Piola pizzeria, with locations literally around the world, opened a new branch recently on 14th Street near Florida in the U Street neighborhood. It looks small from the outside, but opens up to a large ground and second floors along with a back patio.
The menu is extensive and takes some time to get through. We decided to stick to pizzas and ordered 5 for the group, forgoing pastas (pretty standard – pesto, marinara), antipasti and some hearty-sounding salads. Happy hour runs from 5-8 and drink prices including $4 wines and beer apply to people seated for dinner, which was a nice surprise.
In general we found the pizza to be soggy on arrival, even when freshly baked. This was a little disappointing, but there were some high points flavor-wise. Funghi misti (sauteed mixed mushrooms) and parma with roasted eggplant were our favorites, with a good balance of toppings, sauce and cheese.
The parma was extra saucy and zippy, reminding us eggplant parmesan.
We also tried the quattro formaggi, braccio di ferro with ricotta and spinach, and Miami Beach with fresh mozzarella, arugula and tomatoes.
Everyone agreed that the four cheese pizza was overly salty and rich, maybe as a result of too much brie. We like Paradiso’s version better, where fresh mozzarella tempers the saltier cheeses and gorgonzola and garlic spice things up.
Braccio di ferro was nice, with pillowy mounds of ricotta and sauteed spinach. All it needed was a dash of salt and we were good to go.
The arugula and tomato pizza was, predictably, a cheese pizza with a salad on it. It’s a tasty salad because you can’t really mess up arugula, but we’d rather go for a real salad and let the pizza be a pizza.
One thing to note is that the ‘individually sized’ pizzas are a bit too big for one person but not enough for two people to share, so get ready for some creative group ordering (maybe throw in pasta or a salad) or leftover boxes.
Boxes in hand, we turned to dessert. We were intrigued by two that promised ‘cookie cups’, which just turn out to be large wafers without much flavor. The chocolate sauce, on the other hand, was rich and tasty, as was the chocolate cake in the torta nera (not shown).
With its solid if not exactly crispy pizzas, generous happy hours and portions, and large patio, Piola is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
2208 14th St NW