Pizza Vinoteca: The Hawaiian (CLOSED)

The Hawaiian

Say aloha to Ballston’s new pizza and wine mecca because The Best Thing on the Menu will change your perspective on Hawaiian pizza. Pizza Vinoteca’s take on the pie that typically gets left behind at parties boasts mozzarella, prosciutto, pineapple and spicy Fresno peppers. Tropical paradise, however, comes from a secret weapon not listed on the menu: a vanilla sherry glaze. The sugary addition can point out a cavity in your mouth though, so arugula is added for a tempering, peppery bite.

Oven

The pizza at Pizza Vinoteca is unique for other reasons too. It’s cooked to completion in near minutes thanks to an 800 degree grill. In fact, a trip into the kitchen leaves you covering your eyebrows for fear they’ll burn right off. In order to ensure the dough can stand up to such high temps, the team in the kitchen adds red wine to the dough. They certainly have enough of it on hand (we’ll get to that). See if you can decipher a slight purple hue before you dig in to The Hawaiian or any of their other eight speciality pizzas.

Wines by the Glass

Pair any of Pizza Vinoteca’s fare with 36 wines offered by the glass. It gets better. They’re available by 3oz or 5oz pours and none surpass a price tag of $10. Because of CEO Ari Malcolm’s goal to make wine more accessible (read: affordable), you won’t find a lot of recognizable wine labels or even wine regions. Take this as an opportunity to explore. We like the Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt from Austria.

Bomboloni

Dessert is a must because, well, bombolonis. These Tuscan-style doughnuts come in five flavors like Mexican chocolate, and are only $2 each.

Pizza Vinoteca is located at 800 N Glebe Road in Arlington, and they deliver within a three-mile radius. 

The Hawaiian not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Etto: Roasted Cauliflower Pizza

Etto Pizza

My father had a unique way of getting boys to steer clear of me in high school. Right before date night o’clock, he would send me to the local pizza joint to pick up his pizza. This sounds innocent enough – a man’s gotta eat. But, he insisted on his favorite topping each time: anchovies. That anchovy stench would seep deep into the seats of my Ford Focus. It even clung to my clothes and my hair. So naturally, I developed an aversion to anchovies that lasted until my most recent trip to Etto.

It was there that I tried the Best Thing on the Menu: Roasted Cauliflower Pizza with capers, pine nuts, anchovies and bread crumbs. The anchovies are so briny that no other salt source is needed, and they add just enough subtle funk to make the pizza memorable. Etto, after all, has a real love affair with these little fishies, as they also serve them as a part of their salads/small plate selections. But back to the pizza, which is like none other in the city (Except maybe 2Amys, which is from the same owners). What differs slightly is the dough and how it’s cooked.

The flour is milled in house. In fact, you can see the mill in the back of the restaurant. What results is a crust with billiard ball sized bubbles that you and your friends will fight over when divvying up slices (also just like high school). The restaurant recently opened up their sweet little patio, so there’s a better chance of getting a table and eating The Best Thing on the Menu al fresco. Also try Etto’s strong selection of small plates, they make a good warm up to the main event.

Roasted cauliflower pizza not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Etto is located at 1541 14th Street NW. 

You might also like Casa Luca or Lupo Verde.

Lupo Verde: RA2 Pizza

Lupo Verde Pizza

Lupo Verde is the newest Italian stallion to set up shop on 14th Street, falling in line after Ghibellina, Etto, Mcafe Bar and Posto. Lupo Verde stands out because of its cheese shop operation, which we’ll try when spring gets its act together, making picnics possible. Oh, and the dashing Italian chef (Domenico Apollaro) and Italian owner (Antonio Matarazzo) are standouts too. They grew up in neighboring towns in Italy.

Antonio Matarazzo

Get ready for some intense menu handholding. You will get a walk through of every menu category in terms of portion size and the “prescribed” number of items you MUST order per category. Don’t you wish you had a little card that you could display on your table that said something like This Isn’t My First Rodeo? Kind of like the Green GO/Red STOP card at Brazilian steakhouses?

We’re glad we went rogue and ordered too many pizzas, because that’s how we discovered The Best Thing on the Menu: RA2 Pizza with Mozzarella, Stracchino, Mortadella, Pistachio, Radicchio and Honey. This pint-sized pie doesn’t rely on tomato sauce to sting you with flavor. Nuts and honey, plus some bitter greens do the trick.

Lupo Verde Pasticcio

Other top picks? The Seppia al Forno from the Antipasti section. It turns out squishy cuttlefish covered in shoestring fries is a winner.  So too is the Pasticcio. Though we wish they would call it what it is: Mac and cheese inside a pastry shell. Your inner child will thank you.

RA2 Pizza not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Alba Osteria: Mezzeluna

Alba Osteria

No, we did not upload the wrong picture. This is in fact an adorable little bamboo steamer at an Italian restaurant – Alba Osteria. This newcomer, albeit located amidst endless construction (at 4th and I Street NW), is worth a visit. They win at pasta made with love, Neapolitan pizza with perfect crust, charcuterie, and adventurous proteins. How about a chestnut pasta that incorporates veal brains right into the dough for example?

You can find the Best Thing on the Menu: Mezzeluna nestled inside the aforementioned bamboo steamer. These (you guessed it) half moon-shaped morsels are delicately filled with a blend of cheeses and served with spinach. The kicker? They’re boiled in water that has been infused with hay. Don’t see this dish on the online menu? Don’t fret;  it just happens to be brand new and you can order two different portion sizes – dainty European or generous American.

Chef Roberto Donna, who was named “Chef of the Year 2012” by Esquire magazine, hails from the Piedmont region of Italy. There, a traditional dish incorporates ricotta cheese that has been aged with hay, making Alba Osteria’s take on the dish a shout out to the chef’s home cuisine.

Alba Osteria Rabbit

Another winner? The crispy rabbit Milanese. Under a golden crust, tender rabbit is lovingly wrapped with pungent fontina and salty prosciutto. Our one question: Where did they find a rabbit so big? We’re hoping it wasn’t a Flemish Giant. This is actually the second of two rabbit dishes available. The other involves thinly sliced shaved rabbit incorporated into a refreshing salad.

Save room for dessert and try their unique take on crème brûlée. It’s actually “Snow White” polenta that has been caramelized just like the traditional French dessert. Click here for more photos from Alba Osteria.

Mezzeluna not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Ghibellina: Gnocchetti con Pesto di Cavolo

Ghibellina Gnocchi with Kale Pesto

It’s no secret that Americans have been sustaining a healthy obsession with kale since the super food became a super trend in 2012. Chances are, you’ve had a friend, neighbor or yoga instructor climb onto a leafy-green soapbox to tell you why you should be eating kale … every day.

You’ve probably heard that it’s one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat, can help reduce your risk of certain cancers, and packs in fiber without the calories. Kale me crazy, but what we’d like to throw in there is that it’s cheap, affordable and most importantly, versatile. Virgin kale consumers don’t have to dive into the deep-end by sticking a straw into a raw green smoothie. There are plenty of more palatable ways to sneak kale into your diet.

Enter Ghibellina, the 14th Street newcomer and the Best Thing on the Menu: Gnocchetti con Pesto di Cavolo. Gnocchi as light and fluffy as a Four Seasons down pillow come adorned with kale pesto, walnuts and taleggio. While it’s fun to cut pizza with scissors (one of the better gimmicks we’ve seen in a while),  we were more excited about the kale pesto as a fun take on an Italian classic. The BTM comes in two sizes, so you can enjoy it as an appetizer and still get the full experience of using sheers to slice your main-course pizza pie. We found a gnocchi with kale pesto recipe if you’d like to give it a whirl at home.

Ghibellina was in the same 14th Street draft class as Etto and Le Diplomate, and is faring extremely well. It fits that the Italian gastro pub serving up Tuscan cuisine has found a niche for itself doing happy hour, since the majority of the restaurant is bar seating, with only a few tables tucked away. Their fantastic happy hour is offered Tuesday-Sunday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. and specials include 1/2 price pizzas, Imperial Pints (20oz not 16oz) at $3.50-$4.00, $5 wines and $6 specialty cocktails.

We look forward to trying Ghibellina for brunch because we love the quirky nature of an Italian joint serving Challah French Toast.

Gnocchetti con Pesto di Cavolo not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

If you liked this, you might also like: Firefly and Urbana.