It’s winter in DC these days, but there was a time when it seemed like spring might be on its way. The sun shone bright and the temperatures were above 50. It was a glorious time. On one such Thursday, my friend Lauren came over and we had a hankering for al fresco dining without a lot of pomp and circumstance.
Navy Yard has a ton of great outdoor dining options, which is one of the reasons I love living here, but they tend to get rather crowded on nice evenings. But then I remembered Il Parco, formerly Park Tavern, whose lovely patio is usually oddly empty and we decided to give it a shot.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from this experience, other than a chance to catch up with a friend in relative peace and quiet. But as we were greeted with enthusiasm and friendly service, I started to change my tune a bit.
The wine list at Il Parco is small, but hits most of the bases and offers several highly affordable bottles.
We settled on a $28 bottle of Primitivo, which was smooth and fruit forward, a great value. Other than the fact that it was served in juice glasses (a common choice for pizza joints but one of my pet peeves), we were off to a great start.
We were hungry, and expected Tom to join us later, so we didn’t hold back on the food starting with what turned out to be two rather large salads.
The insalata della casa, or house salad, was standard but quite fresh. We both agreed the beet salad was better, although the beets were the least enjoyable part (I suspect they were canned).
The oranges and lemon dressing made for a tart and refreshing salad nicely balanced by savory Asiago cheese.
The main event at Il Parco, however, is the selection of wood-fired, Neapolitan style pizzas.
They offer both red and white pizzas, so obviously we had to try one of each. First up was the tricolore loaded with Parmiggiano, basil, spinach, sausage and spicy salami. I was really impressed with the crust, which held up nicely to all the toppings and had a nice blend of chewy and crispy.
As far as toppings go, I preferred our second option, the 4 stagione with Parmiggiano, artichokes, Proscuitto, olives and mushrooms.
The pies were cut into fourths, resulting in comically large pieces, but the flavor and textures were pretty great. There are actually quite a few pizza options in Navy Yard (both Justin’s and Scarlet Oak’s offerings are solid) but I like having the option of a real pizzeria in the neighborhood.
Tom showed up later and decided a third pizza was in order, so we chose the vecchia modena, a classic pizza finished with fresh arugula, grana padano and a balsamic glaze.
Although this sounded the most up my alley of the three we chose, I wound up liking it the least. The balsamic was a bit too sweet and overpowered the rest of the toppings, but to be less than scientific, it didn’t suck.
Somehow, with no justification in sight, we ordered dessert.
The panna cotta was good, not the best I’ve ever had but serviceable. If the fruit topping were cut with a little bit of acid there would be a great improvement, but the panna cotta itself was creamy and delicious.
We sat sipping our wine until well in the evening, enjoying the occasional exchange with our lively server. While Il Parco is far from a destination restaurant, it’s a welcome addition to the Navy Yard restaurant scene. The drinks are cheap (even cheaper during their early and late happy hours), the pizza is delicious, and you’re not likely to find a wait for a table. I imagine I’ll spend several additional evenings on the welcoming patio, once this dreadful cold spell has passed.