The Dish: Mac ’n’ cheese pizza

The Location: Red Dog Café, 8301-A Grubb Road, Silver Spring, (301) 588-6300

The Price: $14.95

The Skinny: A friend had suggested I try the mac-and-cheese entree at Red Dog Café in Silver Spring, a neighborhood eatery that somehow exudes both comfort and pretension in one cramped space. The pasta dish did sound attractive—-giant ribbed penne instead of elbow mac and lots of sharp, aged cheddar cheese baked, as the menu promised, “to perfection.” But plenty of other plates were whispering my name, too: the pulled pork “ripieghi” sandwich, the muffuletta, the “brown pie” pizza. It’s only when I spotted the specials menu hiding on the table that I made up my mind. There, among other things, was a mac-and-cheese pizza. The waitress, making the kind of face usually seen on teenage girls fantasizing about Prince William, assured me the pie was a featured attraction at Red Dog. So why do I feel like lifting a leg on it? Because it takes two different—-and apparently tasty—-dishes and treats both like mangy strays. The sum, in other words, is far less than its parts. The mac turns the pie into a leaden round with the starch content of, approximately, raw tapioca, which you might forgive if the crust also hadn’t turned to mush. On the flip side, the tomato sauce and mozzarella strip the mac and cheese of its sharpness, turning it instead into a poor man’s baked ziti—-a really poor man’s baked ziti. I ate two slices out of sheer hunger, boxed up the reminder out of some strange politeness that overtakes me in restaurants, then threw the box away when I got home. Next time I go to Red Dog, I’m sticking with the mac and cheese.