Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pacci's Neapolitan Pizzeria Food Review

Margherita with Homemade Sausage

Neapolitan pizza is known for its strict rules of conduct; but I had no idea those rules extended to seat assignments... something I learned rather unceremoniously within seconds of (trying) to sit down at Pacci's Neapolitan Pizzeria in Silver Spring. More on that later; but rest assured, it started a downward spiral that left the worst of tastes in this critic's mouth... and a hearty recommendation to avoid this place at (almost) all costs.

Just getting to Pacci's is a chore. The walk alone (about four blocks from Silver Spring Metro) nearly killed me, as I passed wide stretches of dirty and unfinished sidewalks along Georgia Avenue. Perhaps one day it will look nice; but definitely not today. Pacci's exterior is stale and uninviting, exceeded by ragtag service once you get inside.

Ah, inside. Pacci's is more attractive here; but be careful where you rest your feet. I arrived on a Saturday just after 1:15 PM. The outdoor patio was bustling, so I chose to dine in... selecting a seat in the back of the dining room (about 10 feet from a table of two older ladies.) We were the only customers there (amidst at least a dozen open tables and a totally empty bar.) About a minute later, a frantic server (hands full with dirty plates) passed by me on the way to the kitchen and barked out, 'How many?' I said one, and he responded with something unintelligible (broken English.) The hostess came by a few seconds later, and I explained that I didn't understand what the server said to me. She said, "He probably told you to sit at one of the other tables," pointing to a row of two-seaters towards the front of the near-empty restaurant. I replied, 'You want me to move? Really?' "Yes," she responded. Stunned, I got up and moved to a table along the wall of windows (subjecting myself to a nice sun glare in the process.) If it were busier, I wouldn't have sat at a small table for four; but what difference does it make in an empty place? For the record, nobody else was seated inside during my uncomfortable 25-minute lunch. If not for this review, I would have walked out in disgust.

Once I sat down, someone (a young guy... easily the most professional person working here) brought me a glass of water. Minutes later, the same server who told me to move, asked me if I wanted something to drink (from behind the bar.) I yelled back at him, "Yes, a Sierra Mist: Thank you." Instead of coming to my table to address me, he continued, "You ready to order?" I said yes, and he came back with 'Talk to me,' as he fiddled behind the bar for something. Reluctant to proceed, I trudged on and placed an order for a Margherita pizza with homemade sausage ($11 + $2 for the sausage.)

I waited for a few minutes, listening to at least three different employees speak entirely in Spanish by the bar area. The server came back and pulled my plate away without saying excuse me, even though it was only an inch or two from my outstretched hand. God only knows where this guy learned to wait tables: It sure wasn't Naples. An admittedly nice looking pie arrived minutes later; and I turned my attention to the food for a welcome change.

The first thing I noticed was dark, wilted basil; but that temporary eyesore gave way to the incredible taste of Pacci's stellar mozzarella. Coupled with a rich-looking tomato sauce, I thought this pizza was going to make up for the shoddy service earlier. Unfortunately, the crust was a disaster. Paper-thin (translucent) in the middle (and doughy towards its outer edges) it proved difficult to handle. I tried with a knife and fork, but the middle could only be scooped up with a spoon (which I didn't have.) Handling it by hand proved difficult as well, as the bottom half caved in and started to slip on to the plate. I wound up folding the middle into the remaining crust, and eating it (New York) street style. No big deal, but it's messy: That's when I became aware I had only one napkin. Since my server never checked in on me, I couldn't ask for another.

As is usually the case with Neapolitan pizzas, the outer edges are usually just crust; but this presented yet another problem, because the crust was very doughy (perhaps undercooked?) Considering how delicious the cheese and tomato sauce was, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. Pacci's homemade sausage was void of flavor, and amounted to mere shavings. I asked the hostess for my check; and seconds later, my server reappeared and asked if I wanted cappuccino. Fat chance: I thought 'Just give me my check, so I can get the heck out of here.' I wonder if $16.43 + a $5 tip makes up for the negativity of this review? I highly doubt it.

Silver Spring has a long way to go before becoming even close to relevant in the DC Metropolitan dining scene. Even further, when you consider that Pacci's is one of its supposed brightest jewels. The good news is... at least now, I don't have to come back.

Atmosphere: C
Crust: D (Doughy in parts, and almost impossible to handle)
Toppings: B (Bland, thin sausage and burnt basil hurts; but cheese is to die for, good.)
Service: F (The kind of bad you never recover from.)
Value: D (Does it matter? I'm never coming back.)
Overall: D- (Terrible service, but delicious mozzarella prevents a total failure.)