Food & Drink

Here's Where to Get the Absolute Best Pizza in DC

Logan Hollers Published On 09/05/2013 Published On 09/05/2013
Frankly...Pizza!
Courtesy of Frankly...Pizza!

There comes a time when one needs to know precisely which pizza places are the best pizza places in one's general vicinity. And so we took it upon ourselves to scour the District, where we ate, like, infinity pies, and faced the humiliation of having to wear elastic-waisted jeans, all in an effort to find the DC area's absolute best pizzas. Yeah, it's a hard life.

Frankly...Pizza!

Kensington, MD

This weirdly named joint started as a food truck that would make appearances at local farmer’s markets, and finally got a brick & mortar restaurant in 2014. But that doesn't mean it's added more to the menu: the tiny kitchen here does one thing and one thing only... great, oak-fired pizza. The farmers market gigs clearly rubbed off, though, as this shop is truly hyper-local: its pigs are from PA, its produce is from the District, its beer & wine is from the DC area, and it makes all its own, seasonal sodas. Good thing, too -- you’ll probably need one of those to wash down the Hot Mess, a spicy, tomatoless pie topped with pickled jalapeños, caramelized onions, bacon, mozzarella, Gruyere, and romano cheese. Owner Frank Linn cures that bacon in the restaurant; the result is a scattering of smoky, salty, amazing pork, perfect for cutting through the rich cheese and onions.

Courtesy of &pizza

&pizza

Trust us, there’s probably one near you

And speaking of strange naming practices, &pizza is one hell of a DC original. Started by Michael Lastoria and Steve Salis in 2010, the conveyor-belt style pizza consistently kills hunger pangs (and hangovers) at numerous locations across the city. Little known fact: the pair came up with the idea in New York, but made the conscious decision to travel down to DC to start their project. "We were blown away by the city, how emerging it was, both culturally and economically," Michael says. "The best decision we made was to come here." Funny... DC residents think the same thing, especially when stuffing their faces with &pizza’s top pie, the Farmer’s Daughter, which combines a spicy tomato sauce, spinach, fennel sausage, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano... all topped with red pepper chili oil and a freshly cracked egg.

Vace

Cleveland Park

Vace is an old-school Italian deli. Since 1976, it's been slinging sliced meats & cheeses, olives, artichokes, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, pasta... you get the picture. Its outstanding pizza is often overlooked, however. This place is home to some of the cheapest slices in the city (seriously -- $2.50 a pop is absurd), and pumps out authentic Italian pies. The white pizza with onions is a thing of beauty; the rich, creamy sauce only heightens the sweetness of the caramelized onions piled on top, and offsets the dense chew of the crust. Of course, while you’re here, you should probably add some of the stellar cold cuts. A medium white onion pizza with a few pieces of fat-slicked prosciutto fresh off the slicer is our go-to, but you do you.

Courtesy of il Canale

il Canale

Georgetown

Georgetown’s il Canale specializes in Southern Italian cuisine, relying on imported Italian ingredients, including mozzarella di bufala, San Marzano tomatoes, and 00 flour. Its gourmet pizzas get blasted in a wood-fired oven imported straight from Naples, and the result is a crispy, chewy, yeasty crust with perfect bubbly char. Keep in mind this is true Napoletana style, so if you’re not a folder, these are definitely knife and fork affairs. Here’s what you want to go with: the Diavola. A sweet tomato sauce melds with imported bufala mozzarella (the good stuff), fresh basil, and the kicker: a soppressata that’s sweet, salty, and (mostly) spicy, all at once.

Pupatella

Arlington

Tomato sauce is, frankly, delicious. It takes a lot to get us away from red sauce pizzas, but one that does it every time is the Burrata pizza from Pupatella. "No sauce? Heresy!" you may say. But check it out: Pupatella’s Burrata is astonishingly good. Think of the most delicious mozzarella you’ve ever had... then make the center creamy. Now put that on a pizza, where it melts down into its own sauce, covering the chewy dough base, which is charred in a custom, oak-burning oven that cooks a pizza in one minute at 900 degrees and is made of bricks that were actually built using volcanic ash from goddamn Mount Vesuvius, NO BIG DEAL. Legit, right? Like almost cartoonishly legit? Yeah. It's made even better with the addition of scattered cherry tomatoes, basil, and pine nuts. This is one of the best white pizzas in and around DC... hell, it might be one of the best white pizzas, full stop. Bonus: you don’t feel bad housing the whole thing -- at 11in, they’re made for one.

Ghibellina

Ghibellina

Logan Square

Ghibellina is an outstanding gastropub... and it happens to serve some of DC’s best pizza. It combines two stand-out techniques: an atypical mix of flours, and a longer, lower-temperature cooking time (usually three to three-and-a-half minutes in a 500-600 degree oven). These factors prevent this from being boxed in as a "true Neapolitan" pizza; instead, it’s the restaurant’s own take on the style. A little crispier on the bottom, with a little less char, these pizzas are given time to develop that deep, yeasty flavor in the crust, best exemplified in Ghibellina’s Salsicce e Cippola pizza, which comes with tomato, roasted onions, sharp provolone, and an ever-so-faint bitterness, lent by the fennel sausage. Still not convinced? During the daily happy hour, it’s $8.50. So yeah, worth a shot.

Wiseguy

Mt. Vernon Triangle

New York-style pizza is its own animal, and here in DC, only Wiseguy NY Pizza manages to replicate it. It imports its Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil from Italy; makes its own marinara sauce from canned tomatoes imported from Italy; and, best of all, uses a specialized filtration process (seriously) to replicate New York water, which serious pizza aficionados consider essential to the New York slice. Fold, devour, repeat.

Courtesy of Menomale

Menomale

Brookland

A true Neapolitan pizza should never come sliced. Some scissors, sure, but pre-cut? Nah. Menomale knows this... though it'll slice a pizza for you if you ask nicely. These guys use ingredients specifically sourced from the Campania region of Italy and are DOP certified (DOP is short for "Protected Designation of Origin," and serves as a guarantee that the food was made by local farmers and artisans, using traditional methods). In keeping with tradition, Menomale’s pizza uses only 00 flour, fior di latte mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil. Go for the Di Ettore (the Chef’s Special, natch): fior di latte mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, arugula, prosciutto di parma, grana padano, and extra virgin olive oil... as Italian as it gets. Bonus points for a great beer selection!

Courtesy of Etto

Etto

1541 14th Street NW

Many pizza connoisseurs consider 2Amys the best pizza in DC, so it should come as no surprise then that Etto (owned by the same group) also pumps out some truly delicious pies. The crew here uses an in-house grain mill to grind its own flour every day, which gives a whole new meaning to "fresh" and "house-made." It really has the effect of making an insanely good crust, slightly sweet and slightly charred. There are usually around 10 pizzas on the menu, but don’t even bother looking at it. They're great, but the pro move here is to go straight for the Daily Special pizza, whatever it is. Designed to highlight local, seasonal produce, one recent pie combined roasted asparagus and ramps with goat cheese, tomato puree, and garlic. Just yes.

Courtesy of 2Amys

2Amys

Cleveland Park

Any ranking of DC pizza that doesn’t end with 2Amys is flat-out wrong. The restaurant itself is one of DC’s true dining treasures, and arguably one of the most consistently excellent restaurants in DC’s history, full stop. When in the presence of greatness, one keeps it simple: the Margherita Extra, with its precise balance of tangy, acidic tomatoes; rich, creamy buffalo mozzarella; and fresh, aromatic basil. (Insider tip: the buffalo mozzarella can be a little wet, so always order your pizzas "well done." The extra oven time means more char and durability.) This is pizza perfection.

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Logan Hollers is an environmental lawyer in DC who also contributes food and booze articles to Thrillist and BrightestYoungThings.com. His favorite Ninja Turtle is Michelangelo, which helps explain his addiction to pizza. Follow @lhollers on Twitter and Instagram.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Frankly…Pizza! 10417 Armory Ave, Kensington, MD 20895

This Kensington joint started as a food truck that would make appearances at local farmer’s markets, and finally got a brick & mortar restaurant in 2014. But that doesn't mean the menu has gotten bigger: the tiny kitchen here does one thing and one thing only... great, oak-fired pizza. The farmers market gigs clearly rubbed off, though, as this shop is truly hyper-local: its pigs are from PA, its produce is from the District, its beer & wine is from the DC area, and it makes its own, seasonal sodas.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. &Pizza 1118 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002 (H Street Ne)

This popular DC pizzeria is baking some of the best pies in the city and simultaneously giving your late-night slice conquests some legitimacy by also offering craft beers.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Vace 3315 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, 20008

Vace in Cleveland Park is an old-school Italian deli. Since 1976, it's been slinging sliced meats & cheeses, olives, artichokes, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, pasta... you get the picture. Its outstanding pizza is often overlooked, however. This place is home to some of the cheapest slices in the city (seriously -- $2.50 a pop is absurd), and pumps out authentic Italian pies. Of course, while you’re here, you should probably add some of the stellar cold cuts to your pizza.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Il Canale 1063 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007 (Georgetown)

Georgetown’s il Canale specializes in Southern Italian cuisine, relying on imported Italian ingredients, including mozzarella di bufala, San Marzano tomatoes, and 00 flour. Its gourmet pizzas get blasted in a wood-fired oven imported straight from Naples, and the result is a crispy, chewy, yeasty crust with perfect bubbly char. Keep in mind this is true Napoletana style, so if you’re not a folder, these are definitely knife and fork affairs. This modern, two-story 150-seater has a neon-lit bar downstairs and seating on both levels.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Pupatella 5104 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22205 (Ballston)

Upgrading from foodcart to their own shop, Pupatella is a neon-lit, counter-ordering joint plating authentic Neapolitan fare. Their custom, oak-burning oven is a thing of absolutely beauty, cooking pizza in one minute at 900 degrees and made of bricks that were actually built using volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius. Eat in or take out, but try not to arrive between 3 and 4pm: that's when they clean their pizza oven to ensure pizza quality all day and night...now that's dedication to good eating.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Ghibellina 1610 14th St NW, Washington, DC, DC 20009 (Logan Circle)

Ghibellina in Logan Circle is an outstanding gastropub... and it happens to serve some of DC’s best pizza. It combines two stand-out techniques: an atypical mix of flours, and a longer, lower-temperature cooking time (usually three to three-and-a-half minutes in a 500-600 degree oven). These factors prevent this from being boxed in as a "true Neapolitan" pizza; instead, it’s the restaurant’s own take on the style. A little crispier on the bottom, with a little less char, these pizzas are given time to develop that deep, yeasty flavor in the crust. The best part? During the daily happy hour, it’s $8.50. If pizza's not your thing, there's plenty of Tuscan fare on the menu, all do be enjoyed in an industrial, brick-walled space with a marble bar and open kitchen.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Wiseguy NY Pizza 300 Massachusetts Ave NW , Washington DC, DC 20001 (Chinatown)

New York-style pizza is its own animal, and here in DC, only Wiseguy NY Pizza in the Mount Vernon Triangle manages to replicate it. It imports its Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil from Italy; makes its own marinara sauce from canned tomatoes imported from Italy; and, best of all, uses a specialized filtration process (seriously) to replicate New York water, which serious pizza aficionados consider essential to the New York slice. The tin-cieling'd parlor features plenty of knickknacks like a prominently displayed tommy gun, part of a collection of Big Apple nods including black and white city photos, an old-timey radio, and a 7ft replica of the Statue of Liberty.

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8. Menomale 2711 12th St NE, Washington, DC 20018 (Noma)

Menomale is a low-key pizzeria in a low-key neighborhood. The owners of the Brookland spot are certified by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, which means their Neapolitan-style pizzas are recognized by the pizza-making authorities in Naples as legitimate. Everything about Menomale's pies is Italian -- the ingredients are sourced from the Campania region and the toppings include the likes of prosciutto, porcini mushrooms, and Italian sausage. The menu also includes sandwiches made with pizza dough, calzones, and gluten-free crust options.

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9. Etto 1541 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005 (Logan Circle)

From the folks behind 2 Amys and Standard, this pizza place is old-fashioned in more than just its name -- Etto is using old-school tools, including a giant, wooden flour mill, to churn out delicious pizzas, breads, and pies. Freshly ground flour really has the effect of making an insanely good crust, slightly sweet and slightly charred. There are usually around 10 pizzas on the menu, but don’t even bother looking at it. They're great, but the pro move here is to go straight for the Daily Special pizza, whatever it is. Designed to highlight local, seasonal produce, the pies feature the freshest ingredients in amazing flavor combinations.

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10. 2 Amys 3715 Macomb St NW, Washington, DC 20016

Proving that they're all about authenticity, the two Amys behind 2 Amys in DC have committed to serving only D.O.C. (Italian-origin certified) ingredients in their awesome pizza pies.

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