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I recently gave directions to a woman visiting DC from Alaska with her daughter. She just so happened to be vegetarian, and asked where they should get lunch. Without blinking an eye, I told her to go straight to Pizzeria Paradiso.

Pizzeria Paradiso makes the best pizza I’ve had in any DC restaurant. Just smell the crust and you’ll know. Over the past few years, I, along with Meera, Eric and others, have crafted the perfect Paradiso experience. None of it is exactly on the menu, but the staff are really nice about substitutions. So, here’s the deal:

To start, order the Insalata Mista (no longer on the menu) with goat cheese, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s just a mixed green salad with a light balsamic vinaigrette, and the additions make it awesome. They used to make the salad just like this and I’m lobbying to get it put back on the menu. Our favorite server, Tony, knows all about it so just ask for him if he’s around, and tell them I sent you!

Still life of salad with creepy fork

For your pizza, order a large (12-inch) Margherita with minced garlic added, and with buffalo mozzarella instead of regular. Just look at that cheese. You won’t be disappointed, and it’s perfect for two people.

The one drawback is that you might wait up to an hour and a half to get seated, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. They do not take reservations, so I recommend going on a weeknight. Even then, you may have to wait but it won’t be horrendous. The staff manage to stay remarkably calm even as people clamor to get in for the delicious pizza

For about $4, they’ll even sell you a ball of dough to take home and make your own delicious 12-inch pizza.

2003 P Street NW, Washington DC

Other locations:

3282 M Street NW, Washington DC

124 King Street, Alexandria VA