A fun fact about DC councilmember Elissa Silverman: she claims she’s eaten pizza at every pizza place in DC. That was one of the revelations about the incumbent at-large candidate in Axios’s recent voter guide. It was a bold—and ambitious—claim. Obviously, we needed to know more. Turns out Silverman has been on a quest for the perfect pie for decades—or at least since 2000 when she penned an essay in Washington City Paper about her search for a half-decent slice. The city’s pizza scene has expanded and improved vastly since then, and Silverman has continued to diligently conduct quality control on all the latest additions.
I just have to know: Really? Every pizza place?
I mean, I looked through like Yelp’s top 100, and I’ve eaten at every one of them.
Oh, wow. How do you define pizza place here?
I worked for City Paper, as you might know, so I’ve certainly eaten all the jumbo slices on 18th Street. I went to L’Ardente and had pizza there, because I heard it was good. You know, and every place in between. Like, I’ve eaten a 7-Eleven pizza. I mean, I love pizza.
Do you track your pizza consumption to make sure you’re hitting all the latest places?
Well, for example, there’s one place I have not tried, because it recently opened on H Street. The All Souls people…
The Little Grand.
Yeah, I haven’t been able to get there because they opened during the campaign, and they’re only open at night. I’m excited to go there. But I mean, whenever I read about a place, I put it on the list to try and usually I try to get there pretty quickly. But with the campaign, I have a lot of evening events.
Do you have a list? A spreadsheet?
I keep a list of places I want to try. It’s not pizza specific, but certainly if they serve pizza, it rises to the top of my list.
What’s your favorite pizza in DC?
It would be, I think, impolitic for me to answer. I will say that I have certain biases. I’m not as high on the Detroit pizza. I see that as focaccia bread with cheese and sauce on top. When I think of pizza, I think of a New York slice. I will say that a go-to of mine is Wiseguy’s. I work at the Wilson Building at 14th and Penn so the one at 3rd and Mass is a pretty quick trip for us to grab. But I have to say, my campaign office is near the Andy’s in NoMa. They have a pizza that’s sausage, pepperoni, and green pepper that we’ve ordered several times. There’s basically a slice in every ward that I will eat, including east of the river—there’s Mama’s [Pizza] Kitchen in Ward 8. I will admit that the sauce is sweet. I’m more of a spicy than a sweet sauce [person].
I will not make you list every ward. How many days a week are you eating pizza?
I probably eat pizza at least once a week.
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
I will admit to being a minimalist. I don’t like a lot of toppings, but I can go any way. Like Pete’s [New Haven Style Apizza], they have that clam pizza—that has its place. I am a traditionalist, so I like a pizza with tomato sauce and cheese. Maybe one or two toppings. I do not get ham on my pizza. I have no objection to pork, but I’d prefer either sausage or pepperoni.
What about pineapple—yay or nay?
I know that’s a very controversial topic. Usually it comes with ham, and so I’m not a big fan, as I said. That kind of knocks me out more than the pineapple. I’m also a very flexible eater. So I don’t love ham, but I’ll eat it.
But you’re not philosophically opposed to pineapple on pizza, as some people are?
No, I’m not… What’s that frozen square pizza? I mean, I like pizza so much, I’ll eat that.
When is the last time that you had a jumbo slice?
It probably has been a while. I ate them when I worked in Adams Morgan a lot. I probably had a jumbo size maybe within the last year, I think.
What time of day did you eat it?
Oh, not late because I’m old now.
You’re the lawmaker so you would know better than I would, but isn’t it illegal to eat a jumbo slice before midnight?
Well, you know, sometimes you just want to have a slice of pizza. I’ll get a slice of pizza just to try it, and I sometimes won’t eat the whole thing.
Lastly, I feel like some of the greatest political controversies of our time have involved politicians eating pizza with a fork. What’s your position on pizza with a fork?
I’ll give a political answer: I wouldn’t do it myself. That was a little embarrassing for Bill de Blasio. You know, the best slice of pizza, in my opinion, is one you can fold up and you see that little bubble blister right at the crust, and then you have a little drip of that kind of orangey goo grease. That’s my favorite.
I could see where maybe with a Chicago-style pizza, someone would use a fork and knife, but it’s not not my go-to. I am actually headed to Chicago next month, and I’ll probably have a Chicago-style pizza while I’m there just to give it another try. But to me, that’s a little more like a quiche, you know? It’s not a real pizza.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.