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Best Pizza in DC?

Hello!
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?

Thanks!

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. 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.

      1. re: mangiatore

        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.

        1. re: alopez

          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.

          1. re: monkeyrotica

            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.

            1. re: Atlantis

              Ledo's got some good PR from Oprah, but that was from the original store. I heard their stuff tastes different, but in general, I thought it was edible, but when I crave pizza, Ledo's never comes to mind. As I said, they use the same seasoning in their buffalo wings too.

              1. re: Atlantis

                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.

              2. re: monkeyrotica

                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.

          2. 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.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Chownut

              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.

              1. re: Chownut

                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.

                1. re: odkaty

                  I'm glad you agree that the sauce is way too sweet. Sauce should have a slight acidic taste from the tomatoes, and not too heavy or too much sauce. Also, their crust is bad. It's like a cracker crust overloaded with lard. Not chewy like it's supposed to be.

                  1. re: Chownut

                    I agree that the sauce is too sweet! Overall I just didn't find it very good pizza.

              2. 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.

                1. 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.

                  1. In Alexandria, Valentino's is great for crust and ambiance. Generally, the background music is all Frank. Be sure to ask for the crust extra-crispy. The food quality is best when the owner, who looks like a cross between Sean Penn and Bono, is there.

                    For D.C., 2Amys is the best.

                    1. We just tried Valentino's over the weekend and I totally agree - it is WONDERFUL! What a find! I loved the garlic knots! And, you can buy a variety of pizzas by the slice, so if you are like me and my hubby and can never agree on a pie, you can each get exactly what you want. I'm also anxious to try their pastas.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DC Gal

                        I'm not sure if this is the same place, but there is a small place on Beauregard St., just north of Duke St/236 (on the side of the shopping center with Marshall's and SFW). Their pizza is amazing. You have to wait (what seems to me) too long for it. By that time, you're ravenous. But I always get large pizzas so I can take some home.

                        Another place I've always liked in Generous George's on Duke St in Alexandria, near Old Town (btw Quaker Lane and Telegraph Road). It's been there as long as I can remember. It's kinda zaney, but I like their food (gargantuan portions). They have a pizza topped with chopped clams that I *love*, but not everyone I go there with finds this appealing.

                      2. I still like Mama Lucia's - at least, the Bethesda branch remains NY-like. Also, haven't been in years, but Giuseppe's in Rockville used to be NY style.

                        1. Few will agree, and many have their own favorite local joint. I'll contribute yet another name. "Atlantis" in the Bradlee Shopping Center in Alexandria. Their "Greek Pizza" is not to be missed....

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: jazzandfood

                            I've been wanting to try Atlantis since I saw their ads TV (Mmmmmmmmmmmm...Greeek Pizzaaaaaaa....gahh). I love Greek style pizza.

                            1. re: flavrmeistr

                              Personally, I thought their pizza was so-so, but they have the *best* deals on gyros, gyros platters, subs, and other mediterranean-type dishes. I think they are moving to a larger place a few doors down, if they have not moved already. Bon apatite!

                          2. Please - this board has been through the Ledo's thing before (though it was a few years ago). The original owners sold the NAME only. They own only one store, the one near UMD. The others are owned by various people. I agree that some are okay, such as the one on Columbia Pike, but they are not bound to much of anything along the lines of the original.

                            Another pie to try is Pomodorro's in NOVA (few locations). They serve up slices as well.

                            Lastly, a unique one is the pizza at Pan Am family restaurant in Vienna (Pan Am center). Real Mozz, great sauce with tom chunks in it, definitely worth a try.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Dennis S

                              Where are the Pomodorro's locations? I only know of one

                              1. re: ChocoHound

                                Well I can't find the web site now for some reason, but there are at least three. The one in Fairfax, there's one in Dulles area and I forget where the third is. Strange that the site doesn't come up anymore.

                            2. 2 AMY'S. Nothing else compares.

                              1. There is not such thing as the best pizza, it is all in what you prefer. I like the pizza at 2 Amy's, but have friends who hate it. Personally, I hate Ledo's pizza.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: dinwiddie

                                  Amen to that. It's a personal taste. I like 2 Amy's, Mia's (new in Bethesda) - though they could use some customer service training, Paridiso, Comet Ping Pong, CP Bar and Grill (in Cleveland Park), Sesto Senso (same owners as CP so it's no surprise if you like one you'll like the other), and I haven't been to a Lido Pizza that impressed me at all - seemed like a Jerry's experience to me.

                                  1. re: dinwiddie

                                    I'll top you. I hate 2 Amys AND Ledos. And what's that nasty Virginia version of Ledos? Marios? Marinos? Can't stand that either. But those latter two seem to be the distinct "DC flavor pizza" that the OP was asking about.

                                    That seems to be a common question: "Where's the best (regional technique food) in (the town you happen to be in where that technique has no history)?" But don't most people end up disappointed? Like when you ask "Where's the best New York style pizza in Bangalore India?" Assuming there were such a thing, why would you even want it, particularly when there's probably a bunch of decent Indian places right next door?

                                    When in Rome, I guess.

                                  2. I can't really understand how people can think of Ledo's Pizza as best pizza.
                                    Maybe memories as kids growing up eating Ledo's in their original locations, spur fond taste experiences, but I have yet to try a Ledo's pizza that pleased more than a home delivery pizza.
                                    Best never came to mind, worst did come to mind at the Tyson's location, also Reston.
                                    I have yet to taste any pizza in Northern Va that comes close to Ny, or Atlantic City.
                                    Emilios in Sterling does use fresh wood burning oven crusted pizzas with Boar's head meats and fresh cut veggies such as eggplant and zucchini, and even red bliss potatoes and great cheeses.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: keithlb1

                                      The red and yellow tomato pie at Pie-Tanza in Arlington is excellent. I also love the red pepper and garlic.

                                      1. re: keithlb1

                                        Rubino's in Herndon comes somewhat close. It's not bad, and better than Ledo's.

                                        1. re: Chownut

                                          Rubino's is good for a local thin-crust w/ lots of cheese. Some people will argue that you shouldn't overdo it w/ the extra cheese.
                                          For delivery, I'd lean toward Vocelli (altho, I liked Papa John's much more back in their early days)

                                      2. I like 2 Amy's as well. However I used to get cheap delivery style pizza from pizza movers, loved that stuff.

                                        1. Ledo's is terrible. The poster who descirbed it as a saltine, ketchup and cheese product hit the nail on the head. But, as others have indicated, people who grew up here love it. It takes all kinds. Vace's is very good and, if you are in the MD burbs, Potomac Pizza is also good.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: PaulieWalnuts

                                            A Saltine would elevate it to the level of cheap hors d'euvre. I said it tasted like a Ritz Cracker, Saltine's greasier, butterier, cousin. How they get that sauce to be sweeter than Papa Johns is beyond me. It's like they added catsup to corn syrup.

                                          2. I liked Ledo's at the original place both for it's food and ambience, but that was many years ago.
                                            Either my tastes have changed or the pizza at the original is much better, but I now think Ledo's, at least at the new locations, is downright vile. I guess you either love it ot hate it. Also Mama Lucia, not very good, but for some reason popular.
                                            I like Vace's and Pizza Paradisio and 2 Amy's and Ricciuti's (in Olney), but there are no doubt others as good. Usually a wood oven is a real good sign.

                                            1. Not being a native of NOVA and having only been to the Ledo's in Reston, i was not impressed. Other stuff on the menu (toasted ravioli comes to mind) was good but not the pizza. Seems like it is mainly those that grew up eating it. In North Arlington, I like The Italian Store but their sandwiches are to die for. Valentino's in Alexandria is probably the best I've had in NOVA. The one in Georgetown on M Street is good but the name slips my mind...

                                              1. I don't know that there is reall a DC pizza, more of a steak town I have always found. If you are looking for a quality pizza though I would suggest going to Bertucci's and getting a brick oven pizza. There is one in Foggy Bottom and another in DuPont. They're good and the atmosphere is excellent. Bertucci's is also kid friendly if you are coming with your family.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: yossarian22e

                                                  I second Bertuccis. For a chain, it's a pretty decent pie. Certainly preferrable to "authentic DC" pies like Ledos. And for a place that's kid friendly, I've seen fewer kids there than at 2 Amys.

                                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                    Bertucci's pizza is perfectly fine for a soulless and boring pizza. Whatever their flaws, 2 Amy's, Paradiso, and a half dozen other places in DC are better.

                                                    1. re: alopez

                                                      It's just cheese, sauce, and bread. How soulful and not-boring can that get? It's like the reviews of places that begin, "We ordered the salad. It was good, but not great." WTF is a GREAT salad? It's just leaves and dressing fergodsake.

                                                      And it's been done to death before, but those "flaws" are what keep me from going to 2 Amys and Paradiso: the former has good pies but some of us don't want to eat in a crowded nursery. Paradiso in Dupont has been on the skids for a while; the Georgetown location is the place to be.

                                                      For what it is, Bertuccis tastes better than Dominos or Papa Johns or any number of franchise pie places. I know it may sound like saying "bone cancer is better than lymphatic cancer," but there it is. Someone had to say it.

                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                        If you prefer Bertucci's to the other options, you are entitled to your opinion. However, if I travelling from out of town and asked for a great pizza (as the original poster did), and the best option you gave me was Bertucci's, I would take a pass.

                                                        1. re: alopez

                                                          Well I didn't say it was the "best" option, I was just agreeing with the other poster that it was a decent chain pie and, to me, preferrable to the "unique local DC flavor" (ie, Ritz Cracker/Heinz Catsup/Cheez product) that is Ledos. And the OP's emphasis was on crust and sauce, not cheese and toppings. Bertuccis is pretty consistent: their sauce isn't sickly sweet Ragu, and their crust is crisp and slightly charred. 2 Amys sauce is just canned tomatos and fresh basil, which is fine if that's what you're into, but they have a nasty habit of giving me a burnt pie.

                                                          I'd recommend the white pizza at AV, but the OP wants one that's sauced. Now that I think of it, seems the OP is a little off track. "Best PIzza in DC" is starting to sound like "Best Gyros in Bangalore." Why would you even want such a thing? There are a lot better dining options in DC and Bangalore, why go for something that will either suck or be a hideous simulacra of something you can get better elsewhere?

                                                          Maybe the OP can go to Ledos and give it a try. Then maybe we can finally declare that DC is NOT a pizza town and focus on what DC does right. Granted, that might be a very short thread.

                                                2. Albertos on P Street in Dupont Circle does a mean Chicago Pie. Palisades on MacArthur in upper Georgetown is pretty good too.

                                                  1. I will add to the Valentino's suggestion, but am surprised nobody has mentioned Z Pizza. I have always really enjoyed their pie--and their health conscious menu.

                                                    1. I love Ledo's. But I think it is an acquired taste. I grew up on it, and while the franchises aren't nearly as good, I haven't found them to be vile. I actually had some from Tyson's for dinner tonight, and it was pretty tasty.

                                                      1. Ledo's? When I first read that I thought it was a big joke!

                                                        the best pizza is 2Amy's.

                                                        the best take-out pizza is Vace's.

                                                        Try them! Your belly with thank you!

                                                        1. Thanks everyone for your suggestions, I'm the original writer of this blog. So, it seesm that the three places that are getting votes are 1.) 2 Amy's (kind of kid-friendly), 2.) Paridiso, and 3.) Ledo's (only the Langley Park location).

                                                          Thanks again, and if you have any last suggestion on any of these three, I'd be happy to listen in...

                                                          Thanks again,
                                                          Kyle (I'll be eating at one of these on Sunday or Tuesday evening (Mar 18/20th) with my girlfriend and her two kids (11 & 14 year old). THANKS AGAIN!!!

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: kabarton

                                                            1) Since you're bringing kids to 2 Amys, you probably won't need earplugs. However, do bring a good book. You'll have a nice long wait on the weekend for a table.

                                                            2) I assume you're going to the Paradiso in Georgetown. If you're going to the Dupont one, lower your expectations and you might have a good time.

                                                            3) Bring Pepto. Lots of Pepto.

                                                            1. re: kabarton

                                                              If you like Patsy's in NY you might like the pizza at Amici Mei in Potomac. The closest I've found to pizza like I grew up with in NJ is Mamma Lucia. I like Giuseppe's in Rockville, but its not really like NY pizza. And Ledo's - I just don't understand it. If you weren't born in Maryland you can't appreciate it I guess.

                                                              1. re: Linda513

                                                                I was raised in Maryland and Ledos made no sense to me when it was in it's heyday, and makes even less sense now. God knows what it'll be like in another 20 years. The pizza will probably come in tube form and people will still rave about it.

                                                                Good to hear Giuseppe's is still in business. I used to work nearby and thought their subs were excellent.

                                                            2. 2 Amys is great and many others have mentioned it here.

                                                              But tying with 2 Amys is Mia's in Bethesda. I've been there several times and have had fabulous pizza each time--and both the kids and adults who were with me loved it too. The service has been great, too.

                                                              1. i honestly put Ledo's pizza on par with a thin crust pizza from Dominos... just sayin'

                                                                I think the best pizza is the area is by far 2 Amys

                                                                1. I think what people seem to be missing about Ledo's in Langley Park is that it is a true, original DC metro style of pizza. It's not imitating NY-style (including New Haven variation), it's not imitating Chicago-style, or even Detroit-style (not to mention Philadelphia, St. Louis and a host of other locales). And I think that that counts for...something. Whether you like it or not is almost beside the point. Also, didn't the Italian Inn out on Annapolis Rd (Rt 450 just past ther 450/202 split) have a very similar style of pizza as Ledo's?

                                                                  1. Agree with those who said to avoid Ledos pizza - even the original location. The crust tastes like Bisquick to me and it's rather greasy. I actually like Ella's and it's our office take out spot when we want pizza. The popette pizza was very nice. I was disappointed in Pizzeria Paradiso the last time I went, fairly pricey and wasn't at all memorable. I did enjoy Two Amy's though - very authentic, although it gets pretty crowded quickly, so you might want to arrive when it first opens.

                                                                    1. Ledo's is definitely an acquired taste -- a local specialty dish, like deep-dish Chicago pie, nothing like Napolitan pizza. It's an aberration, as is Generous George's (ugh!). They're in a class with Five Guys burgers (which is, essentially, for shoe-eaters: people who don't like good burgers).

                                                                      2 Amys, Paradiso, and Vace are competitive. Around Alexandria, Faccia Luna and Quattro Formagii turn out decent New York style pies. A.V. Ristorante (still open?) has always had great crust, and always put too much on top of it. There is no excellent grilled pizza (Al Forno style) except at our house. 8;)

                                                                      I would disagree with the OP and say that the critical elements of pizza are the dough quality, the dough preparation (thickness, etc.), and the cheese. The sauce is almost incidental on a proper Napolitan or New York pie. The sauce could be either tomato paste-based, or fresh tomato chunks, but the key point is that it should be sparingly applied. Even an outright white or four-cheese pizza can be fabulous.

                                                                      1. Don't sleep on Primo Italiano. There is one in Reston where I work (Also one in Rockville) -- I am sitting here mahnging on a personal sausage pie. The secret to REALLY good pizza, like most good food, is BALANCE. You don't want, for example, the sauce to overwhelm the rest of the ingredients (As it does with BAD pizza like Dominos). You don't want to get kicked in the mouth by oregeno on that first bite.Primo Italiano gets it. This is gourmet pizza. The crust is both crunchy and chewy, like artisan bread. The sauce stays in the background where it belongs. The sausage on this pie is very high quality, not too fatty tasting, and it is chopped, which I love.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Leesburg_Slim

                                                                          I haven't tried Ledo or Primo Italiano - so excited to have a new place! I really liked Albertos, but it burned down! If you are going out and have had a few drinks, Jumbo Slice in Adams Morgan is a MUST -- they turn the shop into a club basically with dry ice and trance music - its hilarious after a night out, and yummy (but only at 2 am)!

                                                                          1. re: Zucumber84

                                                                            There is ONLY ONE LEDO TO GO TO-only one-and that is the original on University Boulevard in Adelphi. The pizza there is BETTER than any of their outposts. Some of the pans their pizza is baked in are the original blackened pizza pans from the '50's. This doesn't mean that every pie is like this but the overall standard is higher.

                                                                          2. re: Leesburg_Slim

                                                                            Is Primo Italiano really that good? I went to the Rockville location a month ago, but the family and I got pastas. They were so bad (and overpriced) that I can't imagine going back, unless the pizzas there really are that good.

                                                                          3. Vace in Cleveland Park. Thin, crunchy crust. Minimalist, but with quality cheese and ingredients (although I wish they used better mushrooms). And not greasy, spongy, or sweet like all the other horrid horrid pizza in this town.