A Hamburger Today
D.C.: Comet Ping Pong
In October of last year, Washington, D.C. restaurateurs James Alefantis and his parter Carole Greenwood, co-owners of Buck's Fishing & Camping, took over the abandoned space next door and opened one heck of a quirky pizzeria. Comet Ping Pong—decorated with an old neon sign from Comet Liquor in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, three ping pong tables in the back, and an overall ping pong theme—opened to a somewhat shaky start, but the Washington Post's Tom Sietsema revisited recently and was mighty impressed:
Comet's pies are intended to reflect the childhood memories of Greenwood (who grew up in suburban New York and Washington) and Alefantis (who was raised in Buffalo and Washington). As such, the crust is thin and crisp, with a flavor distinct from so much of the competition because of the chef's mix of Italian pizza flour and whole wheat flour. The base is seasoned with garlic-infused olive oil before toppings are applied, and the round is slipped into an oven that hovers between 600 and 700 degrees. No ordinary base decoration will do: Greenwood makes her pies using fresh mozzarella cheese made from the milk of Jersey cows, hence the cheese's pale yellow hue, and a sauce that she made from the 2,000 or so pounds of tomatoes she got from farmer Mark Toigo and flavored with basil, garlic and a bit of honey before canning them at a Pennsylvania facility.
The bronzed and bubbling results show up as large ovals or rectangles, cut into squares and presented on wax paper-covered silver trays. The toppings typically include something meaty (spicy sausage with garlic and fresh mozzarella) and something not (wilted greens scattered with black olives and mild ricotta), but they also change to take advantage of what beckons in the market. In late spring, I was tearing through asparagus, thin slices of crisp potato and fontina cheese, a lovely nod to the season that tasted as good as it looked. More recently, whole soft shell crabs decorated my crust, an idea Greenwood says she got from chef Jeff Buben by way of chef Roberto Donna. (Diners trying to get some assistance from the staff on how to tackle soft shell crabs on a crust don't get much help. Experience has taught me to slice right through the little beasts, which enriches the pie with their tasty liquid innards.) Another hit from the water is the pizza sprinkled with tender little clams, soft onions and fresh thyme. Additional toppings cost a dollar or two; one of the more unusual and delicious: mushrooms smoked over the grill at Buck's.
Comet Ping Pong
Address: 5037 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008