The guy manning the Wood Stone oven at Pizze, the new Neapolitan-style pizzeria in the basement of Petits Plats, is a work in progress, much like the place where he’s employed. A manager is giving him instructions on how to put together my Margherita pizza. After rolling out a beautifully thin skin of house-made dough, the neophyte ladles out a too-generous portion of tomato sauce, strategically drops clumps of fresh buffalo mozzarella all over the round, places a handful of basil leaves on top, and then sprinkles salt and drizzles some olive oil over everything.
I have to admit that, before the dude even places my pie in the oven, I want to change at least four different things about his preparation: I want less sauce, more salt, and more basil. And I really wish I could convince him to add the basil after the round has been in the oven for a few minutes, so that the leaves won’t shrivel up until they look like dehydrated ancho peppers. Oh, and I’d prefer to see that olive oil drizzle after the pie has been cooked, not before.
Regardless, the newbie pizza man watches over my pie like a cat stalking a mouse. I like his singular attention to the task. He uses a peel to rotate the round as the crust nearest to the gas flames begins to blister; he wants to make sure no part of my pizza is scorched to death. By the time he finally takes the pie out of the oven, I’m practically foaming at the mouth in hunger.
Overall, the pizza is not a bad. It’s also not great, but the shop is so new, you don’t expect greatness yet, even if the esteemed Edan MacQuaid was a consultant on the project. The sauce is too tart for my tastes—-and too much of it. I’d like to see the sauce cooked down longer to promote more sweetness. The crust is chewy, just as I like it, but it’s also slightly gummy. I think the whole round could have stayed in the oven, which registered only about 340 degrees F on the external thermometer, for another minute or so.
The ingredients are clearly first-rate. The pie-makers just need more experience under their belts. They’re already producing the best rounds in the Adams Morgan/Woodley Park area, but given the neighborhoods’ preference for the jumbo slice, that’s not saying much.
God, I’m praying hard the Pizze will be the first step toward killing off the jumbo slice culture once and for all.