Ed. note: Following, Karen does a wonderful write up of Columbia Heights’ newest pizza option. As I am a fanatical pizza devotee I will be writing a smaller post with my own impressions shortly.
Tonight I went to Pete’s (www.petesapizza.com) for a slice of pizza from this new New Haven-influenced Italian eatery located right outside of the Columbia Heights metro (southbound), which just opened Monday. It might be tempting at first to compare Pete’s to Red Rocks–and, of course, heh, that’s exactly what I’m going to do–but even though the main attraction of both places is pizza I would put the two restaurants in completely different categories. While Red Rocks is a sit-down restaurant with individual tables and a bar, Pete’s is set up for quick service–you order at the front of the restaurant and await your meal among the snazzy cafeteria-style tables and either eat there or take your pie to go. And given the fact that Pete’s has almost a similar buzz to a coffee shop or cafe–a single room with bright light and colors, soaring ceilings, and immense photographs of Italian scenes (taken by Alicia’s twin brother Michael Wilkinson, who is a professional photographer based in Columbia Heights ) donning the walls–I’d be much more inclined to head there to read a book or do the crosswords with friends as I eat a slice than I would at Red Rocks, where the more intimate and dark atmosphere makes it very much a serious dining affair.
However, despite Pete’s cafeteria-style set-up, this pizza is anything but cafeteria-quality, and I think does a good job holding its own against Red Rocks’ brilliant Sicilian-style, individual-sized pizza. Pete’s goes back to American pizza basics with the pies large enough to feed a family. And more pizza means more goodness. According to co-owner Alicia Mehr, who I had the opportunity to chat with, Pete’s tries to use ingredients that for the most part are local and organic. But the most amazing thing about this pizza is the crust. Oh, good lord, the crust. Crispy, crunch delight that is augmented even more by the fact that you aren’t expecting it. When I was there I tried the sausage and mushroom and was absolutely wowed. Story continues along with more photos after the jump.
Pete’s also has a selection of other Italian dishes and foods, including pasta, salads, and even gelato (the peanut butter is totally the chunky kind)! Mehr specifically pointed out the My Mother’s Bolognese and the Linguini with Clam Sauce as favorites. She also told me their Sorbillo is recreated from a delicious and unique Italian dish that she and her husband (Joel) discovered during their travels there. It’s a rectangular shaped pizza, similar in style to a calzone, with Salumi, ricotta, and mozzarella.
Though the pizza and atmosphere are certainly enough to keep me coming back, a very important aspect of Pete’s–one that makes me feel better about myself for have dined there–is that they take social and environmental responsibility very seriously. When I was there I was cheerfully informed that my gelato to-go dish was actually made from cornstarch and is not only recyclable, but compostable! (I totally took that dish home to dutifully add it to the compost–yes, I do have a compost!) In fact, Mehr told me all of their take-out containers are biodegradable (“Plastic freaks me out!” she said jokingly). In addition, Mehr said she tries to keep a friendly and fair working environment for her employees, and I certainly felt a very friendly vibe throughout the place.
Alicia and Joel Mehr, Petworth residents, own the restaurant along with friends Kerri and Tom Marr. It’s named for Alicia’s father and son (a picture of both the Pete’s is near the front entrance). Check out the website for more information, and also to order a pizza there for pickup!