Jump to content

Menomalé; Neapolitan Pizzeria In Brookland - Neapolitan Pizza on 12th Street NE, Brookland


Recommended Posts

Opening in mid-April by self-proclaimed beer nerd Leland Estes, and maestro pizzaiolo Ettore Rusciano from Naples, Menomalé promises 20 draft beers and traditional pizza from a 900 degree oven. Even a vegan "cheese" option is promised for those who want it.

A little more info here on the Brookland blog: http://brooklandaven...om/blog/?p=4988
2711 12th St NE, Washington DC

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As someone who lives about 2 blocks from Menomale, I can't express how excited I am for this coming to our neighborhood!

Unfortunately the guys have run into a bit of a road block in the process of securing their liquor license. There has been a lot of drama surrounding their application on the Brookland listserv over the last week or so (with complaints ranging from the proximity to an elementary school to the proximity to a rehab center to the most ludicrous complaint that the two guys are too young and haven't lived in the area long enough to possibly open a responsible restaurant here :blink: ).

My +1 and I, as well as many of our neighbors, stopped by the place over the last few weeks to sign their petition for ABRA and get a tour of the space. They said they hope to open just serving food while waiting on the license, but hopefully that is soon to follow!

The pizza oven was imported from Italy and is massive. They had to take out the front window to get it into the space.

They are planning for 30 seats inside, plus a small bar, and are also hoping to have 30 seats out on the sidewalk as well.

Such a great addition to Brookland.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First off a disclose, I was invited to the "friends and family" preview because I know the owner.

Menomale is a new Neapolitan pizzeria in the Brookland/Rhode island avenue neighborhood. The first thing you see when you walk in the door is their huge brick oven that can cook a pizza in less than a minute and two pizzaolos making pizza. You round the corner to see a small cozy restaurant and bar. The bartender is a self professed "beer nerd" and serves all kinds of unusual brews such as Japanese wit beer, florin sours. They also plan to serve wine and mixed drinks but they haven't gotten all the t 's crossed and i's dotted on the liquor licence.

For dinner we sampled their margarita pizza which is a great exercise in simplicity- a dough made from bread, salt, water and air, sauce made from marzano tomatoes and salt, topped with a restrained amount of buffalo mozzarella, basil and (at my behest) a sprinkling of Parmesan and chopped garlic. When the restaurant opens they will have more topping options including different cheese (after I had sung the praises of ricotta on pizza), vegetables and smoked meats. Since one of the owners is vegan they also had a pretty decent vegan cheese option. My one complaint is that they might want to hold off on the sauce a little so the pizza is less soggy. The flavors were delcious, the crust was chewy, sauce was sweet but not overly so and the garlic added a great bit.

Besides pizza the Menomale plans to serve salads, calzones, brick oven sandwich and deserts. They are working on the final details as well as getting a liquor licence so they hope to be open within a month.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Menomale started their soft open last night at 5pm, and as soapy said above, plan to have their grand opening in 2 weeks. We went around 6:30 last night, and while it was busy the whole time we were there (i.e. most of the tables and the bar were full most of the time), there didn't seem to be people waiting or standing around. I'm curious how much the traffic will pick up in the coming weeks since the place has been pretty highly anticipated in the neighborhood.

First off, it is quite tiny inside. I believe I counted 14 table seats (5 2-tops and 1 4-top), plus 6 seats at the bar, and perhaps the ability to squeeze in 2 more people at the high-top table in the window. Apparently they want about 24 seats on the patio, which would essentially double their capacity when the weather is nice. My one complaint is the backless stools that serve as seats. I imagine they make it easier for patrons and servers to navigate the small space, but they aren't very comfortable.

We are not huge beer fans, but those that are will find a lot to like at Menomale. One of the owners, Leland, as mentioned above, is a beer nerd and really enjoyed explaining the origins of their beers to our table and others. Apparently the weissbeer I had is from the oldest brewery in the world (begun in 1040)? They only had 10 on draft last night but have 20 taps they plan to fill eventually. There is also a modest wine list available, along with some Italian digestivi (e.g. limoncello, grappa, etc).

There were a couple things not available on opening night, but my +1 and I shared a Caprese salad ($7 - fresh tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, salt, pepper, basil, pinch of oregano, DOP extra virgin olive oil) to start , which came on a plate with arugula and cherry tomatoes as well. Although perhaps not quite tomato season, it was a nice warm weather dish. The olive oil was fantastic. Nothing too different from most Caprese salads around town, but tasty.

We each got a pizza and shared with each other. I had the Diavola ($12 - San Marzano tomatoes, DOP mozarella di bufala, basil, spicy salami, hot pepperoncino) and liked the flavor a lot. It seems like the spice came mostly from the salami, and the "hot pepperoncino" seemed more like roasted milder peppers, but it still tasted good and had a nice kick. The pizzas are served unsliced, but still had a bit of soupiness to the center. I don't claim to be a Neapolitan pizza connoisseur, but I thought it had a good crust and a nice blister from the wood oven. The +1 had the Bianca ($13 - panna, prosciutto cotto, sauteed porcini mushrooms, mozzarella di bufala, fresh basil, pinch of parmesan, extra virgin olive oil). The one complaint on his was that the toppings weren't very evenly distributed (most of the prosciutto and mushrooms ended up on one half), but again, the flavor was great. We saw some other pizzas and calzones coming to other tables and vowed to try some new things on our next visit (the pizze section of the menu alone looks great, not to mention the calzones and panuozzo!).

It was tough to stop eating, but both of us managed to save half of our pizzas (which I'm looking forward to having for lunch shortly), once we saw desserts start coming out to neighboring tables. I love pizza, but this may have been my favorite part of the meal. We had La Bomba ($6 - raised pizza dough filled with chocolate, dusted with powdered sugar). It was basically two mini-calzones of dough baked and then piped to overflowing with Nutella. So deliciously indulgent.

They definitely have some growing pains to work out in terms of servers (ours didn't know the menu very well and had trouble taking our order) and payment (they run your credit card on an iPhone app that needs your zip code, a finger signature on the screen, and doesn't allow for tip), but the food would indicate that they are on there way to being a great little neighborhood joint. Leland and Ettore have put together something great for Brookland, and I couldn't be happier to have a place like this within 2 blocks of my house!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don asked me to give an update on Menomale, and I'd be happy to! We actually haven't been back for a couple of weeks, but we did visit 4 times within the first 2-3 weeks of it opening, so I do have some more info :D

One time we took two friends and they loved their food. Once we did take out. And once we went later at night after a long HH. All times get thumbs up! It's definitely been quite busy during its weeks since pretty much the whole neighborhood is excited about it. There's no patio seating yet, but we hope that comes soon (if only so there's more seating).

We've now tried a few pizzas, a couple of the panuozzos (sandwiches), and a calzone. One of our favorite things was the Pollo Verde panuozzo (rosemary chicken, fresh local pesto, mozzarella di bufala on wood-fired pizza dough). The bread is pizza dough, and tastes great with a bit of blister from the oven. The pesto was also delicious. The sandwich with prosciutto was also good. Our favorite pizza of the four we've tried is the Bianca that I mentioned above.

Each time we've been the owner and beer nerd, Leland, has been coming around to all the tables and chatting about the food and the drinks. Although very busy, he has always been extremely friendly and helpful, asking for how they can make Menomale better.

Just writing about this is making me realize we need to head back soon...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm hearing from a few people who live near this area that this place, with Seventh Hill under renovations and Two Amy's still as inconsistent as ever, is cranking out the best pizza in the District right now (not including suburbs). New Foodie's reviews make it sound pretty good. Anyone else been?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm hearing from a few people who live near this area that this place, with Seventh Hill under renovations and Two Amy's still as inconsistent as ever, is cranking out the best pizza in the District right now (not including suburbs). New Foodie's reviews make it sound pretty good. Anyone else been?

Yes, and I thought it was easily good enough to put in Italic. After one visit, I can't say "the best," but it's up there and you won't regret going.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although you probably want more diversified opinions, we have now been back a couple more times and taken both my parents and my in-laws, all of whom enjoyed their food.

The olive oil appetizer is a fun way to try some different types of olive oils (I think the three we tried were chili, mint, and regular?) and the pizzas continue to be great. And although I love the pizzas, I've been really enjoying the panuozzos (sandwiches).

As much as I want to talk up such a great place in our neighborhood, I hesitate to advocate for everyone to come since it's so small and I want to still be able to walk in and get a seat when I want ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although you probably want more diversified opinions, we have now been back a couple more times and taken both my parents and my in-laws, all of whom enjoyed their food.

The olive oil appetizer is a fun way to try some different types of olive oils (I think the three we tried were chili, mint, and regular?) and the pizzas continue to be great. And although I love the pizzas, I've been really enjoying the panuozzos (sandwiches).

As much as I want to talk up such a great place in our neighborhood, I hesitate to advocate for everyone to come since it's so small and I want to still be able to walk in and get a seat when I want ;)

Now that you mention it, I remember noticing that the panuozzos were much less expensive than the pizzas, but were essentially folded-up pizzas themselves (am I remembering correctly?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now that you mention it, I remember noticing that the panuozzos were much less expensive than the pizzas, but were essentially folded-up pizzas themselves (am I remembering correctly?)

I would agree that they are probably a similar amount of food with the panuozzos being a few dollars cheaper. Here's how I see the difference:

Pizzas - rolled out dough with cheese and toppings distributed before being baked

Calzones - essentially a pizza folded over on itself before being baked (topping inside during baking)

Panuozzos - the amount of dough for a typical pizza crust baked, then cut open and topping inserted after baking. Some are warm (the chicken pesto and the sausage) and some are not (the prosciutto and the Capri)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just yesterday Menomale finally unveiled its new patio seating. They have two big tent/coverings up outside of the restaurant now with tables set beneath. It appears as though they have at least 20 or so seats outside, which effectively doubles the seating capacity of the restaurant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my last pre-hurricane meal, my young dining companion and I returned to Menomalé which we enjoyed before, and we enjoyed it every bit as much this time around.

Matt began with a San Pellegrino Aranciata ($3.00), the blood orange version of these tasty soft drinks that are becoming more-and-more available (this has been around, incidentally, since 1932). I started with a Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar ($7.00) which was very nice, but when I ordered it, I didn't realize that there was a "half-price" page of beers that they're trying to move in order to make room for new inventory (the consumer's advantage to dining in a tiny restaurant!)

We split our order, one Pannuozo and one Pizza. The Buongustaio ($8.00) was a wood-fired round of pizza dough, folded around sausage, proscuitto di Parma, mozzarella di bufala, and maionese <--- I'm pretty sure that's Italian for mayo. With the proscuitto, cutting it in half was easier in theory than in practice. The Quattro Stagioni ($13.00) had San Marzano tomatoes and D.O.P mozzarella di bufala underneath four stages of mushrooms, artichokes, black olives, and prosciutto cotto. The primary difference between the pannuozi and pizze (are these plurals correct?), aside from the prices, is that the pizza toppings are baked, and the pannuozo fillings are added after the baking. From the half-priced beer list, I got a Kurofune Baltic Porter (discounted to $5.00), a tough to find Japanese porter brewed "at the foot of Mt. Fuji."

This was another good showing for Menomalé which reinforces it as being one of the strongest pizzerias in DC. Although we were stuffed, I was ever-mindful that Matt is 15, and so we got a La Bomba ($6.00) for the ride home. The La Bomba is a dessert-hybrid between the pannuozo and the pizza, with the dough coated with Nutella, baked, rolled (like a cannoli), cut into two pieces, and dusted with powdered sugar. It's somewhat crepe-ish, and very hard not to like, especially at the price.

On the way out of the restaurant, it was drizzling, and it didn't stop raining for days. Despite this, Menomalé is maintained as a solid Italic in the Dining Guide.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The pizzas are served unsliced, but still had a bit of soupiness to the center. I don't claim to be a Neapolitan pizza connoisseur, but I thought it had a good crust and a nice blister from the wood oven.

Our first visit tonight teased us with potential, but I left a bit underwhelmed. We ordered the Margherita and the Chef's Special (basically a Margherita with proscuitto and arugula). The ingredients in the pizza all seem to be top notch. The menu states that these are true craft pizzas that are traditionally served unsliced, but they will accommodate the request. We did not make such a request, but both pies were pre-sliced. Toppings were terrific, but I felt my crust didn't have the char or any black bubbles that I welcome. Perhaps I will order it "well done" next time.

The cocktail program looks pretty decent, and who can resist a $5 gin rickey? But this too was a miss for me: not much lime juice, and only a thin slice of the citrus in the glass, instead of the spent half-lime shell. Basically a gin and soda, which isn't the worst thing.

So a bit of a Debbie Downer review, but I would love to have this in my hood, and I saw enough to come back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know, when we went to pick up pizzas a couple weeks ago I did see them slicing some pizzas going out to the dining room (the waitress did it, not the pizziolo). But then when we went for lunch today we were served an unsliced pizza. Maybe it just depends on who's working?

We had gotten takeout a number of times over the last few months since we rarely feel like battling the crowds at night, but today we stopped in for a late lunch. We got a seat easily, but the place was pretty packed, even at 2-3pm on a Sunday afternoon. Service was attentive and very friendly despite the cramped quarters.

Tried a new pizza today too. The Patata ($15 Cream of potatoes, Italian sausage, black olives, mozzarella di bufala, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil), sans olives, was really good. I have had potato on pizza a few times elsewhere, but typically it has been slices. This was more like a thin layer of thinned mashed potatoes on place of a sauce. Probably more starch than I needed in one meal, but I'd definitely order it again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Had lunch here today with my son and was instantly transported back to Rome.  The restaurant wasn't busy at all, and we enjoyed a nice leisurely meal of a perfect marinara pie (for him) and a capricciosa for me (salami, olives, artichoke hearts).  We've been to Menomale several times in the past, and have always been impressed.  This was the first visit where I can state with no reservations that it is my favorite pie in the area.  (OK, fine...tied with Pupatella, but Menomale is 5 minutes from home vs. 20.)

I see no daylight between the quality of ingredients and execution we had today and what we had in Italy.  Bravo.

Our server, Angela was great.  With a mainly empty restaurant, I've often experienced "extreme" service, either none at all, or way too much hovering.  No problems here.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Still love Menomale (although we haven't eaten in the restaurant in quite a while...takeout is very easy from only a few blocks away). My one complaint is something that is not surprising, but it still a bit irksome. The price creep.

We happen to have a menu in our kitchen from when it first opened, so sometimes when we order we are surprised at the prices. For instance, one of the sandwiches we frequently get (Buongustaio) is listed as $8 on the menu we have at home, but is now actually $12. So ordering two sandwiches and expecting a $16 bill is a bit shocking when it's actually $24. Obviously this is our fault for not getting a new menu, but I think a 50% increase in cost in less than two years is kind of a lot!

As I look at a couple of the pizzas I reviewed when they first opened, one of the pizzas is $1 more now and the other is $2 more.

It seems like this happens everywhere as cost analyses change the longer a restaurant is open, but it can be frustrating when the prices continue to rise.

All that said, it's delicious and close and we have a dearth of options in Brookland, so it's not like the cost is keeping us away!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Still love Menomale (although we haven't eaten in the restaurant in quite a while...takeout is very easy from only a few blocks away). My one complaint is something that is not surprising, but it still a bit irksome. The price creep.

We happen to have a menu in our kitchen from when it first opened, so sometimes when we order we are surprised at the prices. For instance, one of the sandwiches we frequently get (Buongustaio) is listed as $8 on the menu we have at home, but is now actually $12. So ordering two sandwiches and expecting a $16 bill is a bit shocking when it's actually $24. Obviously this is our fault for not getting a new menu, but I think a 50% increase in cost in less than two years is kind of a lot!

It is a lot. I'm sure I said somewhere upstream that the "sandwiches" were basically a folded pizza crust, so at $8 they were *by far* the better deal - maybe they realized this and equalized the pricing somewhat?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is a lot. I'm sure I said somewhere upstream that the "sandwiches" were basically a folded pizza crust, so at $8 they were *by far* the better deal - maybe they realized this and equalized the pricing somewhat?

Yeah, I think this is exactly what happened. The sandwhiches are HUGE. It's not so much that $12 is a bad deal for them...just that it was a steep jump!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was under the assumption that certification was awarded to a restaurant, not an individual. Menomalé's website says that "Ettore is a certified Pizzialo [sic] by Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, based in Naples, Italy."

Can someone clarify this? Is Pizzeria Da Marco, for example, still certified? And how's Menomalé's beer program holding up? I haven't been here in awhile, but I've been 2-3 times, and boy I sure enjoyed it each time.

post-2-0-11529500-1422926796_thumb.png

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was under the assumption that certification was awarded to a restaurant, not an individual. Menomalé's website says that "Ettore is a certified Pizzialo [sic] by Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, based in Naples, Italy."

Can someone clarify this? Is Pizzeria Da Marco, for example, still certified? And how's Menomalé's beer program holding up? I haven't been here in awhile, but I've been 2-3 times, and boy I sure enjoyed it each time.

I haven`t seen a decline. I`ve been going there almost every other week since last year. The pizzas are still in top 5 for me in DC area.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was under the assumption that certification was awarded to a restaurant, not an individual. Menomalé's website says that "Ettore is a certified Pizzialo [sic] by Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, based in Naples, Italy."

Can someone clarify this? Is Pizzeria Da Marco, for example, still certified? And how's Menomalé's beer program holding up? I haven't been here in awhile, but I've been 2-3 times, and boy I sure enjoyed it each time.

Still great. I'm there with my son at least monthly.  We love Pupatella and Ghibellina as well, but with Menomale so close by, it's tough to venture into the Northwest territories.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The beer program is not as robust as when Leland Estes was in charge.  He had 20 taps installed, only to realize that they only had storage enough for 10 kegs (or more likely, sixtels), and expanding the storage area wasn't feasable.  Still, they had the best draft beer selectioin in Brookland (and really, all of NE DC outside of H Street) until last year's opening of Brookland Pint and Smith Public Trust (it's still better than Brookland's Finest and Steel Plate, in my opinon).

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought sure someone posted about Menomalé recently, but I don't see it - what do people think about the restaurant these days?

Based on what I've had recently, it would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of identical Menomalé and Pupatella pizzas now.

On a similar note, I'm wondering if DC's position as "Best Neapolitan Pizza in the U.S." has wavered, assuming it was ever there to begin with (and I believe it may have been).

Does anyone know what, if anything, happened to these folks, and when?

Pizzaiolo Ettore Rusciano
Beermeister Leland Estes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I thought sure someone posted about Menomalé recently, but I don't see it - what do people think about the restaurant these days?

Based on what I've had recently, it would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of identical Menomalé and Pupatella pizzas now.

On a similar note, I'm wondering if DC's position as "Best Neapolitan Pizza in the U.S." has wavered, assuming it was ever there to begin with (and I believe it may have been).

Does anyone know what, if anything, happened to these folks, and when?

Pizzaiolo Ettore Rusciano
Beermeister Leland Estes

I've never been to Pupatella, but we continue to think Menomale has the best pizza in town and really anywhere we've ever been.  My kids think so (and have been harassing us for having not been yet in 2019), my wife thinks so, and I think so.  The Brooklandisima is amazing.  

@DonRocks, is there some reason to think Menomale is less than it was once or are you just wondering why there aren't more recent posts here?  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, youngfood said:

@DonRocks, is there some reason to think Menomale is less than it was once or are you just wondering why there aren't more recent posts here?  

I wouldn't randomly question a restaurant; we had dinner there last night (and leftover lunch today, and we have a calzone in the freezer for later emergencies). They were out of the first wine we ordered (the only Gragnano they had on the list), the Bruschetta (there were three; I asked them to pick one) with Burrata, tomatoes, and basil had, well, tomatoes and basil - it was "fine," but nothing I'd order again - especially not in January. The pizzas (a Capricciosa and a Patata) had decent toppings - albeit very heavy on the saltiness - and a nice char, but the dough (which was the fault of the person who made the dough; not the person who cooked the pizzas) was thicker than it should have been, and a bit too salty. I could go into more depth, but at half the price of a distressingly expensive and mostly *lousy* sashimi Omakase at Takumi the night before, Menomalé was still a decent neighborhood restaurant by comparison.

Also, both pizzas were *much* better today, after being slowly reheated (and crisped) in the oven.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I wouldn't randomly question a restaurant; we had dinner there last night (and leftover lunch today, and we have a calzone in the freezer for later emergencies). They were out of the first wine we ordered (the only Gragnano they had on the list), the Bruschetta (there were three; I asked them to pick one) with Burrata, tomatoes, and basil had, well, tomatoes and basil - it was "fine," but nothing I'd order again - especially not in January. The pizzas (a Capricciosa and a Patata) had decent toppings - albeit very heavy on the saltiness - and a nice char, but the dough (which was the fault of the person who made the dough; not the person who cooked the pizzas) was thicker than it should have been, and a bit too salty. I could go into more depth, but at half the price of a distressingly expensive and mostly *lousy* sashimi Omakase at Takumi the night before, Menomalé was still a decent neighborhood restaurant by comparison.

Also, both pizzas were *much* better today, after being slowly reheated (and crisped) in the oven.

So I feared.  I'll take this as a welcome excuse to return to Menomale again soon to further investigate.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, youngfood said:

So I feared.  I'll take this as a welcome excuse to return to Menomale again soon to further investigate.  

Please don't get me wrong - either about Menomalé, or about Takumi: I just now asked my friend how she'd rate the meal at Menomalé. Her reply: "Fair, good, not great," and I asked, "with potential?" She responded, "Oh, definitely - just a couple of things were off." The pizza, reheated for lunch the next day, was just about perfect, crust-wise; the toppings were just salty to a fault. It was also 5 PM on a positively bone-chilling Saturday - the restaurant was very cold inside.

Regarding Takumi, her words were, "Bad. overpriced, disappointing, forgettable except for 'those two' dishes' [two things were good]" However, she added that it was disappointing *in context of* it always being so wonderful - we've been there probably five times together in the past. It was a very busy Friday night, 6:30 PM, in a packed restaurant, and I'm pretty sure they lost track of what they'd served us. I look at Takumi as a "one-off" meal, probably due to being so crowded, and Menomalé as a "needed a couple of tweaks to be its old self" sort of thing - neither meal was terminal (although Takumi can't afford to do that twice in a row - not at that price). Note to Marty: "Lousy" was too strong of a word; I was very disappointed when I typed that because I love the restaurant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...