The blistered crust bursts out from under bubbling Buffalo mozzarella in a riotous crunch, the perfect yeasty complement to the chewy cheese, garden-fresh basil and chunky housemade tomato sauce it cradles. This is the same greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts Neapolitan-style pizza that graced Pizzeria Paradiso’s menu 25 years ago, when the restaurant opened in a Dupont Circle town house.
“For me, it’s very humbling to see how Pizzeria Paradiso has grown,” founder Ruth Gresser said. “What started off as a means for me to have the freedom to run my own little restaurant has evolved into something I never imagined.”
While Pizzeria Paradiso is known for driving the popularity of Neapolitan slices in D.C., the restaurant was well ahead of its time in other ways, such as its focus on quality ingredients and casual, inviting atmosphere (no overpriced steaks or stuffy environment).
Since then, the restaurant has expanded from its original Dupont location to a new, handsome restaurant on P Street. A second restaurant opened in Georgetown in 2002, and a third in Old Town, Alexandria, in 2010 (a fourth is planned for Hyattsville, Maryland). There’s also a sister fast-casual downtown spot called Veloce.
Gresser has cooking in her blood. She grew up in the kitchen cooking with family and later studied classical French technique. After stints in upscale restaurants, she established herself in Washington, eventually opening six restaurants in the area, not to mention writing a pizza cookbook.
In true D.C. fashion, Gresser also became an activist. She serves on the board of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an association of high-achieving women in the culinary profession. Gresser was recognized by President Obama for her leadership in providing employee benefits, receiving an invitation to the American Jobs Act
signing ceremony in 2012.
“I could not have grown it into the business it is today without my Paradiso family,” Gresser said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing the staff grow and take pride in what we do, and look
forward to continuing to build a company that challenges, excites and motivates us to do
our very best.”
Pizzeria Paradiso has also been forward-thinking in its beer program, treating it as many other restaurants treat their wine programs. The brews are artisanal and refined, chosen to pair well with the restaurant’s pizza. This innovative approach has won it
accolades, including a RAMMY in 2015 for Beer Program of the Year.
To mark Pizza Paradiso’s 25th anniversary, all three locations will feature items from the original menu, at 1991 prices, from Nov. 14 to 20. On Nov. 17, the Georgetown location, 3282 M St. NW, will replicate the restaurant’s first-ever beer dinner, offering a five-course meal paired with Belgian Trappist beers.