Flee The Pizza: Spike Mendelsohn's "We, The Pizza" in Washington D.C. Still No Good
We, the Pizza
305 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington DC 20003 (map); 202-544-4008;
Pizza Style: Roughly New York–style
Oven Type: Gas deck
Price: Slices, $3 to 4; 14-inch pizzas, $16; 16-inch pizzas, $18
When Slice reporter Dave Konstantin previously reviewed Spike Mendelsohn's (of Top Chef fame) new pizzeria We, The Pizza, he pointed out some serious flaws in their basic product. Namely, the dough was dense, and the bones were far too fat.
Seeing as I'd just made a quick detour through Washington D.C. to check out Spike's next door burger joint Good Stuff Eatery (check out my review over on A Hamburger Today. Spoiler: it's not good), I figured it'd be worth an update to see if any of the problems have been fixed in the half year that's passed since they first opened.
The good news: most of Dave's concerns had been addressed and remedied.
The bad news: it's still bad pizza.
Unlike with Good Stuff Eatery, where the chef clearly knows what makes for a delicious burger, but fails to deliver on it, I think the basic problem at We, The Pizza is that Spike simply doesn't know what good pizza is. I can think of no other way to explain the poor New York-style pies the place is pumping out.
At first glance, the pies do resemble a typical New York by-the-slice pizza, but the crust is painfully bland. Dense, underseasoned and flat tasting, with very little browning on the top. The undercarriage comes out an even dark golden brown and is crisp enough, but lacks any sort of proper chewiness. Thick and doughy, it's simply unpleasant stuff to chew on.
Things take another turn for the worse with the sauce, which lacks brightness, freshness and acidity and tastes heavily of dried herbs and tinny tomatoes. The only saving grace—and it barely saves these slices—is the cheese, which is fine. Creamy and stretchy, at least when it's melted.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the entire experience was the service. After placing my order with a rather confused cashier ("A plain slice and a pepperoni slice, please." "That'll be $7.77" [hands over money, receives change] "Oh, by the way, we don't have pepperoni right now. Is sausage ok?" "Uh... I guess so?") and balking at how crazy expensive it is, I expected to see my slices picked up from the display case and immediately popped into the oven to reheat.
No such luck. I was handed a beeper and told to wait. A full 17 minutes later (I know, because I checked the time stamps on my photos), I was finally paged back to pick up two lukewarm slices, the cheese on the sausage slice barely melted.
Spike has claimed that Una Pizza Napoletana (formerly of New York) and Grimaldi's were two of the inspirational pies he tasted while developing his pizza style. I would believe Sbarro or perhaps Famous Famiglia, though there, at least your food is served hot and fast.
He's also said in interviews that he aims to expand the concept nationally, and from the way it's set-up, you can tell. I can think of few things more frightening than a nation dotted with yet another completely mediocre pizza chain, this time hiding behind the curtain of "seasonal and local."
It's places like this that truly makes one appreciate the mom-and-pop's that continue to put out delicious pies all over the country—pizzas built on the love of good food, not the desire for world domination. Ed has a theory that every single good pizzeria in the world is owner-occupied, and with several great options in D.C., there's simply no reason to ever set foot in here. We, The Pizza is further evidence that "pizza concepts" simply do not work.
With enough training, you could teach a monkey to make good burgers. Not so with pizza. It requires skill, attention, and above all, care at every step of the process. We, The Pizza delivers none of these.