A SLICE OF TRADITION
After trying takeout from a couple of artisan pizza parlors, we’ve come to the conclusion that wood-fired pies taste better when eaten at the restaurant. Like temperamental sports cars, they require careful maintenance, and their blistered, pillowy crusts often deflate in transit. Plus, since they’re cooked so briefly, they cool too quickly. So for pizza to go, we prefer the sturdier stuff, cooked in gas or electric deck ovens.
VACE – BEST SLICE
If it’s not a whole pie you’re after, the venerable Vace always has a selection of slices with five different toppings (plain cheese, pepperoni or mushroom, plus white pizza with either spinach or onions). With thin crusts and vibrant-tasting tomato sauce, these triangles, at $2.25 each, reheat well at home (see below). But some people just can’t wait. The last time we were there, a guy bought a couple of slices and scarfed them down in his car.
4705 Miller Ave., Bethesda, 301-654-6367, www.vaceitaliandeli.com.
GIUSEPPI'S PIZZA PLUS – BEST SAUSAGE
At most pizza joints, sausage toppings are nothing special. That’s certainly not the case at Giuseppi’s, a 25-year-old family-owned operation that jazzes up Italian-style pork sausage with an additional shot of spices, including fennel, black pepper and garlic. We liked the chewy crust and oozy cheese, too. Also good to know: Giuseppi’s offers half-cooked pies to go. We finished off one at home, and it really did taste freshly baked.
335 Kentlands Blvd., Gaithersburg, 301-869-1111; 199-L E. Montgomery Ave., Rockville, 301-424-0413, www.giuseppispizza.net. Delivery available.
PETE'S NEW HAVEN STYLE APIZZA – MOST FAMILY FRIENDLY
The crust is not too doughy and not too crisp, and the sauce and cheese are not too thin and not too thick. As Goldilocks would say, “It’s just right.” This is pizza the whole family will enjoy, whether it’s a simple “Margarita” pie for the kids, or a specialty version such as the “Merritt Parkway”—with prosciutto, Kalamata olives, caramelized onions, basil and extra-virgin olive oil—for the grown-ups. And if there are any leftovers, you can follow Pete’s reheating instructions on the box and
easily replicate the taste a second time.
4940 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 202-237-7383; 962 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring, 301-588-7383, www.petesapizza.com. Delivery available.
CONTINENTAL PIZZA – BEST OLD-FASHIONED JOINT
With no website or advertising, and a Facebook page created by loyal customers, Continental Pizza continues to serve the same pizza and subs it has been making since 1967.
“If you’re doing something this long, and doing it right, why change anything?” says Louie Manos, son of original owner Mike Manos, 86, who still comes to work in the morning. The pizzas aren’t hip, but they’re more than satisfying, including the“Continental Special,” which is topped with mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni and onions, and comes with a cookie-dough texture crust. The prices are yesteryear, too. Most of the small pies, which can feed two people easily, cost $8.
10532 Connecticut Ave. (Kensington Shopping Center), Kensington, 301-949-9797. Carryout menu available at the shop.
HOT FLASH: WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO REHEAT LEFTOVER SLICES?
Microwaving may be the fastest, but it’s also the quickest way to kill a crisp crust. Ovens and toaster ovens do the trick, but tend to dry things out.
We found that reheating on the stove top wins hands down. It’s recommended on numerous websites and blogs, and there are directions on the delivery boxes for Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza.
Here’s what you do: Place slices in a skillet (no oil needed), cover and cook over low-medium heat for three to five minutes, until crust is crisp and cheese is hot and melted. According to the Pete’s box, this method works best because “stove top-covered skillet reheating most closely resembles the original method of baking the pizza: with a hot, solid surface underneath and very hot air above.”
THE PECKING ORDER
Roast chicken is a carryout standby. Here are some of our favorite places to pick up the poultry, and why we like them.
The stylish takeout packaging at Nando’s Peri-Peri stands out. Photo by Michael Ventura.
NANDO'S PERI-PERI – BEST PACKAGING
Founded in South Africa in 1987 by Portuguese-born Fernando Duarte, Nando’s has grown into an international chain with more than 1,000 locations. From the restaurants’ colorful African décor to chicken that’s electrified by sauces made with peri-peri, otherwise known as the African Bird’s Eye chili pepper, Nando’s is a fast-casual eatery with a bold personality.
The clever marketing extends to the carryout packaging—cardboard boxes with swirly black designs that include the chain’s whimsical rooster logo, and attractive brown bags to match. Side dishes come in Chinese-style takeout cartons printed with messages such as, “We’re at your peck and call.”
Nando’s Peri-Peri, with locations in Tenleytown, Bethesda, Silver Spring and Gaithersburg, also offers online ordering at www.nandosperiperi.com.
WHOLES FOODS MARKET – BEST SUPERMARKET VERSION
Most supermarket rotisserie birds are pretty pedestrian, but Whole Foods’ herb-coated flock is upper class. The Bell & Evans chickens—showered with an herbes de Provence-like mixture of rosemary, thyme, parsley, salt, garlic, black pepper and paprika—retain their juiciness, pair well with any side dish, and also taste good cold.
Available at Whole Foods Markets in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg and Rockville
YAMAS MEDITERRANEAN GRILL – BEST SIDE DISHES
The homey Greek baked chicken is lovely and lemony, but the side dishes are beyond ordinary, particularly the gigantes, giant Greek lima beans cooked in tomato sauce, basil, chopped onions and fresh garlic. The comforting concoction pairs well with the wedge-cut roasted potatoes, perfumed with garlic, lemon and oregano. Virtuous veggies also include tomato-and-onion-laced green beans and a mixed roast of zucchini, eggplant, red pepper and onions that’s tossed into a pasta salad with orzo, feta and pine nuts.
4806 Rugby Ave., Bethesda, 301-312-8384, www.yamasgrill.com
PERUVIAN TASTE TEST
Peruvian chicken places have popped up everywhere in our area, but when buying the birds in Bethesda, these two popular options are often compared. We tasted them side by side.
THE CONTESTANTS: Chicken on the Run and Don Pollo
THE SIMILARITIES: Both places share co-owner Carlos Ramirez and use the same beer-based brine and spiced marinade for their chickens.
THE DIFFERENCES: Chicken on the Run turns its birds in a brick oven; Don Pollo uses a stainless steel oven. Don Pollo is newer and bigger with better parking, and is slightly more expensive.
THE RESULTS In a breast-to-breast, leg-to-leg, wing-to-wing comparison, the Chicken on the Run parts had a noticeably stronger kick, with moister meat and more flavorful skin. Don Pollo cooks a perfectly acceptable bird, but it just shows how the same recipes can turn out differently, depending on who’s making them and where.
Who needs to labor over lasagna when Italian delis have already done the work? We compared meat lasagnas from four local establishments. All were previously frozen, and all but one provide four or so generous servings.
Best all-around flavor, meaty, welcome addition of fresh basil and parsley. $15.95
8540 Connecticut Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-951-1818, www.manolicanoli.com
Lotta ricotta, plus Romano and mozzarella (cheesy in a good way); top-notch traditional version. $15.99
8102 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda, 301-652-1625 (no website)
*Cornucopia’s lasagna is made according to the store’s specifications by a shop in South Philadelphia’s Italian Market area. It comes in a microwave-safe container and feeds two to three people. All other lasagnas in the taste test are made in-house, come in aluminum tins and provide four generous servings.
3RD PLACE TIE:
Very bland, noodles tasted soft and mushy. $15
4705 Miller Ave., Bethesda, 301-654-6367, www.vaceitaliandeli.com
Looked appetizing, but the interior was soupy and unappealing. $11.95
11612 Boiling Brook Place, Rockville, 301-770-4523, www.vignolagourmet.com