&Pizza Preview, a set on Flickr.
One of the restaurants under construction right now at the Monroe Street Market development is &pizza. We first met the friendly &pizza crew at Monroe Street Market’s Holiday Bazaar event. At the time I didn’t know much about the chain, except that they were going to open a location in the Portland Flats building this spring. I have to be honest, at first I was very skeptical. I thought Brookland has quite a few pizza places already. What would make this one different? Then I heard that instead of table service, customers order their pizza using an assembly line format similar to Chipotle or Subway, and I was disappointed. I envisioned a pizza place that was just a step above fast food levels. But, we figured it is our duty to get the scoop for our readers. So, Astrid and I decided to check things out for ourselves and get a taste of what is to come. So we headed down to the &pizza H Street location, which is called H&pizza. We also brought a couple of hungry friends along for our “taste test”. Quite simply – we were all blown away. The food, atmosphere, service and overall experience were outstanding.
Walking in, we noted the hip/casual vibe and the historic photos of the H Street neighborhood on the walls. The pizzas come with a choice of traditional, whole wheat or multigrain dough (they plan on rolling out a gluten free dough in the future). We got regular crust on all our pizzas, and it was really great. (As a side note, we were especially thrilled by this, because Astrid and I rarely agree on crusts – she likes thin, and I like regular.) The pizzas come in one size, kind of like a gourmet rectangular flatbread that is a generous portion size for one person. Once you pick your crust, you select a “signature” pizza whose toppings and sauces/spreads are already defined, or customize your own pizza from a huge selection of toppings. We were happy to find that &pizza is very affordable, with pizzas coming in at less than $9.00 each. They offer a limited, but good, selection of wine and craft beers. We ordered four pizzas. They were ready so fast! Here’s what we had:
- The Moonstruck – comes with roasted local mushrooms, crumbled goat cheese, fig marsala, red peppers and chili oil. It was very “mushroomy” and the truffle oil gave the earthy tone a nice balance. Very delicious and a little sweet. Us carnivores couldn’t believe that a pizza with no meat tastes so good!
- Backyard Garden – comes with garlic and ricotta spreads, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, roasted peppers, arugula, and tomatoes. It was very yummy and the veggies were very fresh tasting.
- Kiss & Fire – comes with a four cheese blend, ricotta, meatballs, mushrooms and a strawberry balsamic drizzle. This pizza gets its heat from a spicy tomato sauce but it actually started off sweet, and not overbearingly hot. After a few bites though, the heat starts to creep up on you. It was really delicious, and the layers of flavor complement each other really well. I would eat this pizza again in a second. Our only critique is that unless you really love spicy food, it may be hard to eat it all if that’s your only pizza. But paired with the Backyard Garden, for example, it was fantastic.
- We decided to try our hand at selecting our own ingredients for the last pizza. There were so many toppings to choose from, and we thought it was awesome that the pizza comes at a flat price regardless of the number of toppings you choose. We selected chicken, pesto, bacon, red peppers, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and vegan cheese. Although it was very good, it was our least favorite of the four and the chicken was a little dry. From now on, we’ll let &pizza pick the toppings for us.
- For dessert we grabbed some of the Pizzelle Waffle Cookies to go. They were really good, not too sweet, with a nice anise flavor.
We chatted with Tony, the manager at the H Street location. They do a swift business; he told us that between Gallaudet students, residents, and the after bar and club crowd they pump out thousands of pizzas a week. Wow. He added that the co-owner, Steve Salis, is very hands on and a great motivator. The location at Monroe Street Market will be the 5th location for this small chain; the other stores are on H Street, U Street, Bethesda, and Germantown. Alia Khayrullina, &pizza’s Community Manager recently told us that Monroe Street Market’s location will open in early March. We can’t wait!