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Who Has the Best Pizza in the DC Area?


ksfquilts
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Several friends recommended Paradiso to me, and I have now been twice. I've been meaning to write something about it here, and all the Otto excitement over in the New York forum reminded me to get back to it. I didn't know about this thread until I searched, but it seems like the right place for it.

Our first visit to Paradiso was just a couple of days after arriving in DC. We had heard from several sources that it was the best pizza in town, so our expectations were high. Unfortunately, our initial trip fell short of what we had hoped for. We left thinking that it was the kind of place we would frequent if we lived within walking distance, but would be relatively unlikely to trek to. I am happy to say my opinion of the place improved after I gave it a second chance. The pizza is hard to argue with, making it the focus of your meal seams to be a good bet.

I think the real problem on our first visit was that we started with something other than the pizza. Our first course was a tuna and white bean salad. The tuna was decent quality canned product. No real objection so far. The beans were a bit too al dente for us. That's actually saying something, because we like texture in our canellinis, as opposed to the mush one finds on bruschetta at a lot of places. The real problem, though, was that there was not really anything more to the dish. It just didn't have any depth of flavor. I understand that this was a simple rustic pairing, but that's no excuse not to bring out the inherent goodness of the simple ingredients. For example, it needed a good dose of salt-- not to make is salty, but just to bring out the flavors. Some fresh ground pepper would have been nice for a contrast. There was a bottle of olive oil on the table, so we drizzled some over the salad. Unfortunately, it lacked the fruity punch we hoped for. It was an acceptable oil, but it was defintely a couple of steps below the top level EVOOs that are intended to be sprinkled raw over finished dishes.

None of this is rocket science. It would only have taken a few simple steps to turn our salad into a dish that really stood up and said something, instead of falling flat. In a similar vein, there was no lime available to go with the pellegrino, only lemon. Simple inexpensive things can make a difference in the dining experience.

Next, we shared a pizza with tomato, mozzerala, spinach, red onion, and mushrooms. Unfortunately, the salad experience had soured us, and we were wondering more about whether we should trust further recomendations from our friends than whether the pizza was going to be any good. Despite our mood, the crust was undeniably good. Thin, crisp on the bottom, but not blackened, with a nice chewy layer that you could bite through without having to pull. The toppings were well proportioned, and laid out so that they could be sampled both independently and in combinations. The pizza is clearly what makes people come back.

On a second visit, I skipped the salads and went straight for the pizza. This time I went with anchovies and capers. Again, the crust made it. It was actually even better than the first one. Wheaty and mildly yeasty, like a good bread, with only a few significant crumb-breaking bubbles around the edges. Crisp enough to hold its shape, but tender and elastic enough in the middle to avoid cracking apart. It takes some skill to get these two distinct layers working together in a crust that is only a few millimeters thick to begin with. No question in my mind, they nailed it. The anchovies and capers went well together. I would certainly order this pizza again.

With the pizza, I had a nice european-style fizzy lemonade. It was light and refreshing, somewhat sweet, but not overly so. A very pleasant suprise.

To finish, I selected a pear marsala dessert. This consisted of a ramekin of thinly sliced pears, soaked for several days in marsala, then topped with a crumbly crust and popped in the pizza oven for a few minutes. A dollop or cream meling over the top completed the presentation. Aside from being served at the temperature of molten lava, the dish worked well. Once I allowed it to cool down it was a nice rustic treat to end the meal.

Paradiso has some other salads and sandwiches that I haven't tried, but unless I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I'll probably stick to the pizza from now on.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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I haven't stopped in to the new location yet and wondered what effect opening in a much larger space, in that part of Georgetown, would have on the quality and detail of the product as was apparent at the small P Street space. I look inside the new space and sense a Bertucci's corporate vibe. Have you been to both Vengroff and are you in a position to compare?

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Sadly, I live in suburban pizza hell (Rockville), and don't seem to think of pizza when heading in to D.C.  I've GOT to try 2 Amy's and Faccia Luna to see if they'll make me happy!

Hi everyone, a newbie here.

I had to jump in on this thread when I saw you comment about Rockville. I agree that it's pizza hell. There's no place to go, and no decent delivery. We make do with a local place called Giuseppe's.

I used to live a block from Pizza Paradiso. Boy do I miss that neighborhood. :sad:

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I haven't stopped in to the new location yet and wondered what effect opening in a much larger space, in that part of Georgetown, would have on the quality and detail of the product as was apparent at the small P Street space.  I look inside the new space and sense a Bertucci's corporate vibe.  Have you been to both Vengroff and are you in a position to compare?

I used to live down the street from the original P street (great for takeout) and I dragged my parents after a Christmas party to the new location on M street when I was in town over the holidays. I really miss Paradiso. I had been wondering the same thing after hearing about the 2nd location. Besides a full service bar and a different crowd (it is M st, afterall) I didn't notice any changes. The pizza was still wonderful.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My New Yorker wife and I like 2 Amys for Italian pizza and Facia Luna for decent normal pizza. 2 Amys is as good as anything we've had in NYC for real Neopolitan style, though you may want to ask them not to add extra salt before they serve you the pie. For corner take out Vace's on Connecticut Ave. in Cleveland Park is decent. Just our 2 cents.

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Without question, the best pizza in the region is to be found at Mario's, on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington (basically Balston). The pizza is made in large pans and then cut into squares. You can get each piece with it own toppings.

I first started going there in 1970, and it has hardly changed at all since then. Although we live in Annapolis, we religiously take out from Marios nearly every Friday, bringing the pizza back home to reheat on a pizza stone. Go before 6 pm any day and get to know Joe, who has worked at Marios since it opened in 1957. After six, Ranvir is the pizza king. He will take care of you. If you try it, especially there where you will have to eat standing up or outside at one of the picnic tables, you will never give it up.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I lived in southern Italy for 2 years and fell in love with the thin-crusted, wood-fired pizzas common there. Of all the pizza joints I've tried in the States, Pizzeria Paradiso comes closest to duplicating those incredible pies. Because the crust is the star, first-time diners would do well to order few toppings. My faves are simply tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil or tomatoes, capers, and achioves. To live for!

My second choice in the area is Paesano's in Old Town Alexandria. It's in a strip mall, near the 1700 block of Duke Street, across the road from Stella's. The best pizza bianca (white pizza) I've ever had!

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  • 4 weeks later...
I haven't stopped in to the new location yet and wondered what effect opening in a much larger space, in that part of Georgetown, would have on the quality and detail of the product as was apparent at the small P Street space.  I look inside the new space and sense a Bertucci's corporate vibe.  Have you been to both Vengroff and are you in a position to compare?

I have now been to the Georgetown location. We stopped in before catching a movie. Unlike the original location, there was no line out the door, even on a prime weekend evening. Also unlike the original location, the pizza was a mess. Just about everything was lost in the translation, and I'm certainly not eager to go back.

One of our pizzas came out with a huge burnt bubble occupying about 1/3 of it's surface. The others all had much thicker and wider outer crusts than I had ever had at the original. Toppings were applied haphazardly and very unevenly, leaving spots of plain dough showing through in some places and big cold piles of toppings in other places on the same pie.

Service was also quite slow and inatentive.

If I didn't know better, I would never imagine that there was any common ownership or management of the two locations.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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  • 4 weeks later...

For those who say that Rockville is "Pizza Hell" - try Mamma Lucia. Their NY style pizza is very authentic - thin crust, nice toppings. The rest of the food is better than average red-sauce Italian at mostly reasonable prices.

The original Mamma's is in Federal Plaza off the Pike (in the back near CompUSA).

Their mini-empire has expanded to Olney, Bethesda (Elm St., next to Cafe Deluxe), and Gaithersburg (the new Falls Grove shopping center across from Shady Grove Adventist Hospital).

Here's a link to a short review: http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/Profil...mammalucia.html.

If you cook with s__t, you wind up with s__t...Gerard Pangaud

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Beware of Mamma Lucia's in Falls Grove - it's been consistently busy since it opened a month or so ago. I'd call ahead to see if there's a long wait. Of course, there's always take-out...

If you cook with s__t, you wind up with s__t...Gerard Pangaud

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  • 1 month later...

Has anyone been to Matchbox? It's at the west end of Chinatown next to the BBQ place. I went past it a few times while it was under construction, but from the outside it looked more like a bar than a pizza place. According to Tom Sietsema's Weekly Dish they've got a custom-built brick oven to do NY style thin-crust Pizza.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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my favorite is vace's...there sandwiches arent that great (though they have nice products... i dont care much for the bread.

i have been to pizza paradiso twice; and both times enjoyed the space...and location...but not the food.

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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Has anyone been to Matchbox?  It's at the west end of Chinatown next to the BBQ place.  I went past it a few times while it was under construction, but from the outside it looked more like a bar than a pizza place.  According to Tom Sietsema's Weekly Dish they've got a custom-built brick oven to do NY style thin-crust Pizza.

I haven't been, but the little writeup sounded promising. Let us know what it's like if you go.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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i have been to pizza paradiso twice; and both times enjoyed the space...and location...but not the food.

DuPont or Georgetown?

dupont....i was not aware of one in georgetown.

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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Matchbox is pretty cool. They've done an incredible job with their long tall but very narrow space. It's divided into three levels, with lost of custom woodwork and a lovely little hand-powered dumbwaiter to bring drinks up from the bar. They have a good selection of American micro and macro-brews, and a few English imports. I really appreciate a place that has Newcastle Brown Ale on tap. I'll be back for that alone. It also strikes me as a great bar to catch a game. I was getting handshakes and pats on the back from strangers just for showing up in a Red Sox jacket.

Upstairs in the restaurant, they are still going through teething pains. The service is alternately spotty and overattentive, but given time they should be able to work it out.

They do a good job with their pizza, which I'll say a few words about later, but the real must-have dish is the amazing mini-burgers. These 2" angus beef burgers come 3, 6, or 9 to an order, for $6, $9, or $12. They're an ideal starter for the table, and they'd made a great snack at the downstairs bar. The exteriors of the thin patties are crisp charred, but the centers remain delightfully pink. We didn't specify a particular level of doneness--this was the default. They are served on beautiful buttery little toasted brioche buns with a slice of pickle. These burgers are what White Castles dream of growing up to be. A dollop of ketchup completes them. Dijon mustard would also be great. Next time I'll ask if they have some.

Don't bother with the onion straws that come with burgers. They make for a nice presentation, but they are entirely too salty and covered with a totaly superfluous sprinkling of dusty parmesean cheese. They must be trying to make the point that this is still a pizza place.

The pizza comes from a custom brick oven wedged into the back of the main floor. They've put together some very nice combinations, like spicy meatballs with bacon, and a nice veggie with roasted red peppers and mushrooms. The crust was thin, as advertised, and just shy of charred on the bottom. Absent are the big bubbles that ruin so many other thin crust pizzas. I would have liked it to stay in the oven maybe a minute more to get a fuller crisp crunch, but other than that I think they did a bang up job.

Aside from the pizza, there are some salads and a few entrees. The spinach salad was overdressed, leaving a pool in the bottom of the plate, but that'sa minor offense that can easily be corrected.

If you're in the Chinatown area, I'd recommend stopping in.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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OK, based on last night's experience I can tell you where not to go. Ever. We were at White Flint (site of the only Williams-Sonoma near us :smile: ) with both kids and needed dinner right away, so we decided to go to Bertucci's. In a word, awful. I have never eaten pizza that needed salt and pepper before. Bland, tasteless, undercooked crust, unseasoned canned tomatoes, bland cheese, bland sausage (how they managed that I have no idea), bland olives and clueless service. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they managed to take the taste out of everything. You know it's bad when you don't even want to take the leftovers home. To quote my four-year-old: "Daddy's pizza is much better. Can we make pizza at home next time?" If you must get mass-produced mall pizza by all means go for California Pizza Kitchen. It's head and shoulders above this crap. Heck, even Papa John's would have been better.

The best part of my meal was getting a frozen custard at Kohr brothers on the way out.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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