Dining: Superlative pizza at Pacci's Pizzeria in Silver Spring
The keys to a magnificent thin-crust pizza are quite so simple: Killer dough rolled thin enough to be crisp but thick enough to have some dense chew to it; a blistering hot, slightly smoky wood-fired oven that cooks, crisps and slightly chars the dough on contact; and uncomplicated-yet-high-quality toppings and cheeses. The pizza chef, or "pizzaiolo," at Pacci's indeed cracks the code of authentic Neapolitan pizza.
But first, Pacci's appetizers, or "sfizi and antipasti," include a bruschetta al pomodoro wide slabs of dense grilled bread mounded with expertly diced fresh tomatoes laced with minced garlic and sliced fresh basil and enriched with quality olive oil. The bruschetta Napoletana is even better with slivers of olives, cubed mozzarella and oregano added to the mix. Marinated artichokes surpass the usual salad bar variety, with large chunks of artichoke hearts tossed with flavors of lemon, white wine, herbs and olive oil.
The house-named Pacci's salad is an eclectic mix of pears, dried cranberries, cucumber, tomato, blanched red onion, mozzarella, pecans, arugula and spinach tossed in balsamic vinegar and a delicious olive oil. By thoughtful culinary composition, its sum is greater than its parts. Similarly delicious is la sorrentinella, an appetizer of thin sliced grilled eggplant rolled and stuffed with mozzarella, tomatoes, olives and basil.
When it comes to the Napoletana-style pizzas, the menu is divided into red pizza, made with San Marzano tomatoes, and white pizzas, featuring house-made fresh mozzarella cheese as well as certified Italian cheeses. The diavola is a red pizza that gets a swift kick from spicy Italian salami, while the margherita is all about fresh flavors, with a light tomato sauce that is not too sweet, fresh mozzarella, freshly grated parmesan cheese and leaves of fresh basil. Quattro stagioni is four red pizzas in one, each quadrant garnished variously with mushrooms and ham, salami and mozzarella, hulled cherry tomatoes and tomato sauce.
Quattro formaggi is a classic white pizza, with smoked provolone, gorgonzola, fontina and emmental cheeses finished with parmesan cheese and fresh basil. The creamy, briny cheeses contrast beautifully with the char and slight smokiness from the 750-degree oven that is fueled by flavorful woods.
Tronchetti is an inversion of pizza that involves half baking the crust, then sprinkling with toppings and rolling it all up and finishing it in the oven. Il ninnone is such a concoction, made with cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, parmesan shavings and fresh basil. The classic stuffed calzone is also available in both vegetarian and meat-filled versions. Panini grilled sandwiches make for excellent carryout, with the Panini Cotto e funghi smoked provolone, mushrooms, ham, fontina and fresh basil sandwiched and pressed between fresh grilled slices of house bread a standout.
Tiramisu also rises way above the usual restaurant rendition, with world-class espresso-soaked sponge cake layered with mascarpone cheese and rum and finished with a significant coating of cocoa powder. Nutellotto is a dessert pizza made with Nutella, and surprisingly, it works especially well with the addition of sliced strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar.
Pacci's is a crisp polished space with tall ceilings. The rustic feel is complemented by classy fixtures, tiles, lights and marble finishes that are imported from Italy. Flat panel TVs are unobtrusive. Two outdoor patios afford plenty of seating. The wood-fired oven is a glorious centerpiece to the ambiance at the front of the house. Pacci's prides itself on producing pizza that complies with regulations set by the Associazion Verzce Pizza Napoletana, using organic tomatoes and mozzarella made in-house, as well as cheeses and olive oils that are certified "DOP," or "protected designation of origin" from Italy. While this pizza packs up well to go, it is optimally eaten crisp and singed right out of the oven.
8113 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring
Hours: Tues.Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.11 p.m.; Sun. 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Style of cuisine: Authentic Neapolitan Pizzeria
Appetizers: $6.50-$9 ($12.50 for appetizer assortment)dinner/weekends $6.25/lb.
Credit cards: All major cards