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.