Monday, November 19, 2012

We, the Pizza Food Review

We, the Pizza: A Little Slice of Hell

Pizza isn't exactly rocket science, is it? Good sauce, fresh ingredients, a really hot oven and a secret crust recipe (preferably scribbled in Italian.) Add efficient employees who like to smile now and then, and success is likely yours for the taking. But every coin has another side, and there are no shortage of pizza misfires in the nation's capital. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you We, the Pizza.

The advent of reality TV has ushered in the era of the dreaded celebrity chef, chefs/cooks who get 15 minutes of fame (or longer) on such shows as Food Network StarHell's Kitchen and the crème de la crème Top Chef. Top Chef season 4 contestant (and DC's own) Spike Mendelsohn opened We, the Pizza two years ago... conveniently situated next door to his popular burger joint Good Stuff Eatery in Capitol Hill; and has enjoyed a great deal of success since.

It's been almost a year since I last visited both Mendelsohn establishments, and I'm sorry to say that both have slipped a notch or two. We, the Pizza has fallen particularly hard from grace: From the moment you step inside, you're bombarded by blaring music and intense heat from the restaurant's hot, hot oven. Arriving just before noon, I avoided the usual long lines and placed an order for a slice of Sausage and Peppers to go (I still had my soda from Good Stuff Eatery in tow.) The cashier was friendly and took my $4.44 (4 bucks a slice?) and handed me a pager. I continued along the assembly line and waited more than five minutes for my slice to arrive. So far, so good.

When my pager went off, a scary looking woman lined with tattoos and a ski cap (classy) handed me my slice (on a plate... so much for take away.) I went in search for napkins, when I noticed my Sausage and Peppers was missing... sausage. I went back and explained my situation, and without uttering a word another employee took my slice away, muttered something to ski cap lady and the "great wait" resumed.

The lunch time crowd was starting to file in, causing a traffic jam in the "waiting area." Thankfully, all of us still had the pounding music to keep us company. More than another five minutes later, ski cap lady grunted (growled?) and rather reluctantly handed me the proper slice (still on a plate... They definitely wanted me to eat it there.)

At this point, all I could think about was getting out of here. I navigated my way through the mob of customers and took a seat outside. That's where I survived my encounter with We, the Pizza's sidewalk (see photo below)

Sink hole behind me (seriously, someone's gonna really hurt themselves one day) I sat down to see what a $4 slice of pizza tastes like. I'll start with the positives... We, the Pizza uses homemade Italian sausage that is out-of-this-world delicious: If they sold the sausage by itself, I'd buy pounds of it. Kudos also, for adding fennel seeds to the mix. Sadly, that does it for the pluses. On to the minuses! A pizza is only as good as its crust, and mine was paper thin. We're talking onion skin paper (God, how old am I?) As you can see in the top photo, the crust is defenseless against the weight of toppings. This makes handling it a disaster: Bring a knife and fork (It's cool; Europeans do it all the time.) It's a shame really, because the thicker, outer edge was quite tasty. It's a busy slice, but I appreciate the generous supply of sausage (take that Vace.)

At four bucks a slice, We, the Pizza just isn't worth the investment. The place obviously gets a boost from Mendelsohn's celebrity status and the fact that Michelle Obama and her kids ate here (big deal.) Unfortunately, the main floor's layout and surly staff ruin the experience before you even get to the food.

Restaurant Atmosphere: F (Human traffic jam, blazing heat and booming music... how inviting!)
Service: D- (Friendly cashier helps avoid a second F.)
Crust: D-
Toppings: A- (Cheese is bland, but sausage is dynamite.)
Taste: C (It's hard to enjoy something, when it's falling onto your plate.)
Overall: D- (Sausage notwithstanding, I absolutely hated eating here.)