Pizzeria Paradiso Owner Will Close Fast-Casual Veloce on Friday

The quick-grab pizza place shutters downtown

Pizzeria Paradiso and Veloce owner Ruth Gresser. Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Veloce will close its doors after lunch on Friday, ending two and a half years at 1828 L Street, Northwest.

The fast-casual pizza joint from Pizzeria Paradiso chef/owner Ruth Gresser joined the many downtown quick-grab options with a chef’s vision, serving local Compass coffee and thin-crust pies made with a variety of fresh doughs, organic tomato sauce, and toppings like house-made chicken sausage. Gresser, a Washington pizza pioneer since launching Paradiso 26 years ago, says quality ingredients weren’t enough—despite a custom Mara Forni oven that could turn out “veloce” (translation: fast) pies in under two minutes.

“I’m from the back of the house, and I think the food is the most important thing,” she says. “I know the restaurant business, but I thought it was true enough for this to be successful.”

Gresser says she thinks a few factors played into lagging business. The office-heavy downtown neighborhood around Veloce is busy for lunch, but notoriously slow at dinner and on weekends. (Over six restaurants closed on 19th Street in the past two years, from full-service spots like Smith & Wollensky and Bonfire to counter-order branches of Melt Shop and Protein Bar). She also says pizza and calzone-style pockets never really caught on for a work-day breakfast. And of course, there’s the question of fast-casual saturation in a neighborhood that caters to the desk set.

“It’s going to be a really sad day for us,” says Gresser. “I love everything about it—the way it looks, what we produce. But it seems like it was the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place, so that’s three strikes.”

Gresser says she isn’t ruling out reviving Veloce elsewhere, but other restaurant projects on the horizon factored into the closure. Currently, she operates four full-service Pizzeria Paradiso locations, including a new branch in Hyattsville. The Georgetown space is also undergoing a revamp that will wrap up next month. New features will include a larger beer bar in the dining room, and the opening of Paradiso Game Room downstairs (formerly brew-centric Bierria Paradiso) with skee-ball, shuffleboard, darts, and more.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.