Bethesda’s Pizzeria da Marco Opening Monday, May 16

Neapolitan pizzeria promises to be the real deal.

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There’s a big blown-up photograph of Concetta Ferrara in the vestibule of Pizzeria da Marco, the promising new Neapolitan pizza place that will be opening in Bethesda on Monday, May 16. While Ferrara looks like the quintessential Italian grandma, with her softly weathered face and crocheted shawl, she’s not just any nonna.

“I grew up with her,” says her grandson, Dino Santonicola, the young, lively chef at the restaurant, who was raised in Naples in a close-knit family and has been cooking in pizzerias since he was 13.

Partner and general manager Alessandro Ferro took one look at the photo and said, “Wow! What’s better than that to make people feel at home? This is what Italy is.”

The rest of the interior of the new restaurant looks decidedly more like Bethesda, with its exposed ceiling duct work, rust-colored banquettes and walls that are brick behind the bar and goldenrod in the dining room.

With 5,000-square feet and seating for 130, this is no quaint pizzeria. But Ferro specifically wanted a place with the comfortable feel of a sit-down restaurant. There’s a large main dining room with a Carrera-marble topped bar (its façade is cleverly paneled with sections of wooden wine crates), a patio overlooking Woodmont Avenue, and two smaller, more private rooms in the back, one of which sports photos of the ruins of Pompeii.

As for the food, Santonicola’s pies will be fired with oak in the igloo-like $15,000 SF Allestimenti brick oven, imported from Naples and the first of its kind in the D.C. area.

“This is the Ferrari of ovens,” boasts Ferro, likening other local pizza ovens to Toyotas.

With his spiffy new vehicle, Santonicola will be turning out 14 choices of 12-inch pizzas, ranging from $8.50 to $13. Look for topping combinations such as smoked mozzarella, rapini, parmesan and sausage, or a white pizza with fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, parmesan, ricotta, basil and baby arugula. The flour, canned tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella will be imported from Italy; the fresh mozzarella is from Wisconsin, and the vegetables will be locally grown. The other domestic nod is that the restaurant will serve an Americana pizza with pepperoni (“we don’t have pepperoni in Italy,” says Santonicola.) But like the way they do it in Naples, the pies will not be served pre-sliced.

Santonicola planned the menu around the pizzerias of his youth. It also includes appetizers such as Italian meats and cheeses, bruschetta and focaccia; mixed green salads, three varieties of calzone, and for dessert, homemade gelato, tiramisu and Budino al Caramello. “I give people a cheap flight to Italy,” he says.

8008 Woodmont Ave. 301-654-6083. www.pizzeriadamarco.net

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