Once upon a time in Washington, D.C., the word “pizza” held little meaning. Twenty, even 10 years ago, talking pizza to its denizens was like talking pretzels to a New Yorker who’d never been to Philadelphia or a hot dog expert who’d never been to Chicago: wasted breath. Yes, there was something fun about the Jumbo slice, but when a city uses Ledo as a benchmark... well, moving on.
Times change. Where once there was barely more than Manny & Olga’s (thank goodness for long-timer Pizza Paradiso), now, besides 2Amys and Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza (both ranked in 2015), there’s Ghibellina, Graffiato, and Seventh Hill (all were in the running). There’s even an “upscale jumbo’ slice, Italian Kitchen on U (context is everything). Seriously, though, along with the aforementioned, Matchbox numbers one of the D.C. spots helping to put the city on the map.
Now, there are five additional locations besides the flagship joint in Chinatown that launched in 2002 (two others in D.C.; one each in Virginia, Maryland, and Palm Springs, California [which recently underwent a menu revamp]; with new spots in Dallas and Virginia in the works) where you can find the seriously-singed signature Fire & Smoke pie with fire-roasted red peppers, Spanish onions, chipotle pepper, tomato sauce, garlic purée, smoked Gouda, and fresh basil.
Could Matchbox become the next Cheesecake Factory? No, seriously, that’s a question people are starting to ask since news broke that its restaurant group is seeking $11 million from public investors to fund a national expansion to 48 locations by 2020. The answer? Maybe. Just ask yourself to name the last pizza chain of any quality that’s grown that big.
— Arthur Bovino, 101 Best Pizzas in America 2015, 8/6/2015