What makes a great pizza? Is it the crust? The sauce? The toppings?
Pizza is so ubiquitous across American culture that every region has its own take on the savory pie. Now Northern Virginia gets to experience a unique take from New England at the restaurant and bar Colony Grill. The recently opened location, at 2800 Clarendon Boulevard in Ballston, is Colony Grill’s first expansion outside the Northeast.
A post-Prohibition tavern, Colony Grill opened in 1935 in an Irish immigrant neighborhood in Stamford, Connecticut. The original owners were Irish American, but their chefs were Italian and Eastern European. These men proudly wanted to share the pizza recipes of their homelands, but needed a way to fit a pizza tray on a narrow bar top.
The solution? The Bar Pie, a thin-crust pizza smaller in diameter than a traditional pizza, with a thin layer of cheese and sauce. Slices can be easily managed with one hand — fittingly leaving the other hand free to hold a glass.
That’s it, the only thing on the menu: a one-of-a-kind, thin-crust pizza best served with its signature “hot oil” topping.
From there, you can personalize the pie to your liking with a handful of toppings. You can even add a full salad on top of your pie with the aptly named Salad Pie. A Breakfast Pie is available on weekends, with your choice of bacon or sausage, egg and cheese.
I tried the Bar Pie with meatballs, onions, peppers and, of course, hot oil.
The crust is crispy, but not brittle. It has a nice char across the bottom, which serves as a great foundation for the slightly chewy layer of dough above. Each bite is a satisfying crunch, exploring new parts of the pizza. And the sauce is flavorful, but not overbearing. It makes room for each supporting cast member to shine. The peppers are soft and savory, the onions cooked to perfection: light with a perfect gumminess.
It would be a mistake to skip Colony Grill’s signature hot oil. It has the right amount of zing, sinking into the pie and coalescing with everything else to bring it all together.
In addition to food, there is a solid mix of local drafts and bottles, with enough variety to please just about anyone. There is also a selection of wines, if you prefer, say, a malbec with your Bar Pie.
Nothing here is meant to overwhelm you with options. The menu is well curated, so you can’t really make a wrong choice. If anything, from the food to the drinks, everything is simplified for you to enjoy the experience.
Colony Grill does one thing — and does it really well. You’re guaranteed to come back, because no one else, at least in the D.C. area, has a pie like this.