Sunday, February 16, 2014

Haven Pizzeria Food Review

Margherita with Fennel Sausage

Haven means "a place of safety or refuge;" and it's hard to imagine a safer bet for a good meal than Haven Pizzeria. It's a more-than-serviceable Italian eatery with great service, nice meatballs and plenty of room for hungry lunch-goers in downtown Bethesda.

When you walk in, the first thing you notice is how big the space is: It appears to go on forever. I stopped by just before noon on Valentine's Day; and was taken to a booth towards the back. It wasn't that crowded yet, but I really appreciated getting a booth (all by my lonesome.) The restaurant is very cozy (despite its size) with lots of rich, brown wood and soothing lighting. It's also very clean: Kudos.

Meatballs al Forno

My server was Josh, and he couldn't have been nicer. He had me at "hello," as in, I was ready to order straight away: Why waste time when you're hungry, right? I placed an order for a Diet Coke, a Coal-Fired App of Meatballs al Forno ($8) and a 10" Margherita Pizza ($9) with fennel sausage (an additional $2.) The staff here is on top of everything... Very fast and efficient! Drink refills? Right away. Josh even asked it he could lean over, and toss away the paper wrapper for my straw. Impressive.

My meatballs arrived soon after. Six balls, relatively small... Not great for sharing, unless you have other choices at the table. They come in a rich tomato sauce with two slivers of bread, and piping hot. The visible spices and onion adds quite a kick, and I'd gladly order it again. Better still, a second server (busy with a nearby table of 10) stopped by to ask if I was enjoying them. Nice touch.

Gelato Bar (background)

Meatballs devoured, my pizza arrived next. The pie (10" for a small = perfect size) was nice & hot, with loads of housemade sausage: It was also glistening from a generous amount of oil. Diced tomatoes (no sauce) dotted the pizza, along with a nice spread of gooey cheese. The crust was chewy, and could have used another minute or two in the oven. Unfortunately, this left the crust somewhat flimsy, and difficult to handle. Also, I wasn't kidding when I said a "generous" amount of oil... It was literally dripping off each slice. Very messy, but tasty all the same.

The music jumps all over the place, from Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" to the Beatles' "Michelle"... the former, probably more appropriate for Happy Hour, instead of weekday lunch. The pizza was a tad disappointing; but the amazing customer service more than makes up for it. The sausage topping was great, and I'd simply ask for it well done (with less oil) next time. Problem solved.

Speaking of next time... for you and me, save room for Gelato, available in pints and quarts (to eat in, or take home.) Buon appetito!

Atmosphere: B+ (Hard to ask for more.)
Service: A (Superb. Some of Bethesda's best.)
Crust: C- (Too chewy, and underdone.)
Toppings: B (Way too much oil, but great sausage and good cheese.)
Value: B
Overall: B (Lots to like, especially the service. Pizza's not the best in Bethesda, but I'm looking forward to another visit.)