Words and photos: Stephanie Breijo
D.C. is no stranger to a changing landscape, from the food scene to ever-shifting neighborhood demographics. &pizza is no stranger to harnessing both aspects for their fast-casual concept and their new Monroe Street Market location is no exception.
The popular–and, OK we’ll say it, insanely delicious–brand first planted its black-and-white pizza flag on H Street, then U Street. Opening today on Monroe is the newest location and the first with outdoor seating, followed closely by a spot in Bethesda, then E Street and Germantown in late spring, and finally K Street sometime this summer.
“We like being at the forefront of transformation. We feel like we’ve really been able to create that sense of place where all belong,” owner Steve Salis tells me. “It’s a place where everyone can engage with each other and have good memories and good pizza.”
Their D.C. takeover–begun roughly two years ago–accomplished just that and continues at Monroe Street Market adjacent to an arts walk, Catholic University, and Trinity College, not to mention an onslaught of housing development and high schools.
Nixing the “[blank] &pizza” branding going forward, the restaurant’s large trademark ampersand and a bright “&pizza” sign is fixed firmly to the front of their new building, addressed 666 (and yes, that number was intentional). The new space seats a comfortable 46 and, in just a few short weeks, they’ll open up their 25-seat outdoor patio.
“This one’s a little edgier. We wanted to sort of push the limits a little bit and I’d say it’s pretty close to 2.0,” Salis laughs.
It’s instantly apparent once you walk in and note the high-contrast mural, a collage of black-and-white images of neighborhood Monroe Street faces. The less apparent fixture is hidden in the bathroom, a set of murals by District artist Kelly Towles.
You’ll also find the first designated &pizza fresh mozzarella bar where you’ll witness employees creating the cheese every day. Salis tells me this is all part of building a theatrical dining experience, a point of pride in &pizza’s involved dining ethos. He also tells me the fresh cheese bar is a new design for future &pizza locations, with the plan to add a variety of cheese made in-house in the future.
“It’s so amazing just to see so many people from all walks of life spending their time on our properties and that’s really the strength of the brand and what we do,” Salis says. At the end of our tour he closes with, “You know, pizza for the most part makes people happy. We’re in the business if making people happy.”
There’s no way we can argue with that.
The newest &pizza is located at 666 Monroe Street NE and opens today, 10:00am – 11:00pm on Sunday through Thursday, and 10:00am – Midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.