Pizzeria Orso, Falls Church, VA

The best pizza in town. It’s a burning question that everyone can debate, like the best burger, or the best ice cream.

Five years ago, 2 Amys stood alone, as it had for many years. Then, upstart Carole Greenwood opened Comet Ping Pong, and at some point, pizzaiolo Edan Macquaid left 2 Amys. It was Comet’s turn at the top. But then Carole left, Comet went downhill, and we went into limbo until Pizzeria Orso opened (with Edan Macquaid as pizzaiolo). Orso sat atop the throne. But then Pupatella opened, too – a simpler place, at a lower price point, with its own rapidly improving Pizzaiolo, Enzo Algarme.

Within the past several weeks, I’ve re-visited 2 Amys, Comet Ping Pong, Pupatella, and Pizzeria Orso, and I have reached my conclusion. But, you’ll just have to wait …

Potato and Salami Fritters ($6) repelled some of the criticism I’ve heard about small plates here. Five perfectly fried beauties, not too salty (they’ve been too salty in the past), and just right with a bottle of 2007 Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva ($25).

A daily special pizza of fresh egg; brussels sprouts sauteed with shallots, pancetta, and hot pepper; and house-smoked provola ($13) was revelatory, and just a great bitter counterpoint to the more-neutral custom-built pizza of buffalo mozzarella, marinara sauce, ham, and egg ($13). The latter pizza was slightly bland, but woke up with a few shakes of salt and hot pepper flakes. The crust has been slightly tweaked here in recent weeks: it’s neither better, nor worse; just a bit different. The oven could have been a touch hotter. But these minor quibbles aside, this was something close to Pizzeria Orso at its finest. Edan was working last night, but Adam Litchfield was deftly manning the oven, and put out some truly great … dare I say “pies?” No? Okay, pizze.

Lots of new desserts on the menu. We split a Butter Pecan Gelato ($6), three orbs of terrific gelato with the pecans extremely finely ground (I’m used to butter pecan ice cream with more palpable chunks). It was served too cold, but that problem quickly resolved itself (not because it warmed up, but because it was gone in about 45 seconds).

So! The best pizza in town as of December 10, 2010? It’s a place whose first name begins with a “P,” ends with an “a,” and has four syllables. Every time I go to Pizzeria Orso, I think it’s Pizzeria Orso, and every time I go to Pupatella, I think it just might be Pupatella (which may not reach the highest highs of Orso, but is more consistent). If you want to argue for either one, I won’t argue back; if you want to argue for any other, I’ll fight you to the death!

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