Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Veloce Food Review

I think it's safe to say the novelty of fast pizza is starting to wear off. Two weeks ago, Pizza Studio made its debut just south of Dupont Circle, entering an already crowded battlefield. Monday, it was Pizzeria Paradiso guru Ruth Gresser's turn... with the opening of Veloce, near the corner of 19th & L Streets, NW. Does downtown DC need yet another speedy pizza option, when so many others (all within a few blocks walking distance) already exist? That remains to be seen. For now, the important question is... how does Veloce stack up against its competition?

Veloce does have a lot going for it: A great location, Gresser's sterling reputation and a glitzy (albeit small) storefront. I stopped by on Day 2 (no free pizza for me) about 20+ minutes before their 8 PM closing. I was immediately (and enthusiastically) greeted from across the room, although relatively casually, "How you doin' man?" After declining a menu, I placed an order for one of Veloce's nine prepared pies... The Butcher (organic tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, housemade pork sausage, red onion and sweet red peppers for $9.00.) At the time, I was their only customer, and only had to wait just over five minutes for my pie to be delivered to my table by the window. So far, so fast.

Pizzas arrive in take away boxes with a smart (and detailed) label on the side: These should come in particularly handy during lunch rushes. I was warned (in a friendly manner) that the pie was hot; and true to his word, it was. Not sure how hot Veloce's brick ovens get; but the crust was very crispy, and the toppings hot, hot, hot.

Pies are relatively small - 8" (Pizza Studio's pies are 3" bigger and a dollar cheaper) so I can't say much for value; but the ingredients are definitely fresh. Generous-sized pieces of pork sausage are definitely housemade, and packed with flavor. On the other hand, Veloce's pepperoni was thin and flavorless. Mozzarella cheese tasted great; but fell completely off, when I picked up each slice. There was plenty of red pepper, but surprisingly very little tomato sauce (almost entirely near the outer perimeter.) Perhaps organic sauce is even more expensive than I imagined?

The crust was incredible (I'm assuming, traditional white) and aside from a lack of salt and the aforementioned tomato sauce, The Butcher tastes very good. I'm curious to try other crusts (whole wheat, grains & seeds) and combinations (housemade lamb sausage for a buck extra, sounds very interesting) but so far, Veloce looks promising. The same cashier came back to ask if everything was good, which is also very encouraging (premium prices demand exceptional service.) There's plenty of seating; but it's mostly assembly line-style, save for a few tables on the patio. Fountain drinks are provided by Puck's (score) and the interior is clean & modern. The front door is a tad confusing (enter via the left side, which is covered by logo lines, no words (i.e. ENTER.)) Overall, very good with small areas of concern (particularly the size of the pies, and I'm not referring to the even smaller 5" breakfast options.)

Atmosphere: B (The storefront is particularly eye-catching.)
Crust: B+ (Scrumptious.)
Toppings: B- (Really good sausage; but not enough tomato sauce. Bland pepperoni.)
Value: D
Service: B (Very good, but I was the only customer at the time. I'm curious to see how it goes during a lunchtime blitz.)
Overall: B (A dollar or two cheaper, and we'd be in business. Still, pretty solid overall.)