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