$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

For nine years, Frederic and Cecile Darricarrere have served classic French food such as onion soup, beef bourguignon and lemon tarts at their Woodley Park bistro, Petits Plats. But Frederic Darricarrere has harbored a secret passion for another country's famous food: pizza.

After more than 20 years in the restaurant business, Darricarrere decided to pursue his dream. He went to California to find the perfect oven, selecting one that uses wood and gas (though he uses only the latter). He sourced the most authentic Italian ingredients: tomatoes, salumi and buffalo mozzarella. He even hired Edan MacQuaid, of 2 Amys and Pizzeria Paradiso fame, as a consultant. Two months ago, the Darricarreres rechristened their small basement carryout: Pizze.

Darricarrere's efforts have paid off. The 12-inch pies can't quite compete with 2 Amys or Paradiso; the crust lacks a deep, yeasty flavor and enough salt. But it is light, crisp and sturdy enough to support whatever toppings chef Sahiya Oyuungerel chooses. And they can be quite involved: The Francesco ($15) has bresaola, tomato and mozzarella, Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheeses; the Sicilia ($13) has roasted chicken, broccoli, olives, pesto and Parmesan.

We sampled simpler pies. The margherita ($12) has sweet tomato sauce, basil and just enough cheese. The pepperoni ($13) will satisfy both gourmets and hungry teens.

Pizze offers entrees that were available at Petits Plats. We weren't wild about the poached salmon ($14), which is a bit pricey and was almost raw throughout. But the fresh, herby and greaseless chicken croquettes ($1.50 each) would make a perfect recession-era meal when paired with a salad at home.

The sandwiches are creative and terrific across the board. Our tasters adored the merguez sausage with harissa and greens ($8), a hearty, spicy sandwich on a thin baguette. (It is heated briefly in the pizza oven before being served.) Another keeper on a baguette is the leg of lamb with tomato, red peppers and goat cheese ($8.50); it's a taste of Provence.

For dessert, we liked the lemon tart ($4.50), with its bright filling, and the chocolate mousse ($4.50), which managed to be simultaneously airy and decadent.

-- Jane Black (Good to Go, April 1, 2008)