Jump to content

Pizza Zero, Bethesda - Closed

Recommended Posts

The Europop soundtrack to their website should be a clue as to the atmosphere they're trying to cultivate at Pizza Zero. It's young, hip, and curiously misplaced far from the main drag in what was formerly the parking-fascist auto parts store adjacent to Louisiana Express. No matter, it's a worthy casual addition to the Bethesda chow scene.

Pizza Zero is, first and foremost, an Argentine-style grilled pizza joint. Inside, it feels like a popular eatery in a foreign country - there's Argentine futbol on the not-too-prominent TV, more dance-beat pop playing over the sound system, and a cohort of twentysomething Spanish-accented servers who seem at once both casual and impossibly upbeat. It's not meant to be a fancy destination, but the interior is cleanly-executed with earth-tones and wood mixed with mirrors, black tabletops and banquettes.

Recently added to the menu are appetizer-sized empanadas, and they are promising. The beef ones are filled with a blend of ground meat, green olives, spices (and egg?), and apart from being a bit too greasy on the bottom, are as good as the ones I've had at El Patio. The pizza is reasonably priced; about ten bucks gets you an individual pizza that's plenty big for one. I chose the "Molotov", which has evolved a bit from the online menu description to include two types of spicy sausage. The cheese is a typical mediocre blob of goo, but the rest of the toppings came together well, if differently than what we're accustomed to in the US. The jalapenos, for instance, were neither pickled nor pre-roasted, but sliced fresh onto the pizza. The dough is well-grilled to a light crackery brown, then flipped and quickly topped as the second side cooks. The sauce has a nice smokiness. Both are made in-house, as one would hope.

Despite my disdain for cloying Argentine sweets (and those of you who know my sweet tooth will understand the severity that implies) I chose the flan con dulce de leche for dessert, and was pleasantly surprised. The flan was light, delicate and eggy. Instead of burying it in an overly sugary dulce de leche, they had piped a curlicue on top and it was a beautifully smooth caramel. One of the best flans I've had anywhere.

Service was good, I would even say it was exceptionally good for a moderately priced restaurant in this town. Also, an unexpected amount of care is taken in the presentation of some of the items...my flan was plated with little pieces of strawberry alternating with tiny cream florettes and chocolate syrup dots, while the empanada was surrounded by a decorative-but-tasty ring of young greens. It suggests that the restaurant aspires to be something better than yet-another-pizzeria. It would be interesting to see what they could do with a better grade of toppings, but I can see myself knocking down a lot of pizza and other Argentine nibbles here in the future.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's a lunch special now - an empanada, a one-topping pizza, and a soft drink for $9.99. I was able to order the alternate special, with an Argentine spicy sausage instead of the empanada.

The pizza seems to be hopelessly mired in an excess of food-service-grade mozzarella which simply overwhelms what other toppings there may be, like the Exxon Valdez washing over the shores of Prince William Sound. Which is too bad, because the grilled crust is actually pretty good. I'm going to have to experiment with specifying low cheese levels in the future.

Or forget the pizza entirely. Because I'm beginning to suspect that the non-pizza items are some of the best examples of their type in the DC area. The caprese empanada is warm and rich and even more satisfying than its counterpart at El Patio. On the dessert list, the flan remains superb, but the panqueques are tons of fun - little dulce de leche crêpes sitting on drizzles of fruit compote, topped with a bit of sugar that's been flamed to form a thin crust like a crême brulée. Be prepared to wait a couple of minutes, because they clearly make these to order. For a paltry five bucks, I can wait.

Still the best rendition of Argentine desserts I've had in the DC area.

RPLC, anybody? This is a bit south of the normal range though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My visit tonight confirms most of what ol_ironstomach experienced, including the good and the bad: tasty crust and toppings, affordable prices, way too much gobby cheese, surprisingly good service for a low-cost joint, and excellently delicate empanadas (though the cubed chicken filling was a little dry and flavorless). Though I prefer Mia's a few blocks away, I'll go back and definitely ask for them to hold back on the cheese. But will its hidden location (across from the Bethesda Crab House) and terrible parking situation discourage too many customers from experiencing its positives?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

We had lunch here on Sunday. The empanadas (one caprese and one beef) were, as has been mentioned, very good. The pizzas were okay--and again, it was that damned cheese that's the problem. My pizza with boquerones would have really been impressive--the sauce was smoky, almost like a barbecue sauce, the crust was crisp and flavorful, and those fish were very nice, just perfectly salty. But the institutional, limp and overwhelming cheese really brought my pizza down.

The people there are very nice--service was informal but good. If it weren't for the cheese, I'd be there all the time.

I'm seriously considering bringing my own cheese next time. The restaurant could charge me something equivalent to a corkage fee--a cheesage fee--and I could bring in my own mozzarella di bufala to top my pizza...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...