As we pulled open the door with the lengthy scroll-shaped handle to be greeted by the face of Thomas Jefferson on a wall of nickels, we knew we were in for a history lesson.
Declaration, which opened last week, sits on the corner of 8th and V streets in the up-and-coming North Shaw neighborhood. The restaurant gives its customers a chance to take a culinary tour of the 13 original colonies with an array of pizzas named for their founders.
The pizzas, which are priced according to the year the colony was founded, range from “The Benjamin Franklin” (Pennsylvania, $16.82), a Philly cheesesteak-inspired pizza, to “The William Ellery” (Rhode Island, $16.36), which features calamari and squid ink aioli.
We started off with the fish and chips deviled eggs and marinated olives, each $6. Placed in the center of a delightfully creamy stuffing of the deviled eggs is a slice of perfectly flakey fried cod along with a lightly fried potato wedge. The olives, presented in a tiny mason jar, were warm and flavored with garlic.
Restaurant manager Duane Waldorf said that local ingredients and the integrity of food is key to Declaration.
“The chef uses that when he cooks,” Waldorf said. “He tries to really emphasize those fresh ingredients and not mask them with 30 different spices and all of these different things and allow them to stand out on their own.”
We decided on the Maryland-inspired Samuel Chase pie ($16.34). Served on an artisan wooden paddle, the pizza consisted of a light layer of brown butter ricotta with tender butternut squash garnished with sage, black pepper and a drizzle of sweet truffle – all atop a crispy, thin crust.
Although the pizza contains a complex mix of sweet and savory, no single aspect overpowered the others. Rather, each ingredient stood out while working together.
Next we tried the Thomas McKean Pizza ($16.38). This Delaware-inspired dish features ricotta, parmesan, house-made mozzarella, sausage, idiazabal cheese and liberal amounts of Brussels sprouts.
A victory for the state of Delaware, the crispy, buttery Brussels sprouts on this pizza were the standout. In combination with the three-cheese blend, it made me want to eat my vegetables.
For dessert we tried the Polenta Pound Cake ($7) served with vanilla mascarpone, cran-cherry compote and orange sherbet. While the pound cake was a bit on the dry side, the sweet mascarpone, tart compote and the creamsicle-flavored sherbet created a sweet element that moistened and elevated the dish.
If you’re looking for gourmet comfort food, a casual atmosphere and a bit of history, Declaration is the perfect spot.