France and Italy aren’t the best of neighbors. Although they share a fiery Latin lineage, stubborn nationalistic streaks, and a tendency to head-butt each other in World Cup finals, it’s the rare Frenchman who admits a love of anything Italian . . . except maybe Carla Bruni. So why would Stephane Lezla and Christopher Raynal, whose brains and recipes are behind one of Washington’s best French bistros, Montmartre, open SeventhHill—a pizzeria tucked between their other restaurant and Le Pain Quotidien along Eastern Market’s petit goût de France—which debuts today?
“Pizza isn’t typically Italian!” Lezla asserts. “Tomatoes grow on both sides of the border. It’s still a tomato.”
True, a tomato is a tomato regardless of where it ripens, but the same can’t be said for pizza. Were that the case, then the French duo wouldn’t have imported Terre Blanche stones quarried from the banks of the Rhône River as the foundation for the restaurant’s bulky 47-inch brick oven. The white stones help produce a crisp pie with a smoky flavor.
From the goat-cheese-and-Gorgonzola Union Station pie to the pecorino-and-spinach Pennsylvania Ave., SeventhHill’s menu reads like a culinary map of DC. Pies come in 8- or 12-inch sizes, and diners can either take their meals in sleek yellow “lunch boxes” or munch inside the pizzeria’s Art Deco-meets-rustic-farmhouse interior, where shelves of chopped hickory wood are stacked tall and a 15-foot wood-beamed ceiling looks down on four circular tables and their yellow stools. For those who eat in, there’s a short list of South African wines and a nice collection of beers, including Red Hook, Leffe, and Affligem.
In addition to pizza, customers can also order a half-moon-shaped panino made in front of them or fresh soup delivered daily from Montmartre. But the draw, Lezla says, is “a neighborhood-inspired pizza from a superior French brick oven.”
“You know,” he says, “We French used to sell our stones to the Italians to make their ovens.”
Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.