2008 Fall Dining Guide

Tom Sietsema's 2008 Fall Dining Guide: Washington's Best Pizza

Comet Ping Pong's soft-shell crab pie.
Comet Ping Pong's soft-shell crab pie. (Sean McCormick for The Washington Post)
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By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 12, 2008

James Alefantis, co-owner of the first-rate Comet Ping Pong (see review), knows exactly why pizza is such a popular food. "It's balanced," he says, and relatively healthful and inexpensive. Moreover, "pizza is like a little present." The restaurateur believes there's a Washington-style of pizza parlor, the recipe for which involves a small scale, local ownership, artisanal ingredients and skillful technique, as displayed by some of my other favorite purveyors:

Veteran chef Melissa Ballinger learned how to make pies at Georgetown's Pizzeria Paradiso, which explains the fine, yeasty flavor and wood-fire-singed signature at her light-filled Mia's Pizzas (4926 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 301-718-6427). Go for the "salsiccia," decorated with house-made sausage, pepperoni, portobello mushrooms and hot pepper flakes.

Conveniently located next to the Columbia Heights Metro stop, the 42-seat Pete's New Haven Style Apizza (1400 Irving St. NW; 202-332-7383) does something few competitors do: It offers its crisp-chewy pizza by the slice as well as the 18-inch round. (The garlicky clam pie remains a favorite.) Customers place their orders at a counter but get their food delivered. Pete's also dishes up dreamy gelato.

Set in a converted rowhouse, RedRocks (1036 Park Rd. NW; 202-506-1402), which takes its name from the bricks used to make its oven, is known for its chipper staff and attention to detail. Its flour hails from Italy and gets milled extra-fine, while the dough is made in small batches throughout the day. And only buffalo mozzarella will do for the classic margherita pizza.

When the Neapolitan-flavored Two Amys (3715 Macomb St. NW; 202-885-5700) gets it right, it's my favorite place for pizza. And when it doesn't, it's just another loud and overcrowded place to eat. On a recent visit, I encountered underbaked crusts and dull appetizers. Let's hope they were flukes rather than trends.

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