Friday, February 7, 2014

Pizza Friday - Pete's Apizza, Clarendon, VA

I love pizza.  I love pizza in all shapes, sizes, colors, with most toppings and crusts.  Deep dish, thin crust, new york style, new haven style, Chicago style…it really doesn’t matter, I’ll take all of them any day of the week, and some days multiple days of the week. 

Many times though, a pizza joint will think they’ve labeled something in descriptive manner, but in reality, while their product is good it muddies what that style actually is, and what makes it distinct and unique.  

A few weeks ago I went on a Starbucks mug run to find the new Virginia mug.  While the ultimate goal was to find the mug, I was hoping to kill two birds with one stone, and stop by Pete's which I'd heard about and very much wanted to try. 

While Pete’s Apizza labels themselves as New Haven style, they’re certainly not.  They are a classic hand-tossed American style pizza joint…think stylistically similar to your standard Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, or Dominos pizza.

I’m not saying that’s good, nor am I saying it’s bad.  It’s just how it is. 

Pepperoni, Garlic and Spinach...oh my!
When you compare Pete’s to other stylistically similar pizzas, it’s far and away the best American style Pizza I’ve had in quite awhile, possibly forever. 

When you compare it to other classic New Haven style pies (Frank Pepe’s, Sallys, etc…) it comes up lacking.   For the long glowing tributes to Frank Pepe that were on the Pete's website (since removed) I, quite frankly, expected a more "New Haven" style classic Neapolitan.  Instead, I feel like I got a Vocelli style faux Neapolitan.

For pizza closer to Sally's or Pepe's either The Brick in Warrenton, or Stone Hot in Fairfax provides that crispy wood and/or coal fired outside and gooey inside.  Proper "New Haven" pie should be so floppy you need a fork and knife to eat the pointy end, but slightly burnt on the crust side.  This is not that.

Overall it feels more like a  cynical "Lets tell them this is what they're experiencing because they'll never actually go to the real thing" yuppie magnet than a serious attempt at re-creating a classic.

When it comes to price, they are a touch expensive.  However, they offer great value.  When I look at what I paid, compared to what I got, I paid roughly what I would have paid for the same toppings and size from one of the major chains, and got something that was substantially higher quality with more premium ingredients.  As a rule I don't get pizza from the big national chains anymore (there are TOO MANY good local joints) and Pete's proves this whole heartedly. 

The final disappointment came from the smell.  While it smelled, it didn't smell like a New Haven pizza joint.  There's a distinct aroma that comes from the constant burning of coal and/or wood in a large open oven that Pete's is just missing. 

Even with the substantial disappointment at missing the mark stylistically there were some good points.  The best pizza comes served with a craft soda.  I couldn’t find the Foxon Park that they supposedly carry, but they do have really good craft soda on fountain.  They offer premium toppings and some that I've only seen at New Haven minced garlic and spinach. 

What it all boils down to is it's a very good pizza joint, that will disappoint you if, like me, you're looking for a New Haven style pizza.  That said, if you just want pizza, and don't mind something a bit pricey, but well worth the money, this is your place.

Note: My original review for Pete's shows on Yelp.  Certain aspects of this review were lifted verbatim from my original Yelp review.  To see the original Yelp review click here.

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