This is a terrific restaurant that a lot of people are going to hate. It serves very good -- and quite unusual -- pizza with a fried crust, just large enough to cover a dinner plate and serve one as main course, two as appetizer. The pizza base is chunky Italian plum tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and whole leaves of fresh basil; the 30 optional pizza toppings include some that are quite wonderful (and all that are quite expensive; ranging from $1.25 to $2.50 each): there is the usual bacon, pepperoni, salami and sausage (homemade, hot and rather good) and also pancetta, that intense Italian bacon; or you can order creamy fresh mozzarella or smoked mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola, fontina or bel paese. The vegetable options include fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, unctuous slices of eggplant, even spinach.
The two other reasons to tout Caf,e Petitto are the hoagies and the antipasto bar, where there are some delicious surprises -- sauteed banana peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, superb tomato-basil salad, eggplant slices, marinated red and yellow peppers, creamy egg salad and fresh-tasting potato salad, sometimes fresh mussels and other times canned ones.
At $6 to $7 the pastas would be good value, except that the ones I tried were dreary at any price. The garlic bread is crusted with plenty of good olive oil, freshly grated parmesan and cracked black pepper.
Desserts include excellent tortoni topped with sweet crunchy macaroon bits -- as high a quality as tortoni achieves in this town.
Caf,e Petitto is casual and simple -- no tablecloths, a bare tile floor and a noisy clattery echo. But it is simplicity with panache. 1724 Connecticut Ave. NW. 462- 8771. L $4.75-$10, D $4.75-$10. L, D daily. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Full bar.