The family-owned restaurant Pacci’s Trattoria replicates a true Italian eatery serving up authentic cuisine influenced by a love for fine food and Neapolitan tradition.
Pacci’s opened its doors to customers for the first time in February, and the Capitol Hill restaurant joins the original in Silver Spring to mark the establishment’s second location since 2011. The restaurant specializes in classic pasta, calzones and pizza prepared in classic wood-fired brick ovens, separating Pacci’s from other standard Americanized Italian restaurants.
As I arrived at the restaurant, situated across the street from Lincoln Park, the brick exterior of the building with its large arched windows and small balcony, stood out from the townhouses on either side of Pacci’s. Lit with an amber chandelier and warm lamps throughout the restaurant, Pacci’s interior features two dining rooms, one on the entry floor and one in the basement, and a bar holding up to 10 people. The open floor plan exposes the kitchen so customers dining upstairs can watch their food being prepared.
The friendly staff welcomed me into the restaurant with smiling faces regardless of the fact that I had shown up at 7 p.m. as a walk-in during what seemed to be the peak of their dinner rush. As I got situated at the last open spot at the bar, I couldn’t help but notice the large brick pizza oven on display in the exposed kitchen, signaling that I was in for a true Italian dinner.
The dinner menu, split into five sections of antipasti, le insalate, la pasta, calzones and pizza neapolitana, offers classic Italian dishes like their margherita pizza ($14.75), polla alla parmigiana ($26.75) and bruschetta al pomodoro ($10.75). Available Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Pacci’s has five different sandwich options that come with a side of fries and a soft drink for lunch, and Sunday, an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet ($39.95) is served.
I stopped in for dinner, and while the pasta options were tempting, I knew upon scanning the menu that I had to try one of the hand-crafted pizzas. Pacci’s offers 17 different wood-fired pizzas, ranging from $14.75 to $18.75. The menu is divided up between red and white sauce pies, with more than 25 toppings options varying from basics like pepperoni and olives to lesser-seen options like spicy Neapolitan salami. Each pizza comes with six slices, enough to satisfy one person for a full dinner or to share among multiple people as a light meal or appetizer.
After what felt like the impossible task of narrowing it down to just one pizza, I eventually settled on ordering the Al Tartufo ($16.75) – one of the white pizza options topped with smoked mozzarella, parmesan, mushrooms and fresh basil and drizzled with truffle oil and extra virgin olive oil. The name translates to ‘with truffle’ in English, and the combination of complementary flavors drew me in to make the selection.
The pizza arrived just 10 minutes after I placed my order, nearly spilling off the sizable plate that carried it from beneath. Once the dish was set in front of me, the aromatic smell from the cheeses and truffle oil reaffirmed my pick.
Their pizzas are made Neapolitan style in a 800-degree brick oven, crafting a sharp and smokey taste after being cooked for roughly 90 seconds. The crust came out light and airy, prepared to a crispy, golden perfection.
The smokey taste in the crust, amplified by its mildly burnt edges, contrasted with the pizza’s earthy flavors marked by the truffle oil and mushroom toppings. The truffle oil drizzle proved to be just right – enough to add extra flavor to the pizza without overpowering the other toppings. The mushrooms filled up each slice, presenting a new, chewy texture to each bite.
The blend of smoked mozzarella and parmesan cheese made for a perfect pairing, as the mozzarella offered a light and subtle taste that worked well with the sharp, rich flavor of the parmesan. The two cheeses were placed between the base and the toppings of the pizza to preserve the oils while keeping it from becoming overly greasy.
The basil pulled the dish together with a fresh leafy taste. The flavors from the other toppings were light and neutral, so the basil introduced a sweet, almost minty taste unlike any other to the pizza.
After finishing my meal, ordering a treat was difficult to pass up as Pacci’s dessert menu consists of cannolis, tiramisu, limoncello shortcake and other Italian sweets for $11.75 each, but I found myself pleasantly full from my meal.
If you’re in search of an authentic Italian spot serving Neapolitan-inspired pizza and pasta in the D.C. area, Pacci’s Trattoria is a must-try destination that’s worth the venture over to Capitol Hill.
This article appeared in the April 6, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.