Inspired by the New Jersey pizza joints of his youth, executive chef Michael Friedman is set to open All Purpose at 1250 Ninth St. NW in Shaw -- yes, that would be at the Colonel, the same new apartment building in which pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac is opening her Buttercream Bakeshop.
Friedman anticipates a late-2015 opening for his restaurant that will feature "straightforward Roman" cuisine mixed with Italian American classics.
Red Hen general manager Michael O’Malley and sommelier Sebastian Zutant are joining Friedman in the venture, first reported by City Paper. Gareth Croke and Colin McDonough, co-owners of Boundary Stone, are also part of the project.
Friedman has fond memories of eating pizza but said slinging pies also appeals to his inner tinkerer.
"My fascination is really built into the dough and just the exciting exploration of learning to craft a new dough," he said. Friedman already makes bread and pasta, both fresh and dried, at Red Hen. His goal is to work with MacIsaac to craft a breadier crust.
To help achieve that texture, Friedman is turning to deck ovens rather the wood-burning variety that are de rigueur with restaurants cooking Neapolitan-style pizzas.
Friedman said that whereas the typical wood-fired oven might get as hot as 900 to 1,200 degrees and cook a pizza in 90 seconds, a deck oven might run between 400 and 600 degrees to finish a pie in 6 to 8 minutes.
"In that time frame, you're able to have all the flavors that you want in your dough," he said.
To further put their stamp on the crust, he and MacIsaac will likely explore using some local flours. "You have great millers out here right now, and not a lot of people are tapping into them," Friedman said.
The menu may include one nod to Red Hen. Friedman floated the possibility that he'd craft a pizza version of his mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu and pecorino-Romano -- one of the dishes featured in The Post's just-announced 40 Eats list. Also expect to see bruschetta, antipasti and charcuterie. Large plates may include panzanella-stuffed quail and suckling pig porchetta with Meyer lemon aioli. Zutant, Croke and McDonough will collaborate on the beverage program.
Friedman isn't the only one making pizza news of late. Ruth Gresser, founder of Pizzeria Paradiso, recently announced that she's set to open her new quick-service restaurant, Veloce, downtown at 1828 L St. NW late this spring. It will serve breakfast and lunch.
The menu will feature a variety of meat- and vegetable-focused pizzas. As at other fast-pizza establishments &Pizza and DC Pizza, diners at Veloce will also be able to customize pies.
According to a press release, the pizzas will be baked in a 6,000-plus-pound gas brick oven that Gresser helped design. Her goal was to achieve a Neapolitan-style crust similar to what the wood-burning ovens at Pizzeria Paradiso produce. The Veloce oven will be able to hold up to 25 pizzas at once.
The Washington area continues to see an uptick in pizza spots, especially chef-driven ones. Why?
"I think it's something we love eating," Friedman said. Plus, "chefs like using straight-up fire ... There's something instinctively satisfying about it."