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 :-(