Pupatella Neopolitan Pizzeria and Friggitoria

On the recommendations of a friend and a few best pizza lists, My wife and  I checked out Pupatella in Arlington, VA.  Just outside DC, this authentic VPN (Verace Pizza Napoleta) and DOC certified casual restaurant has been said to pop out some of the best pies in town!  With humble beginnings as a pizza cart at a nearby metro station, Pupatella had made a lot of fans before its doors even opened in mid 2010.  

Going in I wasn’t sure what a Friggitoria was, but I now assume it’s because this food is “friggin” amazing.  This oak wood fired pizzeria has an oven made from the ashes of Mt Vesuvius.  At 1000 degrees, five pies at a time are cooked for one minute each until they reach a perfect char on each pliable delicious crust.  Ingredients are first rate with their heirloom San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella imported from Naples.  I must admit that I almost didn’t even have enough space to order some pies after filling my stomach with their amazing Arancini from their Friggitoria menu.   These fried risotto balls are stuffed with sausage or eggplant and absolutely blew away the “supply y telephono” risotto balls I’ve had at other great restaurants in the area.  Nonetheless, I had to try the pies and ordered a red and a white.

These 12 inch pizzas had the best crusts I’ve found in DC.  They were perfectly charred yet bendable without spilling.   The DOC and VPN certified Margherita pizza had delicious tomatoes and cheese and was topped with basil.  Unlike other top area pizzerias, the basil seemed to be cooked onto the pie rather than added after it came out of the oven which took a tiny bit of kick from it.  This is the only thing that keeps me from putting this in the same class with the areas 4 best Neopolitan pie sauces,  Seventh Hill, 2 Amys, Pizza CS, and Mia’s.  It was darned close though!  The incredible crust, however, was better than any of these places.  The white Spinach pizza was covered in an Italian cream, pine nuts, feta, and red pepper.  It was fresh and tasty but not quite as good as the tomato sauce based pie in my opinion. 

Pupatella is a casual dining experience.  Each diner grabs their own utensils, picks their own table, orders at a counter, drinks from a bottled soda, beer, or wine, and clears their own table.    No reservations are accepted so expect a wait if you come during peak hours.  Believe me though, it’s worth the wait!

RedRocks Pizza, Old Town Alexandria, VA

If you’re looking for a 93.3% chance of getting one of the best pizzas in the DC area without waiting in that long line at 2 Amys, then RedRocks is the perfect place to go!  Rumor has it that a few days a month their regular chefs actually take time off to be with their families (The nerve of them!) and leave mere mortals in charge of making their delicious pizzas.   Luckily, during my 2 visits to their location in Old Town Alexandria, I was blown away by the quality of their pies.

You can usually spot a great pizza place by taking a peak in their windows.  If the place is full and they don’t automatically provide cheese, oregano, or hot peppers on the tables, they are probably confident that their pizza flavoring is good enough to stand on its own.  This method of spotting authentic Italian food is much better than my second method of counting the # of vowels in the name of the restaurant.  RedRocks is one of these great Naples inspired restaurants despite only having 2 vowels. 

With wood floors, marble tops, and high ceilings, RedRocks is trendy with a phenomenal pizza aroma floating through its high backed booths.  The list of pizzas available range from traditional margheritas to fancy sounding daily pies made with their homemade sausage, meats cured in house, and locally grown produce.  There is a decent sounding list of appetizers and salads but the personal sized pizzas (no slices) are why you come to RedRocks.  On my two visits, the crusts were picture perfect with delicately placed basil, buffalo mozzarella, and toppings complimenting their delicious tomato sauce.  Pictured is a daily special Mushroom pie that had a slight barbeque flavor but I enjoyed the traditional Margherita pies more.  Friends have told me that a few days a month the crust can be soggy, but on my two visits, it was top notch with great service and no wait. 

 I give RedRocks 7 of 8 slices.

Trattoria Pizzeria at the Aviano Inn, Italy


I speak only for myself when talking about real pizza from Italy. I am no expert but I can surely describe how lightly the pizza is made there.

Right in the northeastern region of Italy, in the town of Aviano, lies Trattoria Pizza at the Aviano Inn.  It is situated not too far from The Aviano Airbase. Having never gone to Italy before, I was a bit clueless as to how the Italians made their pizza.


Pittsburgh Pizza Wars

I was reading this article by Chris Young at the Pittsburgh City Paper and found it amusing enough to republish in its entirety for you all to read.

Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince, was a cunning adviser, adept at counseling his patrons, the Medici family, in matters of political intrigue.

Luckily for him, though, the Medicis never owned a pizza joint. Because as a dispute between two local pizza owners shows, arguments in that business can get really tricky.

The dispute came into public view in the Nov. 13 Pennysaver, which featured advertisements for two Downtown pizza places: one for Pizza Milano, the other for Milano’s Pizza & Bar. The issue also contained an insert — a flier notifying readers that “Pizza Milano is not affiliated with a new restaurant operation known as Milano’s Pizza & Bar.” In fact, it added, Milano’s Pizza “is wrongfully seeking to infringe upon Pizza Milano’s good name and business reputation.”

On Dec. 2, sitting in his Market Street restaurant after the lunch rush, Milano’s Pizza & Bar co-owner Halil Atabey bemoaned the flier.

“Is this the pizza mafia?” he asked.

Atabey and two other co-owners — each of whom formerly worked for Pizza Milano (which has two locations, one on Fifth Avenue and one on Sixth Street) — opened their own pizzeria about two months ago. They purchased its name from Hermann Sciulli, who operated a pizza place for 35 years in Hampton Township, and later opened two other shops in Oakland and Downtown.

But Atabey’s former employer says the “Pizza Milano” name is protected by federal copyright. And his attorney, Bill Merchant, says Atabey and his co-owners are “causing confusion for customers.” That, Merchant says, is the reason his clients distributed the flier — and why they filed a motion to sue Atabey’s business unless it finds a new name.

Merchant suspects the competition of going even farther: Menus that Pizza Milano distributes around town have gone missing, and Merchant thinks that Atabey’s pizzeria may be snatching them — perhaps because his clients had inserted the fliers inside their menus.

“They stopped [stealing the menus] because we filed suit,” Merchant says.

Atabey denies ever having seized menus. “Seven days a week I am here,” he says. “Even if I wanted to [throw away their menus], I don’t have time for it.

“[Pizza Milano] thinks that whatever bad happens is coming from us. It’s paranoia.” His former employer “is treating us like we are doing something very wrong,” he says.

“Milano” is what Italians call Milan, the second-largest city in Italy. It’s less strongly associated with pizza than, say, Naples. So why the bitterness?

Sciulli, who sold the name to Atabey and his partners, suspects it’s personal. He points out that he opened a Downtown location three years ago … but although Pizza Milano was “pissed off” about the similar name, he says, “They never did anything.”

Atabey and his two fellow co-owners insist they parted on good terms with their former employers. “When I quit, I was very happy,” says co-owner Mahmut Yilmaz, who worked as a manager at Pizza Milano’s Sixth Street location for eight years.

Although a manager from Pizza Milano declined to comment for this story, Merchant maintains that the issue is all about the trademark infringement and nothing else. “My client has a federally protected name,” he says.

In any case, both sides say the dispute will be resolved outside of court.

“We are not going to keep the name,” says Atabey, who maintains he planned on renaming the store after establishing the business for a few months anyway. Atabey says he wanted to use the name for a few months to maintain Sciulli’s loyal customer base, not steal Pizza Milano’s customers.

Changing the restaurant’s name, it seems, may be best for both sides. According to Lou DePaul, a trademark lawyer and Duquesne University law professor, proving either restaurant’s case in the naming dispute is complicated.

On the one hand, he says, the first business to use a name — whether or not it has a federal trademark — “has the greater rights. … The first person to use a name in conjunction with goods and services has the upper hand.”

Then again, he says, one of the most important questions in trademark battles is: “Would people be confused that one [business] is related to the other?”

DePaul says trademark cases are typically “very complicated.” It’s in both parties’ interests to settle the matter out of court, he says.

Still, bad feelings may be harder to resolve.

“They got nasty with this,” Atabey says, holding up the flier. “They played with us, and they played with the people.”

Merchant says Atabey’s not the only one upset about the ordeal: “My client is angry, too.”

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