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RedRocks Pizzeria, a Local Chain Now Open in Several Area Locations


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Hey everyone--I hope you'll forgive this little plug for a friend of mine. I live in Columbia Heights and can attest that new blood is sorely needed over there, as our dining options are pretty limited.

James O'Brien (former owner of funky-but-defunct music venue Staccato in Adams Morgan) has changed venue and flavor. His new venture will focus on brick oven pizza and other cafe fare at the corner of Park Road and 11th St. NW in Columbia Heights, near the Tivoli and the new Giant. The new place is called RedRocks and is scheduled to open in February.

Besides brick oven pies at a reasonable price-point, RedRocks will also feature a full bar with tasty beer (look for some good Belgians), a brunch menu, and outdoor patio seating.

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Quick update: As is typical when you are dealing with contractors (and nasty weather), my latest intel informs me that there have been some unavoidable construction delays. We can now look for a mid- to late-March soft opening instead of late Feb. Can't come soon enough for me! This Col Heights gal is hungry for more local restuarants!

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Hey all--an update on RedRocks. As you know if you live in Col Heights, the brick oven pizza joint on the corner of 11th and Park has been eagerly awaited--and impatience has likely set in for many neighbors (this one included!).

Unlike all the other new spots opening in CH, RedRocks is not part of a larger development (where they developers do battle with the DC permitters for you). James has done this whole thing himself, and it has been a labor of love.

SO, GOOD NEWS! The wait is actually (really, no kidding) almost over. James is planning an early July soft opening. He's going to have some pizza-making talent in the kitchen too (more on that later).

Yes, I'm a friend, but I am also a CH local--and a supporter of independent restauranteurs. I am also pretty excited about tasty beer/pizza/brunch on the patio in my hood!. Thanks for letting me get in this little plug/update!

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Well, it has been a labor of love but it is actually happening: James O'Brien has announced the official opening on THURSDAY, JULY 12 at 5 p.m. of RedRocks FireBrickPizza, a pizzeria and cafe located in Columbia Heights. The 95 seat restaurant will offer brick oven pies, café fare including panini with housemade bread, salads and starters, wines by the bottle and the glass, Chimay Triple (YAY!!) and Allagash White on tap and 30 microbrews by the bottle.

With two rooms on two levels for inside seated dining, a takeout section downstairs for locals to order and pick up pizzas for carryout, and a HUGE patio, RedRocks invites diners to stop in for dinner or weekend brunch (starting Saturday July 21). Address is 1036 Park Road, NW.

Full disclosure, as always: James is an old friend, a member of the local music community, and - most importantly - a really dedicated entrepreneur and advocate of local small business (his last place was Staccato Lounge in Adams Morgan)

RedRocks is officially opening THIS Thursday for dinner, so feel free to stop by to try out Columbia Heights newest dining destination and SUPPORT LOCAL SMALL BUSINESS! Rumor also has it there will be a pizza tasting/giveaway TONIGHT from 5-7 at RedRocks... so if you happen to be in the Heights this eve, go check it out and you may get a free slice.

I'll post a menu when I get it from him!

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Not open yet. Maybe this weekend.

Menu moderately interesting beyond the pizza (more stuff than Comet, less than 2 Amy's): branzino, a variety of starters, salads and panini. Pizzas $8.95-$12.95 and up, buffalo Mozz available at $2.50 extra. 202-506-1402.

Confident little buggers, though: according to the menu they're serving "DC's finest brick oven pizza in the classic Neapolitan style." I wonder what Pastan would say to that. ;)

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I've heard the rumor about the guy from 2 Amys as well, no idea about its veracity.

We tried Red Rocks on Sunday night. We waited about 25 minutes for a table even though there were a number of open tables both inside and on the patio (none of them had been bussed yet). After being sat we waited another 20 minutes to order and then another hour for our pizza. It's a good thing they have a good beer list, as we went through three rounds before the food made it to the table (although the only way to get another drink was to literally wave the empty bottle in the air every time our waiter walked by--usually after doing this five or six times he would notice). The pizza was good. Not spectacular, but good. The crust was not quite thick/firm enough to hold up the toppings, but on the whole it was quite decent and worth the money. The service on the other hand was among the worst I have ever encountered in DC--and almost comically frantic.

We'll be back, but another one or two experiences like this one may send us another few blocks over to Radius.

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Based on my own experience -- and that of my son, who showed up a couple of hours earlier than I did -- RR is being hit much harder than they expected. Good for them. We loved Chris, even though she had to bring the bad news that there was no more actual pizza left. We suspect that the rest of the staff might be as beautiful and delightful as she is. Decent cheap wine by the glass, too. Them of us who live east of The Park will cut the place a bit of slack, for the nonce.

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Considering that they were hastily trying to recruit some waiters a mere week and a half ago, this is unsurprising. I'd cut them some slack for at least a couple more weeks before dinging them too hard on the service front.

I'm definitely willing to cut them some slack, as I said we will be back--it is by far the closest non-Pizza Hut pizza place to home. We also still go to Domku even thought the service we've experienced there has never been fantastic. I just hope that for their own sake they can improve the service (and turn the tables a bit more quickly)--they are already slammed with customers and I imagine the crowds will only continue to grow, especially since the food is quite good.

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Went to RedRocks tonight at around 11. Staff said it was the quietest night yet and people were still streaming in. Apparently, they've been selling somewhere between 200 and 250 pies a night in the first week-- more than they had expected. We had a sausage and peppers pizza and the mussels, red pepper, and capers puttanesca pie along with a couple of Chimays. They were solid. The crust was terrific: nice and crisp, a little charred on the edges, no center sogginess.

They said they'll have a walk up window and pizza by the slice later on in the summer.

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We got take-out from RedRocks Friday night. We got 2 mixed green salads and 2 Margherita pizzas. The pizza was good...really good (well, not as good as 2 Amy's, but good). The salad, well, that's another story. It was all radicchio and frisse! There were literally 2 pieces of greenleaf lettuce in there. It was too bitter to eat. We might go back for the pizza, but we could just as easily go to Ella's and get pizza AND a good salad. The place looked like it was hopping, though.

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Went tonight, and service was excellent. They've added a hostess and had a dedicated food runner. Loved my funghi pizza -- great, thinly sliced creminis, sweet cherry tomatoes, and really enjoyed the fontini alternative. Husband enjoyed his pepperoni. When we had visted their opening weekend, the beer taps were down and the bottled beer on the warm side. Glad to report we had refreshing cold beers as the perfect complement to our pizza. The place was booming both inside and out, with happy patrons.

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Just got back. Had 2 Alagash whites, a fresh buffalo mozzarella appetizer, a margherita and a pepperoni pizza.

Verdict: Was very good. Perfect chewiness in the crust, very good toppings. Asked for olive oil for the crusts and they brought a ramekin of good, nice green stuff:) Beer served very cold, toppings tasty. Could taste the brick oven firing on the outside of the chewy crust. Reasonably quick service, and got to eat outside on one of the nicest nights of the year (still, room temp, stars visible).

In my book, this beats 2 Amys and Paradiso (have yet to try Bebo for pizza or Comet)

Thanks for the rec, DonRocks!

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I am still partial to the one at 2 Amys, but the margherita I had here was about as good. It straddled the doughy/crispy line quite well.

On the other hand, my salad experience was, similar to the ones described above, not-so-good. I have no idea if the tuna in my white bean and tuna salad came out of a can, but it sure looked and tasted like it.

I'll gladly stick to the pizza and beer next time, and my friends will too.

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You're welcome! But I have to add that my recommendation had a life span: Edan MacQuaid is no longer under contract with RedRocks.

Cheers,

Rocks.

The good news is that they are certainly not feeling the effects of his departure yet.

We went last night and had a great happy hour meal and a couple drinks for $50 not including tip, which was a hell of a deal considering the quality of the food we got. We started with the Burrata Buffalo, which was a creamy, salty treat that was nice prep for our pizzas. She got the chicken and broccoli and I got the pesto with roasted chicken (she does not eat pork, so I got something I could share with her). While I love the porcine on my pizza, I did not leave regretting that I did not get any last night. The chicken was flavorful and generous, liberally spread around the pie and meshing perfectly with the ingredients on the pizza (mozz, pesto, cherry tomatoes, ricotta, and parm) and giving me a more flavorful pie than any of the non-meat versions that I have gotten at 2Amys. Also, this is my favorite crust of any of the places that I have been to (haven't tried Comet yet). A little salty, a little sweet, nice and crisp with a small soft spot in the middle, and just thick enough not to have the texture of a cracker. Hers was an interesting pie, although not quite as flavorful as mine, and the broccoli was really not needed on the pizza. Either way, they were both well cooked, and with the happy hour special of getting a cheese pie or a panzarotti for 1/2 off along with $3 house wines and $1 off drafts and rails.

The location and lack of parking might keep me from becoming a regular here, but the quality of the pies will make sure that I make it back at least every so often. I love 2Amy's pork, but overall, I think this is a better pizza.

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Friend and I went to RedRocks for lunch today. It was superb. We started with the antipasto plate, excellent combination of cheese, olives, prosciutto and salami. We also had the bruscetta, which achieved the success of keeping the bread crispy and warm while the tomato mixture cool. Our pizzas (margarita with pepperoni, sausage and onion for me, sausage for my friend) were crisp and light, with the topping cooked perfectly, especially the pepperoni. Including a couple of cokes, we got out for $60 which isn't bad for gourmet pizza. Service was good, great at the beginning when the restaurant was empty, a little less at the end when it was packed. All in all, nothing fancy but a great, great stop for a weekend lunch.

Having been together to RedRocks, Bebo and Comet in the last month, I would probably rate RedRocks a close third behind Comet and Bebo, though my friend said he liked it better than Comet. The service and general atmosphere was in any event better at RedRocks.

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Have eaten here several times now and I like the pizza better than at 2 Amy's or Comet. The pizzas here just seem so much more substantial, with a crust that holds up to the toppings better. We've tried most of their specialty pizzas - the one with salami and olives, the funghi (with mushrooms), the toscano (with sausage), the puttanesca (with mussels) and the veg (peppers, zucchini, mushrooms and ricotta). All excellent. Great beer selection - Allagash, Stella Artois and Magic Hat #9 on tap. Caesar salad appropriately anchovy-tasting although dressing is not as creamy and croutons are sometimes burnt. Roasted olives appetizer is reminiscent of 2 Amys' but good in its own right. It is already a hoppin' neighborhood place and now that the weather's nice, the outdoor patio area will be swamped. We've managed to get lucky with parking and seating getting there early for dinner around 6, especially on Sundays.

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I went with two friends on the early side (like 6:00) last Saturday and there was no wait for either inside or patio. I can't say what it would be like at a more typical dinner hour. We enjoyed the puttanesca pizza -- it is on the saucier side, which my group preferred, and the mussels and capers added good flavor. Conversely, we were not particularly enamored of the funghi pizza - it was too heavy on cheese (with no sauce to counterbalance) and too light on mushrooms.

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Has anyone been here for brunch?
Yeah. The bottomless mimosas are nice as long as they get filled. If you have four or more try to ask for a pitcher so you can just refill your own. The brunch items are decent but nothing has ever really jumped out at me enough to forego the pizza. I usually just end up ordering off the regular menu and then wheeling and dealing a few slices for a little bit of brunch fare. My brother really likes the pizza omelette. I really like the combination of stuff but the sausage makes it fairly greasy and it is really more of a frittata than a true omelette. Those things don't bother me but I thought I should mention it. I have never had to wait more than 5-10 minutes for a table (usually go around 1ish I guess) and the atmosphere is perfect for brunch, unless it is nice enough to sit outside in which case I would probably go to the beer garden at wonderland instead.
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The crust on my take-out pie wasn't really up to standards tonight (maybe it was the humid weather), but I've got to say, RedRocks' warm roasted olives are really fantastic. With lemon, bay leaves, lots of herbs, the combination just works so well...I love this stuff.

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So did a pizza tasting last night at Red Rocks and Pete's. Posted about Pete's on it's thread, but overall Red Rocks won. We ordered the margherita, salsiccia and pesto pizza. I started with a glass of Musaragno Pinot Grigio 2007 Veneto, Italy. I really liked the hints of honey in the wine, it was a nice well rounded white that wasn't really crisp, which was nice since I had just come from the gym and the sweetness was nice but not overbearing.

The margherita was my favorite. The crust was chewy but not overdone, thin, but still crusty in a rustic way. The sauce was really fresh tasting. It really tasted like nice ripe tomatoes. The buffalo mozzarella had good flavor it was buttery and creamy, but there wasn't too much cheese to overwhelm the wonderful tomato flavor.

The salsiccia was good a little more cheese, not a ton of sausage, but very well balanced in flavor between the tomato sauce, cheese and roasted red peppers.

I also really liked the pesto with ricotta, mozzarella and tomatoes. This was really creamy, but a nice balance with the basil and tomato flavor.

Overall I really liked Red Rocks. It is similar in style to 2Amy's without the wait. Next time I will have to try a few of the starters, maybe the olives. I still think 2Amy's might be better, but it is just so darn tedious to get into.

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The pies also went quite well with the "Italian piss water."

Which reminds me that the service was good in a down to earth way, especially considering the bunch they were dealing with. Our server was accommodating with a sense of humor, just the type of person you need in a low key pizza joint/bar. She wasn't easily offended, made recommendations, but not a hard sell and brought our food and drink efficiently. Really what more do you need?

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Finally re-tried RedRocks after more than a year. Not to say it was a substandard pizza, but it didn't grab me. Crust is too soft and puffy for my taste, the sauce was a little bland. Props to the populous pepperonis, however. Nice room, friendly service, good cheap wine.

Not a bad pie, but with Pete's to walk to and Vace on speed dial (not to mention Comet and Moroni's), it's not going to become a go-to place.

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The +1 and I have begun the daunting task of looking for a house to buy in DC and have been checking out Columbia Heights since neither of us was that familiar with the neighborhood. Hit up Red Rocks for lunch on Sunday (after a little wedding registering at BB&B!) and we both really loved it. We arrived around 11:45am and there would've been a wait for the patio, but it was a pretty warm day so we opted for inside. We weren't sure about the service at first since it took more than a few minutes for anyone to bring us water or for the waitress to stop by, but once we ordered the food came up really quickly.

My brain really wanted the Eggplant white pizza with goat cheese and pesto, but my partially hungover stomach asked for something more traditional. The Baked Calzone (fresh mozzarella, ricotta, spicy marinara, parmesan $9.95 plus $1.50 for pepperoni) really hit the spot. I am a crust lover (have never understood those that leave it on their plate), so I liked that the ends and folded edge of the calzone had a good amount of crusty dough. The filling was generous, but it was a good ratio, and the spicy marinara served for dipping certainly had the advertised kick. I'd be inclined to get this again, even though I really want to try the actual pizza. Having just eaten at 2 Amy's less than two weeks before, Red Rocks was the winner in my book (caveat: comparing calzone to pizza). The +1 had Capri Panini (prosciutto, salami, fontina, greens $8.50) that was served with a small mixed greens salad. The bite I had was good, but the dressing from the salad had leaked all over the plate and soaked the bottom of the bread. Not sure how to remedy this but it was a bit messy.

We weren't in the brunch mood, but the menu read well and the plates that went by looked good. I'd be especially interested in the breakfast pizza with fried egg we eyed on the way out.

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I really dig this place. Service is casual and incredibly friendly, as are the prices. The antipasto board was surprisingly yummy, with two kinds of meat, four kinds of cheese (including a ricotta that I assume is house-made and made my knees buckle just a little), roasted peppers, marinated olives, and cherry tomatoes, all drizzled with a thick balsamic that elevated the whole shebang. And of course the pizza is a knockout. The boar sausage on a special pie was phenomenal, but the overall winner was the Cipolla. It seems like lots of pizza places lately advertise caramelized onions as a topping, which unfailingly turn out to be a flaccid, white clump of watery tastelessness; RedRocks' caramelized onions are the real thing, all brown and sweet and allium-y, playing nicely with the savory sausage and (maybe a bit too) salty crust.*

Columbia Heights and I are lucky to have this place in our neighborhood.

*A hearty thanks, too, to Pete's Apizza for suggesting on their boxes that leftovers be reheated in a skillet. I used to be swear by the toaster oven, but on pizza this thin, the skillet magically brings a slice back to life, almost indistinguishable from one that was fresh from the oven the day before.

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*A hearty thanks, too, to Pete's Apizza for suggesting on their boxes that leftovers be reheated in a skillet. I used to be swear by the toaster oven, but on pizza this thin, the skillet magically brings a slice back to life, almost indistinguishable from one that was fresh from the oven the day before.

If I'm bringing pizza back to for the family, slice volume demand that I still fire up the pizza stone for a re-heat after return from the shop. When I'm just heating up a couple of slices for myself, though, the magic skillet has become the go-to technique. Not only extremely effective, but it keeps melted cheese from dripping onto the toaster oven's heating element.

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Do you put the pan on the stovetop or in the oven?

Stovetop. It takes about five minutes to heat through to the toppings. I suppose it'd work just as well in the oven, but I never want to bother turning on the oven for just a slice.

I can't imagine working well -- or at least quickly -- in the oven, as lack of direct heat would mean slow warming would likely not have the crust-crisping action of the direct heat. Unless one has a taste for carbon (which I kind of do), one should take care not to get carried away with the flame below, lest you over-char the crust. Also -- and Mrs. B came up with this, I don't know if it's on the box -- jiggering a large lid over the pan will help hold the heat in and facilitate appropriate topping-warming. Despite how it looks, this does not seem to steam up and crisp-impair the crust.

PS - That legendary badass Ray Nitschke in the picture? Guess I know what you'll be watching tonight. Seems like someone should have organized a reading of Instant Replay this weekend, no? I've long since joined the Redskins tribe, but in my youth I was quite the Packers fan and once one a cake from my mom when Bart Starr powered across the goal with 16 seconds on the clock.

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I can't imagine working well -- or at least quickly -- in the oven, as lack of direct heat would mean slow warming would likely not have the crust-crisping action of the direct heat. Unless one has a taste for carbon (which I kind of do), one should take care not to get carried away with the flame below, lest you over-char the crust. Also -- and Mrs. B came up with this, I don't know if it's on the box -- jiggering a large lid over the pan will help hold the heat in and facilitate appropriate topping-warming. Despite how it looks, this does not seem to steam up and crisp-impair the crust.

PS - That legendary badass Ray Nitschke in the picture? Guess I know what you'll be watching tonight. Seems like someone should have organized a reading of Instant Replay this weekend, no? I've long since joined the Redskins tribe, but in my youth I was quite the Packers fan and once one a cake from my mom when Bart Starr powered across the goal with 16 seconds on the clock.

I was thinking of putting the cast iron in the oven and preheating it, then dropping the slice in, but then again, if I thought it through, why not just heat the pizza stone...

I am originally from a small town north of Madison, so being a Packers fan is part of my DNA, I was able to meet Nitschke before he passed, he was a lovely person that had a passion for both the Packers and football in general, he was a bit rough around the edges, I guess that is why I loved him so much, reminded me of most of my family (same dental work as well).

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New pizza places are opening up like crazy over in NoVa the last year or so. I would say that Red Rocks is at the top of the list. The restaurant itself is very cozy and they have very good pizza. The pizzas are meant for one person but with a large appetizer might work for two people. They have diverse and interesting toppings not found at most pizza joints. As far as comparing with other places, Red Rocks is probably (pizza wise) a notch below 2 Amys, close to Pupatella in Arlington and better than Pizza Paradiso. Pizzas are cooked in a wood fired oven and are blistered on the outside but not overly crisp. The service both times we visited was very good, efficient and friendly. They have a solid beer selection as well. This is a good addition to Old Town dining.

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My +1 and I love this place, and even though we ended up buying in Brookland instead of Columbia Heights, we find ourselves stopping by for pizza before or after DC USA errands (or just heading over there for pizza!). Now that we realized we can bring our dog and sit on the patio, we might be stopping by Red Rocks even more (dangerous for both the waistline and the wallet).

Last night we shared the prosciutto and salami app special ($6) that included 3 generous slices of each meat and three pieces of bread. I could've used more bread since the portions didn't exactly match up. I has the Wild Boar white pizza ($13) with wild boar sausage, onion, black pepper and fresh mozzarella. The sausage was great with a slight gaminess and a little heat. I didn't really notice any of the advertised black pepper, and I think the pizza as a whole was missing some other element, but I can't quite figure what it would be. I've now taken to ordering a side of their spicy marinara to go with my pizza and use to dip the crusts. Yum. The +1 had the calzone ($10) and added prosciutto ($2.50). This remains one of our favorite things on the menu, although we switch up the toppings here and there.

ETA: I didn't post after our trip there a few months ago with my parents, but I will echo qwertyy's approval above of the antipasto platter. A huge serving and everything on it was delicious.

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Dined with a friend at the Alexandria location last night, my first time at RedRocks. A nice space, high ceilings, warm tones, tables spaced far enough apart that it didn't feel crowded even when it was full. Tuesdays are half-price bottle of wine, so we shared a bottle of Valpolicella (reg. $40). She got a mixed greens salad and I got a Caesar ($7 each). Hers was better. The dressing on mine had a nice olive oil in it but didn't have enough acid balance, the croutons were small and very hard, and it had a lot of large tender slices of parmesan, which to mean indicates a young cheese so the parm didn't have the crystalline salty quality that comes with age. The portions were generous I ate about 2/3 of the salad and almost none of the croutons. For the pizzas, they had a lot of leopard spotting & blistering on the crust. I got the salipocella (?) with kalamatas and italian sausage and it was tasty but I wish I had selected something a little less salty, so my bad there. Good portion and distribution of toppings. I prefer the flavor of the crust at Cafe Piazzoli (my typical pizza stop), which is still a step or two down from Pupatella's. I like a yeastier tang. The service was friendly and efficient. I like that they provide a large carafe of water for each table when you're seated. Overall, a good experience and probably the best pizza in Old Town, if I'm going to walk for pizza. If I'm in the car, I'll head for Piazzoli instead.

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