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[Photographs: Dave Konstantin]

We, the Pizza

305 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington DC 20003 (map); 202-544-4008; wethepizza.com
Pizza Style: Roughly New York–style
Oven Type: Gas deck
Price: Slices, $3 to 4; 14-inch pizzas, $16; 16-inch pizzas, $18

Spike Mendelsohn has cooked at Bouchon and Le Cirque. He's a decorated graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and was a contestant on Top Chef. So why are the pies at his newest venture, We, the Pizza, so disappointing?

The much-ballyhooed new pizzeria, just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, has a cool vibe and is doing great business, but the pizza just doesn't stack up. Tasty toppings and a nice sauce just can't overcome a crust that's shamefully dense and bland.

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The crust is lacking in both flavor and crispness—and there's just so much of it. An extra-wide cornicione adds insult to injury; as you gnaw the toppings off, the fat discarded "bones" pile up.

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Located next door to Mendelsohn's burger joint, Good Stuff Eatery, We, the Pizza is in a beautiful two-level space. As the only high-end pizzeria within walking distance of the Capitol and its many attendant office buildings, the business potential is huge. It's a real shame Mendelsohn didn't whip his crust into shape.

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If you trimmed off the tube of third-rate bread that surrounds it, We, the Pizza's White Pie would actually be quite good, with its high-quality commercial mozzarella, tangy fontina, fresh ricotta, and mellow roasted garlic. The ingredients melt together beautifully and impart a creamy, savory richness.

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The same is true for the pepperoni pie. The wide, thin medallions of meat have an intense spiciness and the oregano-accented sauce is tasty, but the moat of crust around it was just discouraging. On a better base, this would be a really admirable pizza.

We, the Pizza also offers pasta, salads, subs, and some good-looking chicken wings. Top Chef fans may swarm to Spike's latest spot, but true pizza aficionados, especially those who are all about the crust, will not be pleased.

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