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.)


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Draffish said...

I would beg to differ! I love the charred crust, goes very well with the very spicy Fire and Smoke pizza. never been dissapointed, ****

lacochran's evil twin said...

Sorry, you didn't have as good an experience as I did. I got a slice during "Taste of Barracks Row" and was very pleased with it. It was from the non-charred side of the pizza, apparently. Makes me wonder if what they cook the pizza on is slanted...?

Dennis said...

My biggest beef with the new Matchbox is the overbearing, thumping club music they beat you over the head with. It's a restaurant, not a dance club, for pete's sake! I do takeout-only from this place due to the ridiculously loud music.