Comet Ping Pong, Chevy Chase

(I feel funny pigeonholing Comet Ping Pong and Buck’s Fishing and Camping into a neighborhood.)

A few years back, Jamie Liu and I partook in The Fab Forno, and it really became clear that Comet Ping Pong was putting out the very best pizza in the area. After Carole Greenwood’s departure, however, things started to slump, and the pizza at Comet really took a hit in my mind.

But on this visit, everything was better than it’s recently been, and while Comet is not yet back to its glory days, it seems to have rebounded off its lows. Something has changed with the pizzas – perhaps a new pizzaiolo, or a tweaking of the recipe – and on this evening, it was for the better.

While we waited for a table to open up on a packed Friday evening, I started with a bottle of The Raven Special Lager ($6), then on to a wonderful 2007 Domaine de Berane Rosé ($33 for a one-liter carafe), imported by perhaps my favorite local importer, Ed Addiss of Wine Traditions, Ltd., based in Falls Church.

Since Greenwood’s departure, the once incredible Comet’s Hot Wings ($6) have been merely very, very good, and have gone through several iterations – at one point, there was a jerk-type seasoning; now, they seem like they’re going for a more Buffalo-style presentation. They’ve always been worth ordering.

Likewise the Italian Chopped Salad ($8) which always comes across as refreshing, mainly due to the freshness of its ingredients – chopped romaine, chopped savoy cabbage, chopped radicchio, chopped salami (sensing a theme here?), provolone, and chickpeas tossed with oregano dressing.

My pizza must surely be the best one on the menu: The Drive ($14) is listed on their online menu as being made with broccoli rabe, but since asparagus has come into season, Comet is using that instead. The asparagus is grilled, and served along with garlic, a runny Whitmore Farm Egg (that you have to break and mix in with the rest of the toppings, just like you’d do with their soft shell crab pizza), melted onion, pecorino romano, and the best $4 supplement you can spend, crispy prosciutto which takes this pie over the top. The toppings are impeccable; the crust merely good – if you stroll around the restaurant (which I’ve done twice recently), you’ll see many tables with the crust at the end of the pizza uneaten.

For this pizza to regain its unearthly form, the crust is going to have to get better, but for now, Comet Ping Pong seems to have made a comeback of sorts – not all the way to the top, but working on it.

Note also that Comet sells its own pizza sauce (which is made with Toigo Orchard tomatoes) in jars.

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