Favorite Friday: Il Canale (DC)

IMG_2540 I’m not sure if I’ve really emphasized my love for pizza on the blog yet (I have just a little bit on the ole Twitter), but I love pizza. Actually, the word love doesn’t really do justice to how I feel about pizza. If I had a food soul mate, it would be pizza. We go way back. My working life didn’t start with pizza, but from age 16-22, I worked with pizza. It started the Pizza Hut while I was in high school. This was very much a coming of age time when I finally found other gay people in my small southern town and no longer felt so alone. That job was tied in very closely with that. Then in college, I worked for a little mom and pop Greek and Italian restaurant in Roanoke called Veranda Bistro. I was a server for most of my time there, but in the last 6 months, the owner pulled me off the floor to help in the kitchen. I was in charge of pizzas and calzones on those nights. It led to quite a few burns, I was always covered in flour, and my hands smelled like garlic for days, but it only deepened my love for pizza. Once I moved away, it took me a long time to find pizza I liked as much as there, but Il Canale comes about as close as you can get.

Il Canale  is one of the places that has convinced me that I WILL have a wood burning, stone oven in my back yard one day (Theirs is mosaic and is on display as soon as you walk in). You really can’t beat pizza cooked that way. It gets the crust crisp on the outside but still chewy on the inside. I originally wasn’t sure how to feel about Neapolitan pizza. So few toppings! The more, the better! But I’ve since learned, no, when the ingredients are delicious, you only need a couple.

  • What I usually order: The Sofia pizza. Bufala mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and basil. Olive oil instead of tomato sauce. Sometimes I branch out, but sometimes I also just HAVE to have that. Last time I went, my friend ordered a seafood stew that was amaaaazing. It had mussels, clams, fish, all in a tomato-based broth with pieces of day-old bread in the bottom to soak it all up. After a couple of tries with some very mediocre seafood earlier in the week (at a place I will not be reviewing because I was so disappointed), this stew was a winner.
  • Why I keep going back: The slightly crunchy, slightly chewy crust on the pizza, the super fresh ingredients, the location half a block from my office, the roof deck, even the iced tea.
  • Thing I still haven’t tried yet: I haven’t tried any of the pasta. If it’s anywhere near the quality of the pizza, it has to be good.
  • Fun things about this place: The tiny roof deck! It’s so nice to sit outside on a warm day, enjoy a slight breeze, and forget about work for a while. They’re also expanding into the old fish market space next door, so the size of the dining room is about to increase significantly. Il Canale is one of very few places in DC with D.O.C status. Only certain ingredients are used and the pizza has to be cooked in a wood-burning oven. “The Verace Pizza Napoletana Association was established to protect and promote authentic Neapolitan pizza and defend its Neapolitan origins and traditions.” Il Canale adheres to these standards and you’ll see the seal on the outside of their building. How can you not love pizza that is certified by the Italian government?

Favorite Friday: Nellie’s Sports Bar (DC)

Ahhh, Nellie’s. Many a birthday has been celebrated here. In fact, I think I’ve ended up at Nellie’s on my birthday for most years that I’ve lived in the area. And now that I’m friends with the owner on Facebook, my name goes up on the chalk boards. It has become my tradition to get a picture of myself in front of it. I was originally drawn to Nellie’s because it was a gay bar. A gay sports bar, in fact. I kept going back because of how comfortable it is there. The space is huge, with 3 different bars, the servers and bartenders are friendly (and pretty), and the Happy Hour specials, where you can get beers for $2, 3, and 4 from 5-8pm, are unbeatable. It’s more than that though. DC became home because of the community I fell into with Nellie’s and DC Gay Flag Football. It feels like a home base. I never don’t see someone else I know there. The day that DOMA was repealed, our first thought was to go there and celebrate with our friends. And we did. That’s the kind of place Nellie’s is.

What I usually order: Usually a salad, burger, or empanadas. All 3 are solid choices here. Oh the wings or the nachos!  For a sports bar, the food is really good. And beer. I’ve consumed so much Miller Lite here. I was pleased to see a couple of weeks ago that they do have quite a few microbrews on draft upstairs now.
Why I keep going back: So many reasons. There was a point when I was here at least once per week. Now, I’m mostly there for flag football events and hangouts. It’s just a good, comfortable, easy default spot.
Thing I still haven’t tried yet: As far as the food, there’s not much on the menu I haven’t tried! I still haven’t been to drag brunch buffet. It always looks super crowded but like so much fun. Maybe after my Sundays free up this summer.
Fun things about this place: The space is an awesome mix of sports memorabilia and gay bar. They have drag brunch, trivia, drag bingo, ping pong, karaoke, pretty much anything you can imagine. They also just put in big tilting windows downstairs so that the dining room will be nice and airy when it finally warms up. OH! And a roof deck! Ah, and the duckies.

Favorite Friday: Baked and Wired (DC)

Rather than just reviewing the new things I’m trying, I think I owe it to the places I’ve already discovered and love, to talk about them too. This is my new Friday feature: Favorite Friday. I think it is only appropriate that Baked and Wired be my first Favorites post.

I’ve worked just down the block from Baked and Wired (more affectionately called “Baked”) for 5.5 years and have been in love with it since I had my very first cupcake there. Our relationship started with a lot of passion, I was going there at least weekly. This in combination with just having started my desk-job-life definitely put a few pounds on me (I mean, what? There are no calories in anything there!) So I had to cool it a bit, but even almost 6 years later, Baked is my go-to anytime I want a treat, someone needs a birthday cupcake (they sell candles too), to celebrate a promotion, anniversary, whatever the occasion. They have every (creative) flavor of cupcake you could ever dream up, as well as various and assorted other delightful baked goods. It’s less in my wheelhouse, but they also have really great coffee and espresso. I just like a good latte and theirs hits the spot.

  • What I usually order: Well, it depends. Most often, I just go for the iced tea (Persian Nectar, most often). When I need a pick me up, a latte. When I want a treat, THE STRAWBERRY CUPCAKE. Oh my god. SO GOOD.
  • What she misses (the lady used to work right across the street and still swoons when I mention it): The lattes and the pecan bars.
  • Why I keep going back: This is the best damn cupcake in DC. Forget Georgetown Cupcake. Screw Sprinkles. When people ask about the best cupcake in DC, Baked and Wired is the only answer.
  • Thing I still haven’t tried yet: Ice Cream sandwiches! (I’ll have to check that out when DC finally thaws from this epic winter.)
  • Fun things about this place: The chalkboard art, puns (weed puns!), and riddles on the sandwich board outside. The pink bike also chained up outside. The big colorful mural on the coffee side. Even though word has gotten out and they’re fairly busy all the time, it still feels like a neighborhood spot and they take time to get to know you.