Move Over, Detroit—Indian, Mexican, and “Lao-sy” Pizza Are the Next Big Thing

Global fusion pies are taking over (and we couldn't be happier).

Anafre hosts an all-day party for Cinco de Mayo. Photograph by Rey Lopez

Yes, Detroit pizza is having a moment in DC. But more and more chefs are looking beyond American or Italian traditions and creating global pies that borrow flavors from Mexico, India, Laos, and beyond.  And (don’t tell the Romans) it’s never been tastier to buck the classics. 

3704 14th St., NW
Mexico City–born chef Alfredo Solis went from a seafood-centric menu at this Columbia Heights dining room to something more pandemic-friendly: Mexican pizzas. His crunchy crusts bolster delicious topping combinations like blistered poblano-chile relleno with Chihuahua and Oaxacan cheeses; sweet shrimp with chorizo, avocado, and salsa; and a riff on the kitchen’s excellent chicken mole with melty cheese and pickled onions. Don’t forget a mezcal margarita to go alongside. Takeout.

Thip Khao
3462 14th St., NW
Ready for “Lao-sy” pizza? That’s what chef Bobby Pradachith calls his blend of fiery, funky Lao flavors with focaccia pizza, which is served at pop-ups out of the Columbia Heights restaurant. Slices come topped with combinations like charred Spam, pineapple, “spicy and funky” tomato sauce, fontina, and herbs; or sweet potato with coconut-bechamel sauce and goat cheese. Check Tock and Instagram for the next pop-up.

“Sorta South American” grilled pizzas at Mercy Me. Photograph by Raisa Aziz

Mercy Me
1143 New Hampshire Ave., NW
The “sorta South American” restaurant from the folks behind Timber Pizza channels the smoky flavors of Argentinian grills. Chef Johanna Hellrigl marries that with her Italian roots, creating Roman-style square pies that are topped with, say, house-made chorizo with pickled Peruvian peppers and habanero honey. Dine-in and takeout

Bella Indian Italian Cuisine
7423 Van Dusen Rd., Laurel
Two of the world’s great takeout foods—pizza and butter chicken—come together at this Indian and Italian restaurant (if you’re in DC and wondering if it’s worth the drive to Laurel: yes). The two cuisines are largely disparate on the menu, but marry beautifully in pies like the aforementioned chicken with creamy, spiced tomato sauce; chili-strewn chicken vindaloo; or vegetarian palak paneer. Takeout and delivery.

A riff on a meat lover’s pizza with short rib barbacoa at Rebel Margherita. Photograph by Alexis Fedoroff

Rebel Margherita
1214 U St., NW
U Street’s Rebel Taco has added a Mexican-Neapolitan pizzeria ghost kitchen, thanks to a brick oven that was left over from the previous tenant, Ulah Bistro. The shop, which just opened, dishes up thin-crust pies like a meat lover’s pizza decked out with short rib barbacoa and chorizo, or a Hawaiian-style mix of bacon, pineapple, pickled onions, and cotija cheese. There are classic Italian versions, too. Pickup and delivery.  

Pizza Twist
13049 Worldgate Dr., Herndon
A branch of this eclectic chain, which has locations in New York and California, just landed in Herndon from franchisees Amita Mahajan and Nishika Nibber. The menu offers a ton of Indian-inspired pizza options including halal tandoori chicken; spicy lamb kebab; vegan tikka masala; and curry paneer. Dietary restrictions are listed on the menu. Pickup and delivery.

Motown Square Pizza
703 Edgewood St., NE
Yes, this is Detroit pizza. But it’s Detroit pizza from Paulos Belay, a Motown native with roots in Ethiopia and Mississippi. So, in addition to his more traditional square pizzas loaded with brick cheese and crushed tomato, you’ll find options like a cheesy pizza loaded with Ethiopian-inspired beef tibs, red onions, chilis, and herbs. The vendor is at food incubator Mess Hall. Pickup and delivery

1346 Fourth St., SE
The daytime cafe at Mediterranean restaurant Albi has been popping up with some seriously enticing pizzas. Chefs Gregory Baumgartner and Michael Rafidi create Levantine-inspired, wood-fired pies with excellent names. There’s the “Harissa Explains It All (spicy tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, lemon basil) and “That’s (Not) a (Shawarma) Wrap” with coal-fired chicken, garlic toum, and pickled peppers. Look for fun mezze riffs on pizzeria sides, including harissa wings and a sumac Caesar. Pre-order here for the next pop-up on Feb. 7 (pickup only).

Stingray Kitchen
804 V St., NW
The new Asian-fusion ghost kitchen from the team at Declaration in Shaw takes a lot of creative liberties with their cuisine (cue the hot-and-sour matzo ball soup). We’re eyeing the Cantonese barbecue pizza with char siu pork, bok choy, and scallions, or the pie with duck with hoisin, mushrooms, and crispy wontons. Pickup or delivery.

Spice 6 Cheap Eats 2016
Naan pizza with chicken tikka masala at Spice 6. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Spice 6
Locations in Hyattsville, Vienna, Chinatown, and Westfield Montgomery Mall
This local fast-casual Indian chain predated both the current fusion pizza and fast-casual trends—we’ve been fans of their customizable dishes since they opened in Hyattsville in 2013. Build your own pie by starting with a naan base; add proteins like ginger-garlic marinated chicken, lamb, or veggies; and finish it with curries, chutneys, herbs, and more. Pickup and delivery.

Curry & Pie
1204 34th St., NW
This tucked-away fusion spot in Georgetown dishes up small plates like chutney-topped French fry chaat and tandoori tamales as well as thin-crust pizzas. Creative options include a chicken tikka-mango pie with cilantro, or a curry pizza with your choice of  saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, or lamb vindaloo. Dine-in, pickup, and delivery.

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.