Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tonight's Dinner-- Eggplant Pizza!

I had groceries delivered from Peapod this weekend, and while Peapod is pretty much the best invention ever, sometimes you get things that aren't quite what you wanted.  Like the teeny tiny little eggplant they brought me. So, my plan for eggplant wraps was scuttled.  But,the eggplant was the perfect size for pizza topping!  Behold...

Doesn't that look delicious?

It was quite simple to make.  I made the sauce from scratch over the weekend using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  Yum!  I sliced and tossed the eggplant with olive oil, and roasted them in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  To assemble the pizza: spread the sauce on the crust, add some slices of fresh mozzarella, the roasted eggplant, and some dried basil.  Cook on the oven rack for 12 minutes at 400 degrees, and voila!  Dinner is served!

The crust is the Italian Herb flavor from Bova Bakery in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  You can order this flavor, and many others, online.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Citi Pizza - H Street NE, Washington, DC

Never order pizza on Halloween. That's today's lesson from your favorite pizza blog.

Liza and I took lil' Molly to Eastern Market for "Hill-oween," fun for Capitol Hill families to congregate with their little goblins, superheroes, princesses and football players. Molly was a cute little ladybug -- thanks to Grandma for the costume! It was appropriate because Molly loves watching Sesame Street's "Ladybugs' Picnic"! At the end, she always shouts out "12".

For dinner, Liza and I planned to get pizza from Seventh Hill but were alarmed to see that it was closed. Turns out it's not open on Monday. Boo!

So we went home and ordered take out -- a large pizza with mushrooms and spinach from Citi Pizza, a joint on H Street NE, not too far from our home. We've ordered there before so we knew we were probably not getting 4-star fare. Still, we expect the best when we eat pizza. Standards, people!

Citi Pizza claimed they would have the pizza delivered in a half-hour, but 30 minutes passed and still no pizza. One hour passed and still no pizza. Meantime, we had to keep our lights on outside our house so that the delivery man could see our address. The result was that our house attracted dozens of trick or treaters but we were out of candy.

Ninety minutes after ordering, our pizza finally arrived. The delivery man said he was slowed due to so many trick or treaters out on the streets. As they say on ESPN, "C'mon man!" I'm not buying that excuse and neither is Liza.

Our pizza was lukewarm when we opened it, unfortunately. Boo!

Citi Pizza's offering is rubbery, but it manages to keep together. No droop, even with two toppings. The mushroom and spinach toppings were generous enough, but they could have put on a little more sauce. In any event, the pizza was so rubbery that it just seemed to slide down your throat. So much for enjoying the flavor.

Maybe that's for the best, though. The spinach topping was strangely overpowering and dominated every bite. Liza didn't like it at all, she actually removed the pieces of spinach and ate her slices without them.

The crust wasn't anything special and there were quite a few air pockets to chew through.

Simply put, Citi Pizza is serviceable. Quality it is not. Order it only if you're in a pinch and you've completely sworn off chains such as Domino's and Papa John's. And let's hope Citi Pizza's delivery drivers are more timely on non-holidays.

Gary's Rating: 1.5 stars
Liza's Rating: 1.5 stars
Molly's Rating: Dreaming of "Ladybugs' Picnic"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pizzeria Paradiso is Turning 20!

Pizzeria Paradiso is a DC pizza institution.  They've been serving up traditional wood-fired pies since their opening day in Dupont Circle on November 8, 1991.  In honor of their 20th birthday, Pizzeria Paradiso will be celebrating with a week-long celebration of ‘20 Something’ events, specials and contests November 7-13, 2011

Monday, November 7 – $20 Take Out.  Get one large and one small pizza for $20 on take-out orders only.
Tuesday, November 8 – 20th Anniversary Beer Glass Giveaway (one complimentary beer glass with beer purchase)
Wednesday, November 9 – $20 All You Can Eat Pizza & Beer (2 drink max)
Thursday, November 10 – $20 Small Special Pizza paired with an Anniversary Beer
Friday, November 11 – .20¢ For Your First Beer
Saturday, November 12 – .20¢ Topping (Dine In Only. 3 toppings max)
Sunday, November 13 – “20 Free Pizzas” Family/Kids Day. 1-4PM. Kids can participate in a Make Your Own Pizza demonstration with Chef Ruth Gresser; first 20 kid’s pizzas are free.  (Old Town location only)

For more information visit www.eatyourpizza.com.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Graffiato-- Penn Quarter

Gary and I are big Top Chef fans. In fact, we pepper our conversations with Top Chef-isms all the time-- like if someone delivers some bad news, it's accompanied by the Top Chef "your dish was terrible" sad sound.... weeeeeeeeaaaaaooooooooooow. We might also tell each other to "pack your knives and go" after a less than successful meal, but since we're typically in our own kitchen, it would seem unnecessarily harsh.

Anyway, since we're fans, we couldn't pass up a chance to go to Graffiato, Mike Isabella's new restaurant in Penn Quarter that opened this summer. I thought we might go there to celebrate our wedding anniversary, but dang-- it's not easy getting a reservation there. A lot of buzz surrounding this place! Since we were heading off on vacation, I put in a reservation for three weeks later and had no trouble reserving our preferred time.

We went early since we had Molly in tow. Now, despite this new study that suggests that what a mother eats while the child is in the womb may influence her food preferences, Molly is not a pizza fan. I don't understand it, frankly. How can anyone not like pizza?? But, we didn't have a sitter this night, so to the pizza restaurant she went.

As we walked in, we saw the man himself-- Mike Isabella. He glanced in our direction... then went about on his business. Really?? Didn't he realize that the city's, maybe even the WORLD'S, most influential pizza bloggers were in the house?? Hmmmpf. Well I nevah!

We were led to an upstairs table where we could see into the open kitchen, and the hostess got us a high chair for Molly. OK, can I go on a side rant here? When we got the high chair, the clasp on the strap was broken. I swear, 90% of the time we use a restaurant high chair, the clasp is broken. Do people not understand how to snap these things? Is there some major design flaw there? Or is some rogue child hater going restaurant to restaurant, systematically destroying high chairs so as to never again to have to listen to a screaming toddler while trying to enjoy a meal? Graffiato was open for like, a MONTH at this point, and the strap is already broken. What's up with that?

All right, back to the blog. We were assisted with our food selection by our cheerful server. And I am talking, seriously happy. Gary even commented, "What would a bad day look like for her?" Lots of DC restaurants have servers that are too-cool-for-school, but not here. Really, the sweetest girl ever. And she liked Molly, so bonus points for her.

We decided on a carrot salad, a pulled mozzarella appetizer, and the "Classic" pizza. Make note, pizza fans-- the Classic does not come with cheese. That's a bit of a head scratcher to me, but whatevs. We ordered it with mozzarella as an add-on. (You've gotta have cheese!) The pizza menu is not huge, but any restaurant with a "Choppin Broccoli" pizza gets my kudos.

One thing I will say for Graffiato-- they are fast. This is actually preferable when dining with a toddler, but may be a bit disconcerting for the average patron. Our cheese dish (delicious) was out in a flash; the salad (meh) followed soon after. But that's not why we were here, of course. What about the pizza?

The Classic was decent sized, about 12", and cut into 6 slices. The crust was nice and firm, no droop, which got the big thumbs up from Gary. However, the crust had a lot of flour on it, giving it almost a chalky taste. I had flour on my hands after eating it, which is a no-no in my book. The cheese had a nice, fresh flavor. The best part of the pizza, by far, was the sauce. It was made of roasted cherry tomatoes and had a rich flavor and a little bit of a spicy kick from the garlic. I have to say, maybe the best sauce I've had in DC, and different that what you'll find at most pizza places.

A tip for dessert-- I had read something on Twitter about the zeppoles, which are little bits of fried doughnutty goodness, at Graffiato. Not seeing them on the dessert menu, I asked my server about them. She nearly clapped her hands in delight, saying that we knew about the "secret" off-menu item. We ordered them, and they were delicious. So, the secret is out, Pizza Blog fans! Ask for the zeppoles-- you won't be disappointed.

As our meal came to a close, Molly started blowing kisses and waving bye-bye to the packed dining room. The kid is a ham, I'm telling you. Maybe because her parents are so famous.

So in summary-- loved the sauce on the pizza, but the floury crust brings our grade down a bit.

Liza and Gary's rating: 3.0 stars

Molly's rating: I'm stubborn so I ate mac'n'cheese from home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calling All Pizza Restaurants-- Help Support Our Local Community Garden!

Gary, Molly, and I have had a great time tending our plot in our community garden. Civic-minded pizzaiolos, here's a chance to support a group that promotes organic, locally grown food!

The Green Seed Community Garden in Capitol Hill is throwing a beer-tasting, pizza-chomping, local-food-and-community-supporting bash in the North Hall of Eastern Market on Friday, October 14 (note date change!). Guests will experience firsthand the region’s exploding craft brewery scene and nosh on pizza from Capitol Hill’s finest restaurants, all while supporting a unique community garden in a former alley wasteland. DC has 3 new breweries joining another dozen already brewing in the greater metropolitan area; add that to the burgeoning pizza and restaurant scene on Capitol Hill and you have a beer and food Mecca. For those looking to taste and compare this diverse arsenal of brews and pies, this is the event of the year.

Pizza restaurants-- we’d love to have you join the event. It's a wonderful way to both promote your business, and support a great cause! If you'd like more information, please contact me at liza0828 at gmail dot com.

Loyal readers-- we'll give you more information about this event as it becomes available!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bugsy's Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar -- Alexandria

So Liza, Molly and I took a quick trip to Alexandria to meet up with Molly's uncle (and Liza's older brother) Tim and his family. They're in town this week because Tim's daughter Nicole is in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Go Nicole!

Can I just say that 30 years ago or so I was a pretty good speller. In my school's spelling bee, I was super confident I was going to go on to regionals. I'm a word man, you see. And then...on my very second word of the school's competition, I messed up: "Separate." A simple word, really. I think I was overconfident. I blurted out "S-E-P-E-R-A-T-E" without even thinking, without even hesitating.

WRONG! Gary, you're out. Auf Wiedersehen.


So we chatted with Uncle Tim and his family for a while in Alexandria, and then we dropped them off at the ferry in Old Town so that they could go back to National Harbor, Md., where they were staying for the bee. Liza and I were hungry afterwards and we saw some pizza joints on King Street. We headed for Bugsy's Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar.

Inside, we were quickly seated, with Molly in a high chair. Molly wanted to eat everything that was placed on our table, including a lemon slice that was so bitter it made her wince every time she put it in her mouth. We have video of this, perhaps I can convince Liza to put it on our official Facebook page.

On to Bugsy's and their pizza...

Unbenownst to us, Bugsy's is owned by Bryan Wilson, a long-time NHL player who was a standout for the Detroit Red Wings, Liza's favorite team. Wilson played for the Red Wings in 1965-67 -- he was the league's MVP in the 1967-68 season -- and again from 1973-77 before he was traded to Washington and the Caps. Unfortunately, Liza had never heard of him. Sorry, Bugsy -- but Liza was 5 years old when you last played for Detroit.

Wilson opened Bugsy's in 1983. (Bugsy is apparently Wilson's nickname.) It's a combo pizza restaurant and sports bar, boasting plenty of sports memorabilia on the walls. (The sports bar is upstairs. A lot of the memorabilia is hockey related, so if you're a Caps fan, this could be the place to watch the Caps seemingly choke every spring in the Stanley Cup playoffs.)

But how is the pizza, you ask?

Well, Bugsy's web site boasts that it was voted "Northern Virginia's Best Pizza," although it doesn't say who actually voted. (Could have been Bugsy himself.) The restaurant uses only the "highest quality, freshest ingredients for every dish guaranteeing delicious and unique pizzas." (Now who would actually claim they use poor quality, two-week-old ingredients to guarantee mediocre, run-of-the-mill pizzas?)

I was mildly impressed with Bugsy's pizza offerings, which included a Taco Pizza, a Chicken Fiesta Pizza and a Zorba the Greek pizza. (Shout out to a classic film "Zorba the Greek," great movie starring Anthony Quinn. It's a must-see and a life-changer, folks!)

Liza and I settled on (what else?) the Margherita with thin crust. The menu says it has "fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and Mozarella cheese all cooked to perfection!"

Perfection? Whoa, easy there, Bugsy.

The pizza arrived and the chefs were generous with their toppings of Mozarella cheese, basil and tomatoes. Even the waiter mentioned the overabundance of cheese when he served us each a slice from the pie. The cheese dripped and drooped all over our plate.

Now when dining out, you don't often see a Margherita with tomatoes chopped up into tiny squares and sprinkled atop the cheese. It looked, well, kind of amateurish. Sorry, Bugsy.

The crust was sturdy enough, but it tasted like cardboard. (I know, I know, who has actually eaten cardboard? Not me. My point is that it was bland. Really bland. It might be the worst crust we've had.) The edge of the crust was a little crunchy after the pizza sat a while. Sorry, Bugsy.

The sauce was a little too sweet for our tastes. Liza says the pizza reminded her of "kid's pizza," the kind you get at Chuck E. Cheese. (I've never been to Chuck E. Cheese, so I'll take her word for it.)

This pizza's final grade is not a good one, regrettably. Sorry, Bugsy.

Gary's Rating: 1.5 stars
Liza's Rating: 2 stars
Molly's Rating: 0 stars for the lemon slice -- it was really bitter

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lost Dog Cafe & Gourmet Pizza Deli -- McLean, Va.

Our daughter Molly loves books. She also loves dogs. One of her favorite books is "Doggies" by Sandra Boynton. When we get to the page that consists of "9 dogs on a moonlit night," Molly joins in with a "Howwwwwlllllllllll." This little girl is cute, I'm tellin' ya.

So naturally Liza and I had to take Molly to the Lost Dog Cafe.

Now we had already reviewed the Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington back in February 2009. This was before Molly was born, though. So we decided to try the relatively new Lost Dog Cafe in McLean. The restaurant is part of a strip mall that includes a monstrous Safeway.

Perhaps the best thing about the Lost Dog Cafes (there are three in the D.C. area now) is the decor. The McLean store had colorful murals of a town of dogs adorning its walls. It's a friendly, welcoming environment. (Maybe it was the refrigerators full of beer nearby the front entrance?) The young hostess and waitress were accommodating, finding us a table and getting Molly a high chair.

Liza and I put an order in for a 14-inch "Rin Tin Tin Pie." I know, I know, this is the same pizza we ordered at the Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington. What can I say, variety is not our strong suit. (Honestly, we just forgot what we ordered the last time). And, well, the "Rin Tin Tin Pie" just sounds tasty, with its mushrooms, spinach, red onions, red peppers topped with fresh mozzarella and basil on a wheat pizza crust. It's pretty much everything we like on a pizza.

We were served a 6-slice pizza (the waitress said it would be 8 slices...hmmm). Remembering that pizza droop was our primary issue with the Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington, Liza and I were expecting a messy dinner. To our surprise, there was minimal droop. The pizza held together fairly well despite the generous toppings. Progress!

We were still not all that impressed with the homemade marinara sauce, though. Once again it lacked a strong, unique flavor. On my slices, I could taste the red onions -- or maybe it was the red peppers? -- more than the sauce.

I thought the mushrooms tasted excellent, though. We gave one to Molly, but she spit it out. Oh well.

The Lost Dog Cafes seem to be a great environment, even for kids, and the pizza is decent enough but it's one woof short of greatness.

Gary's Rating: 3 stars
Liza's Rating: 3 stars
Molly's Rating: I want a Cruncher!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Vace Italian Deli -- Cleveland Park

Hello, neglected Pizza Blog. For this Dad, it has been too long.

For those who visit this blog once in a while, rest assured that we continue to consume pizza, although Liza is threatening to go vegan (which would mean no dairy, thus no cheese). We just haven't had time to write reviews. Raising lil' Molly is time-consuming, but we love it!

So consider this entry an opportunity to play catch-up...

Around the time of Molly's first birthday on Feb. 26, we traveled up to Northwest DC to get new infant car seats installed in both of our cars and then we visited the Politics & Prose book shop. After a tasty lunch, we brought Molly into the children's section of the book shop and she proceeded to remove every book from a shelf and make a big mess. That's my girl!

Afterwards, Liza and Molly headed home but I stopped at Sullivan's Toy Store on Wisconsin Avenue to buy some toys. Then I headed over to Vace, a popular Italian deli in Cleveland Park, to bring home some pizza.

I lived near Cleveland Park for nearly 10 years and I had heard that Vace served great pizza, but for some reason I never tried it. Along with pizza, Vace serves an assortment of Italian sandwiches, subs and pasta dishes, all for take out.

You can also buy fresh, homemade pasta to cook for yourself. There's ravioli, tortellini, cappellini, linguini, fettucine, parpadelli, and more. (This reminds me of a song: "Tortellini, tortellini/Better than fettucini/Not as good as cappellini/Tortellini, tortellini.") There's homemade sauces as well.

And there's pizza. At Vace, you can order a 16-inch or 14-inch pizza, or you can order by slice. In my estimation, there are simply not enough pizza places in D.C. where you can order by slice.

I ordered two plain slices and two slices with mushrooms. The cheese was mozzarella, of course, but you could also order your pizza with feta cheese or goat cheese.

Vace's pizza is generous with the marinara sauce and they place it on top of the cheese and the toppings. That suggests the sauce is the most important thing on this pizza. Now that's pressure!

They wrapped it up in tin foil and I headed home to Capitol Hill.

In the comfort of our living room, with Molly napping upstairs, Liza and I sat down to eat the pizza slices. We warmed it up in our oven because the slices had sat for maybe 45 minutes.

The crust was crispy enough and held everything in place. Overall, the pizza was fine. But I was a little disappointed with the sauce. It didn't stand out in terms of flavor. Sauce is key for me in terms of evaluating a pizza. And if you're placing it on top of the cheese and the toppings, then it had better stand out as exemplary.

Liza felt differently, though. She thought the sauce was very good and she was a big fan of the crust. Given her Detroit-style pizza background, Liza prefers having the marinara sauce on top of her pizza.

Liza and I don't disagree much when it comes to pizza, but on this occasion we disagreed on Vace's offerings.

Now maybe the 45-minute wait and the subsequent reheating had an impact on my evaluation. I have to take that into account. This could call for a second visit to Vace to re-evaluate their pizza (and also stock up on some homemade pasta).

For now, our ratings:

Gary: 2.5 stars
Liza: 3.5 stars
Molly: I was asleep and did not eat any pizza :-(

Saturday, April 30, 2011

We've been recognized...

...as one of the Top 50 Pizza Blogs at the California Culinary Schools site!

Coming in as number 4, they write:
Bloggers Liza and Gary are known as pizza experts in the DC area. They have great reviews and a wealth of pizza knowledge to boot.
  • Why We Love It: This is a simplistic, yet pleasing and intelligent blog spot for pizza aficionados. The writing style is spot-on as the two bloggers show their true love for the art form known as pizza making (and eating).
Thanks for the props!  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Calling all Home Pizza Chefs!

Do you like to cook pizza at home?  Here's great contest for home pizza chefs, sponsored by Cavit Wines.  Check it out! 
6th Annual Gourmet Pizza Classic-- Enter to win a trip for two to Italy!

PIZZA RECIPE CONTEST: Home pizza chefs, enter your best original gourmet pizza recipe with your favorite Cavit Collection wine pairing to win. Finalists will be selected and flown with a guest to New York City to compete for the Grand Prize, a trip for two to Italy and the title of “America’s Best Gourmet Pizza Chef.”

Click here to enter your recipe.
Readers, what are your favorite pizza recipes?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Delia's Mediterranean Grill and Brick Oven Pizza-- Alexandria

When we started this blog over 3 years ago, life was a lot different. We were newly engaged, Gary was living in northwest DC near the Cathedral, and I was in a basement studio in Capitol Hill. Life was carefree and we had lots of time for things like, well, blogging about pizza.

Now we're married, living in a house that actually has several floors (this is a big deal for former apartment dwellers!), and have an almost 11-month-old little girl. We couldn't have imagined how much she would change our lives-- and we certainly wouldn't have known how often we have to trek out to Babies R Us. Seriously. One would think there would be a good baby gear store closer to us, but alas. Many a Saturday afternoon is spent making the drive out to Bailey's Crossroads.

On one such occasion, after buying some stuff for Molly (including a $3 Sponge Bob plastic ball that has turned out to be her favorite toy ever), we decided to go to a restaurant we've wanted to try for a while-- Delia's in Alexandria. We thought this would be a quick trip from where we were, and it probably would be if we knew where we were going. Unfortunately our GPS took us on a rather, ahem, "ciruitous" route, but eventually we made it there.

Delia's is a family-friendly place-- we were definitely not the only people there with kids. It's also quite affordable, especially in comparison to other DC pizza places-- point in Delia's favor!

They have an extensive menu with plenty of pizzas, pastas, and other Mediterranean fare. They also have a really interesting list of appetizers-- goat cheese and potato poppers? Sounds tasty-- and we settled on an eggplant dip. It was SO good! After the dip and a yummy Casear salad, we were looking forward to our pizza.

Molly just ate her pureed pears and then hung out with us. Luckily Molly is pretty good in restaurants, so we gave her a couple of toys to play with and she went to town amusing herself and charming the wait staff with her cheesy (no pun intended) grins.

Readers of this blog will know that margherita pizza is my favorite, so Gary and I split one for our entree. The pizza was of generous size, and a small was perfect for two.

The sauce had a kick to it-- it reminded me almost of Matchbox. Spicy, in a good way. The cheese and basil was fresh and flavorful. The only part of the pizza I didn't care much for was the crust. It was a bit more done that I usually like it-- rather dry, actually.

We definitely will be back to Delia's for the good food and affordability. It seems to be a neighborhood favorite, and for good reason.

Liza and Gary's rating: 2.5 stars

Tagolio Pizzeria and Enoteca-- Crystal City

Wow, it's been a long time! Sorry we have been neglecting the blog, pizza lovers. We've had a busy fall at the Pizza Blogger house. We've still been eating lots of pizza, of course-- just not blogging about it! So we're going to try to rectify that by writing about a few places that we've tried in the last couple months.

First up-- Tagolio Pizzeria and Enoteca.

I learned about this place last summer and right away I knew I wanted to give it a try. There's already excellent pizza in Crystal City at Cafe Pizzaiolo, but you can really never have too many good pizza joints, right? The unique thing about Tagolio is that they have authentic coal fired pizza. Now, we'd not had great luck at our last coal fired pizza experience, but I was willing to give this kind of pizza another try. Actually, due to city regulations, there are no coal fired ovens in DC, so you will need to venture to Virginia or Maryland to get authentic coal fired pizza.

But, isn't burning coal kind of... dirty? From Tagolio's web site:

The Anthracite coal used in Tagolio’s oven comes from existing abandoned mines; not from newly environmentally damaging, excavated coal mines. Anthracite coal emits no pollution while burning, no smoke during combustion, and no smell — resulting in minimal environmental impact. Contrary to the image of some coal types, anthracite is one of the cleanest and most environmentally friendly fossil fuels in the world — cleaner than wood fires or your backyard gas grill.

As we all strive to reduce our negative environmental footprint and reduce emissions impacts on the environment, Tagolio delivers a great pizza through an eco-friendly and efficient cooking process.
So there you go-- pizza you can feel good about eating!

When we arrived at Tagolio, Gary and I decided to sample the "enoteca" (wine bar) portion of the restaurant, and we each got a glass of pinot noir. We split a delicious panzanella salad, and my favorite pizza-- a margherita DOC. (Here's a good blog post that explains what DOC pizza is, in case you're wondering.)

I should also mention that we had great service-- attentive and friendly. It was one of the nicest restaurant experiences we've had in a while. A point in Tagolio's favor!

For us, the standout on this pizza was the sauce. It had a bright, fresh flavor. The cheese was also really tasty and fresh. The only thing that I didn't care for much on this pizza was the crust. Tagolio describes their crust as having a "lightly crunchy, yet sumptuously airy dough with a nutty taste". I'd say that's accurate, but it's just not my favorite. I tend to prefer wood fired crusts moreso than coal fired.

However, I'd still say to give Tagolio a try and see for yourself. It's definitely worth a stop.

Liza and Gary's rating: 3.0 stars