From the New York Times' review of Mark Leibovich's book "This Town," by David Shribman:
Of all the irritating things about Washington — the phoniness, the showy cars, the utter inability of a metropolitan area of 6.9 million people to produce a single decent slice of pizza or a passable submarine sandwich with oil and not mayonnaise — none is more infuriating than the local insider habit of referring to the place as “this town,” as in “He’s the most important power broker in this town” or, more likely (and worse), “The way to get ahead in this town is to seem not to be trying to get ahead.”
You can read about "This Town" -- a look at the smarmy innerworkings of Washington -- in other parts of this paper. We're here to talk about pizza and subs. "People who bemoan the lack of good pies hereabouts have been living in caves," wrote Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema in his 2007 review of RedRocks Pizzeria in Columbia Heights. Ahem.
The Times review was written by David Shribman, the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and a former Washington bureau chief of The Boston Globe. His tenure in Washington ended in 2003, and since then, we've had a huge influx of new restaurants -- many of which do way better than a decent slice of pizza or a mayonnaise-free sub. (Also, I'm from Pittsburgh, and I can report that it is a city that loves mayonnaise, so that must be pretty disappointing for Shribman.)
But we get it -- the New York Times likes to pick on us, especially for our food. There was the story about how everyone on Capitol Hill loves junk food. There was the wide-eyed marveling that this "stodgy, early-to-bed town" was becoming "hip." This statement in a 2009 story about Washington, "But, truth be told, restaurants are not exactly on top of the why-to-visit list." The incredulity that there were good restaurants for normal people, not just K Street lobbyists -- and that those restaurants were actually good enough to land our sleepy little river inlet on the New York Times list of 46 places to visit in 2013.
And so, we present:
The New York Times/David Shribman guide to decent pizza and subs with oil in D.C.
Pupatella: "No matter the topping, the crusts are the kind you could eat by themselves: a little smoky, fragrant with yeast, never soupy in the center." -- Tom Sietsema
Menomale: "[Leland] Estes says “menomale” is Italian for “thank goodness.” Which is precisely how residents of Brookland -- but also pizza and beer nuts outside those borders -- must feel about this fresh slice of bliss." -- TS
Etto: "[Peter] Pastan says he uses a different method of making and baking Etto’s dough, which incorporates spelt and fresh-milled wheat and cooks at a slightly hotter temperature. The spelt gives the dough elasticity; the wheat, milled on-site, lends the base sweetness." -- TS
2 Amys: "One of the hallmarks of great pizza is a crust so compelling you could eat it by itself. Two Amys in Cleveland Park bakes a Neapolitan model that's thin in the middle and raised on the borders, and bears just the right amount of char from the wood oven to give the combination of flour, water and fresh yeast its delicious edge." -- TS
As well as: RedRocks, Pizzeria Orso, Matchbox, Pizza Paradiso, Pete's Apizza, Comet Ping Pong, Rustico, Vace.
Taylor Gourmet: "At Taylor Gourmet ... on H Street NE, everything is just as it should be. The cured meats and cheeses are imported from Italy. The turkey is roasted in-house, and the marinara sauce is made each morning.
The Italian bread, crusty on the outside, light and chewy on the inside, is delivered daily from Sarcone's, a fifth-generation Philadelphia bakery." -- Jane Black [Update: Taylor Gourmet now makes its own bread.]
Italian Store: "Cold cuts and cured meats are layered in a variety of combinations with provolone and topped with sweet or hot peppers, onions, oregano and a vinegary house dressing. This is classic stuff." -- Justin Rude
Mangialardo and Sons Inc. Italian Deli: "On a hard roll (made in the District by Catania Bakery) or soft, the 'G' Man packs great flavor and texture. Mimic the regulars and order yours with hot peppers. The Italian-style giardiniera mix they use brings a vinegary bite that helps cut the richness of the meat." -- JR
A. Litteri: "People of Italian ancestry--folks who once lived in neighborhoods east of the Capitol--make the trek from suburbia and beyond." -- Walter Nicholls
As well as: Fast Gourmet, and the soon-to-open G by Mike Isabella.
Washingtonians, have any other favorites that we missed? Tell the New York Times about them in the comments.