Monday, January 6, 2014

Pizzeria Paradiso

We've been making use of the holiday staycation to do some extra shooting and to visit some of the "beer stops" that have long been on our to-do list. Last week after taking in the Jerusalem IMAX movie at the Museum of Natural History, we stopped by Pizzeria Paradiso in Old Town Alexandria.

Pizzeria Paradiso's beer menu lists some 12 taps, including one rotating cask, along with 230 other beers in bottles and cans. Reviewing the multi-page list was going to take some time, so we started out with a couple of appetizers; Antipasto with Cured Italian Meat, Pecorino, Homemade Bread, Hot Cherry Pepper, Ligurian Olives, and the Crostino Formaggio Di Capra, with Toasted Homemade Bread, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto di Parma, Sundried Tomato, and Basil. Both plates were very tasty and set the stage for the rest of the meal.

I opted to start with the cask selection, Jaipur IPA from England's Thornbridge Brewery. The Engish IPA had nice grassy and citrus aroma. The flavor was citrus and a bit resinous, with a mild bitterness in the finish. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of citrus for an English IPA, a style which I often find lacking in flavor balance. My glass was emptied by the time our main course of pizzas arrived, but the IPA's low 5.9% ABV, left the option open for another beer.

My next selection was an intriguing Italian beer. When we made our pilgrimage to Italy, I had read about that Italian craft brewers were using chestnuts in their beers, and had hoped to enjoy some while there. Unfortunately, while we experienced many wonderful foods and drinks, the Italian craft beers eluded me. But here in good ol' Virginia, I was able to order CastagnAle from Birra del Borgo in Italy.

CastagnAle pours a deep brown color, looking a lot like a typical brown ale. The aroma is nutty and sweet caramel. We spent a lot of time discussing the beer's unique flavor and trying to describe it. The  flavors presented were complex. Earthy nuttiness, caramel, honey, and, something else... Chestnuts, I suppose. The lingering mild bitterness had a nutty, fruity, aspect to it that was hard to place. But to be clear, I liked it. A lot. Despite having purchased some roasted chestnuts from a street vendor in Rome, and finding them utterly disgusting, I was still quite taken by this beer brewed with chestnuts. The snow was falling steadily in Alexandria and we had a long drive back to Fredericksburg, otherwise I might have ordered another to continue to tasting adventure. At just 4.2% ABV, it was certainly doable under different circumstances. I will be searching for this, and some similar beers in the future.

Our party also feasted on pizza, naturally. There are 11 "house" pizzas at Pizzeria Paradiso, though our party ended up selecting two each of just two of them. My selection was the Napoletana, made with Paradiso Tomato, Basil, Anchovies, Capers, and Mozzarella. The truth be told, it was the Anchovies that sold me — I have a weakness for these salty bits. The pizza had a wonderful wood-fired crust and was quite tasty. Without a doubt some of the best pizza I've had in a long time. Even the next day, we were commenting in text messages between our party members about the great food.

We were enjoying the Italian food and drink so much, we opted for dessert too. In my case, a simple dish of assorted Biscotti. And in a move I swore I'd never do again outside of Italy, I ordered a double espresso. Having enjoying many an espresso at caf├ęs in Rome, I've become disenchanted with the American versions I'd encountered. All in all, the expresso at Pizzeria Paradiso was better than others I've had here at home, though while flavorful, still felt a tad watered down. Enjoyable nonetheless. Between a quest to find more Italian chestnut beers, and proper espresso, we might just have to work on another trip to Italy!

We enjoyed our evening of food and drink at Pizzeria Paradiso. It's one of those places that we've been wanting to get to for quite some time. When we're back in Old Town again, we'll definitely make another visit.


  1. Dang. I shouldn't have read that on an empty stomach. Now I'm wanting to head to Brewer's Alley in Frederick for a dinner of pizza and beer.

    1. Ha! I'd like to get back to Brewer's Aley too!



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