Mon 11 Apr 2011
Last year, Old Town was colonized for a second time. The settlers came swiftly, establishing beachheads on King Street before many people even realized what was happening. The fact that they came bearing brick-oven pizzas probably didn’t hurt.
We wrote about the impending arrival of RedRocks Pizza Napoletana and Pizzeria Paradiso back in March of last year. As it turns out, both DC-based pizza purveyors ended up delaying their grand openings from the dates we originally reported, with RedRocks ready to go in August and Paradiso not long after that in October. Since then, both have been drawing in King Street customers and sending them home happy.
Pizza, by its nature, practically begs to be experienced as part of a group. If you’re trying a place for the first time as a couple, you’re likely to get more than a few raised eyebrows if you try to order more than one or two pizzas. That kind of limited taste is not exactly a great way to get a feel for a menu, but get four or more people ordering at once and you can cover far more flavors simultaneously (assuming your dining companions are willing to share, of course).
So we checked out RedRocks Pizza Napoletana with our friends Itty Bitty Betty and the Bacon Terrorist; we even brought Baby Spice along for the meal. At the first sight of our car seat, the hostess sprang into action. She recommended one table, but she indulged us when we requested a large booth instead. We ended up moving to her original recommendation after determining that the booth just wasn’t going to fit the car seat, but to her credit she didn’t even hint at a “Told you so…”
We proceeded to divide and conquer the menu, and I’m so glad we did. A rundown on some big flavors and a few crackly crust shots after the jump.
It’s worth noting that RedRocks is more than just your average brick-oven pizza parlor. Not in the mood for pizza or a salad? Not only does their regular menu include an impressive array of starters including oven-baked meatballs and a detailed charcuterie selection, but you’ll also want to listen closely to your server as he or she details the day’s specials. It’s not unusual to find eclectic options like stuffed rabbit on offer.
We started our meal with a simple but powerful appetizer: piquant, blue gorgonzola cheese drizzled with honey. The combination of salty and sweet worked perfectly, and as the cheese grew warmer and more pliant we found ourselves spreading it on bread and enjoying it with gusto. The quality of the two ingredients (a necessity for such a basic presentation) makes the $6 price tag reasonable.
But the stars of our meal were definitely the pizzas. Large enough for two people to share (or for one person to enjoy with leftovers), we made sure to order four different options to ensure the greatest sample of what RedRocks has to offer.
We’ve never eaten pizza in Naples, but if past experience with Neapolitan-style pies is to be trusted RedRocks uses Naples as more of an inspiration than a blueprint. Our pizzas had thicker than average crusts, though they were appropriately thin across the middle and the crust was still blistered and crackling from the heat of the brick oven. It also had that slightly sour, yeasty flavor that marks a good homemade dough – I don’t think it was left behind by any of us.
Perhaps our favorite of the pizzas we tried was the Cipolla, a combination of caramelized onions, housemade ground sausage, anchovies and grana on an olive oil base (no tomato sauce). The toppings were spread in a thick layer across the surface, resulting in chewy, meaty bites with a savory punch that was nicely offset by the sweetness of the onions. Score one for the Bacon Terrorist.
Our other choices were satisfying as well, though. The pizza seen at the beginning of this post is the Salsiccia, whose name led us to anticipate quantities of sausage along the lines of the Cipolla. Instead, we found a pie studded with chunks of sausage and chopped olives over the tomato sauce and fresh mozarella. The restraint was welcome, as more sausage and olives would have turned it into a salt bomb. A special offering for the evening made fresh ricotta cheese and pine nuts the star. It was good, but the flavors were overwhelmed by those of our other choices. We finished off the meal with homemade cannolis, those rolled pastry shells filled with ricotta cream that are so closely identified with Italian-American culture. They were tasty and sweet, though perhaps not as good as some we’ve had from specialty stores in the area.
Overall we found ourselves very pleased with our experience at RedRocks. The bar was turning out inventive cocktails and a selection of craft beers that we could appreciate, and the service was attentive throughout our dinner. Some of the pizzas may have suffered from the higher moisture content of the fresh cheeses, resulting in slices that were a bit soggier than we would have liked. But the flavors were big and the leftovers were just as tasty at lunch the next day…which is exactly what we’re looking for when it comes to restaurant pizza.