Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Red Zebra-- Eastern Market and Other Farmer's Market Locations

Eastern Market is a favorite weekend destination for Gary, Molly, and me. We will head down in almost any weather, and our go-to food spot is Crepes at the Market. Molly loves to go see the "Crepe Man"! Her favorite is strawberry, banana, and Nutella.

But this, of course, is a pizza blog, not a crepe blog. There are lots of food vendors at Eastern Market, but we were pleasantly surprised to see a new vendor in the last few months-- The Red Zebra.

Red Zebra offers "seasonal creative fare" in a mobile, wood-fired oven. Food trucks are all the rage now, and mobile pizza kitchens are not new, but wood-fired pizza? On a truck? I was intrigued.

I decided to forgo my beloved Crepe Man for a day, and give Red Zebra a try.

Red Zebra prides themselves on using fresh, local ingredients. They have a 3-4 pizzas on the menu each week. I opted-- surprise, surprise-- for a tomato, basil, and mozzarella pie. They are personal size and perfect for one person. At $8, I thought the price was reasonable for a so-called "upscale" pizza.

The pizza was served hot out of the oven. As you can see, the crust was nicely done with a bit of char. It held up well with a minimum of droop.

The ingredients were indeed fresh and tasty. The sauce was tangy and seemed to improve with each bite.

I was frankly quite surprised at how good this pizza tasted. I wasn't expecting "upscale" pizza from a sidewalk pizza oven, but Red Zebra exceeded my expectations!

We'll definitely be back on one of our weekend Eastern Market journeys.

Liza's rating: 3.5 stars

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Restaurant Spotlight: Matchbox

Hello, pizza aficionados! Sorry we have been a bit AWOL on the blog. This weekend we will try to catch up with all the pizza we have been eating the last couple of months!

This post is long overdue. A few months back, we met with Bart Nadherny, the pizzaiolo at Matchbox. We have previously reviewed the Matchbox in Chinatown as well as the one on Barrack's Row. But this was not a day for reviewing. It was a day for chatting about pizza and learning about some of the "behind the scenes" of the pizza biz.

A "pizzaiolo" is, simply, a person who makes pizza in a pizzeria. But if you're the pizzaiolo for three large restaurants (there's one in Rockville, too), this is a pretty big job!

It seems like a new pizza restaurant is popping up in DC every other day, and Neapolitan pies are all the rage. While Matchbox has a wood-burning oven, similar to what's used for Neapolitan pizza, their pizza has some distinct differences. First, the sauce. Matchbox uses California tomatoes, rather than the San Marzanos that you'll find at many other area pizza places. Why? Simple enough reason-- they prefer the taste. Also, the sauce has a zesty taste to it that is different than most pies you'll find in DC. Bart describes their pizza as closer to a "Chicago thin crust" rather than a Neopolitan. While the crust of a Neapolitan pie is soft in the center (Gary's dreaded "droop" factor), a Chicago thin crust is more crispy throughout.

One thing that any restaurant strives for is consistency in their product. How does Matchbox get their crust to have the same taste and texture day after day? Bart gave us some insight to how this is accomplished.

First, the pizza board:

Each day the chefs measure the air temperature, the flour temperature, and the friction temperature (meaning the heat added by motion of the mixer). By then plugging these numbers into a formula, they can figure out what temperature the water needs to be in order to keep the temperature of the dough consistent for each batch. This is important so the dough tastes and reacts the same way in the oven for each pizza.

Next, the wood burning oven:

The oven is kept at a temperature of about 700 degrees. Those pizzas cook fast!

The result:

Delicious pizza!

Our current fave: the vegetable pizza which includes crispy potatoes on top. Delish. Matchbox has become one of our favorite Capitol Hill pizza spots (stay tuned for a new post...).

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

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!