A few weeks ago, the mania created by the Northern Virginia Foodies Facebook group briefly shut down Rai’s Pizza. The restaurant had to take time to restock and regroup after an onslaught of eager eaters. I thought it was just as necessary to give it some time to recover as it was to see what all the fuss was about. That time has come.
I was pleased that I could eat in the small but booth-lined and bright dining area so that my cheese-filled meal wouldn’t congeal on the way home. There’s outdoor seating, too, for those who aren’t ready to risk indoor dining. My order was ready in 15 minutes, which surprised me given the clip at which curious diners cycled past the takeout counter.
To be fair, cheesesteaks are not my favorite Philly-style sandwich. If I’m in the City of Brotherly Love, I’ll order a roast pork practically every time. But Rai’s fans swear by the sandwich, so I gave it a go. I was disappointed by the spongy bread that contained the meat. The shaved ribeye? A hearty portion, but underseasoned. The layer of provolone (I prefer real cheese to Whiz), did dress it up nicely, adding a pleasant zip to the meat and onions.
Fortunately, there was the pizza. As a native of the NYC suburbs and a contributor to Where to Eat Pizza, I feel qualified to deem the pie at Rai’s one of the best New York-style iterations in NoVA. Dewy with grease, its tangy sauce lights up a thin crust covered in stretchy cheese. There are two kinds of people: those who eat the pizza bones and those who let them languish in the box. I’m usually of the latter camp, but I couldn’t help but down the light, crisp-edged crusts. That’s the mark of a great pizza.
And I only tried the basics. There are a number of unusual dishes at Rai’s that I’ll return for, including pepperoni-filled Pizza Eggrolls and a Nutella pie topped with strawberries, candied walnuts and drizzles of caramel. But whatever I try next, the pizza will be part of the proceedings. // 21430 Cedar Dr.#128, Sterling
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