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Best D. C. Area Source For New York "Style" Pizza & Commentary (LONG!)

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Best D. C. Area Source For New York "Style" Pizza & Commentary (LONG!)

j
Joe H. | | Mar 6, 2002 11:17 AM

is Sylvano's in Herndon. This will be 90% as good as an average Brooklyn hand tossed pizza. It will not be 100% as good. There is nowhere in the Washington area where you can find an authentic pie. In a very lengthy post far below I went into a great deal of detail (i.e. speculation) as to why the NY/NJ pie cannot be authentically reproduced in this area.
There have been a number of posts over a period of time asking where to get NY style pizza in the D. C. area. Answers have ranged from Tysons Corner mall upstairs which has hand tossed pizza to Greenbelt to Centreville and so forth. The BEST of all of these and to the best of my knowledge the best New York style pizza in the entire Washington metropolitan area is the Greek owned Sylvano's in Herndon which, for those in western Fairfax County, is a long standing institution.
The crust is NOT as good as authentic NY crust. But it IS as close as you are going to come in this area.
For very good pizza that is not attempting to replicate NY, just good on its own, the original Ledo's in Hyattsville is a 50 year D. C. institution. But ONLY the ORIGINAL on University Blvd. West near the University of Maryland. NO OTHER LEDO'S has the same pie. Luigi's on 19th Street mentioned below for those of us who grew up here in the '60's and '70's was the standard by which others were measured along with A. V. also mentioned below. Anna Maria's on Connecticut Ave. just north of Dupont Circle is another D. C. institution dating back to the '60's. All of these-IN THEIR OWN WAY-are very good. None of them are attempting to be like any other style of pizza.
Pizzaria Paradiso is called by ALL of the professional critics D. C.'s best with Two Amys now ranking by many just as high. Not everybody on this board (including myself) agrees with this. Coppi's on U Street is thought by many to be excellent. (preferred by me over Paradiso). Facce Luna has a following also. All of these four pizzarias use a wood burning oven and are different in style from those listed in the previous paragraph.
There is nowhere in D. C. where you can find coal oven pizza. The closest is Toscanini's in Philadelphia but the world standard for this is in New Haven at Pepe's and Sally's Apizza with the original Pepe's (now called The Spot and next door) also featuring the original New Haven coal oven. Several New York pizzarias also have coal ovens but arguably the best is in New Haven. Coincidentally many people feel the absolute best New York pizza (John's in the Village, Patsy Grimaldi's, Lombardy's, etc.) are from coal ovens.
To the best of my knowledge there is not a coal oven pizzaria that has opened in the United States since the Grimaldi's Brooklyn location (in the '70's?) which is an outpost of the original in the Bronx.
Authentic Chicago pizza cannot be found outside of Chicago. The original Uno's and Due's taste totally different in Chicago than they taste here. Gino's East is better in the Loop than it is in Merrillville. Giordano's, Carmen's, Nancy's and Eduardo's stuffed pizza are also far superior there than when duplicated (in style) here. There are many reasons but the main one is that it's Chicago and the "standard" is different there, the bar is just raised higher for a pizzaria to be successful. (Uno's has some of the original pans going back almost 60 years; this means the black cast iron pizza pans have a "seasoning" which influences the crust and its taste. The recipe is also DIFFERENT in the original than anywhere else. You wait a long time for a pie there but it's worth it!
But just like New Haven, New York and Chicago the actual city that you eat the pizza in will feature a pie that is superior to any that might be eaten elsewhere. Don't expect to find NY pizza here equal to Grimaldi's or John's. Don't expect Uno's here or in, say, Mississippi to taste anything at all like North Rush street. Don't expect anything anywhere else on earth (not even Naples) to taste anything at all like Wooster Street in New Haven. They are all originals and in their own way cannot be duplicated. Perhaps in name. But no way else.
D. C. has some very good pizza. In its own way, especially if you grew up here, while it's not as good, it's still comforting, fattening and worth going out of your way for. We live in Reston with a Ledo's three blocks away. Once every six months or so my wife and I drive the 30 miles to the original Ledo's in West Hyattsville for pizza. This weekend (now that I'm obsessed with this) we'll go back to Luigi's on 19th Street. While neither is as good as elsewhere for us-as native born Washingtonians-they still taste like they did when we were in high school. Then they were special and still are now.
Lastly one of the absolute best pies that I've ever had was a "white pizza" from Arcaro and Gemelli's just south of Scranton, PA in Old Forge. This in its own way was the equal of Grimaldi's. Incredibly good. But you can't find it anywhere outside of Old Forge. It was unique for the town it's in. They don't even make a pizza like this in Brooklyn or New Haven.
Point: the original Ledo's is a one of a kind on the face of the earth. Give it a try IN HYATTSVILLE ONLY. Or A. V. or Luigi's, even the Pizza Pantry on Walter Reed Drive on Arlington which hasn't changed since it opened in the mid '50's (not a great pie but unique). Don't expect any of these to taste like anywhere else. They won't. But in their own way they're awfully good.
And, please, for all of those who for the past two years that I've been following this board keep asking where to find NY pizza in the D. C. area: you will not. But the closest of anywhere really is Sylvano's in Herndon. There is nowhere in the D. C. area that is any better for this style of pie. Nowhere. You cannot duplicate the crust here. It will not be as "crisp." Unless you drive at least 150 miles north.

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