Words and Photos by Melissa Groth
Ballston does not have a great restaurant scene. Heavily populated with chain brands, it’s not a neighborhood with much of a culinary draw, but there are some options that can help you make the most of being there, including Pizza Vinoteca on Glebe Road, which opened its doors last week. Pizza Vinoteca is a New York brand that offers a variety of grilled pizzas cooked on a custom-designed grill that uses infrared heat and wood chip smoke boxes so the pizza cooks quickly yet thoroughly. More upscale but with fewer non-pizza items than its neighbor, Vapiano, Pizza Vinoteca offers some of the staples you’d expect from an Italian restaurant; lasagna and eggplant parmesan for example. But the focus is on the pizza; it is half the name after all. They offer “Classic” and “Modern” pizzas. The Classics include things like cheese, sausage, and pepperoni; all of which contain ingredients that make them classic, but not typical. You’ll find Nduja meatball, jowlciale, seasonal squash, and Brussels sprouts pizza on the Modern side of the menu.
One thing that’s great about Pizza Vinoteca is the abundance of vegetarian options. There are about as many vegetarian pizzas as there are meat pizzas. The potato pizza is a good choice as long as you like garlic (who doesn’t, though?), and the shredded Brussels sprouts pizza with ricotta and lemon is a nice, light but satisfying option. The squash pizza is a great idea, and well-cooked, but underwhelming as far as flavor. The “House” pizza is a standout, though. You’ll find it listed first under the “Classics.” It’s basically a margherita, but with fontina as well as mozzarella, tomato and basil. The flavor is vibrant and fantastic.
The other half of the name comes from the emphasis on wine. 36 wines from around the world are available for under $10 a glass. Wine specials and an exclusive wine club make up the Vinoteca half of the restaurant.
The space is large with a modern red, white, and black color motif. The high ceilings cause a bit of echo which makes the restaurant rather loud. The kitchen is to the left as you walk in the front door, and you can watch through the glass while your pizza is prepared and given its final flourishes. The layout is circular, with a 360 degree bar in the center which seats 30 in addition to the 100 person capacity. There is also a recessed dining room for banquet/communal table seating.
If you happen to be hungry in Ballston, skip the fondue and give Pizza Vinoteca a try.