Wed 3 Dec 2008
The week before Thanksgiving, we received an email announcing the arrival of Chicago-based HomeMade Pizza Company here in Washington and inviting us to sample some of their products (guess what they serve). Though we were interested, we hesitated to take them up on the offer – because it is our policy to only write about restaurants and foods we actually enjoy, we were worried that we might end up in an awkward position if we weren’t fans.
As it turns out, we had nothing to worry about.
For the past ten years, the people behind HomeMade have been providing an all-natural shortcut to Chicago families on pizza night. Instead of settling for delivery from a national chain or going out for über-heavy deep dish, they can order in a pie that is made fresh in the store and then delivered in shrinkwrap, ready to be popped in the oven whenever they’re ready.
With a decade’s worth of experience under their belts, they’ve decided to take on DC. Their first step: the arrival of their new location at 4857 Massachusetts Avenue (out past American University). We sampled two of their pies – the Fresh Herb and the Sausage and Caramelized Onion – as well as their Pear and Blue Cheese salad, and the quality of the ingredients was immediately apparent.
Tasting notes, photos and more about the company itself after the jump.
I made the drive out to HomeMade Pizza Company late on a Thursday afternoon, eager to avoid rush-hour traffic heading out of the city in the evening. I’m not going to lie – it’s a bit of a hike to get out there unless you live in upper Northwest or you’re a student at AU. But I had no trouble finding the store, situated in the same shopping plaza as Wagshal’s.
Inside, I was greeted by a clean, spare setup with a view into the back where employees were preparing pizzas for pickup. The counters were gleaming white, and a menu board on the wall announced “HomeMade’s Favorite Ensembles” – combinations of toppings that put “Meat Lovers” and “Supreme” to shame. To further whet the appetite, they’ve got a display case off to the left where they actually show off some of their best-sellers. I picked up our two pies and salad, thanked them and headed for home.
Once I got there, we set the oven for 425 degrees and unwrapped the Sausage and Caramelized Onion pizza. It definitely looked handmade, with a generous sprinkling of cheese, crumbled sausage, and large pieces of caramelized onion. We unfolded the parchment paper beneath the pie, left it sitting on its cardboard base, and set it in the oven to bake for 12 minutes (the directions suggested 10 to 15).
The pizza came out glistening and gooey, taunting us as we waited the suggested 3 minutes to facilitate cutting. When it was ready, we sliced it and got a good look at it – golden brown crust with a sheen that suggested butter or oil, a surface well-covered with cheese and toppings, and just a few spots of rich, red tomato sauce peeking through.
The flavors lived up to the hype, with a tomato sauce that actually tasted like tomatoes instead of sugar, sweet onions and savory sausage. And although the crust was definitely brushed with something to give it an extra richness (and probably to help it crisp), it didn’t feel greasy or heavy.
The pie was surprisingly filling, so we ended up putting off making the Fresh Herb pizza that night. In fact, we waited two days before we fired up the oven a second time to try our second pizza. I was worried that a few days’ delay might have had an adverse affect on the ingredients, but they actually held up really well. This pie was just as light, but the addition of fresh chevre and the absence of tomato sauce made it feel like less of a pizza and something more like the flatbread appetizers at Founding Farmers.
The Pear and Blue Cheese salad was a refreshing complement, if not especially unique. The sweetness of the pear and the tang of the cheese were joined by caramelized walnuts that gave it some extra crunch, and the balsamic vinaigrette dressing tied it all together nicely. Although I was quick to dismiss the salad as nothing special, upon further reflection I realized that the fact that it came from a takeout pizza place was.
Prices at HomeMade reflect the quality of the ingredients they’re using, with their signature pizzas running between $14.75 and $16.75 for a 12-inch ($16.95-$18.95 for a 14-inch Large). Salads start at $3.95, and larger versions will run you $7.75. In addition to their pizzas and salads, they offer all-natural ice cream in half a dozen flavors and big cookies to take home and bake just like the pizzas.
One item I noticed on their menu (and in store) that really caught my eye was their “Cutie Pie Kit.” This is a box that includes five 9-inch pizza rounds, sauce, cheese and your choice of three toppings, as well as aprons and hats for $39.95. It’s aimed at kids’ parties, but it sounds like fun to us, as well!
Overall, our experience with HomeMade Pizza Company was a positive one, but their current lack of delivery is likely to keep it from becoming a go-to dinner option in our household. On a good run, their location is more than 30 minutes’ drive from our place. And since our daily lives rarely take us out that way, the odds of stopping in on a whim are significantly decreased. But if you live in the area or if you need an alternative to the chains and the store-bought stuff, HomeMade Pizza Company may be just what you’re looking for.
HomeMade Pizza Co.
4857 Massachusetts Ave., NW