When we posted our updated list of favorite restaurants, one commenter enthusiastically recommended RedRocks pizza in Columbia Heights and the newly-opened Old Town Alexandria location. Never ones to turn down suggestions from our readers - or pizza, for that matter - we ventured up to the Columbia Heights location on one lazy Sunday afternoon. RedRocks is a perfect illustration of the revitalization of Columbia Heights. In 2007, the owners converted an old Federal-style rowhouse on a downtrodden corner into a cozy pizzeria. While still very much in transition, the neighborhood is coming to life thanks to RedRocks and its new neighbor Meridian Pint.
The bar area is small but inviting with several TVs for football watching and an interesting selection of beer on tap (including Chimay - sorry, inside joke). I fell in love with the coziness of the room and the way the sunlight warmed every inch of the brick house. This is a place you'd feel comfortable lingering in. They have a large patio area for those who want to grasp the final days of warmth before bundling up and eating inside for the Fall and Winter.
To start, we ordered the burrata di bufala salad with baby arugula, cherry tomatoes, burrata cheese, olive oil, and fresh-baked bread. The cheese was the perfect creamy consistency which paired nicely with the tangy arugula. While fresh and comforting, it needed something to add a punch of flavor. Perhaps more sea salt or a touch of balsamic?
After we got the rabbit course out of the way, it was time for the main event. I present to you, what is quite possibly my favorite pizza in DC. I know you're thinking I fell on my head and have forgotten about my 2Amys infatuation, but let me explain. I adore 2Amys and I defend them to anyone who complains about the noise, the wait times, the hard-to-get-to location. I always say that the pizza, especially the plain old 2Amys pie, is worth any hassle. While I still believe that, I've found a pie that was served without the side of hassle, and stacked up nicely in the taste department. Behold the pesto, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomato, and ricotta pizza.
I judge pizzas by their crust and this crust had me giggling with delight. It was light, yet had that sweet, doughy edge that is so hard to find, and so satisfying when you find it. The pesto and cheese combo added a good tang, but it didn't overwhelm the flavor of the dough. We couldn't stop smiling when eating this pizza. I felt like one of those over-dramatic chefs on Best Thing I Ever Ate.
To truly compare RedRocks to 2Amys, I had to order the classic Margherita pizza. While I loved the crust, the sauce was a bit on the sweet side, and a little over-saucing issue created a soupy center. Don't get me wrong, it was an excellent pizza, but I have to give the nod to 2Amys on this one.
RedRocks doesn't have toppings you've never heard of (no grana or cockles here), but they do have simple pizza done very, very well. The afternoon scene was so tranquil and the location so convenient, that I left thinking that I had a new favorite pizza place. For a more representative experience, I need to go back during the bustling evening hours to see how the atmosphere and service compare. Who wants to join us for a pizza quest? I promise you won't leave hungry.
Second Thoughts from B
When we looked at the menu, there were too many appealing options and too few mouths to accommodate them all. So being the savvy eating-machines that we are, we ordered a to-go item for dinner later that night. After joyfully filling ourselves with pizza, the waitress returned with our check and an enormous, football-sized calzone that contained fresh mozzarella, ricotta, spicy marinara, and parmesan. In other words, an Italian pinata of flavor encased in that wonderfully tasty RedRocks dough.
So let me sum up. Charming building and interior. Plenty of seating and no wait. Fantastic dough and high quality ingredients. Good non-pizza options. Could we have a new favorite on our hands?
J will tell you that I'm not much fun when playing the "what's the best?" or "what's your favorite?" game. Let me give you an example:
J: What is your favorite movie? Mine is "Big."
B: What do you mean? What kind of movie? Comedy, drama, what?
J: Just any movie.
B: It depends. Are we talking about something that is entertaining or something that makes you think?
J: I don't know. Just something that you like the most?
B: Well, it depends. Are we talking about something you can watch over and over or something that blew you away the first time?
J: Stop it [exasperated sigh], just... what's your favorite. That's it.
B: If you can't be more specific, how can I choose one?
J: Then give me a few. It's not life or death. There's no wrong answer. Just pick one... or some... or any.
B: Oh, I don't know. There's so many. I like... [insert about 20 movies with justifications and caveats for each one].
I'm guessing every group of friends has one of these people, and I'm it. Sorry. Let me make it up to you. Of all the pizza places I've tried in DC, RedRocks is my overall favorite. Period. No caveats. Well... a few. But I'll just leave it at that. You're welcome.