In what has nearly been a year in the making, Haven Pizzeria Napoletana finally opened in downtown Bethesda last week. Influenced by New Haven pizzerias such as the famous Frank Pepe’s, Haven is the latest entrant in a town that has suddenly seen an influx of pizza joints.
Haven, however, was a massive undertaking. With construction that had started last summer, the pizzeria features a large dining space lined with oak floors that were originally from the Maker’s Mark distillery. The two anthracite coal ovens can reach a temperature of up to 2200 degrees and collectively weigh 100 tons. Yeah, this isn’t your typical pizza parlor.
The menu keeps things simple: appetizers range from salads to meat and cheese boards (“peels”) to an enticing coal-oven tomato. Pizza pies can be ordered in small or large sizes with additional toppings that will cost an extra $1.50 to $13 (fresh clams on a large pizza, in regards to the latter).
Rachel and I decided to split a small tomato pie with mozzarella as well as a white clam pie. The charred crust is the most distinctive part of Haven’s pizza — thin and crispy with a hint of smokiness. While the cheese pizza was nothing extraordinary, the white clam pie really stood out. The blend of olive oil, garlic, oregano, grated cheese, and fresh clams pays homage to New Haven in splendid fashion.
The housemade gelato, which is made every morning, is a must-get. We opted for a bowl of the vanilla bean and loved every spoonful. You can even bring home a quart to-go, though $13 is sort of steep.
One thing the restaurant needs to work on is their sound insulation – it was extremely noisy inside. Another qualm is their lackluster beer offerings. For a place that calls its bar area “Bar Haven”, there is not much of a selection to choose from. The most exotic brew they had was a bottle of Fat Tire. Meanwhile, Pete’s has an always-rotating draft list that features some terrific breweries. Of course, both of these issues can be remedied, and given that it was Haven’s first day, I’m sure that they are still working out the kinks.
Haven Pizzeria Napoletana is located on 7137 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda.