By Mackenzie Bailey, Trisha Brown, Kaylee Dugan, Jonny Grave, Logan Hollers, Avalon Jones, Priya Konings, Allison Lane, Svetlana Legetic, Phil Runco, Jose Lopez-Sanchez, Farrah Skeiky, Brandon Weight, Brandon Wetherbee, Ashley Wright
Last week was National Pizza Day! It’s a time to celebrate something we were already doing! It’s a party to remember to party!
Yes, it’s National Pizza Day and though we didn’t really need a reason to pontificate about our love of all things bread and sauce and cheese, we figured, why not? It’s cold outside, it’s a perfect time for pizza. It might get warmer later, another perfect time for pizza. It may be very hot outside very soon, another perfect time for pizza. It’s always a perfect time for pizza.
Goes without saying, right? Also, BONUS: Etto on 14th is run by the same pizza masters so now you don’t have to beg for a ride/hop on the bus to experience the magic. – Svetlana
All-Purpose Pizzeria is in the surprisingly super cool, technically Shaw, actually Convention Center area. When you walk in the restaurant, you’re greeted with warm and inviting staff. The ambiance is comfortable and reminds me of my small hometown pizza shop but somehow cooler because there’s a beautiful open kitchen and a much better bar. But none of that matters. There’s chili honey on the pepperoni pizza, they put avocado ranch on the fried mushrooms and sell sour beers by the growler. They could have stopped at the chili honey on the pepperoni pizza because it’s really all anyone could want – sweet and salty and porky and spicy on a crispy oven baked crust. It’s divine. And the beautiful thing is that no one ingredient over shadows the other. It’s not just the sauce or the crust. It’s a symphony of all things you want in an adult woman’s best pizza. They have a lovely selection of seasonal white and red pizza options for you to choose from or you can build your own pizza if you feel so inclined. Seriously, start living your life right and go get this chili honey pepperoni pizza blessing. -Allison
Wood burning oven? Check. Deliciously petite pies that aren’t the size of a polar vortex? Check. Prosecco on tap? You know it. Opt for anything with their savory smoked pepperoni, or their American Prosciutto offering with tomato, mozarella and arugula. Grab a shot of their house-made limincello from bar manager and restaurant co-partner Bryce Gerlach to finish off the perfect meal. -Brandon Weight
My homes proximity to Astor is one of the reasons I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for six years. The Egyptian Pizza is a must for any fan of pizza or vegetables or spices or life in general. Order the large, eat two slices the night you order (though you really only need one) and enjoy the leftovers the next morning. It doesn’t matter if you’re a drunk or straight edge, the Egyptian is the best pizza for breakfast food I’ve had in my pizza loving life. -Brandon Wetherbee
In Vienna, VA, right outside of D.C., there is a hidden pizza gem. Church Street Pizza is the ultimate trifecta: affordable, efficient, and delicious. To eat in the restaurant might be a bit of a squeeze, since there is not an abundance of seating, but whether eating in or ordering to pick up, the pizza is finished in a timely manner and always warm and cheesy and wonderful. These pizzas have a perfect amount of grease, and the pizzas are all one size, so that decision has been made for you. New York natives claim it’s the closest to New York pizza as the D.C. area gets. -Mackenzie
Instead of showing off your ping pong skills in your friend’s basement, why not showcase your talents while enjoying a personal pizza? Pay for the pizza, and play ping pong for free at Comet Ping Pong. Earlier in the night, you might have to fight a family of four for a table, but later on, you and your friends can battle it out, no judgments passed. -Avalon
When you pull into the parking lot of the sleepy suburban Kensington Shopping center at Connecticut and Howard, and open your car door, you’ll be greeted immediately by the smells of fried onions and warm dough. Located just around the corner from the barber shop, bank, hardware store, and gas station, the cooks at Continental Pizza are making the best pizza in the neighborhood. It’s a medium-thickness crust, formed into a rectangle, with delicately seasoned sauce, and heaping amounts of mozzarella. After that, it’s whatever toppings you want. Rather than getting an extra large to share among four people, it’s a much wiser move to just get a large, and an order of their Old Bay fries. Maybe a sandwich, too. -Jonny
It’s a $9.95 large pizza. You can get cheese, pepperoni, or combo (pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, and onion). Regardless of the toppings situation, it’s still $9.95. It’s greasy and cheesy. It’s not DOP certified and it’s not made in a custom stone pizza oven. I think it’s actually made on a conveyor belt. None of that matters. It’s good. It’s cheap. It could feed all of your friends. Grab a coke with your spare change and you have yourself a meal. If you don’t want to blow out your heart by eating a whole pizza at once, slices are $1.99. If do you want a whole pizza, but don’t want to wait for them to make it, you can buy a pre-made pizza for $8.99 and cook it at home. Costco is literally heaven. -Kaylee
Why do I think District of Pi is the best pizzeria in town? Oh, let me count the ways. First of all, they serve deep dish pizzas, which are few and far between in DC. Deep dish pizzas are superior to all other pizzas with their thick, chewy crusts and mounds of gooey cheese. Secondly, the ones at District of Pi are especially good because of their topping combinations. Their Berkely Pi is smothered in mozzarella, meaty portabello mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, kalamata olives, and garlic, making it the perfect marriage of sweet. salty, and earthy. The Western Addition is another heavenly choice where a creamy blend of spinach, ricotta, and feta replaced traditional tomato sauce. Add in the mozzarella, mushrooms, onions and garlic they put on top and you basically have the perfect pizza. And then of course you can create your own pizza and choose from their fabulous selection of toppings like gorgonzola cheese, sundried tomatoes, and preserved lemons. Oh and one more plug for District of Pi: they have a deep dish apple “pi.” -Priya
This weirdly named joint started as a food truck that would make appearances at local farmers markets, and finally got a brick & mortar restaurant in 2014. But that doesn’t mean it’s added more to the menu: the tiny kitchen here does one thing and one thing only… great, oak-fired pizza. The farmers market gigs clearly rubbed off, though, as this shop is truly hyper-local: its pigs are from PA, its produce is from the District, its beer & wine is from the D.C. area, and it makes all its own, seasonal sodas. Best of the bunch is the Hot Mess, a spicy, tomato-less pie topped with pickled jalapeños, caramelized onions, bacon, mozzarella, Gruyere, and romano cheese. Owner Frank Linn cures that bacon in the restaurant; the result is a scattering of smoky, salty, amazing pork, perfect for cutting through the rich cheese and onions. -Logan
Ghibellina is an outstanding gastropub…that happens to serve some of D.C.’s best pizza. It combines two stand-out techniques: an atypical mix of flours, and a longer, lower-temperature cooking time (usually three to three-and-a-half minutes in a 500-600 degree oven). These factors prevent this from being boxed in as a “true Neapolitan” pizza; instead, it’s the restaurant’s own take on the style. A little crispier on the bottom, with a little less char, these pizzas are given time to develop that deep, yeasty flavor in the crust, best exemplified in Ghibellina’s Salsicce e Cippola pizza, which comes with tomato, roasted onions, sharp provolone, and an ever-so-faint bitterness, lent by the fennel sausage. Still not convinced? During the daily happy hour, it’s $8.50. -Logan
Georgetown’s il Canale specializes in Southern Italian cuisine, relying on imported Italian ingredients, including mozzarella di bufala, San Marzano tomatoes, and 00 flour. Its gourmet pizzas get blasted in a wood-fired oven imported straight from Naples, and the result is a crispy, chewy, yeasty crust with perfect bubbly char. Keep in mind this is true Napoletana style – that means floppy and fold-able. Here’s what you want to go with: the Diavola. A sweet tomato sauce melds with imported bufala mozzarella (the good stuff), fresh basil, and the kicker: a soppressata that’s sweet, salty, and (mostly) spicy, all at once. -Logan
Craving something to eat after a show at 9:30 or after a night out at the bars? Take a walk down U Street to Italian Kitchen on U. Just $3 for a jumbo slice, it’s exactly what you were craving and didn’t even know it. While it might not be the best jumbo slice you’ve ever had, it’s pretty damn tasty; perfect for your drunken munchies. The service is fast and you can add all of the spices your heart could desire (actually they just have paprika, oregano, and a few of the other usual suspects). And who knows, maybe a cute boy will kiss you randomly in the line (this actually happened to me on New Years), but maybe not… either way you’ll leave this pizza joint with a satisfied and very full tummy. -Emily
You can search every corner of every neighborhood of the district for the most creative, greenest, expertly crafted pizza you can imagine. You’ll probably find it. But does your $30 pie measure up to your hometown favorite when you need this strange brand of comfort food the most? Probably not. This is precisely why Ledo’s conquers all.
I moved to Silver Spring in July 2004 and managed to independently consume three regular-sized rectangular Ledo’s pizzas in one week as we settled into our new place, waiting on kitchen appliances and running water. Something about that sauce (probably a ton of sugar) was so much better than any chain pizza I’d ever had– and the fact that you can buy jars of it? Are you kidding me? All bets were off. Of course even after our kitchen was functional, I came nowhere close to achieving the simple grandeur that was Ledo’s. Here’s what I knew: the sauce was/is probably loaded with things that are bad for me, and the crust was/is probably mass produced, but I didn’t care then and I don’t care now.
The excessive amounts of Ledo’s probably played some role in my celiac diagnosis. I accept their apology in the form of their gluten-free personal pan pizza. The preservatives/processed/frozen speculations probably/certainly apply to this pie above all the others. But the best gluten free pizzas are the ones that taste like you should be allergic to them– they should taste like a normal pizza that would probably make you sick. In my five years with celiac, I still haven’t found a gluten free pizza emulates its wheat-filled counterpart so well. My loyalty remains. -Farrah
A true Neapolitan pizza should never come sliced. Some scissors, sure, but pre-cut? Nah. Menomale knows this…though it’ll slice a pizza for you if you ask nicely. These guys use ingredients specifically sourced from the Campania region of Italy and are DOP certified (DOP is short for “Protected Designation of Origin,” and serves as a guarantee that the food was made by local farmers and artisans, using traditional methods). In keeping with tradition, Menomale’s pizza uses only 00 flour, fior di latte mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil. Go for the Di Ettore (the Chef’s Special, natch): fior di latte mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, arugula, prosciutto di parma, grana padano, and extra virgin olive oil…as Italian as it gets. -Logan
I see you sleeping on Pete’s Apizza. Knock that shit off. There will be no sleeping on Pete’s in this household.
For almost nine years, the D.C.- rea establishment has brought happiness in the form of New Haven-style pizza to the masses. What’s New Haven-style pizza? Well, that’s a surprisingly tough question. Basically, it’s a somewhat arbitrary style that can be boiled down to a slightly chewy but also slightly crunchy crust, the inclusion of oregano, and a restrained use of cheese. (Catch up with the O.G. progenitor of the style Frank Pepe here.)
Anyway, Pete’s. It’s awesome. When my buddies come over to share our latest favorite bottles of beer, we order Pete’s. When my girlfriend and I are feeling lazy, we order Pete’s. Pete’s completes me.
Some favorites of mine in no particular order: Metro North (a decadent white pizza with slow roasted pork, caramelized onions, ricotta, and house-made pancetta), Boola-Boola (a spicier option with house-made meatballs, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and hot cherry peppers), and Edge of the Woods (a “healthier” pizza with sautéed spinach, onions, ricotta, and thinly sliced but long pieces of fried eggplant).
Dammit. Now I really want Pete’s. -Phil
The grandmother of D.C.’s pizza scene – yes, I’m calling it a scene – Pizzeria Paradiso has been holding it down for a staggering 25 years. During that time, Ruth Gresser’s baby has grown from one cramped Dupont location to three across town (Alexandria, Georgetown, and a bigger Dupont spot), with a fourth coming to Maryland later this year. Each location straddles the line between hip and cozy, which is an exceedingly difficult feat.
Baked in a brick hearth, its pizzas are slightly charred and invariably delicious. And while their standard offerings are slightly conservative, the more adventurous rotating pizza of the week picks up the slack. I still dream of one from many, many years ago called the Scottish Pie, which was topped with clapshot, kurly kail, Ayrshire bacon, chives, Vermont chedder, and Isle of Mull cheddar.
Pizza P is about more than pizza, though. It also possesses one of the city’s best beer selections. I wrote about the genesis of the program – and told the story of their new house ale – in the BYT feature Freshly Tapped: Right Proper’s Maslow. -Phil
It takes a lot to get me away from red sauce pizzas, but one that does it every time is the Burrata pizza from Pupatella. Think of the most delicious mozzarella you’ve ever had…then make the center creamy. Now put that on a pizza, where it melts down into its own sauce, covering the chewy dough base, which is charred in a custom, oak-burning oven that cooks a pizza in one minute at 900 degrees and is made of bricks that were actually built using volcanic ash from goddamn Mount Vesuvius, NO BIG DEAL. It’s made even better with the addition of scattered cherry tomatoes, basil, and pine nuts. This is one of the best white pizzas in and around D.C. -Logan
Much like most things, pizza can also be made better by adding an egg on top. The Red Rocks Sunrise Pizza (and I’ve only had the Columbia Heights one, so I cannot vouch for execution at other locations, but I WANT TO BELIEVE) is a perfect rough morning pick-me-up of potatoes (carbs on carbs!), tomatoes, parmesan and a cracked egg. You can and SHOULD add chorizo on top. It is spicy and helps. It all kind of blends one into the other with the noble exception of the thin, crackling Neapolitan crust. Pour some of that $14 carafe mimosa on top and we’re in business. The crust and the bubbles-that’s all the texture I can handle on a weekend AM anyway. Delicious. -Svetlana
The guys behind Timber Pizza Company might not have known what they were doing when they launched as a mobile wood-fire pizza operation in the summer of 2014, but man, have they figured it out quickly. Finally at their brick and mortar location in Petworth, Timber Pizza serves up Neopolitan-style personal pies with a modern twist, using high quality ingredients. Their crust is on the lighter side, with pleasant char from the wood burning oven, and serves as the perfect vessel to deliver gooey mozzarella, tomato sauce, and any other combination of toppings you want to put on it.
Vace is an old-school Italian deli. Since 1976, it’s been slinging sliced meats & cheeses, olives, artichokes, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, pasta…you get the picture. Its outstanding pizza is often overlooked, however. This place is home to some of the cheapest slices in the city (seriously – $2.50 a slice is absurd), and pumps out authentic Italian pies. The white pizza with onions is a thing of beauty; the rich, creamy sauce only heightens the sweetness of the caramelized onions piled on top, and offsets the dense chew of the crust. -Logan
Vapiano is not uniquely D.C. or even uniquely American – there are locations all over the world – but good pizza doesn’t have to have a complicated, heartfelt story or a time-intensive fraught process. Vapiano’s prosciutto pizza is basic: thin crust from dough made daily in-house, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese topped with prosciutto and parmesan after it bakes. That’s it. It’s relatively quick, it’s simple, and it’s a perfect accompaniment to happy hour-priced wine or beer. -Trisha
When it comes to pizza, the simpler the better. I like margherita pies. If I’m throwing on toppings, all I really care about are mushrooms, peppers, and onions. If I’m feeling especially crazy, maybe I’ll add some sausage, but I like to keep it basic. Except when it comes to Pizzeria Vetri. Here it’s best to skip the classics and head straight to their regional specific pizza, the granchio. Made with Maryland blue crab, mozzarella, peppers and fresh herbs, it’s sweet and savory in equal measure. It’s also their most expensive pizza at $24, but if you’re going to go to Vetri, you might as well go all out. You can get a great margherita somewhere else. -Kaylee
I’m a huge fan of New York style pizza. The oozing cheese held over Italian tomato sauce on a thin vehicle of doughy deliciousness. Many places in the city claim to have such pizza, but they fall short. Wiseguys Pizzeria is the best slice you can get in D.C., HANDS DOWN. Every occasion is a good one for Wiseguys; late night (open till 3 am on weekends), business lunch, quick bite to eat, or my personal favorite; the hangover over meal. The best slice is the signature Wiseguy, but the buffalo chicken is surprisingly amazing. What sets them apart from the others? It may be the dough, the strict New York style pizza, the mob portraits on the wall, the fresh Parmesan you sprinkle on your slice from the hand held cheese grater, or the Boylan soda machine. Their formula is on point. Actually, by the time this article is published, I’ll be at Wise Guys meeting a friend I haven’t seen years. -Franz
Delicious pizzas made right in front of your salivary glands. Fresh ingredients. Open until 3:30AM on the weekends when you need sustenance but don’t trust yourself to navigate the open flame required by the stove. Free pizza to anyone who comes in and tells the staff about a local cause they champion. Goodness all around. -Ashley