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Posted at 3:18 PM ET, 08/28/2006

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By Erin

Piola, the international Italian pizza chain, opened up today in Rosslyn. Located next to Cafe Asia, the restaurant has an industrial style, spruced up with two chandeliers and dozens of brightly colored glass wall sconces that lend a near theatrical feeling to the casual and vibrant space.

The chain originated in Italy, but gained international popularity with its locations in Brazil and Argentina. The first U.S. branch opened in Miami Beach, and a subsequent New York location has generated good feedback from the world's foremost pizza snobs.

The Brazilian influence appears throughout the menu -- anybody want a caipirinha with that catupiry cheese-topped pizza? -- but Italian flavors dominate. If you like variety, you're in luck. The dinner menu reads more like a phone book than a menu; for timid or undecisive diners, I'd recommend a first visit at lunch when the extensive dinner menu is hacked down to a "best of" with 11 pies, five pastas and a few salads. Baked in a wood-burning oven, the thin-crust pies are less filling than the offerings from many local pizzerias, and the 10-inch pizzas make a great lunch.

Mostly named after cities, the overwhelmingly long list of pizza combinations include toppings like catupiry cheese, ricotta, sweet corn and tuna. To simplify the decision-making, you could order based on your favorite cities or future vacation spots. Interested in Copenhagen? You'll be eating mozzarella, brie cheese, smoked salmon and parsley. If I can tear myself from the crispy pies, I'll be tempted to order the homemade gnocchi with four cheese sauce.

Rumor has it that many ingredients are flown in each week from Italy and, after sampling a few pies, I'd believe it. The Moderna, made with mozzarella, arugula, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, was the most authentic pie I've found outside Italy. The arugula had the taste I've sought out since my first arugula pizza in Venice -- flavorful, but not overwhelmingly bitter. The signature Piola was less successful. Slightly charred on one side, the fresh mozzarella had not fully melted and the sun-dried tomatoes had been added after baking, so they were cold against the warm pie. The dough has the right balance of salt and doughiness and the tomato sauce is subtle, but scrumptious.

As with any new business, the restaurant needs time to get in motion. As one would expect in the culinarily-challenged Rosslyn, throngs of curious passersby were packed into the restaurant less than an hour after it had opened. The restaurant was understandably overwhelmed. "Hey, you sat down more than 20 minutes after us, but you got your pizzas already," one woman complained. Luckily, the pizzas should be enough to warrant a return visit from even the grumpiest customers.

Not too expensive with a lively scene and food that you could potentially share, Piola caught my eye as a potential first date destination. I imagine more than a few couples will find love over fluffy tiramisu.


By Erin  | August 28, 2006; 3:18 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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What is your idea of "Not too expensive"???

How much for lunch? How much for dinner? How much was that 10" lunch pizza? How much for a real NYC sized pie?

There are too many shi shi poo poo, overpriced "pizzarias" in the metro area (Ellas and Matchbox come to mind as mediocre pizza at an exorbitant price). Is this like Faccia Luna in Clarendon or Lucianos (where you can buy a slice, imagine that!?!?!) next to Lord and Taylor at Tysons Corner (both price wise and quality wise)?

If all it takes to be a "GOG" is praising a restuarant with stylistic prose, then can I be a guru too? Actually, I'd prefer to dish the real dirt after living in the DC area for so long (around a decade) with so few good Italian or Chinese restaurants or Diners that I'd love to hear about some of the bad places so I don't waste my time or money.

And are the GOGs going to dish their secret stashes of restaurants. I know I don't want to give away some of my best kept secrets because they are cheap, good, and not crowded when I go. Try getting into any restaurant on the Washingtonian's list just by walking in (and not having to wait an hour or more, if you are lucky enough to find parking).

Yeah, I have rambled on. But only in the hopes of improving this blog. I am a foodie. OK, I am a foodaholic. Admitting I am addicted to food is the first step. The GOGs giving me the placed to fill my appetite is step #2.

Posted by: give the details | August 28, 2006 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Heh. That was a bit over the top, and I was ready to get defensive for you guys.

However, I second a couple of ideas and will elaborate on possible ways to go.

(1) Give us the bad places. What places are just not worth it? What places, in your opinions, are overhyped? I would LOVE to see the Washington Post do an "Overhyped Eats" reader poll (hah! and see Starbucks win that one, too!)

(2) Dish on your favorites, in a rather bold way. Each of you tell us what place you voted for in the Post poll for each category.

Posted by: Kalorama Heights | August 29, 2006 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Just click on the highlighted name of the restaurant, and viola!, it's magic, there's a Washington Post review that includes prices.
Ain't technology grand.

Posted by: clicker | August 29, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

yeah, i'm over the top? but isn't that business as usual on a blog--I an the EXTREME!

to clicker: (a) i am lazy--i shouldn't have to click twice (i already click on the link for the blog) and (b) if i am clicking to the washpost review then what the heck is the point of this blog? aren't the GOGs supposed to give us something other than or beyond the WP review? if not, the blog serves no useful purpose--why click on the blog at all if all the necessary/useful info is in the WP review link?

i want it now! give it to me! (i guess i should have chosen a different Nom de Plume).

Posted by: give the details | August 29, 2006 10:38 PM | Report abuse

I had dinner at Piloa last night and it was pretty nice. The pizzas cost between $9-$14, there are appetizers, some salads, pasta dishes and a couple of entrees. I would recommend sticking with the pizzas and dessert. Also, the wine is fairly priced (by the glass or bottle...)
It's a much needed addition to the Rosslyn restaurant scene and gives the neighborhood a casual and relatively inexpensive place to eat.

Posted by: Rosslyn Diner | August 31, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

This is gooood pizza. This is the real deal.

I'm very particular about my pies, especially when it comes to thin crust, which can be easily butchered. My pizza was pure bliss. The perfect balance of sauce, cheese (REAL cheese), and toppings. The crust was smokey, charred, and crispy. Maybe I just got lucky. But I'll happily go back to find out!

Posted by: Finicky Palate | August 31, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

just got back from Piola and did a quick search then saw this blog... For those who are self-proclaimed "lazy", "Foodie", etc.; here's my 2-cents comment from a very humble opinon and one that has lived on the Orange Line for the past 4 years and traveled (and eat at) all but one contient (Anartica)... Piola is the Benetton of pizza.

So you ask what do I mean by that? Food wise simpy take a look at the menu, unless you are "Rain Man" it should take you about 15 min. just to read through it, nevermind comprehending what you shall received. Taste wise (and most importantly), food is as italian as you would get around DC area. Before sampling this place, The Italian Place hands-down WAS the best slice you could get in the DC area. Decor wise, well if you ever been to a trendy and/or touristy part of Italy and Spain and France, you'd feel at home with Piola - posh, new-euro "colour", furnitures, and cuterly; they even have a magazine/propaganda booklet similar to Color (by benetton).

In summary, I'd defintely go back. Then with their Brazilian/Arg. influence, it's nice to be able to enjoy a few of their drinks in the "bar"/waiting area (~$7/piece) before diving into the dining room especially if there's a wait.

Posted by: Good Italian | September 4, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

thanks "Good Italian" for the insight. However, I would *love* a point of reference. Did you mean "The Italian Store" off Rt 29 near I-66 in Arlington, or is "The Italian Place" another establishment?

my .02: Italian Store pizza is nothing special, but sadly among the best I've had in NOVA/DC metro area (approx. a decade of living along the orange line). Any respectable pizzaria anywhere in NYC metro area (not including Ray's--famous, original, original famous, famous original, or other) is at least as good and most likely better than Italian Store pizza.

But the Italian Store has very good sandwiches and from time to time carries Bergers cookies (if you don't know what they are, definitely try to get some--especially if you happen to be in or near Baltimore; if you do know what they are, I am sorry I let out this secret so that you can buy my cookies before I get there).

Posted by: give the details | September 6, 2006 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I agree with a poster above. The pizza was definitely pretty good, but still not worth the price. In addition, I had to wait 35 minutes for a very simple pie, even when the restaurant had maybe 5 other people in the place. The only thing that really singles this place out for me is the variety of toppings. If that's worth it to you, try it out. For me, it wasn't worth the wait or the price.

Posted by: Rosslyn Resident | September 7, 2006 7:25 PM | Report abuse

My pizza arrived very hot and tasty in about 15 minutes, which seemed perfectly reasonable. Piola was a bit light with the toppings, but I have to admit that the balance worked. The blend of cheeses (espcially in the Rio de Janiero pizza), the rich smokey crust, and the freshness of toppings (like arugula) made up for the quantity of toppings in quality.

The surprise of the night were the caiparihnas at the bar. The bar was packed on Friday night. I watched the bartenders slice and muddle fresh lime and use brazilian cachaca (not rum like some bars) into my caiparihna. Shame that summer is coming to an end, because these drinks are just what the doctor ordered for a hot evening.

Posted by: Foodie | September 12, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

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