Pizzeria da Marco
8008 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814 (map); 301-654-6083;
Pizza Style: Neapolitan
Oven Type: Stefano Ferrara wood-fired
The Skinny: Finally—serious Neapolitan in Bethesda.
Price: 12-inch pizzas, $8.50 to $13
Just over the line from the Nation's Capital, Bethesda, MD boasts an impressive array of upscale bars and restaurants, but has always lacked a true Neapolitan pizzeria. Not any more. Pizzeria da Marco occupies an impressive building of its own, conveniently located on Woodmont Avenue, and after only a month is turning out some terrific pies. Well-known pizzaiolo Dino Santonicola is at the helm of an Italian-made Stefano Ferrara wood-burner (one of only a few in the US), and plating some really nice pizzas.
Da Marco's Margherita D.O.P., with mozzarella di bufala and cherry tomatoes, is a worthy rendition of the classic, with a yeasty, crisp-chewy crust. Yes, it's a little wet in the middle, but deal with it, Yelp whiners—that's just how it's done. A million people in Naples like it that way.
A sauceless Porchetta special was on the menu the day we visited. While not the prettiest pizza in the place, the smokiness of the pork and chew of the mushrooms worked beautifully with the rich mozzarella for a very pleasing result. The ample cheese and salty meat made for a very luxurious pie.
Santonicola uses a blend of two Caputo flours, Pizzeria and general-use Farina (both superfine 00) for a crust that's excellent—tender, flavorful, and with real character—but not quite at the astonishing level of a Pupatella. Very respectable nonetheless.
A virtually perfect and extremely satisfying pizza was the Ruchetta, with smoked mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and shaved Parmesan. This combination is simply dynamite, and it was a relief to see this pie made with fresh tomatoes instead of sauce. Don't miss this one—it's salty, juicy, and smoky, with fresh greens that are just bitter enough for a perfect balance.
Alessandro Ferro, da Marco's general manager and an owner, welcomes customers warmly and keeps a close eye on the spacious and handsome dining room. He shared his experience in getting a building permit in Montgomery County: Even though the structure is ideal for a straight-through-the-roof chimney, inspectors insisted that a huge exhaust hood be installed directly above the oven (see photo at top). This is surely getting some laughs in the old country, but you do what it takes to get that permit.
Appetizers and salads are excellent as well, with first-rate ingredients evident across the menu. Ultimately, Pizzeria da Marco is a valuable addition to the DC pizza scene and brings top-notch Neapolitan to Bethesda at long last.