The subject came up in another thread and I thought it might be useful to continue here more generally.
Regarding the greater DC area, I would say that my favorites for full pizzas (not slices) are In Bocca al Lupo, Pete’s and maybe 2 Amys. In Bocca al Lupo is going for a Roman style pizza and I am a fan of that style and have been for a long time. Unfortunately it’s rare outside of Rome.
Pete’s is New England style pizza and I think they do a good job of it (I’ve preferred it to some of the Frank Pepe’s I’ve had though there seems to be more variation on those both across and within locations themselves than what I have seen from Pete’s).
2 Amy’s is probably the Naples style place I’ve liked the best in the DC area out of several I’ve tried but there are others I enjoy too.
Regarding slices, I think I have enjoyed Sonny’s most for that. I recall trying Menomale NoMa, Wiseguys, Union Pie, Vace and a few more which were recommended to me and which have their merits to varying degrees in my book. The In Bocca al Lupo people are supposedly working on a pizza al taglio place as well which I would be very curious to try. The DC area also has had 2 recent attempts at pizza al taglio to various degrees which have disappeared (Pizzeria al Volo and Vivi) and it’s something which relies on a lot of foot traffic and a culture of eating pizza very regularly so we’ll see how that goes.
I’d be curious to hear other suggestions and to compare notes.
I live near the original Pupatella, which provided me for almost all my pizza needs for many years. Now that they have expended and are no longer hitting on all cylinders, I am once again in search of great pizza.
My other letdown is that Crust (in Tysons) no longer makes their great montanera pizza. Their other pies are very good, though.
One mainstay for me is the Berkeley pie at Pi Pizzeria. It is a deep dish pizza. If we limit the discussion to the DC area, then this is right now my favorite.
Before Pupatella, I ate many, many great pies at 2 Amys, but then I ran into a string of four serious disappointments, so I stopped going.
Pete’s crust has always been too tough for me. I tire of it quickly. I gave it three tries but never enjoyed it.
The grandma pie at Wiseguys is a family favorite, always a winner. I don’t care much for their thin crust.
I did enjoy Timber the one time I went.
Frank Pepe’s I’ve only had in Bridgeport, CT. Very nice. I will hit the one here at some point.
Also, I have a soft spot for Vace, which I order with onions, olives and red peppers. One of the best in the area.
IMO, for NY-style pies, Andy’s Pizza is the best in DC, and CSNY Pizza is the best in MoCo.
I really like Andy’s.
The Pepperoni with honey is the perfect sweet and savory combo.
For people who have been in the DC area for a while, how would you describe the evolution of pizza in the area since say the 1990s?
By that I mean the different styles which tended to be available and what percentage of people expected something of their pizza etc.
When did people begin to refer to ‘NY pizza’ for example or think about ‘true Neopolitan’ pizza and so forth? What did/do people think of styles which were ‘native’ to the area as well?
I’ve generally been told that the area was typically considered not much of a pizza zone as compared to the cities to its north and that things have changed considerably.
I don’t live in the DC area, but I go there quite often for work. Been doing it since about the early 2000s.
And I feel like the pizza scene really took off when the Obama administration was in office. (This is not a political statement just a point of reference to demarcate time).
Before that quality pizza in the DC really started and ended with 2 Amy’s.
I very much enjoyed Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza when I was in Miami. I see they now have a location in Bethesda…
I like Stellina as well. Salumeria in Brookland now sells pizza in teglia, I have yet to try it. I would guess that it’s coming out of the Menomale kitchen.
“For people who have been in the DC area for a while, how would you describe the evolution of pizza in the area since say the 1990s?”
The best place for pizza in the olden days definitely was AV Ristorante, in a sketchy area around 5th and NY Ave. Huge flavor. Has anyone mentioned Comet Ping Pong? I’ve enjoyed the pizza there. Also like Pizzeria Paradiso and Pete’s. I was going to go to Little Beast, which a friend of Steve’s thinks is the best on the DC area, but a baby-sitting emergency arose.
I’m a bit at sea on definitions. To me, al taglio isa rectangular pizza, the worst local representative of which is Ledo’s. NY Style pizza, again to me, is any large pizza cut into large, floppy slices. That’s what I got back in my days of poverty in NYC, so, that’s how I define it. It never really stands out to me, but I like it well enough. The large slices make multiple toppings awkward to eat without resorting to a fork, which is just not done.
Oh, and my recollection is that 2 Amy’s was the first post-AV breakthrough pizza, and that was in the 80s (I think). Things really took off more recently, post-Obama, when the average household income in DC moved from close to the national average to nearly double it. Lots of well-healed pizza eaters.
I’ve only been twice, but I thought Timber Pizza was pretty great, and their empanadas with homemade hot sauces make a nice starter.
Just to be clear, my friend from Chowhound who spends a month in Italy every year finds the pizza at Little Beast acceptable, which is worth an exclamation point because he is very difficult to please on that score.
Pizza in DC during the First Wave of the Internet (mid 80s to 2000) was vaguely Italian-American with the rare exception of Chicago Deep Dish (Armand’s) or Neapolitan (Paradiso or 2 Amys). There is a Maryland style (original Ledo’s, Gentleman Jim’s, Pizza Pantry), but I am not sure it truly exists anymore.
The only real conversation ‘back in the day’ was where to get NY style. The term means different things to different people.
I remember one Chowhound thread that prompted a vigorous debate. Finally one person chimed in. They had lived all their life in NY and have been tirelessly searching for NY pizza here and finally found their Holy Grail: Joe’s Pizza and Pasta (!), a small chain in Virginia that the rest of us had long discounted as not worth mentioning.
We’ve come a long way since those days. Still, an exceptional pizza is always hard to come by. But very good and worthwhile pizzas are now regularly obtained, though with some effort. Still, the average is not worth mentioning.
I think one spot that rarely gets love is Valentino’s NY Pizzeria in Alexandria, on Beauregard just off Little River Turnpike. Nothing refined or delicate. Nice crust which I think they undercook so I always asked for a little extra crispy. Even better than their NY pizza is their Sicilian. A more foccacia crust with the same list of toppings. Same undercooking but easily solved.
We used to live 3 blocks from them and they could deliver faster than we could pick it up./ It is Alexandria, after all.
Thanks for reminding me about the Salumeria. I’ve been a few times for other things and I like the place (it’s one of the very places around here which resembles the places I grew up with in Italy at least in part) but haven’t had the pizza there yet.
They don’t seem to list the pizza on their website but for anyone else who may be interested they do have a couple of photos on their Facebook page:
You raised a point which might be worth clarifying. I mentioned pizza al taglio which has been finally gaining some notoriety outside of Italy (really, Rome itself more than Italy until very recently).
I grew up in large part in Rome and it’s such a big part of life there. As with many things, people in the recent past have taken to ‘elevating’ it (very tastefully and successfully in some cases) but even the versions from decades past were very appealing.
Typically, you would have a wide variety of choices for the pizzas by the taglio (cut or slice) which could include white pizzas (no tomatoes) with a wide range of vegetables and meats (or items from the sea) or the fabulous potato slices as well as what people here might regard as more common styles as well.
One can mix and match pizzas very easily as you are indicating the amount you want cut (by indicating the amount of money, size or weight) and you can easily have a lot of variety this way.
Probably the main evangelist for it at large is Gabriele Bonci who is also involved in efforts to bring it to the United States as well. His Pizzarium in Rome is like a temple to the pizza al taglio.
If you haven’t had it before, without discussing too much in the way of technical differences, it might help to imagine a thinnish (and superb) focaccia in terms of the base and not massive slabs of Sicilian pizza (which have their ancestors in Sicily too).
So it’s more than just the rectangular shape though I have seen places outside of Italy (and Rome in particular) be very loose with their usage of the term.
Thanks for the explanation of pizza al taglio. A friend with whom we stayed a couple of nights brought some in and it was quite good.
And who mentioned the Salumeria? They have some good looking sandwiches, including porchetta, with which I fell in love in Orvieto.
I mentioned Salumeria! Their sandwiches are indeed excellent as well. It’s true that the Brookland location does not have the pizza on their website, but they do list it on their Uber Eats page. I tried getting it Sunday night but called too late — they close at 6 Sundays and by 5:30 their kitchen was closed. Another time! The Menomale in Eckington also has the pizza in teglia.
Stracci pizza, located in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA, serves Roman pizza, a style I have not had before. So I can’t compare it to other Roman pizza. But I can say that this is one of the great pizzas of my life.
The dough undergoes two day of fermentation. The bottom is rigid and very crispy, but also it is light and airy. I ordered their very basic pizza, with a simple tomato sauce and straciatella and basil. It was glorious.
The rectangular pie comes in six slices. I’d say that two people could enjoy this while sharing an appetizer of caponata or gigante beans for a complete meal.
Eating doesn’t get any better than this.
Right after I tried Stracci, I immediately contacted a friend who is an Italy travel expert and spends a considerable amount of time in Rome. I was so excited to tell him about my discovery. His response: eh, he doesn’t care for Roman pizza.
I was taken aback by this, so I went on You Tube to watch videos about Roman pizza. And I have to say, not only does it look pretty bad in the videos, but bore little resemblance to the ethereal version at Stracci.
I was curious to follow up on this question, so I went to In Bucco al Lupo in Glover Park. They claim it is Roman pizza, and the dough is fermented for 72 hours. Plus it was recommended here on Hungry Onion.
What I was served was exactly keeping in line with the You Tube videos, so on that score they did remarkably well. Unfortunately, not only did it look depressing, but tasted as such. The crust was thin and crackery, including the cornicione which had no detectable rise and had a bleached appearance. I got a special white pizza with tuna, olives, and red onions. But the flavor was all about the cheese. No aroma from the crust and the cheese dominated the tuna.
My friend does admit that his very serious ‘foodie’ pals in Rome love the pizza there. It is baffling.
With tax and tip my wallet was $25 lighter, and so was my spirit.