Sunday, March 28, 2010

Vince & Dominic's Pizzeria -- Bethesda, Md.

Time for a sentimental journey.

Gary here. Back when I moved to the Washington, D.C., region--this was 1996, folks, so call me a Washingtonian now--my first job was at a marketing communications firm in Bethesda. The office was a hop, skip and a jump from the Montgomery Mall and a few strip malls, where I spent many a lunch hour discussing the future of mankind, philosophy and professional football with co-workers.

We would frequent a pizzeria called Vince & Dominic's, called "V&Ds" for short, and I grew fond of their pizza slices.
These were jumbo slices. I remember my first time at V&Ds, I ordered two slices expecting a normal size. Instead, they brought out two jumbo slices--I was nonplussed. I somehow managed to consume both slices, and I wasn't hungry again for two days.

I was reminded of V&Ds when Liza and I were at the Travel Channel's "Food Wars" taping for Jumbo Slice vs. Pizza Mart. Faithful readers of this blog know well that one of my pizza peeves is droop. Well, Jumbo Slice and Pizza Mart jumbo slices have major league droop. V&D slices? Almost no droop.

So I decided to take Liza and my lovely lil' Molly to the Montgomery Mall for some shopping--we had a Crate & Barrel gift certificate to spend. Of course, we had to stop in at Vince & Dominic's, situated in a strip mall across from the Montgomery Mall.

The restaurant has not changed a bit. The decor is reminiscent of the pizzerias of my youth, with pictures youth leagues on the wall, as well as a few signed photos of celebrities. Yay celebrities!

The procedure for ordering: you put in your order and you grab a table. You may have to clean off the table yourself, and that's okay. There are no waiters and waitresses here. Sometimes you have to work for your meals. Get over it.

V&Ds strives for authentic Italian food. The pizzeria was established in 1983 by a family originally from Reggio Calabria, Italy.

On their pizza boxes is the slogan, "A Little Bit of Italy In Every Bite." V&Ds takes pride in their red sauce, er gravy.

Says their web site: "Here at Vince & Dominic's we know Italian, because we are! If you're looking for that perfect Gravy on your Pizza look no further! Our Gravy, or sauce, is old fashioned Italian and is perfect for not only your pizza, but also with your Meatball Parm, Mozzarella Sticks, and pretty much anything Italian! We all know what makes Pizzeria is great, and that is authentic Italian ingredients!"

Liza and I each ordered a slice and a soft drink. Our food was brought over by one of the cooks, an Italian gentleman. The pizza was straight out of the oven. There was a decent amount of red sauce--er, gravy--and a generous layer of mozzarella cheese baked on top.

Still no droop.

How do they do it?

More from V&Ds web site: "Our slices have a crispy bottom layered with sauce and an abundance of cheese. The reason for the crunchy bottom is, we cook The Special 25 Inch slice pie in our oven about 3/4 cooked with sauce only. When a customer places an order for a slice, we cut it and customize it with the topping or toppings of their choice. Our slices take 7-10 minutes to finish cooking and melt the cheese."

Now this all sounds pretty glowing of V&Ds. While I have fond memories of the pizzeria, I must judge the slice as a pizza afficionado.

As mentioned previously, V&D slices have a thick, toasted crust that stops droop. The crust at the end of the pizza was very bland and a little too crunchy, a mild disappointment but expected given how they cook the slice.

The sauce, er gravy, was spread thinly on top but you could still taste it in every bite. It did have a simple, authentic taste to it--emphasis on simple. While it was a decent flavor, it didn't have a lot of spiciness to it. Still, it seemed to go well with the thick crust.

I liked V&Ds a bit more than Liza, but that may be because I have a history with the place. Their slices are memorable, but I have to acknowledge that this is not high quality pizza.

I like V&Ds pizza, though--I grew up on it.

Gary's Rating: 2.5 stars
Liza's Rating: 2 stars
Molly's Rating: 0 stars...I drink milk.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chef Spike is Opening a Pizza Place... Coming Soon

As you may have already guessed, Gary and I are big Top Chef fans. Our favorite local Top Chef celeb is Carla, of course, because she gave my belly a celebratory rub at the Food Wars taping last month.  How can you not love that?  But our second favorite would have to be Chef Spike, who is now famous enough to be referred to by one name, kind of like Madonna or Cher.  Spike is better than either of those pop divas, though.  Why, you ask?  Because he's opening up a pizza restaurant, that's why!
In April, the lanky, bearded Mendelsohn will expand his fast-casual concept with the opening of We, the Pizza, a hip New York-style pizzeria emphasizing regional, farm-fresh ingredients. It’ll be right next door to Good Stuff on Pennsylvania Avenue.

We, the Pizza will operate as a sit-down restaurant and later take on deliveries. It will sell slices and whole pies that range from the classics, topped with cheese and pepperoni, to the more creative: with creamed spinach; potato and pancetta; or mushrooms with truffle shavings and Bechamel sauce.
Gary, Molly, and I are looking forward to blogging it up for you all!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Liberty Tree -- H Street Corridor

As you can see from the post and picture below, Gary and I were expecting-- and soon!  Well, our little bundle of joy has arrived.  Molly was born on February 26, and has already expressed a desire for some pizza.  Naturally, we had to oblige.  Could you say "no" to this cute little face?

We decided to venture out on a Monday evening to try out a new restaurant in the up and coming H Street corridor.  Liberty Tree offers American fare, and of course, our beloved pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven.  Your resident pizza bloggers had to give it a try.

The space at Liberty Tree is fairly small.  It has an open kitchen with a bar area, and a few booths and tables.  The restaurant is nice and cozy, with a more sophisticated vibe than many of the restaurants on H Street.

The three of us took a table near the bar area, but it was still low-key enough for little Molly to enjoy her dining out experience.  Gary and I split a salad, a goat cheese appetizer, and my favorite-- a margherita pizza.

Since it's a new restaurant, they seemed to still be working out some service issues (all of our food came out at once, for example), but the food was good.  But on to the most important part of the meal-- the pizza!

The pizzas are 10 inches and are cut in 6 pieces-- the perfect size for sharing.  The sauce had a spicy zip-- it kind of reminded me of the tomato sauce at Matchbox, although not quite as spicy.  The cheese and basil were both fresh tasting. The most unusual part of the pizza was the crust.  It's different from any I've sampled here in DC-- it was light and buttery, and had a crunchy, almost cracker-y taste.  I liked it, although it didn't really seem like pizza crust to me.  I don't think Gary cared for it much, though.  Maybe because the middle of the pizza crust had the dreaded "droop" that Gary dislikes.

Molly slept through the whole meal, so unfortunately, she is not able to weigh in with her opinions on this one.

Overall, we enjoyed our Liberty Tree experience and would return.  The pizza was good, but not one of our favorites in DC... at least as of yet.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this restaurant grows and changes once it's open for a while longer.

Liza and Gary's rating:  2.5 stars

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Food Wars" on the Travel Channel-- We're Local Pizza Celebs!

Gary and I had a rather unique pizza-related experience a few weeks back. We ventured out to Adams Morgan for the taping of a new show on the Travel Channel called "Food Wars". The premise of the show is that they go to different cities and find a food that is unique there. Then there's a "food war" between two different restaurants that make that food.

The Food War in DC was... pizza! Specifically, a jumbo slice of pizza. The pitted "Jumbo Slice" pizza against "Pizza Mart" pizza in Adams Morgan. The show was taped at Madam's Organ. We had tons of fun! We got to see the taste panel, and Gary and I were interviewed. Hopefully we'll make it on the show, and won't end up on the cutting room floor. We'll see...

One of the judges was local food celebrity Carla Hall, of "Top Chef" fame. We talked to her a bit and she was just as sweet and adorable as she was on TV.

"Food Wars" premieres tonight at 10 PM EST on the Travel Channel. The DC episode hasn't been scheduled yet, but we'll give you a heads up when it is!