Washington’s best pizza? Right now, it’s in Falls Church. That’s where Edan MacQuaid, a former talent at 2 Amys and Pizzeria Paradiso, is stoking the wood-burning oven at the new Pizzeria Orso, a big, friendly barn of a place done up in yellow walls, soft green booths and red sound-soaking panels, with images of bears here and there. (”Orso” is Italian for “bear.”) MacQuaid’s Neapolitan crusts are thin, pliant, a tad sour, beautifully charred -- and served unsliced, so the dough can continue to cook after it leaves the fire. His margherita upholds tradition with tangy crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and near-liquid pinches of genuine buffalo mozzarella, but the daily specials bear investigating, too: a round decked out with a lattice of grana cheese, briny capers, red pepper flakes and juicy mussels in their shells deserves a permanent place on the menu. Pizza isn’t the only thing the kitchen does well. Tender lamb meatballs in a zesty tomato sauce, and fritters that crack open to a fluff of potato and cheese, tempt you to make a meal of appetizers, while the crisp cannoli stuffed with sweetened ricotta and pistachios practically demand that you stay for dessert.
Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.