- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

The 2 Amys, a few steps down from the popular Cactus Cantina on Macomb Street NW in Cleveland Park, is a pizza palace with an ancestry.
Pizzeria Paradiso, a tiny eatery on P Street NW just west of Dupont Circle, owned by Ruth Gresser and Peter Pastan, has been producing the city's best pizzas for more than a decade. Mr. Pastan and his new partner, Tim Giamette, both of whom have wives named Amy, have taken their pizza pans uptown.
Pizza has been a Neapolitan specialty since the early 19th century, although its true origins date back to the Egyptians and Greeks. The word is a corruption of the Latin word "picea," which described the black undercoating of flat round breads baked in ashes with such simple toppings as oil, garlic, onions and herbs.
Everyone who likes the thin-crusted, sparsely topped Neapolitan original will find it at 2 Amys.
The pizzeria makes three versions, the pride of the restaurant. All three are mysteriously labeled "pizze d.o.c.," for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, a term by which the Italian government regulates the legally permitted ingredients and manner of production of various foods and wines.
For authentic Neapolitan pizza, only soft-grain flour, fresh yeast, water and sea salt may be used for the dough; Italian plum tomatoes, mozzarella made from buffalo milk, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh basil or dried oregano may be used for the toppings. Fresh garlic may be used only on the pizza marinara. All Neapolitan pizzas must be cooked in a wood-burning oven.
Pizze d.o.c. at 2 Amys is made according to the strict regulations: Marinara is topped with tomatoes, garlic and oregano; Margherita (named for and favored by Queen Margherita, wife of Umberto I of 19th-century Italy) carries the red, white and green of the Italian flag with its tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; and Margherita extra adds cherry tomatoes.
All that is very nice, but the proof is in the crust and what's on it. These pizzas have a thin, marvelously chewy crust (you can order them crisp if you don't like a softer crust), good-quality olive oil, a thin coating of tomato and a sprinkling of excellent buffalo mozzarella. They're simple and delicious.
Besides the three d.o.c. pizzas, 10 nonregulation pizzas are on the menu, plus two daily specials, with toppings ranging from simple tomato and mozzarella (Two Amys) to garlic, capers, parsley, hot pepper, cockles and cheese (Vongole) or eggplant confit, olives and capers (Etna). Toppings can be added for $1 to $2.50 each.
The crust is the same for all the pizzas. The Two Amys pizza is curiously bland; a sprinkling of hot peppers, available on each table, helps. The d.o.c. Margherita, however, with its addition of a few basil leaves, is subtle and delicious.
The menu also lists three "stuffed pizze." These are enormous calzones, or pizza sandwiches, made with the same chewy yeast dough as the flat pizzas. Unfortunately, the dough, which is much thicker in the stuffed pizza, is not always cooked through.
The "ripieno" is listed on the menu as combining ricotta, fresh mozzarella, grana cheese and tomato. It arrived at the table with the barest spoonful of tomato sauce on the top and a fountain of light ricotta flowing from the inside. There was no evidence of any other cheese, nor was there tomato in the filling. Too much dough and too much bland ricotta, not enough mozarella and certainly not enough tomato.
The menu is not exclusively pizzas; it also offers some delicious "little things," five fresh salads and several specials of the day. During a recent visit, a special appetizer was a small plate of three tempura-style squash blossoms stuffed with mozzarella, basil and anchovies. They were crisp, light as feathers, crunchy on the outside and meltingly delicious on the inside. A wonderful treat.
Special pizzas one day included one with house-made chorizo plus fennel and herbs and a second with fresh chanterelle mushrooms, asparagus, garlic, onion and fontina cheese.
We also tried oven-roasted peppers and anchovies, an excellent combination. Large pieces of red and yellow peppers, roasted and presented in good olive oil, are combined with anchovy filets. It's a simple, classic dish, but when well prepared with first-class ingredients, it's a great way to start a meal.
Deviled eggs with green sauce are a retro starter, except that the green sauce is far from old-fashioned. It's a parsley pesto made with pungent garlic, spicy parsley leaves and capers. Despite the assertive nature of the sauce, it doesn't overpower the delicately flavored eggs. At $3.95, it's a bargain.
Suppli a telefono (so called because the stringy melted mozzarella in the deep-fried little rice balls resembles telephone wires) is equally satisfying. The crusty rice balls come to the table piping hot, with the cheese inside melted. The combination of mozzarella and rice works beautifully.
For dessert, if you haven't had enough cheese on the pizza, there are three cheeses: goat cheese with fig jam, sheep ricotta with olive oil and chives and Gorgonzola with chestnut honey.
In addition to a daily (sometimes twice daily) dessert special such as a nut torte with chocolate sorbet or stewed cherries with cinnamon ice cream, the kitchen prepares half a dozen desserts, including a divine Marsala custard. It's a rich, thick cream, the consistency of creme brulee without the crunchy sugar coating, delicately flavored with Marsala. It's simple and delightful.
Cannoli, house-made, is pleasingly light; the filling in the crisp crust is made with whipped ricotta lightly flavored with candied citrus fruit.
Wines, in keeping with the menu, are rustic and straightforward, primarily Italian.
The pizzeria is a bright, cheerful neighborhood space. Service is young and friendly. The chief drawback is the noise, especially in the evening, when the restaurant is filled with students and young professionals. The black-and-white-tiled floor, white tiles around the open kitchen and tin ceiling all amplify the sound. It's fun, and you can save the conversation for later.

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