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Pizza options have proliferated across D.C. in the past year. Between new pizzerias, pizza-focused pop-ups, and ghost restaurants born out of the operational challenges of the pandemic, there’s no shortage of pizza styles, experimental toppings, or obsessive chefs tinkering with their dough. Dig into these nine options that have brought City Paper satisfaction amid the chaos of multiple crises.
(Restaurants’ hours of operation may differ this week due to inauguration security measures.)
Ivy and Coney
1537 7th St. NW, (202) 670-9489, ivyandconey.com
The deets: You won’t find any skinny pizza at a bar that celebrates two thick-pie Midwestern cities. The Detroit pizza Ivy and Coney cranks out is cooked in a pan and benefits from the inclusion of Wisconsin brick cheese. Co-owner Chris Powers says it has a squishy chew akin to cheese curds. “It has a higher fat content than cheddar, so when it goes up against the edge of the pan it crisps instead of burns,” he explains. That creates what’s known as a frico layer on the focaccia crust. “Corner slices are what people fight over,” he says.
Why pizza: Powers had been tinkering with Detroit pizza at home and served them at the bar for special events before there were several spots to try it in the District. “When the pandemic hit, we had to figure out food that’s easy to deliver,” he says. “We already had pizza in our back pocket.” Powers will teach others how to make it at a Jan. 30 cooking class through the University of Michigan. All you need is a $10 ticket and a hot oven.
The pie to try: Go for the Italian beef ($20). Powers tops the pie with roast beef with Italian seasoning and giardiniera (banana peppers, olives, onion, celery, and carrot in vinegar and olive oil). But keep your eye out for the occasional everything bagel Detroit pizza that incorporates Epic Curing’s “everything bacon” dusted with garlic, dill pollen, and black pepper.
Order pizzas for pick-up or delivery on DC To-GoGo Thursdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.
The Roost, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, (202) 661-0142, theroostsedc.com/slicejoint
The deets: “Pizza queen” Rachael Marie, who has manned the wood-burning ovens at lauded pizza shops in New York, is behind the small but mighty Slice Joint stall inside The Roost from Neighborhood Restaurant Group. The menu boasts round, New York pizzas as well as thick, square pies that Marie isn’t quick to label. If she had to make a comparison, they would be closest to a Sicilian slice. But similar to a Detroit pizza, Marie brings the toppings all the way to the edge. Slice Joint’s spicy pepperoni pie uses sought-after Ezzo Pepperoni, Calabrian chilies, and toasted sesame seeds.
Why pizza: “People have always dug pizza,” Marie says. “If you think back to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s always been a part of pop culture. But a lot of America didn’t have access to really good pizzerias. People are starting to learn. Social media makes the world a lot smaller.”
The pie to try: Keep it simple with a slice of New York cheese pizza ($3.50). “I always urge people if they go to any pizzeria to start with a cheese slice,” Marie says. “They’re all different. You think about how you make the dough, sauce, and cheese, but everyone has a different way of telling that story.” Slice Joint uses a high-hydration dough that ferments for two to four days. It has some crunch, but you can still fold it.
Slice Joint is open for pick-up and delivery Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
1440 8th St. NW, oysteroysterdc.com
The deets: Like everything else at Chef Rob Rubba’s Shaw restaurant, the pizzas are plant-based. On any given night, there’s typically one vegan and one or two vegetarian pies. Rubba sources hard and soft winter wheat from Small Valley Milling in Pennsylvania to make his dough. He says he approaches the crust like a bread maker. “It’s crispy and bubbly on the outside with a soft, bread-like crumb on the inside,” he says. “We bulk ferment it so it develops a lot of flavor and texture.”
Why pizza: Oyster Oyster opened during the pandemic, which meant tweaking the original build-your-own tasting menu built for dine-in to include some dishes that translate to takeout like mushroom cheesesteaks and pizzas. “Instead of trying to do these nice things that are really nuanced and hope they travel well for 45 minutes, let’s make really good pizza,” Rubba explains. “Pizza is a guilty pleasure. If you put a whole pizza in front of me, I will finish it.”
The pie to try: The vegetarian truffle, cabbage, and cheese pizza ($20) is calling. The base is a fragrant cream sauce made from tofu, dried porcini mushrooms, garlic, and truffles. Then Rubba tops the pie with three thinly sliced varieties of cabbage, smoked local cheddar, and shaved Virginia truffles. Some slivers of cabbage come out crispy with a charred brassica flavor, while the squiggles tucked under the cheese stay soft and become creamy.
Oyster Oyster’s pizzas are available for pick-up or delivery through Skip The Line Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Anafre Pizza Pop-Up
3704 14th St. NW, (202) 758-2127, anafredc.com
The deets: If the pizzas at Anafre sound more like tacos, Chef Alfredo Solis’ mission is accomplished. The restaurateur, who worked at pizzerias as a teen, is making Mexican-inspired pies using dough containing a little maseca (corn flour). He tops most of them with Chihuahua and Oaxacan cheeses, sauces made from chiles, and, after baking, fresh toppings like diced avocado and pico de gallo. The crispy crust holds for about 15 minutes, then gets a little softer and eats more like a tortilla. One is inspired by a chile relleno, and another marries shrimp and chorizo.
Why pizza: Anafre typically specializes in Mexican seafood dishes, but lobster and whole snapper weren’t selling during the pandemic. “That menu is hard to take home and eat,” Solis says. “Pizza is something anyone can order. My pizzas are so different. Any taco or Mexican stew can be a pizza.”
The pie to try: El Gallego ($14), since you won’t find octopus-topped pizzas most places. In addition to octopus, Solis adds chipotle aioli, fresh mozzarella, red onion, pickled jalapeño, avocado, and cilantro. “That’s a really nice pizza,” Solis says. The chipotle’s smokiness is intoxicating. “It’s not too heavy.”
Anafre is open for pick-up and outdoor dining Mondays through Fridays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
1509 17th St. NW, happygyrodc.com
The deets: Happy Gyro from Chef Johnny Monis and Anne Marler has taken up residency inside fine dining mainstay Komi for the duration of the pandemic. The mostly plant-based pop-up is best known for its gyro made out of yuba (tofu skin), but there are also a few 16-inch vegetarian and meat pies on offer each night ($32 each). Place your same-day orders in the morning to ensure you can score pizzas like a red pie with Biellese pepperoni, mushroom, and pickled chilies or a white pie with potato, mozzarella, pecorino, black pepper, and chives. The dough is naturally leavened with a sourdough starter that the restaurant has been feeding for more than a decade.
Why pizza: Monis has been obsessed with pizza his entire life, according to his wife. He grew up in the pizzeria his parents opened in 1978 and made pies at a spot in Harrisonburg, Virginia, while he was in college. Pizza appeared on Komi’s opening menu back in 2003. “He’s been obsessively tinkering on the dough behind the scenes here for the last 17 or more years, just for the joy of it,” Marler says. “Thousands of tweaks and four pizza ovens later—plus a pandemic bringing things into focus—and it seemed like the right time … Johnny’s dream job is being able to wear a T-shirt and listen to music while making pizza.”
The pie to try: They rotate too frequently to pick one. Use your instincts.
Happy Gyro is open for pick-up Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Della Barba Pizza
1369 New York Ave. NE, (202) 845-3033, dellabarbapizza.com
The deets: Chef Joey Barba calls his menu “a celebration of American pizza” because three regions are represented: New York, Detroit, and Chicago. “We took sweethearts of those areas and started playing around,” he says. That means kneading five doughs. Della Barba slings classic New York, Sicilian, two types of nonna, Chicago deep dish, and Detroit pizzas that customers can top to their liking. Barba’s business is currently operating out of Union Kitchen in Ivy City, but he’s opening a Capitol Hill restaurant this spring at 1382 East Capitol St. NE. “Once we get to the shop, there’s so much more to come.”
Why pizza: Barba ditched being a practicing corporate defense attorney to bring D.C. the pizza he thought the city was missing. Growing up in South Jersey, he was used to a denser pizza scene. He’d been practicing at home for years to prepare. “Della Barba is a good 10 to 12 years in the making,” he says. “I went to the International Pizza Expo a few times. It’s an absolute circus.”
The pie to try: The most picture-worthy pie is the Detroit pizza because Barba borrows finishing touches from Buddy’s Pizza. The restaurant is famous for adding racing stripes made out of red sauce. But Barba recommends first-timers try his 14″ x 14″ square nonna pie ($30). “It’s chewier because it has a condensed dough,” he says. Choose between “Old-World Napoli Nonna” or “New-World Brooklyn Nonna,” which call for different tomato sauces and cheese blends. He recommends adding pepperoni to either and urges people to order nonna pizzas a day or two in advance.
Della Barba is open for pick-up and delivery Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Lonely Hunter Pop-Up at Reverie
3201 Cherry Hill Lane NW, (202) 808-2952, reveriedc.com
The deets: Chef Johnny Spero says he’s aiming for pies that land somewhere between Neapolitan and New York with his pop-up pizzeria. “Crispy on the bottom, soft and chewy on top,” he explains. He was already making dough in house for focaccia, so pivoting to pizza wasn’t a stretch. “It’s not like we’re doing crazy modernist pizza,” Spero promises. “There’s a Reverie touch, but it’s still just supposed to be really tasty fucking pizza.” Spero is known for fancy seafood, so it’s no surprise that the pizza topped with little neck clams, confit garlic, oregano, pecorino cheese, and a white sauce he calls “fancy Ranch” has been a hit.
Why pizza: Reverie’s refined tasting menu doesn’t shine as bright when boxed up. That’s why Spero has been experimenting with burgers and pizza. “I’ve always loved pizza,” Spero says. “Every city I go to, at least one of my meals has to be pizza.” Lonely Hunter is good practice. Spero is part of the team bringing Nighthawk Pizza to National Landing.
The pie to try: The vegetarian potato pizza ($18) that starts with a sauce akin to what Spaniards drizzle over potatoes to make patatas bravas, a ubiquitous bar snack. Spero says he roasts various peppers until they’re charred before blending them with sherry vinegar, garlic, and Jersey tomatoes. The confit potatoes are smashed into “nice little chunks.” Spero finishes the pie with pecorino, mozzarella, and stracciatella cheeses. “The potato pizza is the one I’ve eaten every day since we started.”
Lonely Hunter is open for pick-up and delivery Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. There is also patio seating available starting at 4 p.m.
3110 Mount Pleasant St. NW, marthadear.com
The deets: This Mount Pleasant pizzeria opened in December and has reliably been selling out every night since. The couple behind it, Tara L. Smith and Chef Demetri Mechelis met working at Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat. Mechelis is Greek, which is why you’ll see halloumi cheese-topped pies and baklava for dessert. But the biggest draw is Martha Dear’s crust, which carries the distinct smell of sourdough. Mechelis makes it using freshly milled grains from Migrash Farm in Baltimore, along with a little Greek semolina.“It’s fermented for 24 hours and shaped the next day,” he says. “Always at room temperature.”
Why pizza: Smith says everyone loves a pizza party. “Pizza is familiar to just about everybody, but makes demands of Demetri in the kitchen,” Smith says. “We wanted to make pizza because it is delicious and approachable … There is nothing cooler to us than trying to make the best pizza we can and share it with our community.”
The pie to try: City Paper has already sung the praises of the sausage + peppers pie ($21). Mechelis tops the 12-inch pizza with ‘nduja—a spicy and spreadable pork product from Calabria, Italy. Smith likes the way it melts. “The oil ekes out and coats the pizza,” she says. The ‘nduja is joined by provolone and mozzarella cheeses, peppers, onions, and tomato sauce.
Martha Dear is open for pick-up Wednesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Ordering opens at noon.
The deets: In creating a ghost restaurant that’s run out of both Glover Park Grill and Alta Strada, Brooklyn-born restaurateur Michael Schlow thought about the casual spots his family would order from growing up. There were four basic food groups: pizzas, wings, subs, and salads. All four made it onto the Georgetown Pizza menu.
The pies are “a very gentle combination of New York meets a little bit of Rome meets a little bit of Naples.” Schlow aims for a little bit of char on the crust, or “leoparding” as they call it in the biz. Another one of Schlow’s quests was to create a more deliberate version of a pizza topped with “the works.” “We’ve designed it in a way that we’re placing every ingredient on so that every bite brings a new delight,” Schlow says. “We’re not covering it, we’re painting a picture.”
Why pizza: “Pizza has universal appeal,” Schlow says. “Even bad pizza is still good pizza. We’ve been on a pizza kick all during COVID-19, testing out different doughs. You always cook what’s personal, or at least you try to.” A ghost restaurant, Schlow continues, keeps things fresh not only for diners, but for staff too.
The pie to try: Georgetown Pizza serves pizzas with traditional toppings and specialty pies like one that impersonates a double bacon cheeseburger. But Schlow says skip the madness on your first order and zero in on his simplest pie that doesn’t even have cheese—a Trenton tomato pie ($15) made using San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and crushed red pepper.
Georgetown Pizza is open for pick-up and delivery daily from 5 to 9 p.m.