Editors' pick

Pizzeria Orso

Pizza
$$$$ ($15-$24)
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Editorial Review

By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 20, 2012

Then: Washington's best pie (2010)
Again: Good for the hood

You can score a great Neapolitan pie at this family friendly pizzeria in Falls Church, just not every meal. Understanding the nuances of a wood-fired oven and needy doughs takes some time to master, and Will Artley, late of Evening Star Cafe, has been on the job only since March.

Sandwiches dominate his concise lunch menu. They include moist chicken, avocado puree and crisp bacon that enrich the aioli in a satisfying club sandwich; and a sloppy joe that lives up to its descriptor. The latter packs crumbled beef, sweet with brown sugar and plenty peppery, along with crisp onion rings between two crusty shells of bread. Order either sandwich with fries, and out comes a field of piping hot, steamy-centered potatoes.

The dinner menu runs longer. Think grilled octopus and meatballs with polenta. If you're not getting a pizza, try a house-made pasta. Artley serves a pappardelle with braised veal that would taste at home in a three-star Italian.

Orso's big portions reinforce the heavy nature of some of the food, even the supposedly lighter dishes. An overdressed Caesar salad is tossed with as many jumbo croutons as lettuce leaves. And a trio of fetching dips -- verdant pesto, red pepper with shredded carrot, and ricotta sparked with lemon and herbs -- shows up with practically a loaf of bread (including naked pizza slices).

The restaurant, splashed in bright yellows and reds, encourages your participation. On Tuesday, kids 10 and younger eat free, and on Wednesday, bottles of wine are half-price. While the setting wouldn't be my first choice for a long evening, Artley will even whip up a seven-course tasting menu for $60.