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8.13.2012

Will Artley's Pizzeria Orso: So Much More Than Great Pizza

I don't get to Falls Church often, but when I heard Chef Will Artley was taking the helm at Pizzeria Orso I decided I needed to make time to visit. I got to know Artley when he was the chef at Del Ray's Evening Star where he cranked out solid food using local ingredients for years. Since then, he's consulted on new restaurant openings, started his own pop-up concept, studied under pizzaiolo Peppe Miele and gotten his certificate in baking authentic Neapolitan pizzas. I popped by his new space in Orso on Sunday evening with no expectations other than I trusted that he knows food.

As luck would have it, I found Artley at the pizza oven. I told him I'd seen a tweet about some sort of pork belly mac-n-cheese action and turned my car his way. He said, "Want me to just bring you stuff?" Folks, when a talented chef says, "Hey, want me to bring you stuff?" you must give up menu control and let him do it.

I grabbed a table on the spacious outdoor patio and out came the first course, a grilled watermelon, smoked blue cheese and arugula salad. It was sweet and tangy with a nice bitter green tang.
Grilled Watermelon Salad
Next, one of my favorites of the whole meal, the seared scallop over Parmesan couscous with tomato jam. Please order this when you go. It was cooked perfectly and again, had great balance and flavor.
Seared Scallop over Parmesan Couscous
After that came one of Chef Artley's signature dishes, the PEI mussels in a smoked blue cheese broth. It was paired with house made sourdough toasts to dredge through the cheesy sauce once you've polished off the perfectly cooked mussels.
PEI Mussels in Smoked Blue Cheese Broth
The following course, a sweet corn agnolotti was packed with farmers market flavor. Where Graffiato's version is super sweet and soft, Orso is hearty and stuffed with early corn and crab.
Sweet Corn Agnolotti
The first pizza we tasted called The Bentley after the restaurant manager, Jonathan Bentley, who's wife about to have a baby. The Neapolitan-style pie was topped with baby spinach (get it?), roasted tomatoes and grana (I had to ask... it's a type of cheese.) At this point I was already thoroughly stuffed but I still had to have a slice - the rest will be lunch today.
The Bentley
The Bentley was the special of the day, so we also sampled the classic Margherita DOC. Again, this one becomes breakfast and lunch today after a smoky, cheese bite.
Margherita DOC
At this point we were raising the flag, calling Uncle and all other forms of being so full that we might pop. But Artley wasn't done. When he took over Orso, he found an unused slushee machine. It's now cranking out refreshing, icy cocktails like the Grape Crush and Watermelon Granitas Slushee:
Orso Slushees!
And he insisted we at least took a bite of the lemon donuts topped with Nutella whip. (Related: anyone else believe that even when you are so full from dinner, there's like another stomach somewhere that allows you to fit in a bite of something sweet?)
Lemon Donut with Nutella Whip
I've added Pizzeria Orso to my list of places that are worth crossing the Potomac for - and tops on my list are the half price wine deal on Wednesday nights and the pup friendly patio (Will has four dogs of his own.)

Follow Chef Will Artley on Twitter and Pizzeria Orso on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Pizzeria Orso is located at 400 South Maple Avenue in Falls Church, VA. There is reserved parking in the garage for restaurant patrons. [NOTE: Orso is closed on Mondays.]

NOTE: For those of you who know my blogger ethics policy, I disclose when I receive something complimentary. Artley was gracious enough to take care of us and it was much appreciated. That said, all items are available on the menu and I will be back on my own dime. ;)

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