onions) and the Cattle Dog Pie (with beef barbecue). Arf!

Time to order. I order a Sierra Nevada pale ale and Liza settles on a Merlot. We each get a salad as an appetizer. Then we opt to split a Rin Tin Tin Pie. This has marinara sauce with sliced portabella mushrooms, spinach, red onions, red peppers topped with fresh mozzarella and basil on a wheat pizza crust. Woof Woof!

The pizza arrives in due time, a 12-incher separated in six slices. Nice job on the presentation and the toppings appear spread evenly throughout the pie. Ruff!

But I could tell right away slices were going to droop. I had to eat the first 2-3 bites of the slice with my knife and fork. (Pizza is meant to be eaten by hand, people!) I understand this can happen when there's marinara sauce and multiple toppings, but I expect pizza chefs to shrug that off and cook it well enough to minimize the droop. (We saw some other pies at adjacent tables that didn't have the dreaded droop, but they were mostly cheese pizzas.) Growl!

How about the flavor? The "homemade sauce" was tasty but not anything to bark about. Lots of mozzarella piled on--that's fine, but it may have added to the droopiness factor. I liked the spinach and mushroom flavor, but couldn't really taste the red peppers. Grr...

Bonus points go to Lost Dog Cafe for helping with pet rescue and linking to pet adoption services on their web site. Ruff Ruff!

In the end, we decided this pizza is better than eating a dog bone but not quite worth the wag of a tail.

Gary's rating: 2.5 Stars
Liza's rating: 2.5 Stars

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pizzeria Paradiso-- Georgetown

We’re back. After an unintended hiatus, your favorite pizza bloggers are here with a new review. Feels like forever since we consumed some 'za. Let's eat!

Sunday afternoon, Liza and I made our way to Georgetown for lunch and a movie. Saw “Slumdog Millionaire.” We liked it well enough. Feeling generous, I’d give it three stars.

Afterwards, we walked a couple blocks to Pizzeria Paradiso on M Street.

Pizzeria Paradiso has a rep as one of the best pizza joints in D.C., so we were expecting the best. This is Neapolitan pizza.

This restaurant has a very cozy feel, kind of like sitting at the kitchen table at home. The wood-burning, domed stone oven is right there in the middle of the restaurant.

The tables are a little too close together, which is okay if you like to eavesdrop on conversations.

The wait staff wears shirts with "Eat Your Pizza" on the back. Okay. Will do. (Guess I'm a sucker for not-so-subliminal advertising.)

This is a bustling place, but we were quickly seated on this late Sunday afternoon.

Pizzeria Paradiso has an impressive beer menu. You had to sit and study the beer menu for 10 minutes before deciding. Liza went with some kind of apple beer that was a little too sweet and fruity for her taste. I had a dark Russian stout that was actually brewed in California. Hmmm...

We ordered a mixed green salad and followed that up with a Bosco Pizza.

The Bosco has tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, red onions and mozzarella cheese. Good mix of stuff.

The fine chefs at Pizzeria Paradiso say they put a lot of emphasis on their crust, and it shows. This was perfect crust--not too hard, not too soft. The toppings were generous, but not so much that the pizza drooped.

Liza enjoyed the crust so much that she poured a little olive oil on her plate and finished off her slices with a dip.

The pizza's flavor was excellent. You could taste the tomatoes in one bite, the spinach and red onions in another bite, the mushrooms in another bite.

I thought the tomatoes tasted great, but Liza thought they were a little bland.

Minor complaint, though. Said Liza: Pizzeria Paradiso is “consistently good,” and perhaps best of all, it “re-warms well.” (Liza had a leftover slice after we got home.)

This was a satisfying pizza.

Folks, believe the hype. If not the best pizza in D.C., then it’s among the best. Paradise!

Liza’s rating: 3.5 stars
Gary’s rating: 4 stars

Friday, January 2, 2009

Buddy's Pizza -- Metro Detroit, Michigan

Gary and I went to my beloved Buddy's Pizza over the holidays. Doesn't that look like a little piece of heaven?