The new Pizza Vinoteca in Ballston turns out an oblong pie that features a variety of toppings on a bland crust. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

One of the contrasts between the fresh Pizza Vinoteca and its stiff competition in Ballston: the newcomer's 16-burner grill, capable of reaching 900 degrees. Visible behind the kitchen's glass front, which overlooks the dining room, the equipment includes infrared heat (from above) and mesquite-burning smokers (from below) — "not a widespread technique" for pizzamaking, says Ari Malcolm, the restaurant's New York-based chief executive.

Pizza Vinoteca’s dough is different, too, made as it is with rye flour and red wine, and delivered to the table as an oblong 5-by-13-inch pie. Toppings are classified as “Simple & Classic” or “Modern.” Picture pepperoni and cheese; or meatballs with kale pesto, and mushrooms with goat cheese and leeks.

“Italian soul in an American restaurant,” says Malcolm of his second Pizza Vinoteca. (The first opened and closed in Union Square last year.) The way the entrepreneur sees it, there’s no need to buy, say, prosciutto or Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy when the States offer worthy counterparts from Iowa and Wisconsin.

Three pizzas in, however, I find myself wishing I were eating the superior pies at one of Arlington's other parlors, foremost the Neapolitan-style rounds at Pupatella. For all the effort that goes into them, Vinoteca's thin, crisp and surprisingly bland crusts seem to be mere vehicles for the toppings.

Don’t count on filling up on some of the rest of the short menu. Orange and grapefruit segments fail to balance the bitterness within a stack of treviso radicchio. “Grilled fall vegetables” yield a wan vision in white: cauliflower, parsnips and onions. A side of baked cannellini beans glides to the table in a bowl shaped like a gondola. Too bad the beans assault the taste buds with — “artificial smoke?” a pal wonders aloud.

Pizza Vinoteca, which puts a circular bar in the center of the room and seats diners at snug booths, is not without its charms. From the stove comes a robust pumpkin soup with threads of fried leeks, and from the oven emerges a tomato-y eggplant casserole that crackles with a cover of toasted bread crumbs.

Drinks show thought, too. Pizza Vinoteca makes some of its own sodas, including root beer, and pours nearly 40 international wines for $10 or less by the glass. The swirly tumblers, created by Riedel, feel good in the hand. They also add a festive note to a meal that is otherwise not much of a party.

800 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington. 703-567-1056. Pizzas, $9 to $15.

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