A Pizza Tour of New York

Inspired by the three part podcast on the history of pizza, we made a pilgrimage to New York to sample as many different pizzas slices as possible. With so much possible pizza to eat, we fortunately were not alone. We were joined by Marnay’s sister, Cheray, and her boyfriend, Chris. From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, we ate at five different pizzerias. Here is our take, presented in chronological order.

Corner Slice
Corner Slice had our favorite crust out of the five. It tasted like freshly made focaccia, but it had a sourdough tang to it. Although the crust was thick, it was by no means doughy. Somehow they made a thick Grandma slice that was neither too thick nor too thin. It had good cheese coverage and the large chunks of tomatoes tasted fantastic. Corner Slice was the unanimous favorite. In fact, Marnay said that it may have been the best pizza she had ever had.

Corner Slice pizza from our New York Pizza tour

Scarr’s
This was thinnest slice of our tour. It was so thin that it was practically a bar slice, although without the crack crust. A lesser slice that was this thin would have fallen apart under the weight of the sauce and cheese. Scarr’s slice admirably kept its crispness intact. The margherita may have been even better than its plain cheese slice. Scarr’s does gets a negative point though for having a rude pizzaiolo.

Scarr's pizza slice from our New York Pizza tour

Williamsburg Pizza
We visited the Lower East Side location of Williamsburg Pizza, totally unplanned. We just happened to walk by it. The grandma slice tasted exactly like garlic bread – it was oily and super garlicky, but with a crispy crust instead of that loaf of bread style. The plain slice had an airy crust and a flavorful sauce, with a good sauce-to-cheese ratio.

Williamsburg pizza slice from our New York Pizza tour

My Pie Pizzeria Romana
This was another square slice, but not nearly as thick as Corner Slice. It was very crispy and had more sauce then cheese, which is something that can be good when done right. Cheray and Chris got meatball pizza but unfortunately, the proportions were off. These were the least visually appealing slices, but the simple margherita was very tasty. Bonus points for having extremely friendly staff and for opening at 10am on a Sunday so we could pack in as much as possible before our train back to DC.

My Pie Pizzeria Romana pizza slice from our New York Pizza tour

Sofia Pizza Shoppe
The slices at Sofia tasted most similar to a “traditional” deck oven pizza slice. As with all five places we went, the slices were elevated by the crispy crust. There was a little more cheese than either Williamsburg or Scarr’s, but what draws it back into the realm of elite pizzerias is the marvelously crispy crust.

Sofia Pizza Shoppe pizza slice from our New York Pizza tour

Too often, at your run-of-the-mill strip mall deck oven pizzeria, the crust is an afterthought. Usually the crust is undercooked and practically soft. This lack of a crispy crust compounds itself when you load the crust with sauce and cheese.Now, I’m not saying that these types of deck oven pizzerias are bad – we grew up on them. In fact, I could go for one right now. But the way to differentiate a good pizza from a great pizza is in the crust. Every pizzeria we went to on our pizza tour of New York had incredible crust.

Marnay and her sister Cheray from our New York Pizza tour

PS: If you want to make great pizza at home, you need to check out Pizza Camp from Joe Beddia. We swear by this book for making homemade pizza.

Best Bite:
Paul and Marnay: Corner Slice

Places we went:
Corner Slice – 600 11th Avenue New York, NY 10036
Scarr’s – 22 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002
Williamsburg Pizza – 277 Broome Street New York, NY 10002
My Pie Pizzeria Romana – 690 Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10022
Sofia Pizza Shoppe – 989 1st Avenue New York, NY 10022

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Atlanta Recap

For my birthday weekend in November, Marnay and I headed to Atlanta for a quick getaway. This was our first time in Atlanta and we couldn’t wait to start exploring.

Atlanta skyline from the Beltline

Friday

We flew out of BWI on Friday night. Since I work in Baltimore and Marnay works in downtown DC, this is the easiest airport to get to on work nights. We don’t typically include our flights in our travel recaps, but we had to include our meal at the airport. Varasano’s Pizzeria, which has a location in Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, is actually an incredible pizzeria. Jeff Varasano, the man who figured how to hack off the lock on the self-cleaning feature of his home oven so he could cook homemade pizzas at 800 degrees, is something of a pizza savant. While he is originally from New York, he chose Atlanta to open a pizzeria. (The main location is in the Buckhead neighborhood). As soon as we landed in Atlanta, we made our way to Concourse A. It was about 9:30pm and the restaurant was closing, so we took a Margherita Di Bufala pizza and ate it in the baggage claim. It was so much fun and so delicious.

Margharita Di Bufala pizza from Varasano's Pizza in the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta

Saturday

Our Airbnb was in the Inman Park neighborhood, immediately behind the transformative rail trail called the Beltline. Inman Park is one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Atlanta, which is a very spread out city.

We wanted to explore and hike one of Georgia’s mountains so we rented a Zipcar from the Edgewood-Candler Park metro. On our 1-mile walk to the car, we picked up coffee and an incredible croissant from one of our Atlanta favorites, Bread and Butterfly. Conveniently, Bread and Butterfly was directly across the street from our Airbnb.

Breakfast at Bread and Butterfly in Atlanta

The highways in Atlanta are insane, mainly because this area has poor public transit and a tremendous amount of sprawl. We traveled to Forsyth County, in the northern exurbs, and stopped at Dutch Monkey Donuts for an excellent caramel apple fritter. Feeling sated, we drove about 20 more minutes north to Sawnee Mountain Preserve.

Eating a caramel apple fritter at Dutch Monkey Donuts in Forsyth County, Georgia

The brisk 4-mile hike led us up Sawnee Mountain on the Indian Seats Trail for some amazing views of Northern Georgia. This part of Georgia is at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains, which stretch from Alabama to eastern Canada. From the top of the mountain, we could see as far as the Tennessee-North Carolina border, 52 miles away. The hike was just right – good exercise, but not so difficult that we would be worn out.

View from the top of our hike at Sawnee Mountain Preserve in Georgia

Although we had been snacking all day, we had not had an actual meal. We hopped in the car and drove to Masterpiece in Duluth, a suburb northeast of Atlanta known for its excellent Asian cuisine. Masterpiece was recently named a semi-finalist for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Awards, so we had high expectations. With one dish, Masterpiece immediately exceeded those expectations. The Dong Po Pork is a braised block of pork belly in an ethereal brown sauce, part sweet, part salty, party spicy. I want to eat that pork belly every day for a week.

Dong Po Pork, braised pork belly in an ethereal brown sauce at Masterpiece in Duluth, Georgia

Sunday

Since Saturday involved driving around the region, we decided to stay local on Sunday and explore the city. It was another beautiful day so Marnay and I walked on the Beltline to Little Tart Bakeshop, in Krog Street Market. Krog Street Market is a new-wave food hall in Inman Park, about half a mile from our Airbnb. Little Tart Bakeshop was a 2018 James Beard Foundation finalist for Best Baker (in the entire country!), so they also had a lot to live up to. Our best bites were a slice of the cranberry-almond butter cake and the apple gallete.

Breakfast at Little Tart Bakeshop at Krog Street Market in Atlanta

We then made a required stop at Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park to pay our respects. The park encompasses the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church and his birthplace. This is a important visit for any stay in Atlanta, as we cannot forget our country’s history.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta

Afterwards, we took the Atlanta Streetcar to Centennial Olympic Park, home of the 1996 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies. This is definitely the heart of the tourist area but it was a great outdoor space and surprisingly large.

Marnay and Paul at the Coca Cola sign in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta

The issue with this area, though, is that the downtown is COMPLETELY dead. One of the worst downtowns we have even seen. It is most likely because Atlanta is so spread out, but this is definitely not where the action is. That is why we stayed in Inman Park!

We hopped right back on the streetcar to escape downtown and had some downtime at Chrome Yellow Trading Company, a very hip coffee shop near the King Historic District. We had a great time writing in our journal and sipping on a cold brew.

Drinking cold brew coffee at Chrome Yellow Trading Company near the King Historic District in Atlanta

After that relaxing time, though, it was back to more walking on the fantastic Beltline. It’s just a phenomenal addition to Atlanta (or any city), and the whole idea was cooked up by a couple of grad students. We checked out Ponce City Market, which was like a hyper-upscale version of Krog Street Market, with high-end stores in addition to food. To be honest, it was a little too much.

Walking by Ponce City Market on the Beltline in Atlanta

Later that night, after some relaxation at our Airbnb, we headed to dinner at Chai Pani in the close-in suburb of Decatur. It is so close to where we were staying, you could easily call Decatur part of Atlanta. Chai Pani, a purveyor of authentic Indian street food, ended up being our favorite meal of the trip. We were wild for the matchstick okra fries, so crispy and so salty (and absolutely not slimy). The vegetable uttapam, a rice pancake, was also stellar.

Matchstick okra fries and vegetable uttapam at Chai Pani in Atlanta

Monday

Happy birthday to me! We celebrated the morning by walking over to Bread and Butterfly for a chocolate croissant. I could have picked anything for my birthday, but all I really wanted to do was get a croissant from Bread and Butterfly and then go for a long walk on the Beltline.

Chocolate croissant and coffee at Bread and Butterfly in Atlanta

By early afternoon, unfortunately, it was time to head to the airport. But the fun wasn’t over, because that meant we could have another pizza at Varasano’s, and MAN was it good. Not only does this pizza look perfect, it tasted phenomenal. I can’t say enough about it.

Pizza at Varasano's Pizza in the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta

What to know if you want to visit Atlanta:

  • Almost all of the hotels in Atlanta are downtown. There is absolutely nothing to do downtown outside of Centennial Olympic Park. Instead, try to stay in an Airbnb in a neighborhood along the Beltline, like we did.
  • Be aware that the public transit system is not great. You will need to either rent a car or take Uber/Lyft.
  • Make sure you don’t miss out on the restaurants that are just outside the city, such as Masterpiece and Chai Pani.
  • Spend some time on the Beltline! Seriously, we can’t stress that enough. It’s the coolest attraction in Atlanta.

Rock n Roll Half Marathon Weekend 2018

Last Saturday, I ran in the Rock n’ Roll DC Half Marathon, my 6th year in a row running this race and my 8th half marathon in total. While I was running through the streets of DC, Marnay and my family hustled all over town to cheer me on. All the running was worth it, since it meant that we could enjoy a fun weekend of eating and celebrating.

Friday

On Friday night, my parents and grandfather came to town and met Marnay and I at Pacci’s in Silver Spring for our traditional dinner. For the last five years, we have eaten at Pacci’s on the night before the big race. Pacci’s is our local Neapolitan pizzeria, and it’s home to some of our favorite pies in the DC area. Eating a La Verace pizza, with buffalo mozzarella, parmesan, olive oil and fresh basil is a great way to energize for a long yet exciting weekend. The other thing we can’t miss at Pacci’s is the prosciutto con melone, a nice mix of salty prosciutto wrapped around sweet melon.

Pacci’s Neopolitan pizzeria in Silver Spring, MD

Saturday

Rise and shine! We woke up at 4:30am in order to gather our gear and prepare for race day. I had a simple breakfast of Eggos and peanut butter, which I eat before every long run. I try to eat and drink the same things before each long run during the training period, to get my body accustomed to it. Since the metro doesn’t open until 7:00am, we ventured out into the cold and took the 70 bus to a Dunkin Donuts in Petworth to hang out and stay warm. Once the metro opened, we took the Green Line to the start along Constitution Avenue.

Meyer family ready for the 2018 DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon

Last year’s race was downright frigid, so I knew what type of cold weather I needed to wear for a half-marathon. This year’s race was not in the 20s at the start, more like the mid-30s. Despite the initial cold, the race was sunny and it eventually warmed up to the mid-40s. I’m not going to lie, the race was not easy, despite the fact that I’ve run it six times now. I still enjoyed it, though, and felt very accomplished when I crossed the finish line at RFK.

Paul Meyer running in the 2018 DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon

One of the major reasons that I run this race every year, of course, is for brunch afterwards! This year, we stepped things up by having it at All Purpose. Although technically All Purpose calls their weekend midday meal “Lunch”, which I appreciate. I am not big on the sweet, heavy dishes that proliferate most brunch menus.

All Purpose brunch in DC

When I first looked at the lunch menu, alllll I wanted was PIZZA. However, Marnay smartly pointed out that since we had pizza the night before, we should mix things up. Boy, am I glad we did! I was absolutely obsessed with All Purpose’s crispy eggplant and mozzarella sandwich. It all starts with the housemade bread, hearty and substantial but not too crispy. Then comes garlicky aioli, melted fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and the crispiest eggplant cutlet ever.

We weren’t done, though. Oh no. We also got the Buona pizza, with tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, chili honey, basil and a sprinkle of grana Padano. The best part was the way the sweet honey played off of the spicy pepperoni. We rounded things out with crispy fried brussels sprouts and a roasted beet “Greek” salad. A great meal to celebrate a day full of excitement.

All Purpose Buona pizza

Sunday

Since we ran all over DC the day before, we were still plenty hungry for Sunday brunch. Since we were going to Brookland for a wine class this afternoon (stay tuned), Marnay and I ate at Brookland Pint. Brookland Pint, which is known for its great local beer selection and pub grub, is a place that we frequent for drinks but not always food.

I was happy to see a Diner Burger on the menu, which is part of a larger trend of restaurants serving thinner, more management burger patties. I really don’t want a ½ pound or ¾ pound burger—a nice thin patty will do, thank you. I was pleased with my burger at Brookland Pint, topped with bacon and an over easy egg. As I picked up the burger, the egg broke and spilled delicious yolk everywhere. Marnay was also happy with her scrambled eggs and potatoes.

Brookland Pint Diner Burger in DC

The real reason we were in Brookland that morning was to take a wine class at Wardman Wines, an excellent wine store. The class, which is held about once per month, is called “An Intro to Wine: How to Love Your Palate.” It takes an analytical approach to wine, and while it is judgement-free and good for beginners, it’s already great for people who know about wine but who could always learn more.

Wardman Wines wine class in Brookland

The weekend of the Rock n’ Roll Marathon is always one of my favorite of the year, and this year was no exception. While the race is hard work and takes months of preparation, there are plenty of great food experiences to look forward to!

Marta

We have been to many Italian restaurants in our lives, consuming many different varieties of pizzas. But I don’t think that we have ever been to one which focuses on Roman style pizza, that is, until we went to Marta in New York. When you take a laser-like focus on Roman pizza and Italian wine and combine it with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Group trademark hospitality, you get a winner.

Marta plate

Going in, we knew that we wanted a bottle of wine and we knew that we wanted to speak with the sommelier. Before we could ask, the sommelier came to us to see if we had any questions! I gave her a challenge: help us choose a bottle of white wine from either Fruili, in the northeastern corner of Italy bordering Slovenia, or Mt. Etna, in Sicily at the southern end of “The Boot”.

The sommelier gave us two options: a fruit forward wine from Friuli or a flinty, medium-bodied wine from Mt. Etna. We chose the 2015 Benati Etna Bianco, which complemented but did not overpower our food.

Joining us for dinner was Marnay’s sister, Cheray. We ordered two pizzas among the three of us as our main course, a suitable amount of food along with two other small bites. Both of our pizzas were on the simple side without an abundance of toppings so that we could get the true essence of the pizza. Roman pizza is very thin and has a cracker-like crust. The margherita was a textbook example of a crispy Roman pie. The ample basil leaves gave it a fresh, herbal vibe.

Marta roman pizza in New York

That aforementioned cracker-think crust couldn’t quite stand up to the housemade stracciatella in the stracciatella pizza, but it was delicious, maybe even better than the margherita. Structuaral issues aside, it was damn good.

good pizza

We took our time eating the pizza because we liked the first wine so much, we knew we wanted to order a second bottle. It took a while to flag down a sommelier, but she eventually came over and I gave her another challenge: we just had a bottle of wine from Siciliy, let’s travel as far away as possible to the other side of Italy. Let’s go to Valle d’Aosta, in the Italian Alps, bordering Switzerland and France. The sommelier steered us towards the 2015 Ottin Petite Arvine. She described it a big, bold, funky wine from a grape that had only recently been rediscovered in the region. All three of us absolutely loved the wine! When she came to check on us, the sommelier told us that she was personally excited that we ordered this bottle, since they rarely sell it. She said that it is one of her favorites. That made our night!

Marta 2015 Ottin Petite Arvine wine bottle in New York City

We rounded things out (because hey, we needed to eat something with this wine) with roasted carrots, cooked in the pizza oven, with pistachios, lemon and crispy sage. We also had an order of fried artichoke hearts, perfect finger food.

An extremely fun night thanks to the sommelier, the food and the company.

cheray

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Stracciatella pizza

Address
Marta: The Redbury Hotel, 29 E. 29th Street, New York, NY 10016

5 Best Pizzerias in the DMV

In our household, we like pizza. A lot. Part of this is due to the fact that we each grew up in pizza-crazy regions of the country (New Jersey and Philadelphia, respectively) and part has to do with the fact that pizza makes a relatively inexpensive night out. After living in the DC-area for the last five years, our taste in pizza has changed from New York style to Neapolitan, but when it comes down to it, a good pizza transcends styles.

Without further ado, here is our list of the top five pizzerias in the DMV. Note that it’s not in order, because they are all excellent!

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno graces our list having the “chefiest” pizzas around, made by former Oval Room executive chef Tony Conte. You will do well with a classic margherita, but this is the place to load-up on top-notch toppings and well-thought out pizza-creations. One of our favorites was a summertime special – a shrimp sausage pizza with sweet corn, smoked parmesan and basil. Don’t forget to end your meal with soft serve ice cream!

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana soft serve ice cream

Frankly Pizza

Frankly Pizza is the place for pork. That’s because chef-owner Frank Linn makes his own bacon and sausage The crust is thicker than the other pizzerias on this list and the tomato sauce is a touch sweeter. It’s liberally applied, but not excessive. The Porky Marge is the best way to experience Frankly Pizza, with mozzarella, bacon, basil, tomato sauce and a light topping of romano cheese. The restaurant has a very small selection other than pizza, so you may want to try multiple pies while you are here, along with a housemade soda.

Frankly Pizza Porky Marge

Pizzeria Vetri

Our award for best crust goes to Philadelphia-import Pizzeria Vetri. The crispness and char are something to behold. We like to wash it down with a beer or wine, both on draft. Since the crispiness of the crust makes for a lighter pie, we have plenty of room to pair it with a rotolo, a cinnamon roll-looking creation filled with ricotta, mortadella and pistachio pesto.

Pizzeria Vetri neapolitan pizza

Pizzeria Vetri pistachio rotolo

Pizza CS

Pizza CS, in the Twinbrook section of Rockville, has taken the time to earn VPN-certification, making pizzas to the exacting standards of the international Neapolitan pizza organization. This is the place to go when you’re in the mood for an absolutely textbook Neapolitan pizza. Pizza CS is good for kids, since it’s a counter-order spot with plenty of space of kids to run around. Other than pizza, there are a few basic salads to choose from, so come to CS to get your pizza-fix. Plus, there’s foosball.

Pizza CS

Pizza CS

Pacci’s
Pacci’s is our neighborhood pizzeria and we feel fortunate that we have it in walking distance. The pies here are Neapolitan and margherita is your best bet if it’s your first visit. Our favorite, however, is the La Diavola, which really brings the heat. That traditional Neapolitan base is then topped with copious slices of spicy Neapolitan salami. If it’s nice out, ask to sit on their large outdoor patio. The experience is worth it.

Pacci’s La Diavola Pizza

I hope that you enjoyed our list! What are you favorite pizzerias? They don’t even have to be in the DMV – a great pizza is something worth traveling for!

2 Amy’s / Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

2 Amys

We have been writing this blog long enough that we are starting to revisit some earlier restaurants. It’s always good to check in with an old favorite every now and then to see if they are still putting out quality dishes. This past weekend, we went to both 2 Amys and Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana.

2 Amys Paul

Our assessment of 2 Amys remains the same: the crazy good small plates steal the show from the good but not quite as amazing pizzas. The last time we went to 2 Amys it was winter, so this time the ever-changing small plates menu was full of spring produce. The radishes with ramp butter and “sexy salt” was an example of a spring menu item, as ramps have a very short window. I tasted the butter on its own and got a hit of garlicky, oniony flavor from those ramps mellowed out by the creamy room-temperature butter. The ramp butter on housemade bread, topped with radish slices rolled in salt was one of my favorite dishes of the month and something we would happily order again. Another winner: Cantabrian anchovies, which are from the northern coast of Spain, on top of the same housemade bread with a dollop of butter.

2 Amys radishes with ramp butter and “sexy salt”

A surprise hit was a salad of orange-segments splayed out on a plate and simply topped with sliced red onions, olives and chives. The salt and pepper topping was an effective way to bring out the flavors of the oranges.

2 Amys salad of orange-segments topped with sliced red onions, olives and chives

After all these incredible small plates, the pizza was almost anti-climactic. We ordered the special of the day, which was tender squid, green tomato sauce, ramps, parsley and hot pepper. We could taste the hot pepper, for sure, and the squid would have been great on its own or as a small plate. But the (intentionally) floppy authentic Neapolitan crust could not hold the ingredients. It was a mess. And it could have used some salt.

2 Amys pizza

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana is in Gaithersburg, which is not that easy to access from Silver Spring if you don’t have a car. As a result, we decided to make a day out of it. We started with brunch at Peter Chang in Rockville and then biked to Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg. We walked around the mixed-use neighborhood and then sat outside drinking refreshing local beers at Downtown Crown Wine and Beer.

Marnay outside drinking refreshing local beers at Downtown Crown Wine and Beer

The last time we went to Inferno, it was late summer, and as such our favorite dishes involved sweet corn. This time, we made sure to hit anything involving asparagus, rhubarb or strawberries. A creamy orb of burrata sat on top of sweet and sour strawberry-rhubarb puree that tasted like sorbet and was a welcome start to a fantastic meal. Another hit was tender roasted asparagus with sauces of black truffle and egg yolk, topped with crunchy hazelnuts. A large plate of this would make for a hearty vegetarian meal. Ember roasted beets, on the other hand, were a little too one-note (vinegar).

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana tender roasted asparagus with sauces of black truffle and egg yolk, topped with crunchy hazelnuts

The pie de resistance (get it?) was artichoke with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and nduja, that spicy spreadable salami that is having its moment right now. The nduja came in big chunks and it brought some welcome heat and texture to the pizza. In general, whenever I think of artichokes, I think of the artichoke hearts in a jar sitting in a salty brine. These, on the other hand, brought freshness and lightness to the pizza. It didn’t hurt that the crust was able to hold the ingredients much better than our pizza from 2Amys.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana artichoke with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and nduja

Not only did we get dessert, we went all out and got one dessert each. A root beer float transported me back to childhood days at Sundae’s Sweet Shop in Branchburg, NJ. This time the float was upgraded with housemade vanilla soft-serve and Sprecher’s root beer, from Wisconsin. I did not think I was going to be able to finish even half of it, but it was just so good I inhaled the whole thing. We also couldn’t go to Inferno without getting the soft-serve special. On this day, it was wildflower-honey with a strawberry rhubarb topping.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana ice cream

We ate extremely well at both 2Amys and Inferno. While there were some very minor hiccups among the food, service was excellent at both and we would happily go back again and again.

Best Bite
2 Amys
Paul: Radishes and ramp butter
Marnay: Orange salad

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana
Paul: Artichoke pizza
Marnay: Soft-serve

Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon Weekend

I ran the DC Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon this past weekend. While this is my 5th year in a row running the race, I have never had to run it in weather this cold. At the starting line, the temperature was in the 20s. In March! I wore three shirts, two layers of pants, a hat and gloves on a day I normally wear a t-shirt and shorts. Marnay, my parents and my grandfather braved the cold to cheer me on at the start and then met me at the midway point in Woodley Park. There is a picture of me at the midway point that they took — if you look closely, you can see a layer of frost on my hat.

Paul running the DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon

I had been training for months and felt well prepared, but this was a tough day to run. Still, I felt proud of myself for sticking it out! I actually ended up with a PR (personal record), beating last years’ time by 3 minutes!

Pizzeria Vetri

It was so cold outside so we didn’t linger at the finish line at RFK. I brought snacks with me on the run, but they all froze! I had seen a sign at mile 12 that said “keep going, you’re only 1 mile from brunch!”, and MAN did that make me hungry. Once I got through the runner finish line area, we headed right for the metro and made our way to Pizzeria Vetri, one of our favorite pizza spots.

Pizzeria Vetri

We started with a rotolo, a Pizzeria Vetri invention, which looks like a savory cinnamon roll made of pizza dough. The dough is stuffed with ricotta and mortadella, rolled, baked in the pizza oven and topped with pistachio pesto. The use of pistachios really took us back to our time in Milan. Another item that reminded us of Milan is Pizzeria Vetri’s simple prosciutto cotto calzone, cooked up in their 650 degree wood-fired oven. We rounded things out with their incredibly light and crispy margherita pizza. Even though I was really hungry, we had plenty of leftovers.

Pizzeria Vetri rotolo

Pizzeria Vetri prosciutto cotto calzone

Pizzeria Vetri margherita pizza

Hill Prince

We continued the celebration on Sunday by checking out the brand new Hill Prince on H Street NE, from the group responsible for DGS and Whaley’s. The narrow space is a former horse stable and it is simply a modest bar with two to three communal tables in the back and one small table in the front by the windows. There’s no kitchen, so they serve snacks, mainly from local restaurants. All cocktails are $10 or less, which I have noticed becoming a trend in the DC area at places like Ten Tigers Parlour and Colada Shop.

Hill Prince

I enjoyed a well-made Americano, made sweet by swapping out Campari for Cappelletti, which is on the sweeter end of Italian bitter liquors. Meanwhile, Marnay had a classic Aviation, with gin, maraschino liquor, crème de cassis (instead of crème de violette) and lemon.

The star of the show at Hill Prince, though, was our bartender Tony. He was incredibly friendly and talkative and genuinely a nice guy. He even took us on a tour of the place, showing us the back patio where they plan on opening a second bar when it gets warm out. We usually don’t get this type of treatment at bars.

Hill Prince cocktails

The combination of well-made drinks, a cool atmosphere and incredible service makes it likely that we will become regulars at Hill Prince. In fact, we went back on Wednesday with a group of friends for happy hour.

Best Bite
Paul: Margherita pizza
Marnay: Rotolo

Places we visited
Pizzeria Vetri: 2221 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 2009
Hill Prince: 1337 H Street, NE Washington, DC 20002

Sauce Milan Food Tour

We just returned from an incredible vacation where we spent time in Iceland, Switzerland and Italy.  The highlight of the trip, though, was our food tour of Milan, Italy.   We learned about the food tours by reading Sauce Milan, a local food blog we found during our travel research.

Marnay and Paul in Milan, Italy

Our tour guide was Simone Muzza, a food writer for Zero magazine, which covers Milan and the surrounding region.  We met Simone at Pasticceria Panzera, a local café.  It is important to note that cafes in Italy are constantly changing throughout the day. They are like coffee shops in the morning, bars during lunch and the early evening and sometimes they offer dinner at night.  We ordered cappuccinos and pastries.  Since Italy is known for pistachios, I ordered a pistachio croissant (brioche in Italy) with pistachios from Sicily which was incredible!  We learned from Simone that you are supposed to dip your croissant in the cappuccino.  We also learned that no one in Italy drinks cappuccino after 11, which is why he had us meet him at 10:00.  The only people that drink cappuccino after 11 are tourists!

pistachio croissants at Pasticceria Panzera

Next up, we walked over to Eataly.  Marnay and I were both surprised that Simone would take us there since it is an international chain, after all.  Still, Simone explained to us that Milan does not have many supermarkets so Eataly is a way for residents to get fresh produce from local farms.  In turn, it is a way to support local farmers who are putting out great products.  He took us to the butcher area where we could take a look at which meats were local (a lot).  He also took us to the seafood section where we could take a look at the local fish…just kidding, there no local fish in Milan!  Milanese cuisine is full of meat and butter.  They didn’t even have olive oil until after World War II.  When we were walking around the wine section of Eataly looking at the wines of Lombardy and Piedmonte, Simone told us that “red wine is the only real wine.”  It was funny, but it was something that we paid attention to the rest of our time in Milan!

Walking through Eataly made us thirsty, so Simone took us along Corso Como for a midday aperitivo at Zaini.  Zaini is actually a chocolate shop, but a few years ago they decided to get in the cocktail game.  So, they hired one of the best barmen (another Italian term, thanks Simone) in Milan, Flavio Angiolille, to design a menu.  The highlight of our time at Zaini was the crustless open faced sandwiches, known as tramanzzini, that came with the drinks.  The toppings for the bread were: anchovies in olive oil, smoked salmon with cream cheese, tuna with red pepper flakes and gorgonzola with chocolate shavings.  My favorite was the anchovies, Marnay’s was the salmon.  They also gave us green olives, which were so fresh and flavorful.   It’s going to be hard to top them back home.  All of this food was included in the price of the drink!

cocktails at Zaini

We had eaten a lot, but we still had pizza and ice cream left on the tour!  Simone led us to a traditional Milanese pizzeria called Coccinella.  We were reviewing the huge pizza menu when Simone explained that he doesn’t like ordering buffalo mozzarella because there are a lot of cows in the Northern Italy but very few buffalo.  Since we normally gravitate towards buffalo mozzarella, it was an interesting perspective and something that we still think about.  We ordered a margherita with cow’s milk mozzarella and a Calabrese with spicy salami.  We also got a calzone, which in the traditional Milanese fashion comes only with tomato, mozzarella and prosciutto.  Simple but amazing.  Everything was also ridiculously inexpensive, something we greatly enjoyed about staying in Milan.

pizza at Coccinella

Last stop…gelato!  Artico Gelateria Tradizionale is one of the best gelaterias in Milan, according to Simone.  After trying it, we can see why.  The stars of the show were the salted pistachio and the milk chocolate.   Plus, all gelato orders came with a sugar wafer “biscuit”…perfect for scooping!

gelato at Artico Gelateria Tradizionale

The tour lasted over four overs and it involved lots of walking, which made it right up our alley.  We loved the places so much that we went back to almost all of them during the remainder of our time in Milan. In fact, we went to Pasticceria Panzera every morning to get cappuccinos and croissants!  And of course we got there before 11.

Simone was a great host and we recommend the Sauce Milan tour to anyone who goes to Milan. We hope to make it back there soon.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

We were feeling adventurous on Sunday so we spent the day biking and walking around Rockville and Gaithersburg.  We used Bikeshare to go from the Rockville Metro to the Medical Center area then explored Downtown Crown.  Downtown Crown is an award-winning New Urbanist community in Gaithersburg, located near the Washingtonian town center.  All the biking and walking that we did got us hungry, so when 5:00pm rolled around we were ready to eat.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana is the new Neapolitan pizzeria from former Oval Room chef Tony Conte. Although he has a fine dining background, he opened the pizzeria so that he could be closer to his family in Gaithersburg. We chose to sit at the chef’s counter right in front of the Marra Forni oven.  Marra Forni ovens, which are made in Beltsville, MD, are internationally known as probably the best Neapolitan pizza ovens in the world.  The menu and kitchen are small, meaning that the restaurant has a short and simple list of small plates, pizzas and desserts.  It also means that the restaurant can focus on what it does well.  And Inferno does a lot well.

We have a format when we go to Neapolitan Pizzerias: one to two small plates and then one pizza.  It’s a format that we have stuck with almost everywhere, including some places reviewed on this blog.  Blown away by the pizza options at Inferno, however, we decided to do the once unthinkable: order one small plate and two pizzas.  The small plate we ordered was prosciutto Americano with melon caponata, slices of cantaloupe and an herb salad.  The herb salad in particular was fantastic and included peppery, flavorful arugula.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: Prosciutto Americano with Melon Caponata

We were torn between three different pizzas and trying to decide which to get.  We were about to abandon the corn and shrimp sausage when our server stepped in and strongly suggested that we get it.  Boy, are we glad that we listened to her.   The shrimp sausage pizza came with corn, basil and smoked parmesan and was incredible.  It definitely seems like a pizza that would be best in the summer time, because of the fresh sweet corn.  The smoked parmesan had a ricotta-like taste and consistency.  As we were eating, I actually thought it was ricotta.  The shrimp sausage was a bit lighter than traditional pork sausage and the corn brought a pleasant sweetness to round things out.  I honestly cannot pick my favorite topping because they were all in perfect harmony.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: Shrimp Sausage Pizza

Our second pizza was the DOC Margherita, with the traditional Neapolitan ingredients: buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and basil.  The char on the pizza from the Marra Forni over was out-of-this world.  For a traditional Neapolitan pizza like we had, you want a lot of char.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: DOC Margherita

We were certainly full from our two pizzas, but we could not leave Inferno without getting dessert from the soft-serve machine.  The soft-serve of the day was sweet corn with blueberry compote and crumbled cookies.  A sweet way to end an excellent meal.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: Sweet Corn Soft-Serve with Blueberry Compote

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Shrimp Sausage and Corn Pizza

Address
Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: 12207 Darnestown Road, Darnestown MD 20878
Closest Metro: Shady Grove, then taxi or Uber

Ultimate Jersey Shore Weekend

Saturday

It seems like we travel somewhere at least every weekend during the summer.  It’s either to see family or to a wedding or, occasionally…for fun!  On Saturday morning, we took an Amtrak train to Philadelphia on our way to visit Marnay’s Mom in Margate, NJ.  Margate is on the same barrier island as Atlantic City, just two small towns to the south.

It takes about 2 hours to get to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. We grabbed a bite to eat in the station and then sat outside at The Porch at 30th ( @theporchat30th ) while we waited for our NJ Transit train.  The Porch at 30th is an urban oasis on the formerly barren sidewalk outside the train station.  It is a beautiful example of placemaking.  They transformed the sidewalk by adding swinging porch chairs, public art, things for little kids to climb and some impressive plants.   I would hang out there on my own even if we weren’t waiting for a train.

The Porch at 30th

When we arrived in Atlantic City, we met two college friends and went to Barrels of Margate, your standard Jersey Italian red sauce joint…the kind of place that we grew up with.

Barrels restaurant, Margate, New Jersey

Afterwards, we headed to the Ocean City boardwalk.  We walked almost the entire thing and made sure to get some famous frozen custard from Kohr Brothers.  The ice cream definitely made up for a so-so dinner.  We walked some more but at 11:00pm everything shuts down in Ocean City, so we knew it was time to head home.

Ocean City boardwalk

Sunday

We woke up and walked to get some bagels from Margate Hot Bagels and coffee from Wawa, which are right next to each other on Ventnor Avenue.  Ventnor Avenue is the “Main Street” of Margate, Ventor and Atlantic City.  I got a sesame bagel with nova and Marnay got an everything with an egg.

Margate Hot Bagels and coffee from Wawa

Fueled by our bagels, we took a 3 mile walk on the beach to Longport, the next town south.  I need to mention how incredible the weather was all weekend.  Low 70s with a sea breeze and not too much sun.  We could have stayed outside the entire day in this weather.

We decided to have lunch at Aversa’s, an Italian Deli on Ventnor Ave.  I got an Italian sub which had amazing housemade bread, but otherwise bland ingredients.  The others had meatballs and said that they were not great, either.

After relaxing, we headed for dinner at the Greenhouse, mainly a spot for pizza and drinking.  Greenhouse is next to the most famous attraction in Margate, Lucy the Elephant…a 65 foot tall elephant!  Lucy was built as a tourist attraction in the 1860s and as a way to generate interest in the area.  Today, she is a National Historic Landmark.

Lucy the Elephant

Margate is very narrow and has the ocean on the east and the bay on the west.  We got delicious ice cream from the Margate Dairy Bar and then walked over to the bay side to enjoy it.  We sat on the dock long after we had finished our ice cream and watched an incredible sunset, along with fireworks from the towns on the other side of the bay.  It was well after dark when we headed home to the apartment.

Monday

On Monday morning we headed home.  We made a quick trip to Wawa for some coffee on the way to the Atlantic City train station and then took NJ Transit to Philadelphia.  Once again, we had lunch on the swinging chairs at the Porch at 30th.  Then, we took Amtrak back to Union Station.  Miraculously, there was no track work on the Red Line and we got a metro to Silver Spring immediately.

NJ Transit: Atlantic City train station

The food on our Ultimate Jersey Shore Weekend was only OK.  But the scenery and the walks were certainly made it an ultimate weekend!  There’s no denying, however, that we were happy to be back in Silver Spring.

Places we visited
The Porch at 30th: 2955 Market St, Philadelphia, PA
Barrels of Margate: 8409 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Kohr Brothers: Wonderland Pier, Ocean City Boardwalk North End, Ocean City, NJ 08226
Margate Hot Bagels: 9414 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Wawa: 9300 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Aversa’s Bakery: 9309 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Ventura’s Greenhouse Restaurant: 106 S Benson Ave #106, Margate City, NJ
Margate Dairy Bar: 9510 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402