Written & Photographed By Suellen Barnes
Pie-Tanza Review – An Italian Oasis in DC
If flying to Naples to get your favorite Italian wood-fired grilled pizza is slightly out of your budget – and you are in the local Washington, D.C., area – then consider visiting Pie-Tanza, a casual café in the North Harrison neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, just eight miles away from Washington, D.C..
Since a trip to Pie-Tanza – a lovely, family-friendly dining establishment that features a vast assortment of Neapolitan style favorites including wood-fired grilled pizzas, savory soups and appetizers, fresh garden salads, pasta dishes, calzones, sub sandwiches, and handmade desserts – is undoubtedly a more affordable option for my family than taking a trip to Italy, my daughter, Mary-Kaitlyn, and I recently visited the small bistro to sample their Italian dishes. Graciously welcomed by smiling staff upon our arrival, we were pleased when a smart, amiable server named Gino personally escorted us to our table, promptly took our drink orders, and began our Italian edibles tour.
Quickly observing the restaurant’s décor, I could easily see that Pie-Tanza’s owners, Ed. P. McKee and Karen Lavan Waltman, had not ignored even the slightest of details in their attempt to transport their guests from a bustling Washington suburb to a quaint Neapolitan corner. Hand painted murals of typical Italian scenes, seemingly floating atop ginger-tinted walls, expertly opened up the small space to make it feel far bigger than it actually was.
Encouraging my mind to wander even farther away from the busy D.C. suburb, Gino, then, delivered three courses of delightfully delectable food to our table starting with an enormous bowl of fresh, steaming Mussels. Bathed in a broth of white wine, shallots, garlic, and fresh herbs and accompanied by toasted garlic bread, the sweet, briny taste of the mussels along with the delicate taste of the shallots, the acidity of the white wine, and the unique flavors of the garlic and fresh herbs culminated in a delicious dish worthy of soaking the very last drop of broth with an eagerly requested additional piece of bread
Next, came our two entrees:
After taking a bite of her Spicy Sausage Pasta, my daughter’s broad smile adequately revealed her overwhelming approval of the colorful compilation of piquant Italian sausages mixed with sweet onions, green peppers, penne pasta, and a spicy red sauce. Certain that my resulting mirrored image communicated the same sense of approval after I sampled my 12 -inch wood-fired Classic Mediterranean Pizza – a pizza consisting of fontina, mozzarella, fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil, black olives, sweet roasted tomato, pancetta, fresh basil, and crumbled feta cheese a top a traditional homemade thin crust – I, then, cautiously lifted the pizza up to examine its underside. Baking a pizza in a 7,000 pound stainless steel oven requires expertise in order to not overcook the crust. Utterly satisfied to learn that the crust of the Pie-Tanza pizza was a perfect light golden brown underneath, I eagerly took my next bite.
Finally, Gino delivered our last course, the desserts:
Sampling Mary-Kaitlyn‘s Tira Misu, I found the nutty flavor of the espresso combined with the lady-fingers, mascarpone cream, whipped cream, and cocoa powder highly appealing. Taking a rather large bite of my Italian Lemon Cake, however, I found the lemony lightness of the two layers of white cake cradling a rich layer of cream to more expertly satisfy my palate after eating such a rich meal. A fine cappuccino, topped with a firm froth, came next and we were done.
Stepping out of the Italian restaurant’s cozy, family-friendly atmosphere, replete with a crowd of cheerfully chattering customers praising the Calamari Fritti, Arugula and Pear Salad, and Fresh-Filled Mini Cannolis, my reverie was abruptly interrupted by the blinding Washington, D.C., sunlight, a crowded parking lot, and the sound of impatient horn-blowers, anxiously making their way back to work. For a brief moment, I considered turning around to run back inside, but, then, with a silly smile, I changed my mind and laughed.
Eating delicious wood-fired grilled pizza at Pie-Tanza – and, thus, being reminded of all that is good about Italy – is a much more convenient way to get away from life’s daily hassles than taking a vacation and, in comparison to buying a ticket to Rome, it is a whole heck of a lot cheaper!
Pie-Tanza, Lee Harrison Center
2503 B. N. Harrison Street
Arlington, Virginia, 22207
T: 703-237-0200, F: 703-237-5033