No pizza is perfect, and neither are the lists that purport to catalogue the best pizzas in any one area.
Who knows what goes on inside my head sometimes. What I’m trying to say is that while the following six pizzas are my runners-up to the official top 10, they are by no means inferior.
Pizza bianco at Ledo Restaurant
We live in a period in which chefs can tell you everything about their dough — the organic flours to build it, the temperature and humidity levels to ferment it. Ledo Restaurant (the only one owned by the Marcos side of the original partnership) is a throwback. It proudly relies on a no-frills pizza recipe that dates back decades. Its base is thin, floury and flaky, frequently compared to a pastry or biscuit. But Tommy Marcos Jr., son of co-founder Tommy Marcos Sr., says the dough is a basic combination of flour, water, oil and yeast, fermented no more than 45 minutes and rolled out by hand to fit the rectangular pans. What separates the pizza bianco is its garlic butter, liberally applied to the crust. It’s topped with three cheeses — not a watery round of fresh mozzarella among them — and baked until rich, dense and golden. It’s like pizza fudge.
$9.50 for a small; $12.50 for medium; $17.50 for large. 4509 Knox Rd., College Park, 301-422-8122; ledorestaurant.com.
Pesky Mario at Sonny's Pizza
There is a ground war atop every Pesky Mario. Available only as a whole pie, this rectangular land mass attempts to keep the peace between two ingredients that fight for dominance with every bite. Neither the rapini, woody and bitter, nor the Calabrian chiles, hot and slightly smoky, willingly cedes an inch. The mushrooms, tomato sauce and mozzarella do their best to negotiate a truce, but they’re overmatched on chef Ben Heller’s focaccia-style pie. You’re left with something that’s central to all art and popular culture, whether novels or reality television: conflict as entertainment. Just as important, the Pesky Mario (it’s the nickname of the “pizza monster” logo on Sonny’s merchandise) reminds us that the things that separate us can sometimes, paradoxically, bind us. In this case, the heat and bitterness combine into one ferocious, delicious bite.
$30. 3120 Georgia Ave. NW, 202-601-7701; sonnyspizzadc.com.
Di Ettore at Menomale
Named for the chef and co-owner of this superb Brookland pizzeria, the Di Ettore is basically a mission statement from Ettore Rusciano. He likes his pizzas simple. He likes to taste the bread at the heart of all the best pies, which may explain why his namesake creation has no tomato sauce. Not a drop. Instead, Rusciano combines creamy fior di latte mozzarella with translucent slices of prosciutto di Parma, shavings of semi-fruity grana padano and a handful cherry tomatoes, which explode with concentrated blasts of acid and sweetness. These flavors accentuate, not dominate, the base of this Neapolitan round, built with a dough that Rusciano ferments 36 hours in a temperature-controlled room in the back of Menomale. There is complexity buried deep in the chef’s so-called simple pizza.
$18. 2711 12th St. NE; 202-248-3946; menomale.us.
White pizza at Andy's Pizza
Andy Brown, the man behind the pizzeria that bears his given name, aspires to be the best New York-style shop in the area. I think if he and I sat down over a few high-ABV beers at his Tysons Galleria spot (Brown also slings pies at Echo Park in Shaw), he might admit to even loftier goals. I sense he wants the name of his pizzeria to roll off the lips of Washingtonians whenever they mention their favorite shops, New York or otherwise. One day, I think he’ll get his wish. The guy has the passion. Right now, he just doesn’t have the consistency. I would have included Brown’s white pizza on my original list, but the last time I ordered it, the slice had clearly sat out too long. Time had had its way with it. You, of course, can avoid this possibility by ordering a whole pie, which arrives fresh, browned, supple and crisp right out of the deck oven. At its peak, the white pizza is a fine-tuned invention, one in which the crust, garlic and three-cheese blend vibrate at separate but sympathetic frequencies, each sweet in its own way.
$3.99 per slice; $23 per pizza. 2001 International Dr., McLean, 703-775-2212; eatandyspizza.com.
Childish Bambino at All-Purpose Pizzeria
Named after the young Dominican slugger who helped propel the Nationals to their first World Series title last year — Juan Soto didn’t need no stinkin’ center field camera! — this meat-lovers pizza combines smoky bacon, housemade Italian sausage and slices of pepperoni from New York’s legendary Salumeria Biellese. This glistening slab packs so much flavor (and, no doubt, so many calories) that it makes me feel like I could hit an upper-deck shot off Justin Verlander. Introduced before the Series, and right before Soto’s 21st birthday, the Childish Bambino (it’s his nickname, in case you didn’t know) is officially on the menu at the Capitol Riverfront location, but chef/owner Mike Friedman says you can request it at the Shaw pizzeria, too. So has our hometown hero had one yet? No, Friedman texts. But “I signed his birthday card and told him to come in and have it. Still waiting!”
79 Potomac Ave. SE, 202-629-1894; 1250 Ninth St. NW, 202-849-6174; allpurposedc.com.
Chicken paneer at Wiseguy Pizza
Pizzamaking is a hidebound tradition, one that loves its arcane rules and its time-honored toppings, which have remained doggedly consistent from one generation to another to another. I mean, 20 years into the 21st century, and we’re still debating whether pineapple belongs on pizza. This conservatism might explain why I feel so sheepish about my affection for the chicken paneer pie, a relatively new offering from Wiseguy. It unabashedly combines elements from Italy and India, two flatbread-loving countries. It’s a visually striking creation, with its concentric circles of jalapeño sauce, but it also gleefully embraces fusion, at time when cultural hawks tell us to retreat to our own corners. Besides, I love the firm cubes of paneer, perhaps the only time you can enjoy unmelted cheese on pizza.
$4.29 per slice; $25.99 per pizza. 300 Massachusetts Ave. NW, No. 1; 202 M St. SE; 2121 H St. NW, Unit 129A; and 1735 North Lynn St., Arlington; wiseguypizza.com.