Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #97, Washingtonian 2009 #83, Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's Top 50 Restaurants 2009
Neighborhood: Columbia Heights
With the Snowpocalypse rapidly shifting plans, and more importantly canceling work, my lunch schedule suddenly freed up, so I decided to start hitting up the cheaper restaurants around town with my newfound snow days. First on this list: Pete's Apizza, right off the Columbia Heights Metro station. I recruited Official Friend of DCWD The Suit to come with me; The Suit is a New Haven native, and not only desperately craved some home-style pizza, but also would be a valuable source on authenticity.
Pete's Apizza is caught in between two places; it wants to be both a friendly neighborhood pizza place, but it also wants to be on the up-and-up (on some level, you can say this about Columbia Heights as a whole). The net result is a small dining area with window counter space, and plenty of small, but modern wooden two-tops and chairs. The color scheme is all different shades of brown, which makes feel a little cozy, as does the hanging candle light fixtures around the restaurant. I could see how it could get chatty if the place was full, but for the time being it was just quiet.
Before I get to the pizza, I should mention that Pete's offered a fairly decent selection of beer (I got myself a Great Lakes Eliot Ness), as well as Boylan's bottled sodas. In fact, they had a Boylan's soda fountain, probably the only place outside of Zebu back home in New Jersey that I've ever seen that. Major awesome points.
The one thing you'll notice is that for a pizza place, your options are pretty upscale. The menu is almost entirely specialty pies, though only about eight or so are available by the slice at a given time. This being a lunch, we decided to just go by the slice, instead of ordering a whole pie. I went with a slice of the New Haven (white clams, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pecorino romano, and oregano), and a Chef's Choice (which on that day seemed to be sauteed spinach, caramelized onions, and some ground sausage), while the Suit went with a New Haven and a pepperoni.
On the ride there, The Suit explained to me about New Haven pizza: like New York-style but thinner, and more burnt, so that it falls apart in your hands. In fact, it was his passion for the pizza that was probably the only reason we didn't stop for food someplace else as the snow and DC's inability to deal with it sidetracked us a couple times. The pizza was very good, crispy and nice, though by no means the greatest pizza I've had in my life. The New Haven was the better of the two, but probably only because it's regularly made. I'll defer to The Suit on this one: "It was a little too thick, and not burnt enough for my tastes, but it's the best pizza I've had in DC." This is certainly a sentiment I would echo, but considering that my current DC pizza diet consists of half-price pizza at Froggy Bottom Pub, drunken late night Jumbo Slice, and a slew of takeout places (see: Domino's), I'll withhold judgment until I get to 2 Amy's and Comet Ping Pong. I will say one thing though: by the time we got the pizza, I was so starving and it looked just good enough that I forgot to take a picture of it. Letdown.
Having eyed the cannoli, The Suit decided to get one, and I decided I should have dessert as well, and ordered the coffee creme brulee. I think it would be safe to say that our feelings on the dessert mirrored our feelings on the pizza: good, but not the best ever by any stretch of the imagination. Specifically, the coffee creme brulee was a nice flavor, but they brulee'd it right before serving, which meant that the sugar top was super thick and warm, and the actual creme was cold. So that was a little off-putting.
I think it says a lot that The Suit took a menu saying, "If they deliver to campus, I will gain 100 pounds." On the other hand, even he admitted that it just wasn't as good as actual New Haven pizza. I would go ahead and say something similar; it met my expectations, which were pretty level to begin with. Solid across the board, but considering it's essentially a takeout kind of food, I can only give it 2.5 Hearts. Otherwise, a cheap but good restaurant which is just date-y enough for a sit down. And at the very least is currently in the pole position for my title of "Best Pizza in DC."
Food Rating: *** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: N/A
Vibe: Calm to chatty
Cost: $ (out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing: Everyone I know who lives in Columbia Heights loves Wonderland Ballroom ("best neighborhood bar on the weekdays"). A couple blocks away at 11th and Kenyon, it's a real chill place with a nice beer selection (or so I'm told anyway). Perfect for a nightcap on the weekdays, or some dancing on the weekends.