Monday, September 16, 2013

Pizzeria da Marco Food Review


There's a two ton+ gorilla in the corner of Pizzeria da Marco on Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda: A humble beast, that turns double zero Italian flour (and da Marco's choice ingredients) into one of the area's best pizzas. Who/what's the elephant gorilla in the room? It's da Marco's $15,000 brick oven; and if you play your cards right, it could produce your next dinner.

I've sampled pies from almost all the heavy hitters in the Metropolitan area, and few (if any) compare with da Marco's. Sadly, it's not the food that holds back this 5,000 sq. ft. pizza factory, as I discovered during today's early visit: I had the whole place to myself between 11:40 and noon, which is kind of eerie when you consider how BIG the main dining area is. I was taken to a small table almost smack dab in the middle of the restaurant. Despite good service (polite greeting, a carafe of water and info on the house specials) all I could pay attention to, was the overpowering aroma of bleach. Apparently, the staff decided to clean the floors before lunch service (instead of last night, after closing.) Gross.

You've heard the expression, "The Devil is in the details?" Correct me if I'm wrong, but the permeating smell of bleach is a mighty big detail. It's also an automatic one-grade reduction... A pity, given what comes next. I told my server that I was in a bit of a hurry; and to her credit, she delivered my gorgeous pie about five minutes later. The first thing I noticed about my 12" Salsiccia (Tomato Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella, Sausage, Basil & Parmesan) was the abundance of sausage. Seriously, this goes beyond generous. Next up on my pizza radar... da Marco's beautiful, red-orange tomato sauce, hands down the best-tasting sauce in the DC area. Their fresh mozzarella was terrific too, but I wanted more.

Given it's thin crust (cooked perfectly) you're forced to fold & eat. One other observation: The toppings literally slid off the first two slices I handled. Think of it as a pizza avalanche. Lucky for me, each morsel found its way inside my tummy. This is one delicious pizza! Messy, but delicious. Speaking of messy, it would be nice to get more than one napkin (the one wrapped around my cutlery.) While we're at it, please ditch the unattractive brown wrapping paper that sits atop each white tablecloth: It looks cheap.

Service was attentive; although I was still the only customer here, just after 12:00 PM. My bill came to $16.43 ($13 for the pizza, $2.50 for my Diet Coke) and even with a $5 tip, I walked away happy as a clam... Too bad about the bleach.

Atmosphere: F (The smell... oh, the smell.)
Crust: B (Difficult to handle, is all. Great taste.)
Toppings: A+ (Phenomenal)
Service: B+ (Not overly friendly, but she checked in on me thrice. Fast & very efficient.)
Value: B (They run an $11.99 special which includes a plain pie, salad & soda. I paid almost $5 more without a salad.)
Overall: B (Was an A, but I'm serious about penalizing for big miscues.)