Pizza Reprise
[from June 2003 issue]

Take it from a devoted pizza eater: Tucking into an oven-hot pie is one of life's big treats. On the other hand, picking out the best pies in town is a pizza puzzle. Probably one of the all-time winners in the pizza parade is the often-crowded, regularly praised Dupont Circle destination, Pizzeria Paradiso.

Well, guess what. PP has cloned its menu to open up in Georgetown to a gaggle of instant fans. Look for it on M Street, in a location that is three times larger, cozier, sunnier, and more efficient than its original store. Even on a hot Sunday afternoon--when the streets of Georgetown blaze with foot and auto traffic--you can find seating. And the setting is cheery, with yellow woods, brick walls, expansive front windows, and a laid-back ambiance.

If you like the sheer drama of watching pizza cooks at work, ask for a stool at the back counter overlooking the big ovens. Otherwise, you have a choice of three distinct seating areas: the front bar and two separate dining sections, all of which add up to the elimination of those long lines that plague the Dupont Circle location.

As for the pie, we still love the Atomica with its salami, black olives, mozzarella and crushed red pepper. You will also find any one of your other favorites, including the Siciliano--with its embellishments of tomato, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, red onion, capers, and mozzarella--and the more streamlined Genovese, with potato, pesto and Parmesan. And if you want it your way, put together your own pie from among the 31 different topping selection, which range from basil to Prosciutto di Parma and goat cheese.

But don't forget to ask about the specials of the day. That way you may find the pizza of your dreams. We nearly did with the pizza topped with tomatoes and ricotta cheese with its tamed tastes--though I am personally a devotee of the Atomica, with its own bold and brassy flavors. You may also find seasonal treats, such as the asparagus spears topped with a jumble of wild mushrooms. That was an elegant treat.

The classic panini (sandwiches), served on house-baked rolls, put the average sandwich to shame. Maybe it's the lure of really good bread or perhaps the fillings are over the top. But the Tonno, a tuna salad intensified with anchovy and capers, would make the standard tuna sandwich blush with shame. But for sheer indulgence, what about the roast pork marinated with hot peppers, garlic and rosemary tucked neatly into a roll?

If you're taking a leisurely meal, consider starting with the tuna and white bean salad and a side order of the house-baked bread, the latter welcoming a dip in olive oil dusted with Parmesan cheese. And add on dessert. You'll never regret a scoop of gelato or an order of their pears marsala, but chocoholics will go wild over the chocolate salami. Despite the name, this ultra-rich chocolate delight contains no deli meat, but rather it is studded with nuts and comes with a swirl of whipped cream, all of which intensify the chocolate sinfulness of the intensely rich, intensely thick slices of chocolate "fudge."

As for beverages, you'll find the usual assortment of teas, sodas, espressos and cappuccinos, but PP also has pulled together specialty drinks, from sangria to grappatini, which is gin or vodka splashed with chamomile-flavored grappa.

Pizzeria Paradiso, 3283 M St., NW; tel., 337-1245. Hours: Mon.-Thu., 11:30am-11pm; Fri. & Sat., 11:30am-12mid.; Sun., 12noon-10pm. Pizza prices: Large pies, $14.25-$16.25. Credit cards accepted.

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