On Saturday, October 27, EPBAC (Eats Pizza But Avoids Cheese) and I journeyed from Pennsylvania to Washington DC in order to be among the first “100 NY pizza snobs” who qualified to test the pie at Wiseguy NY Pizza (300 Massachusetts Ave NW) during a private party spanning two days. It proved to be quite an instructional experience.
As a pizza blogger, I’ve become increasingly aware of the various styles of pizza, even as some are hard to name or define and some styles overlap. To this point, I’ve found three broad categories. One is the Neapolitan, the soft and puffy, yet somehow dense and chewy, leopard-spotted Neapolitan pie; most newer “high end” pizza joints are attempting some version of the Neapolitan pie. Of course, there are the ubiquitous soft, floppy, bready, cheesy, greasy pies churned out by a lot of mom-n-pop pizza shops, using low-end dough, sauce, and cheese from big commercial suppliers like Sysco. Finally, there is the type I’ve struggled to define – those with the thin and crisp crust, offered by “old-school” classic pizza joints like Frank Pepe in New Haven CT, DeLorenzo’s and Papa’s of Trenton NJ, and Arturo’s and Totonno’s in New York. Some call it New York style. Often, I’ve dubbed it Trenton style, and more recently I called it Trenton/New York/New Haven style.
|Vintage wiseguys, circa 1980|
|Behind the counter|
|The cozy interior|
We arrived early for the private tasting event, slated for 5pm. So we walked around the upscale neighborhood on Massachusetts Avenue, including the nearby Chinatown. We saw a lot of attractive dining options, including the wood-fired pizza at Matchbox. It’s important to note that Tony doesn’t claim that there is no good pizza in DC, but rather that you can’t get an authentic NY Slice. He went on New York and national pizza tours, eating and tasting and chronicling it all on his FB page. We arrived with great anticipation.
The building looks new on the outside, and old on the inside, like a classic NY Slice joint. Lots of cool stuff on the walls, and flourishes of quality abound – even the soda fountain offers some gourmet varieties. It is open and airy with plenty of tables (not common for slice parlors) and the display counter you’d expect.
Once the doors were opened, we eagerly entered and were offered slices of plain, pepperoni, or Margherita. Later, out came some Sicilian square slices and some buffalo chicken slices. He also had olive and feta salad, a cold angel hair salad, and garlic knots with pesto, spinach, or pepperoni. All gratis for the very lucky invitees!
|Slices, knots, salads|
|The pepperoni slice|
The Sicilian had a wonderful crust. Not ethereal like L&B Spumoni Gardens, but delicate with a wonderful bottom crunch. The staff was particularly proud of the buffalo chicken pie and persuaded me to take a slice for later. I did eat it later, and learned that a NY slice doesn't really travel well; the crust lost its magic. The buffalo sauce had a very nice tang, but I continue to feel that chicken, and especially boring white meat, has no place on pizza. Some will love it, but it ain't pizza to me.
|Gourmet soda fountain|
|Nice spots on the margherita|
|Sicilian browned and crisped below|