Tuesday, September 10, 2013

&Pizza Food Review


Allow me to officially go on the record: &pizza is about to take the DC Metropolitan area by storm. Yesterday was my first visit to the custom pizzeria that's about to expand to Bethesda, Germantown and Michigan Avenue, NE (Catholic U., finally getting some love!) Until now, I had no idea that the city's best pizza (uh-oh, did I just say best pizza?) lies clear across town, facing the entrance of the U Street/Cardozo Metro. But it does, and you should get your butt over there right now (or wait until 11:00 AM... they're not open now. I write late... almost 3 in the morning.)

Despite its tricky (yet unique) name, &pizza gets everything else right (and better than everyone else.) For starters, this pizza is unlike any you've ever had. Been to Chipotle? Subway? Imagine pizza done the same way, only with way more choices and unsurpassed attention to detail. That's &pizza; but that only scratches the surface. What lies beneath is what separates them from the rest.

I was immediately impressed once I stepped inside &pizza's relatively small space. Sunday, a little after 6:00 and it was almost full. Thankfully, most people take their orders to go; so there was no problem finding a seat to eat in. The line moves slowly; but that's because you get to build your pizza along with &pizza's superb pie assemblers. This starts with your choice of three crusts, which they soon adorn with a myriad of top toppings. Best of all, you get to see each one before it goes on, and adjust your order on the fly (no missed toppings here.)

I knew early on, that I was about to experience something magical. After selecting a traditional crust and spicy tomato spread, I asked for &pizza's housemade mozzarella: Seconds later, my friendly sales associate was crumbling the mozzarella with pinpoint precision (it took almost 30 seconds... I don't even expect that in Naples.) Even distribution is key to a great pizza, and this fact isn't lost on &pizza. From there, I/we moved on to veggies... Caramelized onions (they looked beautiful) roasted red peppers (again, beautiful!) and roasted tomatoes (not beautiful, but they tasted great.)

On to proteins... as many as you want, including chicken, shrimp and smoked bacon! I stuck with the basics (hot sausage and pepperoni.) Into the conveyor belt it went (but not until she asked if I wanted anything else.) A++ for assembly and service. Once it's inside the rolling oven, things move fast. Two minutes later, I was watching my 17" long pie (that's almost a foot and a half) get expertly sliced. Now it's time for Finishes & Oils... Wow! Freshly chopped basil is all I could muster, but fig marsala and red pepper chili oil are definitely on my radar for next time.

How much for all this? Try $8.86! Seriously, $8.86! Plus $1.82 for a fountain drink. The cashier was super polite, and even the branding on the fountain drink dispenser looked sweet. Napkins, etc. are everywhere, including right by my window seat. As for taste... Where to begin? How about at perfect, as in this pizza is as close to perfect as you can get. It's my first visit, but I don't see why this can't be the norm here. The ingredients are killer good... the sausage, OMG the sausage! Fresh mozz over spicy tomato sauce? How can you do better than that? The onions, peppers and tomatoes? Top notch. All I could think of was adding jalapeƱos next time (I think they've created a monster) and perhaps swapping pesto sauce for tomato.

Could it be improved upon? Press me for a suggestion, and I'd ask for a crispier crust (I bet you they can do it) and of course, a branch in Cleveland Park (so I could eat it 2-3x a week.) Pete's New Haven Style Apizza still makes the best slice; but there's officially a new king of DC pizza, as far as DC Outlook is concerned. Even their website looks great.

Atmosphere: B+ (The U Street corridor gets better every day. For a tight space, &pizza maximizes the heck out of it.)
Crust: B+ (If they can get this bad boy crispier, look out!)
Toppings: A+ (I'd go higher, but A+ is it.)
Service: A+ (I bet they don't even realize how good they are.)
Value: A+ (Best pizza in DC? As long as it's under 20 bucks, it's a steal: It's under nine.)
Overall: A+ (Shame on me for never trying it before. Tops in DC, MD & VA.)