There are clearly many styles of pizza. There’s New York, Chicago deep dish (FYI: my eyes are rolling), and Neapolitan while the rest are frozen or from delivery chains and are beneath the value of my written word (overly confident… I told you). New York and Neapolitan Style, although completely different, both have great merit and I enjoy both (I left out Chicago deep dish… that’s weird). So I was excited to be invited to Pizzeria da Marco, a certified Neapolitan pizzeria to see if the pizza there lived up to expectations. What exactly does it mean to be a certified Neapolitan pizzeria? Well, General Manager Alessandro told us that it’s all about the ingredients (00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes and imported mozzarella), the oven (made from imported lava rock with an operating temperature of about 900 degrees) and the technique (stretching the dough correctly, cooking for only 60 seconds and never slicing before serving). Yes, 60 seconds!!! The rules are dictated by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana and pizzerias are often checked for quality. Pizzeria da Marco Head Chef Dino seems to be the go-to guy for the local pizza police as he was just recently auditing another new restaurant (he’ll probably be hired by the IRS any day now to start up their new pizza auditing branch).
While impressive, this all means nothing if the pizza isn’t good. I had the Napoli (tomato sauce, eggplant, and sausage) and Lindsey had the Salsiccie E Friarelle which she obviously just pointed to on the menu rather than trying to pronounce it. I liked my choice the best. The flavors of the sauce, the cheese, and the toppings were powerful, tasty, and nicely proportioned. Cutting it with a knife and fork, which can be a pain at other restaurants, was not difficult, but I’m just not sure I will ever get used to not being able to pick up my pizza (stubborn… I told you). The certified Neapolitan style is such that the center of the pizza is a little flimsy and it requires a fork until that portion is gone. Regardless, it tastes really good and I will try my best to adapt. Lindsey (who shamefully often eats pizza with a knife and fork) loved her pizza’s classic combination of rapini and sausage and thought the smoked (instead of fresh) mozzarella was a nice touch.
Pizzeria da Marco has more to offer than just its pizza. We started with some Prosecco and nice table wine but I will definitely be trying the rest of their ample selections when I belly up at the long bar next time. We were then served a board of freshly cut cured meats, although it was nothing special to be honest, a nice caprese salad, and a very flavorful insalata mista which I will order again. Then, just before the pizza came, we were given some oven roasted pizza crust with rosemary and garlic which was crazy good, a must order for sharing at only $5.
Dessert had its ups and downs. I love all things salty and sweet but the salted caramel budino didn’t work for me. If it’s traditional, I’ll just let it go as not my thing. If not, I think a few edits could make it better. The gelato was pretty good but the nutella calzone was the real story. Yes, calzone… not, cannoli. It was way too big for a dessert for one, and probably even for three, but it was really good. I hope they make a single serving size in the future.
Finally, I was impressed with how they used the large space. A huge bar is separated from the dining area and the tables are not crammed together like most other spots in Bethesda. There are also a few tables on the patio. It is appropriately decorated with a few uncluttered pictures from Naples, including a great shot of Dino’s grandmother by the front door, while the trim and paint are nicely chosen and obviously not just thrown together on the cheap.
So, all in all, we had a great time at Pizzeria da Marco and will be back often. The best part is that it is different enough from Mia’s that I think there is room for both in that section of town. I was worried that the market would be flooded with pizza places, but Pizzeria da Marco is unique, maintains the traditions of Naples, and is a more sophisticated choice than the others.
Pizzeria da Marco
8008 Woodmont Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814