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Cafe Pizzaiolo, Owners Larry and Christine Ponzi's Pizza, Pasta, and Beer in Shirlington and Fairlington


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Now that's the crust I remember. I didn't put that as a subtitle to this thread on a whim. It's the gosh-darned truth. There are a lot of places in the DC area that claim NY-Style Pizza and 99% of those claims are complete bullshit. The remaining 1% come oh-so-close but no cigar. Today I had it in, of all places, that deadly, strip of foul restaurants on S. 23rd Street in Crystal City between Eads and Fern. Cafe Pizzaiolo opened up quite recently in a building on the corner that has seen businesses come and go over the past 5 years or so. I would have skipped right by this place because everything on that strip just sucks patootie. But then I saw this review in yesterday's paper and, lo and behold, I'm familiar with the owner from a past life.

Owner Larry Ponzi is one of the people responsible for the restaurant in the National Museum of the American Indian. And while it may not be fine dining, Mitsitam Cafe is one of the most unique and worthwhile places to eat in this city simply because of its special menu highlighting a broad array of Native American ingredients and recipes. That venture alone shows that Larry has class and vision. Cafe Pizzaiolo, the restaurant he just opened on his own proves he has talent.

He makes two kinds of pizza, NY-style and Neapolitan. Personally I wasn't a fan of the Neapolitan. But I wouldn't hesitate to suggest you try it, as your taste may differ. My problem is that NY style is far and away my preference. And Cafe Pizzaiolo's NY style is far and away better than any NY style pizza I've had in the area. (For the record, my preference has always been Vace, but as I said above, close but no cigar). Great crunch. Great resistance. Great chew. Just enough shimmering oil from the sausage. Wonderful yeasty flavor. Fresh tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella. Pepperoni and roasted garlic also topped my selection today. If you get it, and you should, be sure to keep it simple. The menu has a lot of toppings available that I consider questionable, such as pineapple and chicken breast, but I'm more of a purist and would also make the possession or sale of cinnamon raisin bagels a capital crime if given the chance.

Hey, so when is Bebo's pizza oven going to be running? Who cares anymore? Unless you are allergic to NY style pizza, why even consider putting up with all the service issues at Bebo?

Drinkie drinks? Aside from the fresh brewed iced tea, today there were five red wines and four white wines (including a prosecco) to choose from. All Italian and not a single cute animal on the labels. By the glass from 5-8 dollars, bottles run $19-$29, but if you choose to take your bottle to go instead of dining in the restaurant, that bottle price drops almost in half. Beers? I didn't see any drafts, but the bottle list is nothing to sneeze at. No Bud or Miller in the bunch. Bell's Two Hearted or Oberon. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA or Indian Brown Ale. Peroni. Fuel Cafe Stout from Lakefront Brewery in Wisconsin. All about $4.75/bottle.

The dining room is pleasant. Warm wood and colorful abstract oil paintings. Neon light accents and Italian advertising posters. I think it was a coffee bar, Starbucks-type knockoff before Cafe Pizzaiolo opened and you most definitely will see some resemblance. It definitely has that cafe feel. But as any Rays the Steaks diner will tell you, "who cares about decor?" (I'm also stuck thinking of George Costanza saying, "Eyebrows? Who cares about eyebrows?")

This is the kind of pizza that can be baked early in the day, left out on a tray stand and eaten by the cut slice hours later and still taste great even if it's not reheated. And he sells it by the slice too! In a world surrounded by crap delivery pizza, Pizzaiolo delivers too. So now there's no need to order delivery from anywhere else if you're in the neighborhood. Larry is an independent local businessman who lives in the area and clearly takes pride in what he does. He is EXACTLY the kind of person who needs the support and word of mouth by people like us. And he wants to hear what you think, too. So be sure to tell him.

Bottom line.......consider a visit to Cafe Pizzaiolo. If you take Metro, it's only about an 8 minute walk from the Crystal City station and essentially is no farther than going to Bebo or any of the other spots there on Crystal Drive. It's just a couple blocks further away from the river. If you like it, post it. If you don't, send me a PM first so I can come and choke you with a cinnamon raisin bagel before you have a chance to type your first vowel. wink.gif

ETA: This is $20 Tuesday country, pardners.

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Cafe Pizzaiolo's NY style is far and away better than any NY style pizza I've had in the area. (For the record, my preference has always been Vace, but as I said above, close but no cigar).

For lunch today I snarfed a 12 inch pie with peperoni, and I have to say that I agree with you wholeheartedly. While I prefer the Italian store to Vace, Pizzoilol easily beats them both. The cust, suace and cheese made for a great combination. I look forward to making Cafe Pizzaiolo a regular destination.

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Whaddyaknow, that's a better NY pizza than a fair number of NY pizzerias. Thanks for the tip!

Staff are charming and personable, but last week seemed to be suffering a number of minor oopsies ranging from system problems (salad order goes in, nothing shows up on kitchen printer) to just plain being unobservant. The fact that they were visibly wilting (main A/C had crapped out, and the pizza oven just pours heat into the entire space) made a lot of that forgiveable.

But the pizza...that's a proper crust lurking under that inexpensively-priced, non-fancy-ass pizza. Thin, good chew, just a little blistering. Bonus points for using decent fresh mushrooms.

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This is far and away the best pizza in the area (that I've tried--haven't yet been to Two Amy's). Thin crust with a good bite to it. Zesty tomato sauce and just the right amount of sauce and cheese to allow the crust to retain the ability to "snap" when you fold the slice in half. This is the pizza I've been waiting for to come around here...not to mention the prices. Iced tea, a small Caesar salad and a 12" NY pizza set me back $10. Service was nothing to write home about, but they keep the flow going and the dining area swept and clean. I'm a new regular of theirs, starting today.

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Definitely check this place out, especially if you live/work in Virginia and in Crystal City. I'm a regular at 2 Amy's but the NY-style pizza here is great. Thin sourdough crust is as described above and perfectly cooked throughout. We had the caesar salad (wasn't the best i've ever had but just the right amount of dressing, real grana padano shredded on top, good croutons) and a large pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and roasted garlic. The sauce was not sweet or overpowering, and the mushrooms were fresh - two kinds - plain and baby bella. Decent selection of wines by the glass as well as interesting bottled beers (you can create your own custom 6-pack to go). Soda, Honest Teas, San Pellegrino and San Benedetto options for non-alcohol drinkers. In addition to the NY style pizza (plain cheese to which you can add other toppings), they also serve a Neopolitan with a different crust. The Cafe also serves sandwiches - italian, meatball, philly cheesesteak, reuben, etc. and panini. Desserts include cheesecake, biscotti, brownies/blondies and gelato (chocolate, pistachio, berry and a seasonal flavor). Affordable, no frills, with friendly service. I've seen several restaurants come and go from this spot, but would like to see Cafe Pizzaiolo succeed.

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Stopped in last night and got 2 pies. We ordered one Neapolitan and the other with a NY style crust, but both were NY style. Or I am hoping that was the case as there was not much difference in the crusts at all. Both were good, but nothing special so I guess I am not a fan of the super thing crispy crust. I prefer a perfectly done pizza at 2 Amy's to what I had last night. That said, the price is right and I will be back.

The gelato, made by "some Italian place in Annapolis" is not worth getting excited about.

Anyone try a sub yet?

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Anyone try a sub yet?

I had a breakfast sandiwch (egg, sausage, cheese on a bagel) a few weeks ago - does that count? ;)

(Very standard-issue ingredients which you'd often find microwaved, but here they were heated up properly. Got a refill cup of coffee to-go and was not charged (probably because they were so new and completely empty, and I think they appreciated the business). I noticed they had a worthwhile selection of wines, and I'm still looking forward to getting back here for a pizza or two - a hair's width away two nights ago before succumbing to the temptations of Eleventh Street Lounge.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I agree that this pizza is terrific. I lived in Rome for some time and survived on the pizza there as a college student. I have never found anything like it in DC, but the Neapolitan style at Pizzaiolo makes a great effort. There seems to be an effort for authenticity that I rarely see--thin crust, both chewy and crisp, slightly charred; tart and sweet sauce spread to the edges of the crust; pools of mozzarella spread judiciously around the pizza; torn basil leaves adorned at the end. The beauty of an excellent pizza is its simplicity. You don't get the idyllic setting looking out the window at the Crystal City Restaurant, but how can you beat the price?

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Nice first post! I went back today and introduced my wife and little girl to this place. Needless to say, the pizzas were fantastic and I have to say that the service is refreshing and polite as well. They are very accomodating to children (special seating arrangements, crayons, coloring books, etc.) and introduce table service during the slower times of the day. Cheers to Julie, who didn't seem to mind cleaning up the cup of water my daughter spilled. (Believe me, I overtipped for that one!) ;)

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We live nearby and are confirmed pizza junkies. We finally got around to giving this place a try.

I was really impressed. We had a Neapolitan with Kalamata olives and baby bella mushrooms. The service was efficient and polite and the pizza did indeed rock.

This is one of those "cursed locations" - it's changed hands a few times since I've lived in the hood (five years). They appear to be a family-run business and I sure hope they last.

I'm a little worried at how close they are. This could be dangerous. I guess I'll have to do my part!

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I had a "lunch" size NY pizza here yesterday, and it was everything promised in this thread. Perfectly cooked, thin crust, a slightly sweet sauce, blistering cheese -- it was great for lunch, but I only ate half of it, and had the other one for dinner.

With this place and the reported messianic slice at Bebo, Crystal City is looking pretty good right now in the pizza department.

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Pizzaiolo delivers to my house, the importance of this news cannot be minimized since almost every other delivery option sucks so bad. My first attempt at getting the pizza delivered was a comedy of errors, they could not get the street name correct (it only has four letters) and had to call to check it. Then the delivery guy showed-up with a small pepperoni pizza, I ordered a large sausage and pepperoni. He took it back and also brought some gelato and a cookie to make amends. The pizza was hot, and damned good so even with the errors I will call them the next time I want pizza delivered.

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I love Pizzaiolo's delivery guidelines! I live in Fairlington (near the old Copeland's) and called a few weeks ago to see if they would deliver. The answer was that they would deliver to me if they weren't busy (Monday-Thursday before 7:00 but probably not ever during lunch "primetime") and I called, they would bring it out this way with no delivery charge.

As convenient as it would be to have them offer delivery all the time, I was happy to know that they didn't confine themselves to a certain zip code or short radius, but would rather make the most of the slower times of the day.

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I love Pizzaiolo's delivery guidelines! I live in Fairlington (near the old Copeland's) and called a few weeks ago to see if they would deliver.
They sounded very busy when I called, so that most likely led to the original delivery taking a little more than an hour. But they had no issues with delivering to the other side of Fairlington (right by the community center), well no issues other than sending the wrong pizza.
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I love Pizzaiolo's delivery guidelines! I live in Fairlington (near the old Copeland's) and called a few weeks ago to see if they would deliver. The answer was that they would deliver to me if they weren't busy (Monday-Thursday before 7:00 but probably not ever during lunch "primetime") and I called, they would bring it out this way with no delivery charge.

As convenient as it would be to have them offer delivery all the time, I was happy to know that they didn't confine themselves to a certain zip code or short radius, but would rather make the most of the slower times of the day.

They did the same for me in Old Town, saying if I put in an order most days before 6 or 6:30 they could make it happen, which is great.

I also dined-in for the first time here the other night, and the service was very attentive, in fact it was fantastic.

And I agree with Crescent Fresh and Shaggy, CP is being wronged by being left out of the great pizza debate taking place here.

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My wife and I recently had lunch here and were pleasantly surprised. I find that all too often the promise of a decently prepared and balanced brick oven pizza or wood fired falls flat. I ordered the NY, with just cheese, and my wife had the Neapolitan, Margarita. I found both to be well prepared. The crust held up well throughout the meal. I found the cheese on both to be prefect in taste and amount. While mine was perfect I would recommend a touch of sea salt on the Margarita would make my wife’s pizza perfect

I look forward to returning and exploring more.

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I am with those who say that the NY style is far superior than the Neapolitan. In fact, I would put the NY style on par with most in NYC, though certainly not at the level of Grimaldi's. The Neapolitan had a decent crust but was way too bland, mostly because of the generic quality of tomatoes and cheese. Two Amy's is still the undisputed king around there for that IMO.

Hopefully this place will last.

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I was happy to know that they didn't confine themselves to a certain zip code or short radius, but would rather make the most of the slower times of the day.
This appears to have changed, as their carry-out menu lists 4 specific zip codes (22202, 22301, 22302, 22305). Unfortunately, Old Town proper (22314) isn't one of them - they seem to cover the Del Ray, Beverly Hills-ish area.

After a chat on Friday with Crescentfresh and Black Sheep about Cafe Pizzaiolo, I had a hankering and ordered a few pies to take home. I got one of each - a Neopolitan w/pepperoni and mushrooms and a New York Diavolo (Hot Italian Sausage, Spicy Peppered Cheese and Mixed Roasted Peppers). Both were good, maybe slightly less crispy than I'd been hoping for. The New York style was the preference that night - it definitely had a kick from all the hot and spicy toppings. The Neopolitan was good, with proper fresh mushrooms - portobello maybe? - that had a good texture and flavor. I heated up a leftover piece of the Neopolitan this afternoon in the little convection oven at work and I think it was even better than the other night!

Service was super-friendly; only downside is trying to find a parking space to run in and pick up a carryout order - not easy on a Saturday with lots of football fans in the neighborhood :( . It was nice to see the place busy at 9:00 on a dreary night.

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This appears to have changed, as their carry-out menu lists 4 specific zip codes (22202, 22301, 22302, 22305). Unfortunately, Old Town proper (22314) isn't one of them - they seem to cover the Del Ray, Beverly Hills-ish area.

I'm in Fairlington (off King St.) in 22206 and they just delivered to me on Sunday. I think they only guarantee delivery at any time to the listed zip codes, but if you call during off-hours, they'll generally deliver if you are moderately close.

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I'm in Fairlington (off King St.) in 22206 and they just delivered to me on Sunday. I think they only guarantee delivery at any time to the listed zip codes, but if you call during off-hours, they'll generally deliver if you are moderately close.

They will deliver to 22314 if it isn't prime time pizza deliver hours (before 6:30 on weekdays, I believe).

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Sometimes I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that restaurants are about more than what's on the plate.

I hadn't been to Cafe Pizzaiolo since last summer, when I pretty much raved about the pizzas. Last Friday night at 6:30, I was disappointed with both a small Caprese ($11.95) and a small New York Pizza ($8.50) with pepperoni and Italian sausage ($1.50 each), the primary issues being with the crusts, which in both pizzas was dense and lacked flavor. The toppings themselves were adequate, but these pizzas were mere shadows of the fantastic pies I had here last summer.

Taking a closer look at the situation, the restaurant was overrun with families: Children were everywhere, eating bags of Goldfish, coloring with restaurant-supplied crayons, crying in their strollers - people talk about 2 Amys being Child Central, but Cafe Pizzaiolo certainly gives it a run for the money.

And that's because it's such a family-friendly establishment, actively encouraging families with children to come in and enjoy a meal with games, doodling pads, high chairs, children's menus, and a general attitude that children are more than welcome in their restaurant. Nowhere was this more evident than with our wonderful server Laura, who immediately took a liking to my young dining companion, the two developing a rapport which lasted throughout the entire meal. After I had paid the check, she asked him if he'd like to try some gelato (looking over to me to see if it was okay), then took him up behind the counter and let him try six tiny spoonfuls - he came back with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.

I wish I had better things to report about the pizzas, but the overall dining experience more than compensated.

And a very good and well-priced selection of beer and wine, too.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Taking a closer look at the situation, the restaurant was overrun with families: Children were everywhere, eating bags of Goldfish, coloring with restaurant-supplied crayons, crying in their strollers - people talk about 2 Amys being Child Central, but Cafe Pizzaiolo certainly gives it a run for the money.

And that's because it's such a family-friendly establishment, actively encouraging families with children to come in and enjoy a meal with games, doodling pads, high chairs, children's menus, and a general attitude that children are more than welcome in their restaurant. Nowhere was this more evident than with our wonderful server Laura, who immediately took a liking to my young dining companion, the two developing a rapport which lasted throughout the entire meal. After I had paid the check, she asked him if he'd like to try some gelato (looking over to me to see if it was okay), then took him up behind the counter and let him try six tiny spoonfuls - he came back with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.

I wish I had better things to report about the pizzas, but the overall dining experience more than compensated.

It really is hard to overstate the kid-friendly thing when you are a Dad with an infant, and making it through the day until Mom comes home can degenerate quickly into a matter of survival. Being able to have a good, quick meal and a glass of wine or a beer (hey, she's teething, the days can be looooong) and be at ease if she throws something on the ground is really nice.

Someone may have pointed this out, but they're open on Sundays now which was not the case early on. Makes a great alternative to bland brunches.

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I'm sorry to hear that the pizza has gotten inconsistent. I live nearby and will order for delivery from time to time (kid-friendly is not a plus for me).

I am happy to hear they are open Sundays now. It's the night I least want to cook. On the other hand, perhaps I wish I didn't know...

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I'm sorry to hear that the pizza has gotten inconsistent. I live nearby and will order for delivery from time to time (kid-friendly is not a plus for me).

I am happy to hear they are open Sundays now. It's the night I least want to cook. On the other hand, perhaps I wish I didn't know...

The last pizza I got from Pizzaiolo was definitely not as good as I'd had before, but it was still a lot better than 90% of the other pizza options around here. (I agree with Don--the toppings were fine, but the crust didn't have that familiar "snap" to it and was a bit doughy.) Maybe they just recently hired a new cook or something? I'm sure it will be back to normal very soon if it isn't already...I hope. :mellow:

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I'm sorry to hear that the pizza has gotten inconsistent. I live nearby and will order for delivery from time to time (kid-friendly is not a plus for me).

I'm torn between two worlds here. I have no children and have been to many a "kid-friendly" restaurant where the kidfriendliness pushed into the adultunpleasantness category. But I have many friends with young children, too, and it is not uncommon for me to visit or even seek out restaurants that are kid-friendly. CP most definitely is one of those places where they young folks are welcome with open arms but, in all honesty, I have never found even the slightest impingement when I'm trying to have an adults-only evening. CP is not an intimate, fine dining establishment to begin with, so hustle and bustle that accompanies meals with full families is not unexpected. And, frankly, it reminds me very much of the dining norm in some European and Latin American countries, where families go out to eat AS FAMILIES, and while they may not necessarily be catered to with games and crayons there, I think it's rather pleasant to see CP as the sort of restaurant that's able to cater to the needs of all.

Either through dining in, delivery or take out, I'm probably eating CP about twice a week these days. And while the pizza gets all the attention, I want to point out the gnocchi special I had on Friday. Perfect density to the dough, it was prepared with mushrooms, garlic, white wine and parmesan. And absolutely mouthwateringly delicious. Of the several gnocchi preparations I've had there, this one was far and away the finest of them all. If you see it on the specials board, try it.

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I went last night for the first time with some friends. We each ordered a small pizza, on NY style, the other Neapolitan. Enjoyed a Bells 2-hearted while we waited for our pies. I noticed the manager, who came over to talk to us later, checking each pie as it came out of the oven. He sent one back that wasn't done to his liking. The other pizzas were served, with an explanation from both the waiter and the manager about the one pie. When his pie came out, there were only 3 slices - apparently one had stuck to the oven. Rather than make him wait for an entire new pie, they brought out the 3 sliced pie, promising to make thing right. Not too much later, they brought him another entirely new pizza. He was quite suprised, thinking he'd only get his missing slice. Not that any of us complained. I'd say the manager is top notch there. Anyway, to the pizzas. I had a basic neapolitan, which I really liked, but the crust wasn't quite as crispy as I thought it would be. My husband's NY style crust was more to my liking, tender and crispy (other have described it better than I can). I've never seen him so excited about a pizza (other than one place in NYC). So, I know we'll be back (or get take out). I must say, I like walking to our little neighborhood pizza place, but this is worth getting in the car for.

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Any credence to the rumor that they're opening another incarnation in Del Ray?

That would be great news, if only because it would be a nice indication that it's not going the way of all other tenants of that spot. I thought it was one of those cursed locations - I didn't even try it for quite a while, and I live walking distance (for shame).

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That would be great news, if only because it would be a nice indication that it's not going the way of all other tenants of that spot. I thought it was one of those cursed locations - I didn't even try it for quite a while, and I live walking distance (for shame).
The owner himself told me that they were opening a carryout in the old Eight Hands Round/Artfully Chocolate space. If you peep in the window you can see the start of pizza equipment. (yes.I'm that nosy ) I;m sure there will be hoops from the city to jump through since it was not previously a food place. It is difficult to say if it will even be allowed. I hope it works. Their pizza is really good and owner is a Del Ray resident and a good,energetic guy.
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The owner himself told me that they were opening a carryout in the old Eight Hands Round/Artfully Chocolate space. If you peep in the window you can see the start of pizza equipment. (yes.I'm that nosy ) I;m sure there will be hoops from the city to jump through since it was not previously a food place. It is difficult to say if it will even be allowed. I hope it works. Their pizza is really good and owner is a Del Ray resident and a good,energetic guy.

This would definitely be on my rotation if true!

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The owner himself told me that they were opening a carryout in the old Eight Hands Round/Artfully Chocolate space. If you peep in the window you can see the start of pizza equipment
Newest location just took over Hector's on the bottom floor of the Calvert Apartment building. Now with del merei and Bombay curry, another great dinning option, and again, plenty of parking. Awesome news.

OK, which is it?

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The owner himself told me that they were opening a carryout in the old Eight Hands Round/Artfully Chocolate space. If you peep in the window you can see the start of pizza equipment
Newest location just took over Hector's on the bottom floor of the Calvert Apartment building. Now with del merei and Bombay curry, another great dinning option, and again, plenty of parking. Awesome news.

OK, which is it?

He has both but I only care about the location near me :-)

Just to confirm what Cook&Bottlewasher wrote: It's both. I didn't drive by the Artfully Chocolate location, but the Calvert space looks like it's on the verge of opening.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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The owner himself told me that they were opening a carryout in the old Eight Hands Round/Artfully Chocolate space. If you peep in the window you can see the start of pizza equipment. (yes.I'm that nosy ) I;m sure there will be hoops from the city to jump through since it was not previously a food place. It is difficult to say if it will even be allowed. I hope it works. Their pizza is really good and owner is a Del Ray resident and a good,energetic guy.
Alexandria Planning Commission has the following on the docket for their Nov. 6 meeting:

SPECIAL USE PERMIT #2008-0067

116 EAST DELRAY AVE

PIECE OUT

This is the address for the space that formerly housed Artfully Chocolate. How cool - a slice followed by frozen custard, all within steps of each other :lol:

Hopefully all will go well with the City and we won't have to wait TOO long for this new addition to the Del Ray lineup.

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Took a peek in the new location in the Calvert before dinner at Del Merei on Saturday. They were open, but a sign indicated that they weren't running full speed and that they were only offering a small bar menu. Not sure what this meant, exactly, or if they were even serving pizza yet.

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Took a peek in the new location in the Calvert before dinner at Del Merei on Saturday. They were open, but a sign indicated that they weren't running full speed and that they were only offering a small bar menu. Not sure what this meant, exactly, or if they were even serving pizza yet.

The bar there has never closed that I noticed, save for maybe one day last week where they were doing some work. At least I've always thought the bar and restaurant were attached.

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The bar there has never closed that I noticed, save for maybe one day last week where they were doing some work. At least I've always thought the bar and restaurant were attached.

I hope that bar goes non-smoking. Even when it was Hectors, the smoke drifted into the dining room to the point where I wouldn't return (that plust the food didn't merit a return).

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I just kind of made that assumption based on the name: Piece (slice) Out (to go).... I could be completely off base.

I have a vague recollection of asking them about this once, and them saying that they don't. So, I'm not 100% sure, but i don't think they sell by the slice.

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Just had lunch there.

Friendly if a bit scattered service (it was after lunch, so that's probably why, but it took a bit of persistence to get the check). Had the NYC style daily pizza, which was pepperoni and onions. Quite tasty, if a bit greasy - I expected that, it's okay, it's what you get off fresh tasting meat and cheese.

Price was quite right, too.

Glad I went, will have to go there more often. Definitely one of the best pizzas I've had in quite a while.

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