Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pizzeria Paradiso

Last night, Mark and I decided to take a break from cooking.  We didn't really have a sense of exactly what we wanted to eat; we just started walking and found ourselves in front of Pizzeria Paradiso, at 2003 P Street (right off Dupont Circle).*  We've eaten pizza from Pizzeria Paradiso a couple of times before and haven't been too impressed by the pizza, but each time, we like it a little better.  We decided to give it another chance tonight, and aside from the wait, I'm glad we did!

Click below to see what we ate!

When we walked into the very trendy pizzeria at around 6:15 (on a Friday night), it was absolutely packed to the rafters.  In the last year, the Dupont location made a necessary move - it used to be housed in a very, very tiny (and pretty boring) space up the block.  The new location is really gorgeous, all exposed brick and mellow tones, but one thing about the pizzeria remains the same - it's a hassle to get a seat on a Friday or Saturday night.

The host advised us that it would only be about a 20-30 minute wait for a table.  I didn't particularly feel like waiting, but I figured we were already there and we could grab a beer and sit for a moment.  We waited for almost an hour.  Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not blaming the host or the restaurant.  It was my own fault for not foreseeing that the wait would obviously take much longer than 30 minutes; after all, every table was taken, and people were jammed around the lovely bar and small waiting area at the front of the restaurant, each with one of those buzzer coaster-thingys in hand.  But by the time we got seated, I was starving and more than a little irritated.

My Saxo Blonde beer took a little of the edge off.  It's a Belgian blonde ale, with a touch of yeasty bitterness and a nice spicy citrus-y finish.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Mark is always trying to make sure that we eat enough greens, so we started off with the Insalata Paradiso, with baby arugula with goat cheese, sweet peppers, mushrooms and pine nuts.  It was a decent enough salad - nothing special, but the ingredients were nicely balanced with no significant deficiencies.  My only suggestion would be that they use a different mushroom - I like regular white mushrooms for a lot of things, but generally don't love big raw chunks of them in salads. 

Insalata Paradiso

Because we are sort of on a goat cheese and prosciutto kick, we also got the Crostino Formaggio di Capra, toasted homemade bread topped with goat cheese, prosciutto di Parma, and sundried tomatoes.  We both really loved this appetizer.  The bread was delicious and perfectly toasted and crunchy, and served as a strong base for the creamy goat cheese spread and velvety smooth, salty-sweet prosciutto.  The sundried tomatoes lent a needed tart tang to the decadence of the dish.

Crostino Formaggio di Capra

For our main course, Mark ordered the Margherita pizza, with tomato, basil and (subbed in) fresh Buffalo mozzarella, and added pancetta, while I ordered the Atomica pizza, with tomato, salami, hot pepper flakes, and mozzarella (I omitted the black olives so I could share with Mark without him having to pick them off).  Both pizzas were very, very good, with crisp, almost cracker-like crusts, and stellar ingredients.  We both preferred the Atomica, which greatly benefited from the heat from the hot pepper flakes, and was topped with this phenomenal salami - each slice of the cured meat was like an explosion of flavor.  However, Mark's pizza was also really tasty, especially with his addition of pancetta adding a much-needed saltiness, without which the pie would have almost seemed bland.

Margherita pizza with fresh Buffalo mozzarella and pancetta

Atomica pizza (sans black olives)

For all of you pizza experts out there, I made sure to get a pic of the "upskirt," or underside, of the pizza.  It was nicely charred.  In fact, as I noted before, the crust in general was really excellent - completely enjoyable on its own merits (aside from the toppings).

Atomica upskirt (Whee!)

As far as the service goes, it was competent, polite and efficient enough (in light of the fact that they were absolutely slammed), with each component of the meal brought to us by a different server.  Mark did note that with the exception of one individual, all of them looked kind of miserable.  I'll chalk it up to the fact that they were so busy, but it was a little disconcerting.

While I'm not sure it was worth the wait, I will say that Pizzeria Paradiso (kind of inconsistently) serves up some of the better pizzas in the District.  I still like 2 Amys much better, but for great pizza without the hassle of schlepping to Upper Northwest, Pizzeria Paradiso will do in a pinch, especially if you go on a weekday night!

*Pizzeria Paradiso also has a location in Georgetown, at 3282 M Street, NW.

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