2014 | News

First Taste: PizzaPass

Great idea, okay pizza

share this

PizzaPass Logo. See more photos in the gallery below

John Foster deserves credit for coming up with an interesting concept and actually executing it.

His PizzaPass restaurant, as you may have heard, is the pizza version of a Brazilian steakhouse. In this case, waiters stroll around the dining room—not with huge skewers of meat—but with a variety of pizza slices on their trays.

Rather than debating what kind of whole pie to order for the table (pepperoni, no plain!), this scenario allows diners to choose a slice with the topping they want. And because the “pizza passers” circulate frequently, the slices are hot and fresh (rather than a lukewarm or cold one as can happen when people make their way through an entire pizza).

There’s also a salad bar, and a counter where you can custom-order pasta dishes. At dinner, the whole shebang (minus drinks) costs $18 for adults. Children from 6 to 10 eat for half price, and kids five and under are free.

So just how good are the pies?

After sampling four slices out of the nine signature pizzas, I’d say the toppings are on a higher level (both literally and qualitatively) than the cardboard-ish medium-thick crusts, which seemed on par with chain fare.

My favorite topping combo was the Pittsburgh, which comes with terrific homemade fennel sausage, pepperoni, banana peppers, tomato sauce and mozzarella. Second, I’d put the flavorful Mediterranean veggie, chock full of pesto, spinach, black olives, artichokes, red onion, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella and basil. The taco pizza, with its wan chopped tomatoes and avalanche of tortilla chip bits didn’t do much for me and the BBQ pulled pork pizza veered way more towards sweet than tangy.

The salad bar (remember them?) had a pretty standard array of items, some of them tired-looking, and as for the pasta, my shrimp scampi had a couple of shrimp-y shrimp and enough garlic to scare off a cemetery of vampires. The Alfredo and tomato cream sauces were decent but nothing memorable. Be forewarned that the pasta portions are small.

Even though the food isn’t fabulous, I like the basic concept, especially for families and little kids—who proliferated the place the night I was there. The personable staff set a congenial tone, and the décor is definitely a couple of notches above a pizza joint.

Nonetheless, I do think the set-up needs a little tweaking. I’d keep the parading pizza slices, serve composed salads, get rid of the superfluous pasta, and lower the prices a little. Including me and two other adults, our dinner—with a couple of beers, tax and tip—came to close to $80.

But I can’t say I wasn’t stuffed. Or, as our waiter commented after we declined dessert: “Looks like you’ve hit the PizzaPass-out wall.”

4924 St. Elmo Ave. Bethesda. 301-657-5522. www.pizzapass.net