Our Never-Ending Search for the Best Pizza in DC

I haven’t met many pizza haters in my lifetime. Even those who are gluten-free search for the best pizza in DC to satisfy their cravings.

Pizza DC

At this point in American history, pizza is a national staple, unofficially adopted from its birthplace across the ocean in Italy. New York, New Jersey and Chicago all have their unique renditions, taken from Italian influence and made their own.

What type of pizza does D.C. make?

Those variations are now spreading a new pizza identity to a growing audience of receptive and adventurous pizza eaters. The Washington DC pizza scene is a microcosm of a nationwide pizza evolution.

Locals and visitors alike are ready to celebrate and experience first hand the delicious flavors of all pizza iterations across the District.

A Short, Personal History of Pizza in D.C.

As a child growing up in Washington, D.C., I have distinct memories of dining at the Pennsylvania Avenue New York Pizza, many times with my Girl Scout troop or after sledding on a nearby hill during rare D.C. winter snowstorms.

The large greasy slices, topped with powdery parmesan cheese straight out of glass shakers, will always have a special place in my heart. But DC’s pizza scene has reached new heights since the peak of my New York Pizza obsession.

How to find the best Washington DC Pizza?

When it comes to finding the best pizza in D.C., you need to eat a lot of it, and head across the city in search of the best. While I grew up eating plenty of pizza, these days you will find that Washington, D.C. is a pizza melting pot.

From Neapolitan pizza blueprints taken straight from the streets of Italy to Detroit’s thick and cheesy square slices, and NY-style pizza in foldable, triangle slices —there is something for everyone.

And since this is a quest, I continue to try pizza across the DMV in search of the most delicious, cheapest, and extreme so you can find it too.

Best Pizza in D.C.

On my quest to find Washington, D.C.’s best pizza, I was excited to discover—and rediscover—new pizza spots and old personal favorites. After 2020, the restaurant industry looks very different from when I was growing up.

Despite a slightly different eating experience, some restaurants going to take-out only, my pizza ordering and tasting is still an absolute thrill.

Il Canale

  • Address: 1065 31st Street, NW, 20007 (Georgetown)
  • Seating: Heated outdoor seating, pick-up, and delivery available
  • Family friendly? Kids options/menu available
  • Gluten free? Gluten-free pizza and pasta available (Cross contamination possible)

Tucked just down the road from Georgetown’s bustling M street, Il Canale is possibly THE Italian epicenter of this city corner. Thirty-first Street’s narrow path is now overtaken by heated outdoor seating, designed with safety in mind for all of DC’s hungry and stir crazy eaters.

On the other side of the rain proof tents, the host is waiting by the restaurant entrance to check for in-house reservations or direct you to the left wing of the Il Canale awning to pick up a take-out order. The decor inside is modern and minimalist, studded with Italian accent pieces on the walls and a large mural that takes you right to the streets of Italy.

It’s the perfect ambience for a casual date or an intimate dinner celebration.

Founder and owner Joe Farruggio is originally from Sicily, but found himself enamored with the simple intricacies of Neapolitan pizza. After a trip to Napoli, he adopted the ‘true’ Neapolitan pizza style and precise pizza-making process and opened Il Canale in 2010.

Il Canale is one of a few DC pizza establishments that holds a certificate from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certification, known as a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata or Controlled Designation of Origin).

To earn this, the dough has to be made only of ’00’ flour, sea salt, fresh yeast and water. Certifiable toppings only venture so far as San Marzano tomatoes, fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, sea salt and olive oil. Under the guidelines, all pizzas have to be cooked inside a screaming hot (around 800 degrees Fahrenheit) domed wood-burning oven.

But Il Canale’s DOC certified classic pizza Margherita is only the tip of the iceberg. All other pizza options fall under either Le Bianche (no tomato sauce) or Le Rosse (tomato sauce), with a range of toppings that make each pizza unique.

The pizzas are only a portion of the menu though. Cold and hot antipasto, pasta, salads and secondi (main dishes) provide dinner guests with plenty of options.

Pupatella

  • Address: 1801 18th St, NW, 20009
  • Seating: Heated outdoor and indoor seating available, Pick-up available, No delivery
  • Family Friendly? Kids menu available
  • Gluten free? Gluten-free options (Cross contamination possible)

The Pupatella empire started in Arlington, Virginia in 2010, but the popular Neapolitan pizza quickly grew fans across the Potomac in Washington, D.C.

So, when the first DC location in Dupont Circle opened in summer of 2020, neighbors far and wide were ecstatic. This location has three eating options: indoor dining, outdoor patio dining with heaters, and a pick-up window just to the left of the restaurant entrance.

If you do venture inside to dine, you’ll be entertained by an open kitchen with a direct view of all pizza-making production.

Like Il Canale, Pupatella obtained a coveted certificate from the Verace Pizza Association, which they prescribe as THE “definition of true Neapolitan pizza”. Their 11-inch pies are everything you could ask for in a pizza—the crust is chewy, airy and moist on the inside with a crisp and delicately charred exterior.

The toppings range from classic to more adventurous, but it’s safe to say their DOC-certified Margherita pizza is a city-wide favorite in that category. The mushroom pizza is perfection for the cheesy mushroom lover, featuring a decadent cream sauce base, sautéed mushrooms, brie cheese and truffle oil.

For the acclaimed pesto aficionado, the pesto pizza is the perfect combination of nutty, cheesy and crusty. And the pepperoni pizza is a meat lover’s dream.

Their panini are made with the same pizza dough fired up in a specially crafted shiny red-tiled wood fire pizza oven. This red hot Napoli native gets cleaned everyday between 3:30 and 4:30pm, so no pizza is available during this time.

Pizza Paradiso

  • Address: multiple locations
    • 2003 P Street, NW, 20036 (Dupont Circle area
    • 3282 M Street, NW, 20007 (Georgetown)
  • Seating: Heated outdoor and indoor seating available, Pick-up available, Delivery available
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options? Gluten-free pizza available (Cross contamination possible)

The original Pizza Paradiso opened in 1991 in a Dupont Circle townhouse. There, one of the first renditions of expertly and thoughtfully crafted pizza began to touch the lives of D.C. residents.

The Dupont restaurant has since sized up to accommodate local pizza demand. But it’s not just pizza that sets Pizza Paradiso apart from other pizzerias. Founder Ruth Gresser differentiates her Neapolitan-style pizza parlor from all others with an extensive beer selection that amplifies beer’s space in the pizza eating world.

Beer experts and novices can choose from a large list of draft brews, cask-conditioned ales, and refreshing bottled beers to accompany the pizza.

Pizzas come in two different sizes—9 and 12-inch—with gluten-free or whole-wheat crust substitutions available. The original crust has a lovely cracker-like crunch to it, and when paired with four different cheeses (quatro formaggi), the creamy, cheesy combo results in my personal favorite menu item.

Etto

  • Address: 1541 14th Street, NW, 20005
  • Seating: No in-house dining currently available, Pick-up and delivery services available
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options? No Gluten-free pizza available (other naturally GF options are available, best to check if safe for gluten allergy)

Etto ticks so many boxes, the most obvious being delicious pizza, but also the community this quaint restaurant has built among DC residents. Memories of eating in the bright and inviting space has me eagerly waiting for a day when I can return for a sit-down dining experience we are all desperately craving.

The inside decor is strewn with warm wood features, bright rustic tile and red toned brick walls. The large food counter with snacks at the ready, freshly baked bread and a leg of cured meat lures you in for a night of fun in their casual yet refined setting.

To the right of the counter, a few special guests can sit on stools for an immersive eating experience.

Etto has one of the most enticing and enchanting pizza crusts I have ever put in my mouth. The char on the crust is unafraid and deeply satisfying, with an interior that is off the charts light, airy and nutty. The pizza selection ranges from the traditional Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil) and Marinara (tomato, oregano, sea salt, no cheese) to more creative pies like their Romanesco cauliflower pizza with fontina cheese and Polpettini pizza studded with little lamb meatballs.

Etto’s menu is by no means limited to pizza. The long list also features bar bites, charcuterie meats and cheeses, small vegetable-forward dishes and salads, and a selection of warm Mediterranean inspired casserole bakes.

Before you jump straight to the pizza, make sure to order the roasted Marcona almonds. They taste like they were just lifted from the fryer and hit with a judicious hand of sea salt, chili flakes, and toasted fennel seed—the perfect way to wet your appetite before diving head first into a night of delicious pizza.

The house-baked bread is also a must and best served with extra virgin olive oil and flaky salt.

On good weather days, Etto operates a sidewalk stand outside where they dish out hot and cold beverages, snacks and regular menu orders. Their ‘Bring Home Dinner’ section of the menu is a great way to sample a few things at once with a fixed price.

The combinations range from pizza and salad to a 6-course menu collection that includes pizza, choice of sides and dessert. If it’s really time to celebrate, you can go straight for the pizza and wine bottle pairing.

Stellina Pizzaria

  • Address: 399 Morse Street, NE, 20002 (Union Market area)
  • Seating: Limited outdoor dining available (no indoor dining), Pick-up and delivery available
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options? No Gluten-free pizza available

Stellina Pizzeria opened a few years ago, joining a rapidly growing Union Market restaurant family. Shortly after opening, word of their cacio e pepe pizza circulated amongst DC pizza enthusiasts. The rest is history.

Stellina’s indoor eating space is on the smaller side, but the decor keeps the ambience bright and modern, with lots of stools to maximize every inch of dine-able real estate. The energy inside is best described as casual and fast moving, with ample opportunity to relish and celebrate the culture of Italian street food and coastal delicacies.

Friends and co-founders Antonia Matarazzo and chef Matteo Venini describe their pizza style as ‘Neo-Neapolitan’ with a ‘distinctly crispy crust’ that holds a wide array of creative toppings.

The can’t miss, critically acclaimed cacio e pepe pizza is inspired by the traditional Roman pasta dish made with freshly-cracked black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. I love to start my meal with the ‘cuoppo misto’ for a pre-dinner coastal Italian seafood snack. Other pizza favorites include the Piccante, Affumicata, Corraziere and Basilico alla Genovese. 

If you stop by Stellina’s website, you will be left with one very impactful message… ‘Buon appetito amici. The Italians are back.’ And DC is very grateful.

Menomale

  • Address: two locations
    • 2711 12th Street, NE, 20018 (Brookland)
    • 33 N Street, NE, 20002 (NOMA)
  • Seating: Heated outdoor dining available, Take-out available, and Delivery available from Doordash/Caviar on week days
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options?Gluten free pizza available

Menomale opened their first Brookland restaurant in 2012, joining the club of Verace-certified pizzerias in Washington, D.C. and luring in neighbors with their down to earth Italian bistro-style and masterfully crafted pizza dough.

The dough is multifunctional, serving as the base for calzones (folded and stuffed pizza), panuozzo (wood fired sandwiches), and of course, their traditional round Neapolitan pizzas.

The crust is so good, I would order one of each just to load up on the light, chewy and crispy crust. It’s hard to go wrong, but my favorite pizzas include the ‘Verdone’, ‘Di Ettore’, and ‘Terra’.

Lucky for NOMA residents, Menomale opened their second location a few months ago.

At this time, Menomale is only allowing outdoor seating on their covered patio. Plenty of heaters, along with piping hot pizza, is sure to keep all guests warm during the cold winter months.

Pro tip: Don’t be scared if your pizza arrives unsliced. Menomale serves their pizzas true to Napoli’s traditional style—unsliced. If asked, they are more than happy to slice your pie.

2 Amy’s

  • Address: 3715 Macomb Street, NW, 20016
  • Seating: Curbside pick up only
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options? Gluten-free pizza available

Tucked in between northwest DC’s Woodley Park and McLean Gardens, and just up the road from the National Cathedral, sits the rustic and warm 2 Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria.

2 Amys has been sending waves throughout the District’s pizza scene for two decades. They brought D.C.’s first ever Verace certificate to the city when they opened in 2001 and became a staple in local pizza vernacular and conversation.

As a District native, every pizza conversation I’ve ever had within the city limits features a mention about this institution, proving their long-standing influence in the D.C. pizza scene

As far as the menu is concerned, 2 Amys ticks a box for every kind of pizza eater. One of my favorite pizzas is the Etna 2.0 with a tomato base, fried eggplant and large pieces of smoked mozzarella.

The Vongole mimics the components of pasta alle vongole, layering flavors of cooked clams, garlic, parsley, and chili flakes on top of a gorgeously blistered dough.

The NoAmys pizza bianca is a rare find on this side of the Atlantic, perfect for the minimalist pizza lover who lights up at the sight of naked dough coated in olive oil and sea salt.

Timber

  • Address: 809 Upshur Street, NW, 20011
  • Seating: Take-out only
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options? No GF pizza options available

Like 2 Amys, Timber is only doing take-away. But despite a lack of in-house patrons, the restaurant cannot be missed with the help of hanging colored lights, a row of Black Lives Matter posters spanning the length of the entrance and a pick-up table right in front.

Whether you call to place an order or order online, you’ll be asked to select a time for pick-up. To avoid crowds, Timber staff asks that you wait until then to approach the shop to pick up your order.

Timber is currently offering a more limited menu, but the ‘red’ ‘green’ and ‘white’ pizzas pay homage to the Italian flag while also covering all the bases, from traditional meat and cheese to a more rogue ‘green monster’ with pesto, feta, and kale.

If you can sneak a peek inside before you snag your pizza, you might spot the hundreds of pizza boxes stacked just short of the kitchen ceiling. It’s safe to say, Petworth residents are digging the pizzas that come out of Timber’s highly-productive kitchen.

All-Purpose

  • Address: two locations
    • 1250 9th St, NW, 20001 (Shaw location)
    • 79 Potomac Ave, SE, 20003 (Riverfront location)
  • Seating: Pick-up and delivery available from Shaw location. Heated outdoor dining and takeout available at Riverfront location
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options? Gluten-free pizza dough available (best to check if safe for gluten allergy)

Shaw is one of D.C.’s newer restaurant hubs, with a range of culinary offerings. All-Purpose was an early arrival to set up shop in the Shaw neighborhood, bringing New Jersey-style, Italian-American deck oven pizzas to this growing corner of the city.

The decor inside the Shaw location is rustic chic with lots of wood paneling and colorful accent tiling on the floor. Cozy booths along the back end of the restaurant offer more private eating accommodations, with recycled linen flour bags appropriately filling in as wall art.

The riverfront location is bigger, but takes a similar rustic-modern approach to tie the All-Purpose aesthetic together. They currently offer outdoor seating only on their well-covered patio, with beautiful views of the Potomac river. Reservations are recommended to ensure a seat, which can be made up to 6 days in advance.

The food at All-Purpose is elevated but still deeply satisfying and comforting. The eggplant parmesan is a must order, arriving at the table in a round clay casserole dish piping hot with melty cheese and a crunchy bread crumb topping.

Fried Brussels sprouts are very trendy, but the rendition at All-Purpose is definitely worth a try. The Caesar salad and garlic knots are also top notch.

The foundation of their 12-inch pizzas is a combination whole wheat and ’00’ flour dough that is fermented for three days to produce a crisp, chewy crust. The ‘Sedgwick’ hits home a complex sweet and savory flavor bomb with creamy cheeses and a truffle honey drizzle.

The ‘Sicilian Marinara’ elevates the simpler version with salty anchovies, capers, and fresh parsley.

And for dessert, they feature a Nutella brownie or ‘take home’ cookie dough from the Shaw location. No explanations needed.

Della Barba

  • Address: Union Kitchen, 1369 New York Avenue, NE, 20002
  • Seating: Pick-up and delivery only
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options? No Gluten-Free pizza available

It’s now firmly established that Washington D.C. has Neapolitan-style pizza covered. But an elevated New York pizza is a little harder to come by. Della Barba, which runs out of Ivy City’s Union Kitchen start-up space, originally made a name for itself with distinct Chicago deep dish and Detroit-style pizza. But I would argue that their ‘Classic’ or New York style pizza is my favorite.

The crust is sturdy yet tender, with a great crunch on top and bottom and a soft, chewy dough interior. They offer two sizes—medium (16 inch) and small (12 inch)—all with the same topping selection. These range from classic cheese or pepperoni, to quattro formaggi and broccoli gruyere.

My favorite is the spinach ricotta—I get bread, cheese, and dark leafy greens all in one bite.

Della Barba doesn’t have seating, as Union Kitchen is purely a kitchen start-up space. But until they open a dine-in location, they offer free delivery or pick-up.

If you decide to pick-up from the Ivy City location, give them a call and they’ll bring your pizza out.

Pete’s New Haven

  • Address: 4940 Wisconsin Ave, Washington, DC 20016
  • Seating: Delivery, take out and sit-down dining available
  • Family-friendly? Yes
  • Gluten-free options? Yes, gluten-free crusts are available for any pie order, plus vegan cheese.

For anyone who grew up in New England, you will love Pete’s New Haven. The thin crusts fold up easily so you can shove a slice in your mouth whenever you are enjoying pizza in Washington, D.C.

Pete’s offers gluten-free crust and even vegan cheese, so no one in your party will be left out when you order in pizza for a night of fun.

Many of the pizza pies have New Haven or New England names, so dive on into this extensive menu filled with not only pies, but salads, garlic bread, wings, sorbillo, meatball sandwiches, paninis, and of course, cannolis for dessert.

Chain Pizza Restaurants

There are three local pizza chains of note in Washington, D.C. that provide on-the-run tourists and locals with fast-food style pizza that still ensures a satisfying eating experience. Each of these options are exceptionally well-suited for eating with kids and all-around great options for in-a-pinch pizza cravings.

&Pizza

  • Address: multiple locations across the D.C. area
  • Seating: Take-out available
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten Free options? Gluten-free crust available (cross contamination possible)

The &Pizza chain made a splash years ago as D.C.’s first fast-food conveyor-style pizzeria. Taking a note from Subway, diners can build their own pizza as they move down a series of sauces and toppings before the uncooked pizza disappears into a quick conveyor oven and out the other end for extra drizzles and garnishes.

For take-away, the long oval pies take shelter in a custom rectangular box until ready to be devoured.

We the Pizza Washington DC Restaurants near National Mall
credit Joe Shymanski

We, The Pizza

  • Address: 303 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, 20003
  • Seating: Delivery and take-out available
  • Family Friendly? Yes
  • Gluten free? Gluten-free pizza not available

We The Pizza is owned by former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn, and a great Capitol Hill reprieve during the sweltering D.C. summer heat.

On any given day, they have 14 different pizzas sold by the slice, house-made sodas, chicken wings and Italian gelato shakes.

Matchbox

  • Address: multiple locations
    • 521 8th Street, SE, 20003 (Capitol Hill)
    • 750 E Street, NW, 20004 (Penn Quarter)
    • 3701 Newark Street, NW, 20016 (Cathedral Commons)
  • Seating: Take-out, delivery, and outdoor and indoor seating available
  • Family friendly? Yes
  • Gluten Free options? Gluten-Free cauliflower crust available (cross contamination possible)

The only exception to the fast pace set-up is Matchbox, which boasts a large dining area for date nights, family get-togethers, and parents with young kids coming straight from the soccer field on Saturday game days.

The menu is playful and fun, with Matchbox’s famous sliders—piled high with crispy shoestring onion rings—sitting on almost every table. The pizza is thin and delicate, with great char and satisfying toppings.

For those who need something other than pizza, Matchbox also offered great salads with proteins on top.

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