4202 Adams Avenue, Kensington
It had been years since I’d been to the Pappalecco in Little Italy, so my expectations were neutral when I walked into their most recent location in Kensington. The first thing I noticed was how friendly the staff was. On the handful of occasions I’ve strolled over there from my home a few blocks away I was greeted with grins, extended hands, and warm welcomes from three or more staff members. Though the people at the register sometimes change, the man who makes the pizza has a perfect attendance record, and he’s always looking for feedback. “You like it? It was good?” The answer is always, “Yes, very.”
From the look of the regulars set up with laptops in a corner here and there, one might surmise that their caffeinated beverage game is strong. But the one time I ordered coffee — an iced mocha — I received a bubbly, sludge-like substance in my clear plastic cup. Many of my friends swear by the coffee here, so I must have misordered, because when the chalky, thick chocolate liquid passed over my tongue, rather than being transported to a cafe in Florence I was reminded of the SlimFast I often drank for breakfast back in college. Fortunately, I rarely have coffee with my pizza, and there’s a selection of wine, beer, iced tea, and water that suit me just fine.
All pizza begins with dough, and this Tuscan style — thin, crispy, with plenty of chew in the crust — is delectable. The dough with the marinara (imported San Marzano tomato) and Fior di Latte mozzarella make for an instantly recognizable and authentically Italian flavor combination.
The Margherita ($10.95) is a classic preparation and the purest form of this style, the only addition to the basics being Italian basil. My personal favorite is the Pepperoni ($11.90) with all the Margherita ingredients, to which the pepperoni salami and red onion are added. When I lunch here with my sister, she always gets the same thing, the 4 Cheeses ($13.25). This version is white, with the Fior di Latte mozzarella, gorgonzola, smoked Scamorza, and parmesan topped with a mountain of arugula and basil and drizzled with honey and walnut crumbs.
Often I’ll end up sharing a pizza and a salad. The salads here are tasty (my favorite is the Roma for $11.95 with chicken, Romaine, cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, avocado, almonds, and Caesar dressing), but I strongly recommend getting the dressing on the side, as the pour is inconsistent, and I had one Roma salad that was so over-dressed (to the point of sogging up the greens) that it became inedible. Dressing aside, the greens are fresh, the ratio of ingredients is perfect, and the homemade roll is a special treat.
There’s a display featuring pastries, paninis, and other offerings, but I’ve yet to explore that end of the display case or the giant gelato counter. When the pizza is this good, I have no incentive to order something else and I often leave with a box of leftovers.