Playing Catch-Up: Summer Pizzadventures

Okay, okay. It’s been embarrassingly long since I’ve last updated. I’ve been so busy working and summer activity-ing and, yes, eating, that I just haven’t had the time. Things are starting to slow down, so I’m going to do a quick review of the delicious pizza eats of my summer. Unfortunately, I didn’t take in-depth notes so I’ll just jot down a few of my strongest memories of each place.

Here goes…

At the beginning of July I took a trip down to Baltimore and Washington D.C. No trip would be complete without some serious eats, so I researched the pizza of these areas and managed to consume it 3 times in a 5 day trip. Not too shabby.

First stop was Pub Dog in Columbia, MD (which also has a location in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore). They pretty much exclusively serve pizza and beer, so you can’t go too wrong. What I ordered here is actually a spinach pizza (Olive Oil, Fresh Mozzarella, Spinach, Mushrooms, Bacon, Fresh Garlic, and topped with Shredded Parmesan). I skipped the mushrooms but as you can see, it largely became a bacon pie. Once I picked off some (or most) of the bacon, it became a pretty enjoyable cheesy and salty accompaniment to my happy hour special (2 beers for $4.50), though the crust wasn’t much to write home about – standard cardboard-y stuff. Good for bar food but it’s not winning any awards.

Next was 2 Amys in Washington, DC, a Neopolitan pizzeria located in the Cleveland Park area. It’s fairly residential, near the zoo and National Cathedral (but don’t try walking in 100+ degree weather like we did). On a Sunday the place was filled with families and small children, but the pizza was phenomenal. We ordered the margherita and abruzzese (Polpettine/meatballs, garlic, parsley, pecorino). Enormous globs of mozzarella covered the margherita, with a sweet sauce reminding me of the good ol’ pies back home in NY (or really, “home” in Italy).

True story: this was my first time having meatballs or anything resembling it. I rather enjoyed it, but leaving it in full balls (albeit small) meant most slices didn’t have a meatball. I remember the cheese on this one making it  salty. But no worries, I had one of their “pizza wines” to wash it all down with! 2Amys is also one of those places that won’t slice the pie for you. While I understand this is traditional and helps the toppings not bleed through as much, I suck at slicing pies and would much prefer that the professionals take care of it with the proper tools!

We ended our trip to DC with a visit to Pizza Paradiso‘s Dupont Circle location. The walls near the restroom are filled with articles singing its praises, and even “Obama has dined [t]here!” (I put this in quotes because I found that nearly every restaurant in DC makes this claim). We placed an order for a margherita and genovese (pesto, potato, parmesan). As per the photo above, the margherita was not typical of most others we’ve seen – the cheese spread thin across the entire crust and chunky tomatoes made for a different, yet still quite delicious, experience.  The crust and pizza bones were a bit dry and tough.

The genovese was… different. I’m a big fan of potatoes but in this scenario they were very heavy and too mushy. The pesto made a nice complement but I think in the future (y’know, if I ever end up several hours south again in DC in this specific neighborhood at this specific joint) that I’d stick with lighter toppings.

This summer I also made it down to Totonno’s in Coney Island. It’s quite legendary and I think it’s worth a visit just for that, but the pizza was somewhat disappointing. Most of it was incredible; it reminds me of John’s of Bleecker St (or should, in historical order, John’s remind me of Totonno’s?) in that it’s not your typical cheesy, greasy, NY slice but it’s not a traditional margherita. The major disappointment came in the form of the crust. It was not charred or slightly overcooked; it was BURNT. I love a little bit of black char on my crust, I even sometimes like them crunchily overdone, but this was burnt. I couldn’t swallow my pizza bones and that makes me sad. My parents had come another time before this (earlier this same summer) and they had the same experience. Maybe it’s recent.

You probably shouldn’t eat this, but I also found an adorable Mets pizza stuffed toy. Yuuuuuuum.

Newsday had published an article on some unique pizzerias on Long Island, so I’ve been making my way through those, which led me to Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza in Woodbury, NY. Soon after arriving we realized this is a massive chain (tons of locations in Florida but also across the Mid-Atlantic region). Nevertheless, I’d heard good things so we sat down and ordered a “traditional pie” (above) and the roasted cauliflower pizza (below). Neither me nor my dining companion are avid fans of cauliflower, but it’s gotten some rave reviews. Anthony’s motto is “pizza well done” which I suppose means they’re cool with cooking their crusts until it’s burnt. With that kind of disclaimer, I guess you can’t complain about it. The traditional pie was pretty standard fare; they actually had their own cans of tomatoes (benefit of being a chain?) and the sauce was incredibly sweet. It could have used more basil.

Ah, the lauded cauliflower pie. Description: “roasted cauliflower with olive oil and garlic, romano and mozzarella cheese, topped off with bread crumbs.” The fact that this pie let me, for a few moments, forget it was topped with cauliflower, speaks to its merits. However, it could have used a lot more moisture – the cheese doesn’t really come through and the bread crumbs make it overwhelmingly starchy. And, in the end, if you don’t like cauliflower (which I’ve basically decided I don’t, after this – no fault of Anthony’s), you’re going to taste it, which might ruin it for you as it did for me. Sad face!

Oooh ooh! Before I forget: We made our own pizza! We obsessively made our own dough from Serious Eats’ dough recipe (I maintain it didn’t rise enough; we also should have used the Neopolitan dough recipe but didn’t have the time). Bought fresh mozzarella cheese. Loaded that baby up with basil. It was good, not great; but fair enough for two novices. Part of me thinks it would be better with the proper tools, so a pizza peel, screen, and stone are all on my Christmas list!

Just last weekend we visited Motorino in the East Village. It’s Serious Eats’ (my bible) #1 spot in the East Village, and I’ve heard a lot about it elsewhere, so it was necessary. It’s a really tight spot but they churn out the pies pretty fast. We got a margherita and the stracciatella (burrata-type cheese with olive oil, sea salt, and raw basil). The cheese was smooth and creamy (and ample – I can’t say how sad it makes me when a margherita comes out with only a few tiny blobs of cheese). The sauce was pretty salty yet cloyingly sweet. As per many other former patrons’ complaints, the center of the pie was almost too soft, even for a margherita. To pick up one of the slices I had to fold the inside in, making for a sad-looking slice.

The stracciatella is perhaps one of my favorite pies I’ve had this year. The cheese seemed to be in two forms; one a bit more curd-ly like ricotta and one smoother like melted mozzarella. The crust held up well to these toppings. For a pie that boasts sea salt as an ingredient, it definitely could have used a bit more salt, but the creamy, at-times stringy cheese and leafy raw basil combined with the charred crust was absolute perfection to me.

Not included here are Angelina’s Fireshack in New Hyde Park, NY and Sullivan Street Bakery (which I’ve posted about before, but tried 2 new slices). I just don’t have the pictures with me right now, but they will come soon as they were definitely unique experiences.

Thanks for waiting as I played catch up. I promise I will keep eating pizza and (eventually) posting about it, if you promise to keep reading! xo

Pub Dog: 8865 Stanford Boulevard, Columbia, MD;

2Amys: 3715 Macomb Street Northwest, Washington, DC;

Pizza Paradiso: 2003 P Street NW, Washington, DC;

Totonno’s: 1524 Neptune Ave (between 15th St & 16th St), Brooklyn, NY

Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza: 8063 Jericho Turnpike, Woodbury, NY;

Motorino: 349 East 12th Street, New York, NY;