What would you call a pizza that claims to be healthy?
“We started with the unfortunate name of ‘World’s Healthiest Pizza,’ ” says Robbie Vitrano. “We were calling it what it was, but we wanted a name that felt good and was fun for consumers.”
And so, Naked Pizza was born.
The franchise, which started in New Orleans, was the brainchild of an anthropologist, a real estate expert, a product-branding whiz, and a college student—all pizza lovers. The four teamed up to find a way to make delivery pizza a bit healthier. The result was a pie made with 10-grain crust and topped with no-sugar-added sauce, hormone-free cheese, and all-natural toppings.
The first Naked Pizza outpost opened in post-Katrina New Orleans in 2006; five years later, the company is now closing in on 500 stores under contract around the world. Earlier this month, the first Naked Pizza shop opened in Washington, a small storefront in Pentagon Row in Crystal City. The owners have plans to open three more shops—in Reston, McLean, and Bethesda—within the next six weeks. There are also locations in the works in College Park, Fairfax, and Foggy Bottom.
Last week, we tried the pizza for ourselves. We’ll admit: We were skeptical—very skeptical. We like sloppy, saucy, fold-in-half slices, the kind that sends grease dripping down your arm and leaves you in a food coma 30 minutes later. So how would healthy pizza hold up?
Turns out, very well. Surprisingly well, in fact. We sampled slices from two speciality pies: the veggie-only Superprobiotic, which we were told is the brand’s most popular pie nationwide, and the Farmvil, Naked Pizza’s take on a meat-lovers pizza, made with pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, and ham.
The Farmvil pie was our favorite—the mix of meats meant lots of flavor—but the Superprobiotic was plenty satisfying. It had bits of artichoke, spinach, bell pepper, mushrooms, and black olives; a touch of garlic might have been nice for more flavor, or even a shake of red pepper flakes for a kick.
The Farmvil managed to be meat-packed without becoming a total grease slick. The sauce tasted as it should—like crushed tomatoes, nothing more, nothing less.
The crust, which gets a digestive boost from agave fiber and probiotics, was a new experience all together, and for good reason: It’s the part of the pie that Vitrano and his co-founders spent the most time making over. Made with a blend of buckwheat, quinoa, spelt, brown rice, oats, and other grains and seeds, the crust tastes the part: hearty and nutty, but in a good way. It’s crunchy, though, not chewy, so if you like to fold your pizza, you might run into problems with this pie.
Counting calories? A slice of a 12-inch cheese pizza with original crust has 132 calories and six grams of fat. Order the same pie with thin crust and you’re down to 91 calories a slice. By comparison, a slice of a 12-inch pan pie from Pizza Hut has 240 calories and 10 grams of fat.
“This is not a diet pizza, but there are definitely fewer calories. That’s because of how it’s composed,” says Vitrano. “There are no additives, no preservatives, no junk in the product—just good, common sense ingredients that grew in the ground.”
The shop’s nine specialty pies are $12.99 for a 10 inch, $14.99 for a 12 inch, and $16.99 for a 14 inch. Our 14-inch pizza was plenty for two people.
You can also build your own pie, starting at $6.99 for a 10-inch cheese pizza. Pick a sauce (red, white, or barbecue), a crust (thin, original, and—wait for it—gluten-free), and whatever toppings you’d like (toppings start at $1.49 each). The place has everything from pineapple and cilantro to pepperoni and chicken. Cheese options include mozzarella, cheddar, and feta, all of which are all-natural.
Naked Pizza is carry-out and delivery only. Deliveries are made within a nine-minute radius of the store. Owner Phil Parsons says they have the timing down to a science: staffers have three minutes to make the pizza and five minutes to cook it, and the delivery drivers, who take one order at time, have nine minutes to get it to your door. “We’re trying to get it to you in under 20 minutes from when you place the order to when you’re eating your pizza,” says Parsons. “Twenty-five if we’re slammed.”
Naked Pizza Pentagon City (1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington; 703-412-3777) is open daily from 10:30 AM to midnight.