To honor our long-time member Jonathan Copeland – who, in case anyone doesn’t know, was Sous Chef at Palena, and opening Chef de Cuisine at Palena Café – I decided to take him up on his cocky message to me which basically said, ‘Stop in sometime if you want to have the best pizza in the entire DC area.’
I got there early, super early, about 5 PM – nominally to find parking and a bar seat; actually to drink and drink cheaply.
Ghibellina has one of the best happy hour menus in town, and I plumbed its depths like I was snaking a drain. Here we go:
Rebuli Prosecco ($5) – Served in a beautiful Luigi Bormioli Champagne glass, with about a 4-5 ounce pour, this was an elegant Prosecco – “elegant” for me means “crisp, dry, and no off-flavors,” as Prosecco (like Cava) is not my favorite sparkling wine; but this was good.
Estate in Toscana ($6) – One of three happy-hour cocktails, made with House Gin (Gordon’s), lime juice, pineapple juice (not too much), and basil.
Beauvignac “Syrah Rosé” ($5) – Oh yeah, this is your wine. From from the Languedoc-Rousillion region, it’s a Vin de Pays from Côtes de Thau, and has none of the excessive grapiness that is often found from this region. Not bone dry in the least, but a good pizza rosé that will make you happy.
Olive E Carciofi ($8.50 (!)) – Eight-fifty for this thing? *Eight* *Fifty*?! This was a huge, four-slice pizza made with Nostraliana (Leccino) olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, basil, garlic, and peperoncino. Hyperbole time: this was the best pizza I’ve ever had that cost less than $10 (note, these are all happy-hour prices, happy hour running Tue-Sun 4:30-6:30). Yep, not only that – it was a contender for best pizza in the DC area, just like Jonathan boasted it would be – he was right. An unbelievable Neapolitan hybrid, its char was right on the boundary of acceptable, but never crossed that boundary. Served uncut, but with pizza scissors, it’s best cut into quarters, picked up, folded, and enjoyed a la New York slice. An incredible pizza that is vaulting Ghibellina right to the top of DC’s pizza scene.
Salsicce E Cipolla ($8.50) – No, I didn’t eat it at Ghibellina (I was dining solo), but I sure as heck got it to go. Sausage, provolone, wood-roasted onions, oregano, peperoncino, and grana – I had some cold, and while I don’t think it’s quite the pie that the Olive E Carciofi is, it’s awesome all the same. I enthusiastically Facebooked Jonathan (who is out of town for a wedding) on the way home, raving about the pizzas, and he said, and I quote, “Put a sheet tray in your oven and heat it to 350 or 400 for a few minutes. Then throw the pizza in for 5 or so minutes to reheat and refresh” – so that’s how you reheat it properly.
This was my first visit to Ghibellina, and needless to say, based on this one visit, I’m enthusiastically bumping it up to Italic.
Is it better than Etto? I’m going to ask everyone a favor: be patient, don’t listen to *anyone* else compare pizzas, and let me bide my time and decide which is better. I’ve got a long, strong track record that I can defend, and if another publication chimes in and says this-or-that, you’re just going to get confused. I’ll be having Ghibellina and Etto several times over the next few months, and I will sort it out on an objective, consistent basis. By all means, take note of what other people say, but please trust my pizza palate – it’s a damned good one, if I do say so myself.