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The difficulty of expanding any respected restaurant is maintaining the flavor, and the flavorful cooking, of the original. The new Pete’s Apizza on Wisconsin Avenue feels much the same as the first location in Columbia Heights, save for one important distinction: The new spot sits in a sort of no man’s land between Tenleytown and Friendship, a decidedly more baby stroller-intensive neighborhood, which means there is less panhandling and human tragedy outside the front window.
The new Pete’s also has more space, which the owners have used to good effect, by which I mean there are more pizzas by the slice. The display case by the register is stuffed with more than a half-dozen pies, several of which I sampled over the weekend. Let me be among the first to say: Pete’s new location hasn’t lost a step.
The white New Haven pizza, loaded with garlic and white clams, was as crispy and pungent as the best slices I’ve devoured in Columbia Heights. The pie has the kind of satisfying crackle and chew of a fresh-baked baguette. The sprinkling of oregano may have bordered on a shower, but I didn’t mind the balsamic note that those dried leaves added to my vampire-recoiling slice of chopped cloves and clams.
I even noticed something I haven’t seen much at papa Pete’s: those mushroom clouds of char. (See photo below.) My slice of cheese arrived with this heat-induced blister of air and black char, adding a welcome oven-ashen flavor to this crispy triangle of tart tomato and milky cheese.
It’s too early to make this claim yet, but I’m beginning to think the new Pete’s is actually an improvement on the original.