The Hill’s Upper Crust: Capitol Cuisine

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Created by La Casina Pinseria Romana, pinsa crusts are baked without yeast.

Pizza–or Pinsa? I’ve revisited La Casina Pinseria Romana, 327 Seventh St. SE, near Eastern Market. With colleague Liz O’Gorek, I first dined there shortly after it opened last November. Then we sampled yummy, golf ball-sized risotto balls filled with mozzarella, plus a Margherita “pinsa.” Since then, after wading through red tape, La Casina finally acquired a beer and wine license; the extensive listing is well worth the wait.

I returned to La Casina this spring with husband Peter. Sipping vino, we began our lunch with flavorful deep-fried green olives stuffed with sausage. 

But we came here mainly for pizza. Or–excuse me–pinsa. “Don’t call it pizza,” owner Fabrizio Costantini had told O’Gorek. “Roman pinsa is a modern take on an ancient Roman dough,” he explained. “It has a mixture of flours, with low gluten content and high moisture –but no yeast. It is left to rest for about 36 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. It will ripen naturally, taking on a crunchy appearance when cooked but soft and light inside.”

We could not decide between a classic La Garum (Pomodoro sauce, pepperoni, olives and spices), or La Carbonara (cured pork, egg, olive oil and pecorino Romano). We finally decided on the latter–a pinsa take on the classic pasta carbonara. Good choice. The smoky pork and egg was an agreeable marriage. Presented on a wooden board, the oblong pie was meant to feed two, but we thought we’d eat only part of it and take the rest home. Yeah, right. We polished off the whole thing. My Pinot Grigio complemented the rich pie perfectly. Our only complaint? A  crisp green salad would have rounded out our meal nicely, but alas, there was none to be had.

A deliciously crisp pinsa emerges from La Casina’s woodburning oven.

Among other pinsa options are Margherita della Casina (tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil; La Milanese (Pomodoro, mozzarella, pepperoni and salami,  “Capitol Hill” (mushrooms, porcini, cured pork and cheese),  plus a couple of veggie pies. You’ll also find desserts including tiramisu and deep-fried pinsa bites capped with Nutella and powdered sugar. There’s also a kids menu.

Lunch for two with a glass of wine was $52 before tip. Service, rendered by Jimmy, was excellent. La Casina Pinsaria Romana is closed Monday; for exact hours and more information visit www.lacasinadc.com.

Ledo Revisited

The latest Ledo Pizza outlet has arrived at 415 Eighth St. SE, on Barracks Row. This pizza parlor claims quite a history.  Founded in 1955 in Adelphi, Maryland (near College Park) and now a nationwide chain, Ledo is known for its square shape and flaky crusts. Thanks to its moderate prices, Ledo has long been popular with budget-minded University of Maryland students–including me. (There’s another Ledo at 814 H St. NE (Atlas District).

The latest outpost of Ledo Pizza – founded in 1955 and known for square pies – has opened on Barracks Row.

When I frequented the original Ledo decades ago, I don’t recall cauliflower crusts, Bavarian soft pretzels or Korean chicken noodle salads. How times have changed. Exactly 50 years ago, as newlyweds, Peter and I ate at the original Ledo on June 19, 1972. To celebrate our big 5-0, we checked out Barracks Row’s Ledo on June 19, 2022. Unfortunately, our Korean chicken pizza didn’t quite measure up to the original.

Barracks Row Ledo is open daily, mainly for carryout, although there is ample seating. For more information or to order online, visit www.ledopizza.com.

Navy Yard Offspring

After debuting six years ago in Shaw, Takoda Restaurant & Beer Garden has unveiled a lofty spinoff at 1299 First St. SE. The 385-seat newcomer is directly across from Nationals Park. Created by Better Hospitality Group, the soaring, 7,000-square-foot enterprise boasts a spacious rooftop restaurant. (Another BHG restaurant is the District Wharf’s Boardwalk Bar & Arcade.)

“We have lots of loyal Takoda Shaw patrons who live in Navy Yard. Now they have one at their doorstep,” BHG CEO Ryan Seelbach told Eater DC.

Emerging from Chef Julio Estrado’s kitchen are tater tots, boneless chicken wings, six types of sliders, and a hefty cheeseburger. The seven-ounce patty is a blend of short rib and brisket. You’ll also find barbecue chicken, pulled pork, and roasted portobello sandwiches and a Buffalo chicken wrap.

The late night weekend menu–including a takeout window–offers a fried pickles basket, truffle fries, and fish and chips. For more information visit www.takodadc.com.

Revisiting Sanphan

Last month, while I was attending my Red Hat luncheon, Peter decided to revisit a 14-year-old neighborhood eatery. Here’s his experience:

It might not appear lively or trendy, but Sanphan Thai Cuisine,  653 Pa. Ave. SE, offers a variety of flavorful dishes ranging from calamari and tofu to steamed dumplings and Pad Thai. So, I sampled one of my favorite Siamese salads–larb gai–along with crispy spring rolls and Thai iced tea–all for $21.40.

On Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Sanphan showcases moderately priced Thai dishes in a plain, homespun atmosphere.

I was pleased with my spicy entree salad, featuring minced chicken on a bed of lettuce and red onions with a tangy lime dressing; I also liked the hot cabbage-stuffed spring rolls dipped in a sweet and sour sauce. Plenty of indoor seating was available on Monday at lunchtime. The décor is pleasant but somewhat Spartan. What Sanphan may lack in atmosphere or energy, it makes up for in zesty cuisine and prompt dine-in and/or carryout service. Sanphan is open daily for lunch and dinner (except holidays). For more information visit www.sanphanthaicuisine.com.

RAMMY Awards

It’s time to retrieve your tux and ball gown from the closet: Coming up July 24 is the 40th Annual RAMMY Awards. Sponsored by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, the black-tie gala will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  The event honors the accomplishments of individuals of the region’s restaurant and food service community.

Several Capitol Hill restaurants have been nominated for awards in various categories. Among them are Caruso’s Grocery and Daru (Best New Restaurant of the Year). Nominated for Rising Culinary Star: Kat Petonito  (Duck & the Peach, La Collina, The Wells gin bar); Mangialardo’s Deli–beloved for its humongous G-Man sub  (Hottest Sandwich Spot). For a complete list of RAMMY nominees, tickets and more information visit www.ramw.org.