Best Pizza in DC?
Hey, traveling to DC in about a month. I truly believe great pizza is found in the sauce and crust, cheese is just an after taste. Anyway, if someone can provide 1.) Best DC flavor pizza and 2.) Best unique place (Decor/ambience) for pizza?
The only true Washington pizza is Ledo's. All others are imitations of other area pizzas (i.e. NY, New Haven, Chicago). Not promising you will like Ledo's, but if it is to your taste, you will love it. Ledo's pizza uses a thin, somewhat flaky crust, smoked mozarella, and a tomato sauce that leans toward barbecue sauce.
I've been loving it since 1962.
re: Mister Big
Amen to that. Ledo's has been our pizza of choice for thirty years. Our greatest joy was when they branched out. It is, without a doubt, so much better than any other pizza you might find anywhere else. Their staff is great, the other menu choices are really good, but, get the good old rectangular (or square) pizza with whatever you want on it - they'll do anything, I swear - and eat, eat, eat. You can't eat enough of Ledo's pizza. It's so good, I'm drooling as I type this, which is really kind of pathetic, isn't it?
It's all in the smoked cheese, I'm convinced. What a simple move, and what a huge difference it makes. The sauce is always perfect, right there, a solid presence, but not overpowering, and always perfectly tomato-ey, not sweet or cloying.
I don't know about ambience. Their shops are nice enough, but mostly people who are there are veterans and regulars and they're comfortable enough with their tastes and experiences that the Ledo's where we go is sort of like someone's welcoming living room, but there is - on the other side of the store - a really cool sports bar. So, that's something, I guess, with ambience.
The pizza's so good, I never gave ambience a thought.
Not unless something has changed there recently. Ella's is lousy.
The opinions that you get in this thread are likely to be wildly divergent, since everyone seems to have a passionate view on the topic. There is no universally loved pizzeria in DC. A lot of people will tell you that DC isn't a pizza town and you can't find anything decent here. Although I agree that there's nothing as transcendant as, say, Difara in Brooklyn (or even Regina in Boston), there are some decent pizzas.
-2 Amy's: Neapolitan style. This is actually quite a good Italian pizzeria (certified D.O.C. by the Italian gov't) -- and you are encouraged to look beyond the pizza on the menu. It's also really busy all the time and extremely loud. And some people really hate it. chacun a son gout.
-Paradiso. This is also more of an Italian style. I've not been recently, but I've had some good, and some less good pizzas there. And of course some people really hate it.
-Vace: this is probably closer to a New York style, and the fresh out of the oven thin crust pizza is quite good. This is not a restaurant, but an Italian market. Takeout only.
-Ledo's: I have to agree with the above poster that this is somewhat of an iconic local pizza. My understanding is that this only applies to the original location in Langley Park, although since I live near there I can't comment on the other locations. I'm not a big fan of the crust, which is more like a pie crust. But the sausage is quite good.
You will probably also receive votes for Matchbox, which I haven't been to recently, and possibly even Comet Ping Pong, which you should skip. As you should skip Ella's.
Well I can comment on two other Ledos locations (Tysons and Van Ness). Revolting. They seem to combine the worst of buttery Chicago crust and nasty ultra-thin cracker crust in a sauce that's the pizza equivalent of southern sweet tea. The orginal Ledos in Langley Park was always an acquired taste, but since the franchise expansion, their food is just inedible. If your idea of a great pizza is a greasy Ritz cracker drowned in catsup and heavily processed cheese "product," Ledos has it in spades.
I also don't get 2 Amys, but I love the white pizza at Restaurant AV, so there it is.
After almost a lifetime of being devoted Ledo's fans and patrons, I vow now to try to taste the sauce as you experience it. It never tasted "sweet" to us - or our kids, and now our grandkids, who clamor for it at almost every visit - but your perceptions are certainly worth testing, expecially given the intensity of your response.
It should, though, be noted, that they've been in business - and have thrived - for almost half a century, so perhaps they're doing something right? If Ledo's strikes you as Ritz crackers with ketchup and cheese "product," I honestly think you might have been in some other pizza joint.
I'm told Oprah had some sort of contest, and Ledo's was voted "Best Pizza In America." That, with all their years of success, might mean that there's something going on that's very, very good.
In the meantime, I'll be looking out for your tastes, and will report back when we next dine on the sublime pie from Ledo's.
And, of course, AV Ristorante has been great pizza for years, but it's a bit out of the way for us now, alas. Another old-timer, just like Ledo's.
I should amend what I said earlier. The original store's sauce is a bit more "tomatoey" than the offshoots. But the crust still sucks. I want pizza dough, preferably thin. Not some funky butter flakey stuff that breaks apart and turns to mush when they add toppings and sauce. It just doesn't hold up (and I love THIN dough - I roll out a normally 12-inch thin crust to a 16-18 inch crust!)
And, yeah, of course Ledos has survived in DC! Until I moved to the southeast I didn't know people put sugar in tomato sauce, it was a foreign concept. I think that may be the patronage? The locals and southerners who grew up with sugared marinara sauce? Who knows. It's not my taste, nor is their pizza, but it is interesting and a local alternative to the national chains. Which means when I want pizza and I'm not driving or cooking I'll go there.
The white pizza at Ristorante AV is second only to Pepi's of New Haven, CT. For traditional red sauce pie, Vace in Cleveland Park is the best I've had in DC. The fact that it must be eaten in the car or sitting at the bus stop out front doesn't detract from it in the least. Their toasted Italian subs are pretty good, too.
Avoid Ledo's. You'll never like the sauce. It's got some sort of sweetness to it that you just won't like, and they use this flavor on everything they sell, including the hot buffalo wings. If you insist on trying Ledo's, then go with the original one in Adelphi. Otherwise, the best NY style pizza in this area is probably Gianni's in Severn, MD.
In all our years of patronizing Ledo's, beginning with the little original place, I'd never characterize their sauce as "sweet". We've never gone for the American offerings, but their pastas and veal dishes are terrific.
For the record, we now visit regularly their Columbia Pike and Tyson's Corner outposts, and the food at both establishments is every bit as excellent as it was at the original.
I never did understand this "NY style" or "Chicago style" pizza differentiation. Too many years in Italy, maybe, but good pizza is good pizza, and it's not complicated.
Ledo's is an acquired taste. My god is it sweet! It's like eating cups of sugar on top of pastry dough It's a 50/50 split in my family and friends - they either love it or hate it. The menu is pretty hum dum. But they offer us suburb dwellers an alternative to papajohns/pizzahut/dominos hell.
For good pizza try Pizza Paradiso (my favorite is the Georgetown location) or 2 Amy's. I haven't ventured to Comet Ping Pong or Mia's yet (I'm normally 2-3 years behind schedule ... don't want to rush things!) And Ella's and Matchbox weren't worth the drive unless I happen to again be in the area and starving.
I plead ignorance to what is genuinely great NY pizza (Whenever I'm in NY and ask friends and relatives to be taken to a great pizza place-- Joe's, Grimaldi'ss, Patsy's, whatever-- inevitably THAT place is way too crowded and we end up at some just-average place), but I second Vace as the "go to" place for an unpretentious and flavorful really good pie in DC proper. Their toppings aren't anything special, but the sauce/crust/cheese combo more than makes up for it. As for 2 Amy's, I just don't "get" it.
2 Amys margherita pizza is minimalist and sublime. Amazing how much flavor can be gotten from a tomato wash!
The Atomica at Pizza Paradiso is excellent. This has a peppercorn salami topping.
In Arlington, the red and yellow tomato pie at Pie-Tanza is perfect.
All of the above are extremely thin crust, my favorite style.
Vace is also excellent, as noted above, with the sauce put over the cheese to keep the crust from getting soggy. But is take-out only.