NOW THAT we have the Carnegie Deli, I've got one complaint off my list. So I'm going on to the second great need of Washington, again from a model in New York: Why don't we have any of the wonderful downtown produce markets like those in New York? Attractive places to buy produce for home, they are also good sources for lunch or a light dinner. They not only sell whole fruits and vegetables by the piece or in larger quantities, but they also often have magnificent salad bars (which are an efficient use for ripe or bruised produce that needs to be eaten quickly).
Sure, we have carryout salad bars in suburban supermarkets and in some restaurants, but New York produce-shop salad bars are quick places to stop and so appealing they draw people in from the street; furthermore, they are open late into the evening. Typically they offer four or five kinds of lettuce; salads of macaroni, potato, pasta and tabbouleh along with the usual cut-up vegetables and fruits; and many include chicken, tuna or other high-protein salads. Some even have sushi, and many serve homemade soups.
It's hard to figure why they haven't sprung up in Washington. Within two blocks of Dupont Circle, west on P Street, for example, are at least half a dozen small groceries and several fast-food restaurants, all pretty much duplicating one another. Why hasn't at least one ventured into something new? An abundance of ripe produce and a lush salad bar could provide lunch, dinner, late snacks, subway-riders' shopping and neighborhood office meals.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK --
On the subject of New York, I finally got to try the 2nd Avenue Deli, one of that city's greats. And it lived up to expectations: pastrami to vie with Carnegie's, terrific coleslaw, some of the best gefilte fish I have found in a decade, and chopped liver that would make you forget pa~te'. What made it quintessentially a New York deli, though, were two factors: the waitresses and the customers. Where else do you find diners at one table introducing themselves to the group at the next table and, loud enough for the far corners of the room to hear, trading names of New Jersey delis? And where else, when you ask the waitress how the radishes with chicken fat are served, does she answer, "On a plate. I haven't paid that much attention."
BARTENDERS' NIGHT OUT --
The night to keep away from Washington's bars and restaurants is March 12, and the place you should be instead is the Washington Hilton, where nearly anybody you'd want to have mixing your drink will be at the Bartenders' Ball. With a buffet dinner, open bar and dancing, it's black tie at 8 p.m. The money will go to a passel of charities chosen by the participants and the bartenders' brand new D.C. Purveyors' Educational Grant Program. Tickets to the ball, available at 44 area restaurants and bars or by calling 628-3234, are $85 a person.
HEAVY DUTY PIZZA --
For $3 you expect to get a couple of slices of flabby thin pizza, right? Sure, if that's all you're looking for. But now that Mangialardo's, one of Washington's unsung heroes among Italian delis, has gotten into the pizza business, you have a right to expect a lot more. Mangialardo's pizza, unfortunately, is only available until 3 p.m. when the deli, at 1317 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, closes. And you've got to pick it up yourself. But it warrants the effort. This nine-inch pizza has puffy, crusty, yeasty dough that gives your teeth something to sink into, and over its light wash of sauce is enough cheese to equal the thickness of the dough. Very good stuff. And if you are willing to swing for another dollar, you can get Mangialardo's own legendary Italian sausage on it. The only other option is pepperoni, sliced very thin, a fine option if the sausage didn't eclipse it. Mangialardo's has subs, too, and I wouldn't knock them, but they can't compete with the pizza.