Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: All Purpose Pizzeria - Washington DC

In 2007, the Capitol Riverfront was created as a business improvement district, south of the U.S. Capitol in Wasington DC. Adjacent to the Navy Yard and Washington Nationals stadium, it is now home to more than 9,000 new residences and all the shops are services for the (wealthy) people moving in. There is a boardwalk along the Anacostia River, a wading pool, a marina, and plenty of hip destinations.

Among them is a second location in DC for All Purpose Pizzeria, directly on the waterfront with both indoor and outdoor dining. On an unseasonably warm Father's Day, we opted for inside seating. The space is very bright, open, and well-organized; elegant but still casual. The kitchen is in full view, a dining trend that remains welcome.

All Purpose describes itself  as offering "local beer and seasonal dishes inspired by the Eastern U.S. and Italian coastlines." Reading the menu, I noticed a lot of NY and NJ references; our server told us that the owner grew up in New York and North Jersey. The beer list was short but impressive, as was the offer of a free beer for Father's Day. I chose "Downright Pils," a Czech style pilsener from Port City Brewing in nearby Alexandria; it was especially good.

The menu is divided into four categories. Pizza, of course, but also salads, spuntini (light appetizers), and antipasti (heavy appetizers). Although the pizzas are a large 11" personal size, we decided to split one pizza and one appetizer for our lunch visit. From the many good choices, we selected the spring asparagus "marinati" which included blanched and sliced cold asparagus with whipped robiola cheese, toasted sesame, lemon, and salsa verde.

This appetizer was an omen of good things to come; it may be the best asparagus dish I've ever eaten. It was tender but crunchy and there was a swirl of wonderful flavors from the cheese, sesame, and light touch of green salsa. 
Asparagus as served in salad bowl
I asked our server about its preparation, and she knew the technique from start to finish! The key was to first remove the outer layer of fibrous stalk, then marinate in salt and sugar, then blanch, then slice and mix with the other ingredients.
Asparagus, plated
The pizza menu included eight styles and a build-your-own option. We chose the "Buona" which features tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, Calabrian chili honey, and fresh basil. Our pie arrived with a deep golden glow and a very puffy cornicione. It's important to note that these are not Neapolitan pies; they cook about ten minutes in a conventional gas oven.

I sometimes keep notes about the particular qualities of the sauce, the cheese, the toppings. I failed to do that here - and that speaks to how much I was enjoying each slice and how the ingredients were in ideal balance and harmony. Much like the authentic pizza I grew up eating in New Jersey, the sauce and the cheese melded into a delicious orange swirl that married the pepperoni to the crust.

I did take particular note of the crust, always the most important element. It was even darker on the bottom than the top, but not burnt or overdone. The crust was thin in the center, but not wafer-like. It was much thicker at the cornicione.  All the way through, it was delightfully crispy on the outside and lightly chewy within. I commented that they could just bake the crust alone and serve it with butter and it would make a very satisfying meal.
Underside of crust
Although I'm partial to the small but thick "spicy cup" pepperoni, these large thin circles had excellent flavor and texture. The Calabrian chili honey added more sweetness than spiciness, but certainly enhanced the other flavors. Mike Kurtz (Mike's Hot Honey) and Paulie Gee started the whole hot-honey-on-pizza thing and it remains one of the best non-traditional pie toppings.
Conventional gas deck ovens
Everything about this visit was a success. Great ambiance, superb service, excellent beer for free, amazing asparagus, and a perfectly balanced pie built on an expertly baked crust. Washington DC already offers some wonderful pizza options, and All Purpose stands with the best of them. 

All-Purpose Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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