1541 14th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20005
Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner.
Nearby Metro Stops: U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo
Price Range: Moderate
Small plates $3.50 to $11, pizzas $13 to $23.
If you’ve wandered along Northwest DC’s 14th Street lately, you’ve likely noticed there are suddenly lots of options for procuring a fancy Neapolitan-style pizza. Etto—a collaboration between the folks behind 2 Amys and Garden District, the beer garden formerly known as Standard—is the tiniest of them. It’s also the most ambitious.
Lots of restaurants trumpet words like “house-made” and “handcrafted.” At this sunny, tiled dining room, the servers are more modest, only talking about the flour the kitchen makes for the pizza dough when we ask about the wooden mill in the back. That red-wine vinegar that enlivens a slab of tuna belly? Etto makes that too, along with the vermouth that goes into the Negronis.
The core menu is heavy on pizza, anchovies, hams (the sampler plates are excellent), and cheeses. It includes a knockout celery salad with pecorino that co-owner Peter Pastan says his family calls the “dreaded celery salad” because he makes it so much—lucky them. Almost as brightly flavorful is a salad of chickpeas, citrus peels, and roasted lobster.
But it’s wise to focus on the chalkboard specials. You might find such delicious surprises as a still-runny egg crowned with deep-fried anchovy bones or roasted leeks done up with prosciutto and Gorgonzola. We could be happy making a meal out of these plates and skipping the pizzas altogether. The crusts tend to be over-charred, and a round holding cauliflower and anchovies had a one-note saltiness. Another with sausage was overpowered by a mess of rapini.
For dessert, there’s a chocolate “salami” studded with almond cookies and hazelnuts that’s tastier than most gimmicks turn out to be. The expert ice creams change constantly, but you’ll always find the fabulous pistachio, which gets its richness from the faintest hint of prosciutto.
This article appears in the September 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.