Washington will have a new chef-driven pizzeria this week with the opening of Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana in Gaithersburg. Former Oval Room toque Tony Conte struck out on his own after nine years at the downtown DC spot, building a 40-seat restaurant close to his home.
Conte comes from a fine dining background, but you could say pizza is in his blood. His father moved to the United States from a small town near Naples at 17, and raised his family in New Haven, Connecticut where Conte worked in a Sicilian pizzeria during high school. The pies at Inferno speak to the Conte family roots; once the restaurant is running smoothly the team will seek the Verace Pizza Napoletana certification, which establishes the pies as authentically Neapolitan. If earned, Inferno will be the only VPN-certified restaurant in Maryland, joining a handful of pizzerias in the area such as 2 Amys and Pupatella.
Certain staples are required to pass the VPN test, including Inferno’s wood-burning oven—made by local producer Marra Forni—and dimensions of the crust. Still that doesn’t mean the pizzas will be identical to others.
“It’s kind of like NASCAR,” says Conte. “Everything is supposed to be the same under the rules and regulations, but everyone is tweaking something. Same with Neapolitan pizza.”
The opening menu will have seven pizzas, topped with creative combinations like potatoes, smoked onions, mozzarella, and rosemary, or porcini mushrooms with fontina. Appetizers also center around the wood-fired oven, such as ember-roasted beets with chili-spiked yoghurt and pecans, or burrata cheese with speck and plums (roasted and pickled). Starting in the next few weeks, Conte will use the oven for meat and seafood entrees, and eventually may offer a separate tasting menu for guests at the four-seat counter overlooking the kitchen.
While Inferno has its ambitious elements, others are more familiar for a neighborhood pizzeria. Guests can design their own pies with staple ingredients like pepperoni and veggies, and the kitchen plans to offer carryout (not delivery). Though there’s no room for a bar in the cozy space, diners can wash down the fare with a small selection of Italian wines and beers, plus a few local options.
Inferno will initially open for dinner this week—stay tuned for an official date—with weekend lunch service to begin later.
Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana. 12207 Darnestown Rd., Gaithersburg.
Happy Monday, food truck followers! Head to Gallery Place for Woodland's Vegan Bistro's vegan curry chicken and baked ziti, or stop by 20th and L streets, Northwest for pumpkin spice kettle corn from Popped! Republic.
Cuban Pizza at Graffiato
707 Sixth St., NW
Fans of a classic Cuban sandwich will love the Carlito’s Way pie, decked out with roasted pork, capicola ham, provolone, mustard sauce, and pickles ($17).
Naan Pizza at Spice 6
5501 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville
Our favorite bet at this Chipotle-style Indian eatery: a baked-till-crunchy naan loaded with spicy lamb kadai, mozzarella, finely chopped chilies, and cilantro ($9).
Alsace Pizza at Mia’s Pizzas
4926 Cordell Ave., Bethesda
A Neapolitan-style pie meets Alsatian flammekueche—the wonderfully rich bacon-and-onion tart—and the marriage makes for one of our favorite pizzas. The salty-sweet, sauceless round with pancetta, Gruyère, and caramelized onions is set off by a dusting of Parmesan ($15). For an authentic flammekueche try Mintwood Place, which dishes up
Barcelona Pizza at Fire Works
2350 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 201 Harrison St., SE, Leesburg
These twin pizza-and-beer hangouts think beyond the mozz’ for many of their pizzas—and this Spanish-inspired pie ($13 for a small, $19 for a large) is one of their best. Besides nutty, melty Mahon cheese, the expert crust holds chorizo, colorful roasted peppers, and olive tapenade.
Thai Pizza at Franklins Restaurant
5123 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville
This peanut-sauced pizza ($13) with peanuts, cilantro, crunchy bean sprouts, and mozzarella sounds dubious, but trust us: It works. The ten-incher comes with smoked chicken, but we liked it even better when we asked the kitchen to sub in shrimp.
Greek Pie at We, the Pizza
305 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 2100 Crystal Dr., Arlington
Spike Mendelsohn channels his Grecian heritage with this cast-iron-baked creation ($4 a slice, $20 a pie) topped with kalamata olives, threads of red onion, tomatoes, plenty of oregano and feta, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Hurricane Joaquin may barrel down on the District this weekend, and in the meantime the forecast is dark and stormy (and we’re not just talking weather). We love a good Dark and Stormy cocktail—dark rum, spicy ginger beer, a squeeze of fresh lime—for warming the spirits and stomach. Here’s where to order your next round.
1433 H St., NE
Head to this laid-back Atlas District joint for a well-made Stormy, which has been touted as the house drink since 2005.
The Fainting Goat
1330 U St. NW
This U Street pub’s version, Not so Dark, a Little Stormy, may sound like wishful thinking during a hurricane. Regardless, the combination of 12-year aged rum, house ginger soda, and kaffir lime is well worth a try.
1847 14th St., NW
14th Street drinkers can duck into this cozy bistro, and ask the bartender for a Dark and Stormy made with spice-forward Fentimans ginger beer.
2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
In the mood for a nonalcoholic version of the classic? One of our favorite mocktails in town is the West Indian Limeade, a refreshing sip with lime, ginger syrup, bitters, and sparkling water. The bar will spike it with rum if you ask nicely.
1529 14th St., NW
The name of this casual 14th Street watering hole makes you think beer, but the bar serves a tasty version dubbed Storm Noir, made with Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum and served in a copper mug.
Locations in Downtown DC; Potomac, MD; Tysons Corner, VA
Barman Jon Arroyo covers the classics, including a Dark and Stormy made the old fashioned way: Goslings black seal rum, ginger beer, and lime.
2519 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Both a Hurricane and Dark and Stormy are on the menu at this New Orleans-themed bar restaurant, so you’ll have plenty of options to get through the squall. Save the whiskey pickle-backs for when conditions turn dire.
3195 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Conquer the storm in Arlington like a king with a classic Dark and Stormy, served in a goblet.
We love pizza: thick and thin, fancy and cheap, Neapolitan-style and New York. Washington pie joints offer all kinds of styles, and we tasted around to find the best.
10417 Armory Ave., Kensington; 301-832-1065
Frank Linn traded his mobile farmers market pizza oven for this shoebox-size permanent space, outfitted with an oak-burning pizza oven. Take the excellent Hot Mess, accessorized with a trio of cheeses—mozzarella, Gruyère, and Romano—plus deeply sweet caramelized onions, pickled jalapeños, and house-cured bacon. We also like the plain, but not plain-tasting, cheese pie featuring tangy-sweet tomato sauce made from an heirloom recipe.
3715 Macomb St., NW; 202-885-5700
It used to be that people came for the pizzas and “discovered” the small plates. Now they come for the small plates and “rediscover” the pizzas. Many pies call themselves Neapolitan, but few are as topographically complex—the bubbling and marvelously hillocked surface makes for a different bite nearly every time. Chef Peter Pastan is obsessive in his pursuit of high-quality ingredients, so splurge on the cockle pie with tiny, sweet clams.
1541 14th St., NW
2 Amys co-owner Peter Pastan creates a different kind of pizza at his intimate 14th Street dining room. A house grain mill produces hearty flour for the dough, which results in a more robust crust—perfect for assertive toppings such as roasted cauliflower, capers, anchovies, and bread crumbs (one of the best cheese-free options in the city). The seasonal small plates sometimes outshine the pizzas, but we’re happy with a mix of both.
1063 31st St., NW; 202-337-4444
The crusts at the canal-side Georgetown spot are a near-perfect balance of chewy and crisp, and the wood-burning oven lends them an irresistible smoky perfume. In the Neapolitan fashion, you should expect a certain wetness at the center. Fold the flap back, and—in the case of the excellent La Regina—enjoy the creamy disks of buffalo mozzarella and tender prosciutto di Parma.
707 Sixth St., NW
There’s plenty to explore beyond pizza at Mike Isabella’s Italian-American joint—superb vegetable plates, Chinatown-style ribs—though we keep coming back to the pies. Thin-crust, perfectly-charred rounds emerge from the oven with creative toppings; we still love the Jersey Shore decked out with fried calamari, a staple since opening, as well as the Hawaiian-style Pineapple Express with country ham and charred pineapple.
4509 Knox Rd., College Park; 301-422-8122
Ledo’s been so comforting to so many for so long that it’s easy to forget that this landmark—a decades-old fixture in nearby Adelphi—produces such a strange and singular product. It’s rectangular. The crust is slightly sweet. The cheese is smoked provolone, and toppings include green olives and bacon. There are a lot of great pizzas out there, but nothing says home quite like this one.
1610 14th St., NW; 202-803-2389
There’s a reason wait-times stretch beyond an hour at this buzzy spot: the Neapolitan-style pizzas are some of the area’s best. The thin, pliable crusts are spread with a bright, tangy marinara, and never turn soupy. You won’t go wrong with any of the combinations, though we love the Finocchiona with salami, shaved fennel, olivata, and fiore di latte mozzarella. Deal-seekers should drop by the bar for daily happy hour (4 to 6:30 and late-night), where pizzas are served at a discount.
4926 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 301-718-6427
We love owner Mia Ballinger’s eight-year-old, yellow-painted pie shop. The wood-oven pizzas emerge with bubbling edges, and the Neapolitan-inspired crusts aren’t so thin that they disintegrate under their toppings. There’s a lovely Margherita, but the Salsiccia—with its fiery mix of pepperoni, sausage, pepper flakes, and mozzarella—might be our favorite.
5104 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 571-312-7230
You don’t expect to find a slice of Naples in an Arlington strip mall, but co-owner Enzo Algarme recreates a sense of his home. A red-tiled wood oven churns out certified Neapolitan pies, as well as creatively-topped rounds with over 20 combinations. You can do well with a simple Margherita, but we gravitate toward less orthodox combinations, particularly a pie with chorizo and red peppers or garlic-roasted tomatoes with artichokes.
Happy Thursday, food truck followers! The rain may keep a number of trucks off the roads today, but here's a special worth braving the elements for: free cookies. Visa teams up with Captain Cookie to celebrate the release of chip-enabled credit cards, and will be giving away free chocolate chip cookies and chipwiches at Union Station (11 to 2 PM) and Capital South (2:30 to 5:30 PM) Metro stations.
Ice Cream Jubilee launches cool cakes, fall flavors
301 Water St., SE
One of our favorite sweet shops is rolling out custom-order ice cream cakes. Guests can pick any flavor of ice cream and match it with their favorite dough, such as salty apple-cinnamon with spice cake, or cookie dough and chocolate ($65; serves 15). The shop also has a lineup of new fall ice cream flavors, including maple-rye pecan and pumpkin honeycomb.
Weekend brunch begins at L'Hommage Bistro
450 K St., NW
Drop by the Mount Vernon Triangle bistro for fresh-baked French pastries, eggs Norwegian, omelets, and more during the newly-launched brunch. Like at dinner, all dishes run below $25. Service runs on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 to 3:30.
Fall salads return to Sweetgreen
Multiple area locations
Farewell peaches, hello cauliflower. The seasons have changed at Sweetgreen, and four new fall salads are on the menu. Options include curry cauliflower with quinoa, roasted chicken, and cucumber-yoghurt, or roasted turkey, romaine, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.
New tiki drinks at Farmers Fishers Bakers
3000 K St., NW
The weather may be cooling, but tiki cocktail are still going strong at FFB. Beverage director Jon Arroyo mixes an array of daiquiris and swizzles, mai tais and zombies.
Pork barbecue pies at &pizza
Multiple area locations
The homegrown pizza chain introduces a number of new fall items, including the Boss Hog pie topped with pork barbecue, tortilla strips, chili oil, sweet onions, and cheeses. There’s also a new house-made line of small-batch teas using organic sugar, sold in flavors like peppered chai and lemongrass-white peach.
Bottomless mimosas begin at Mango Tree
929 H St., NW
New bar manager Evan Cablayan lets the mimosas flow at the CityCenterDC Thai, starting this Saturday and Sunday. Standard grapefruit and orange will be offered, as well as rotating flavors like pineapple-lemongrass and cranberry-cardamom. The bottomless deal goes for $20 from 11 to 3.
Bastille rolls out its autumn menu
606 N. Fayette St., Alexandria
Chef Christophe and Michelle Poteaux’s French bistro changes over to a fall menu, full of dishes like grilled quail with roasted grapes, Thai-style pots of mussels, and braised lamb shoulder. Items are priced a la carte, though there’s a $29 three-course set menu at lunch.
Homesick Aussies will finally have a place to eat when Oz opens its doors in Clarendon on Thursday. Melbourne native and real estate developer Michael Darby and his wife, former Miss DC Ashley Darby, are behind the 200-seat Australian restaurant—the only one of its kind in the area.
The duo brought in a Sydney-based chef to design the menu in the 200-seat space, formerly the short-lived La Tagliatella. Specialties from Down Under will be served for dinner (sample menu), weekend brunch, and eventually weekday lunch. A few of the dishes incorporate rare ingredients—think marinated kangaroo and emu skewers—while others are Aussie comfort staples: homemade meat pies and sausage rolls, rack of lamb with minted peas, and a burger with “the lot" (pineapple, beetroot, and a fried egg).
A 50-seat patio is the place to sip a Fosters oil can or craft cocktails while the weather stays warm, such as a cilantro gin rickey or a rum-based painkiller made with fresh coconut puree, orange, and pineapple juices. Naturally the wine list leans Australian, with a sizable selection of pours by the glass and bottle.
Oz officially opens for dinner on Thursday; lunch begins on Wednesday, October 7. The team rolls out Saturday and Sunday brunch this weekend, serving a full Australian “brekkie”—eggs, beans, breakfast meats, tomato—and of course, Vegemite toast.
Oz Restaurant and Bar. 2950 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 703-664-0693. Open nightly for dinner; Saturday and Sunday brunch; lunch starting Wednesday, October 7.