There is no shortage of good pizza in Northern Virginia. But which is truly the best? Well, the people have spoken. Out of 32 contenders, this year’s NoVA Wars: Pizza Madness bracket winner is Stracci Pizza in Alexandria.
What makes Stracci Pizza reign supreme?
First, it’s all about the foundation. Roman-style dough has a higher hydration, and the fermentation is colder and longer (it takes three days to make), explains chef Tom Cardarelli, who owns the shop with his wife, Annalisa.
Instead of cooking in a pan, pizzas are baked directly on the hearth. That gives it a distinct texture — and Stracci pizzas also have a distinct shape. The dough is stretched into a rectangle by hand to “maintain as much of the air in the dough as possible,” resulting in a crust that is “crisp on the bottom but light and fluffy on the inside,” say the Cardarellis.
Next, they take cheese very seriously. “The only version of mozzarella that we offer is our housemade stracciatella,” say the Cardarellis. “We pull cheese curds every day to make fresh mozzarella and then tatter and soak it in cream.” The restaurant’s name refers to this ingredient — stracciatella, which is Italian for “tatters” or “rags,” explain the Cardarellis. “It seemed fitting … I like to think it represents our humble beginnings.”
After over 10 years in fine dining, Tom Cardarelli left the acclaimed Vermilion restaurant in early 2020 with the intention of opening a restaurant. But then the pandemic hit, and his plans had to pivot. In early 2021, the Cardarellis converted a 20-foot trailer into a functional restaurant kitchen, and Stracci Pizza was born. The Alexandria couple wanted to create “a quality-driven neighborhood restaurant that is approachable, affordable, and most importantly, a place that makes people happy.”
By October 2021, Stracci Pizza opened its indoor dining space, and now “the full Stracci experience” includes both indoor and outdoor dining, plus takeout. They also added a bar, offering craft beers, Italian wines, and cocktails.
A big customer favorite is The Brooklyner, which is topped with Calabrian chile, honey, pepperoni, and sausage. A staff favorite is the Stracci Bianca, a “super clean and simple” pizza that “really highlights our freshly made cheese and dough.”
The Cardarellis plan to further expand the menu after a kitchen remodel later this year.
106 Hume Ave., Alexandria, straccipizza.com
Feature image courtesy Stracci Pizza