No matter which way you slice it, the pizza pie is the hottest dish in Alexandria and new parlors are opening up from Del Ray to Old Town.
For true pizza fans, the old world mix of dough, tomato sauce and toppings has been hard to come by in Alexandria, according to resident and blogger Jay Roberts.
Old Town just didnt have a lot of good pizza before, but now King Street can say its got great restaurants and good pizza joints, he said, stepping out of the newly-opened Pizza Paradiso on the 100 block of Alexandrias main drag. The only pizza was at Bugsys or Bertuccis and that was it. Now pizza lovers have somewhere to go.
Roberts stopped by to taste Paradisos pie and sample their craft beer menu, but its not the only new pizza joint hes been in lately. Red Rocks, which opened earlier this year on King Street, also serves up a mean pizza, he said.
Manager Myriam Souaya believes pizzerias are the newest up and coming restaurant style in an area already known for its swath of cultural cuisine. A lifelong resident of the D.C. metro region, Souaya witnessed the rise of the Neapolitan-style pizza, a lighter, healthier variation of pie.
I think its maybe people in D.C. hadnt been exposed to that style before. Once it started more and more people found out about it and all of the sudden youve got this demand, she said. I dont think it was part of the culture Its kind of like the craft beer thing, once [people] discovered how good they can be and how much variety there was it slowly evolved.
Patrons of Paradiso and Red Rocks both have locations in Washington can watch from their seats as the pizzas are fed into massive brick fire ovens. The ingredients are fresher and the fare is healthier, said Maxwell Hessman, a manager at Paradiso.
Theres a healthy slant to our food. We pride ourselves for having healthy options We feel like its good food for everybody, he said. I think that its a new niche for pizza eaters. Were used to our Pizza Huts. Its a nice niche to be filled with higher end products, especially in Old Town. People here tend to have more a discerning palette.
Among Hessmens favorite creations is a pie baked with egg. Patrons can dip the crust in the yoke, he said.
Hessmen cant say why Paradiso, Red Rocks have opened in roughly the same timeframe as their new cross-town competitors, HomeMade Pizza Co and Pizzeria Del Ray. But opening a restaurant in Old Town just makes good business sense, he said.
Well I think it was just more the allure of the neighborhood, Hessman said. A lot of our customers come from here. It wasnt really about any competition or show of face.
Souaya agrees. Whether there was a hole in the restaurant market in Alexandria or not, Old Town is a prime location for any eatery. Bustling with shoppers and tourists, a good restaurant will draw in customers without too much effort, she said.
Old Town is one of those places business owners look at, no matter what the type of business, Souaya said. Old Town, being a desirable place with a lot of foot traffic, is a great place for restaurant and there was a void, but maybe its just a coincidence were all looking to Old Town at the same time.
Thats good news for Roberts. While he wont go so far to say the pizza baked in his native North Carolina wasnt good, his palette has certainly grown in Alexandria.
The thing about food is, if you dont know whats good youll accept mediocre, he said. The south is not known for its pizza.