Eating Around Town – Menomale

2711 12th Street, NE

This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about Middle Eastern Cuisine and Market in Takoma Park and she lives near Eastern Market.

When I went to Toki Underground for the first time two years ago, I was hooked. Since then, I’ve been upwards of 15 times, and it’s safe to say that it’s my favorite DC restaurant.

Except Menomale is now jockeying for that top spot. Not only is it a contender as one of the area’s best Neapolitan pizzas, it’s one of the places I want to eat at each and every week.

You may remember reading about Menomale’s struggle to obtain a liquor license earlier last year. Visiting now, you’d never know they hit a bump in the road—their beer, wine, and cocktail offerings are eclectic, fairly priced, and creative.

If you’re a fan of craft beer, you’ll love co-owner (and homebrewer) Leland Estes’s choices for their 10 or so taps. When I went earlier this week, they had Old Rasputin, a high-percentage Russian imperial stout; Rodenbach, a Belgian oaked sour that’s one of my favorites; and Racer 5, an IPA that many of my beer nerd friends consider an excellent, if more “mainstream,” example of the style. Menomale also has a fridge stocked with several bottles, including Rodenbach Grand Cru and Mad Elf.

Sometimes I prefer a glass of wine, and if you’re looking for affordable, go for the Barbera. It’s $6 most times, but when I went on the later side on a weeknight, it ended up being $2 off! I don’t expect much out of the cheapest wine option on a menu, but this one is actually pretty good—not vinegary or too tannic like some cheaper reds end up tasting.

Let’s talk pizza, though.

Continues after the jump.

Co-owner Ettore Rusciano was born in Italy and learned to make pizza the way they do in Naples. He’s even got a pizzaiolo certificate from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. The association has very specific rules about how a Neapolitan pizza must be made—cooked in a wood-fired, domed oven; hand-kneaded and rolled dough; no larger than 35 centimeters in diameter.

I didn’t bring my measuring stick and I didn’t watch my pizza being made, but with pizza this good, I don’t care.

The dough itself is saltier than I remember it being at 2 Amys and Pupatella, which I personally like. It’s airy, charred, and chewy like Neapolitan dough should be when cooked. They use the dough or their pizzas, calzones, and sandwiches, so as long as you don’t have a gluten allergy, you’ll get to try it.

My favorite pizza has got to be the Quattro Formaggi, with DOP San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese, Parmesan, Gorgonzola, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil. It’s the Gorgonzola that makes it, and I love seeing the pools of slightly bluish, melty cheese in each quadrant of the pie.


The Di Ettore (chef’s special) is a close second, and it sometimes surpasses the Quattro Formaggi, depending on my mood. The dough base is topped with buffalo mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, cooked, then finished with a huge pile of lightly dressed arugula, prosciutto, Grana Padano, and extra virgin olive oil. The saltiness of the prosciutto, the bitterness of the arugula, the creaminess of the mozzarella, a few juicy and roasted tomatoes, topped off with salty shaved cheese…if you’re going to top a pizza, this is the way to do it. It’s even a little garlicky, too.

Of note is the Verde calzone (it’s enormous and doesn’t even fit on a plate) and the prosciutto e melone, which is served with lightly dressed arugula. I haven’t tried the sandwiches yet, but people seem to order them fairly often and enjoy them.

Yeah, you pretty much have to drive here if you don’t live in the neighborhood but I’m telling you now—this is a meal that is worth the trip. It’s tiny, only seating about 15 or so at tables and maybe four or five at the bar, but if you go on a weeknight or on a weekend afternoon, there’s a good chance you won’t have to wait.

25 Comment

  • Menomale* 🙂

  • This place is awesome. The only downside is its size – just way too small. But the capacity at least doubles when the weather gets good because there is outdoor seating.
    Note to the owners – if you become successful enough and line up some investors for an expansion, there’s a vacant spot on Georgia Ave in the building above the metro (where Jillian Cook’s restaurant was supposed to go) that would be perfect. 🙂

  • this is one of my fave new spots. the pizza, beer selection, and decor make it such a fun spot to visit. cant wait to sit out front when the weather gets warmer. I actually like the location. totally bikeable or you could walk from CU metro.. hearts to menomale!! <3

    • It’s probably closer to the RI Metro, too. Nice guys, great food, and family friendly. I live in Brookland, and we are super happy this place is here, as well as Little Ricky’s, between Newton and Monroe on 12th, the new Cuban restaurant.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        I’ve heard very very mixed reviews about Little Ricky’s – will post as a separate ‘judging restaurants’ soon.

      • It is literally a 10 minute walk from the Rhode Island metro. You can also take the h8 bus from either Rhode ISland or CU metro (or even pick it up in Columbia Heights) and it runs right past the restaurant.

  • I don’t get the piling of arugula on a pizza. I like arugula, but a handful of leaves would be fine. Too much ruins the pizza for me.

  • I’m a big fan. Also love that it’s in my neck of the woods. With the exception of my recent visit last weekend (our server was super rude for no reason) I’ve had great experiences at Menomale.

    • Yeah, their service has been spotty, I’ve noticed. Had two different servers who were either awkward or seemed like they were being put out. But the food’s so good that I don’t care that much.

  • Shhhh. I don’t want word getting out. I already have a hard enough time getting a seat.

    This place is bomb.

  • This place rocks! I guess the secret is now out. Best and most authentic pizza in DC, hands down. Take it from a guy who lived in a village in Abruzzo for 2yrs.

  • brookland_rez

    I’ve been going there since it opened. Great beer selection and I love the fact that I can walk to it.

  • My only complaint with Menomale is its too small. That can be cool, and nothing wrong with quaint or packed in, but this place tries to too hard to turn over tables too fast. As your near the end of your meal, the servers start sending not-so-subtle hints that they don’t want you to linger or stick around for a post-meal drink, etc. They want the table turned over for someone else. That is fine when you just want a good quick meal, but would go somewhere else if you want an overall enjoyable hour plus dining experience.

  • ThunderCheese

    The sandwiches are worth the trip. Better than the pizza, when I went. Emphasis on quality ingredients makes it all work.

  • You don’t have to drive! It’s a five minute walk from the Brookland/CUA or RI Ave metro stop on the red line. There are also bike share docks. Menomale is great. Come to Brookland!

  • Little Ricky’s is also great! It’s a Cuban place on 12th NE that will have a roof deck open soon. Delicious food, fun cocktail menu, and very cool art on the walls. My neighbors are planning on opening a barebeque/oyster bar soon. Seriously, come to Brookland.

  • Let me add another voice to those who are saying you don’t have to drive! It says the author lives near Eastern Market? She can bike over to the MBT, ride it up to Franklin Street, cross the bridge and boom, 2 blocks and she’s there. Easy as (pizza) pie!

  • Thank you Abbey! menomale is fucking awesome.

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