Earlier this month, RedRocks opened the third of its D.C.-area locations, bringing the Neapolitan bistro to Columbia Pike’s Penrose Square and offering diners an assortment of Italian delicacies with a focus on wood-fired brick oven pizza.
The new Arlington restaurant is spacious, with a large dining room and bar full of rustic charm. Exposed brick and wood-slat walls line the dining room, which is filled with wooden tables, large brown-leather chairs, and booths.
The comfortable surroundings invite diners to stay a while, and the multi-course menu does the same. Selections of charcuterie and cheeses, snacks, salads, small plates, pasta dishes, brick oven pizzas, and calzones invite exploration by letting customers customize the path they’d like their meal to take.
The snacks are small bites of finger foods, at a few dollars apiece, like the Smoked Salmon Crostino ($5). The dish highlights the salmon, briefly smoked in-house, resting upon a layer of creamy goat cheese and sprinkled in chopped scallion, all supported by slices of crusty bread.
More ample starters are found on the small plates menu section, which features an exciting assortment of meat and seafood dishes, like braised game hen and seared sea scallops. The Wood-Fired Suckling Pig ($9) serves a nice portion of the delightfully tender, succulent pork with a dab of marmalade and two triangles of polenta, fried for a crisp shell.
Few pasta dishes and a vast array of pizzas offer nice variety in entrees. The Tagliatelle Bolognese ($8 for a small portion and $16 for a large) offers the well-cooked flat noodles in a pleasant tomato sauce with discs of chewy, spicy cured sausage throughout. With a sprinkling of cheese, the dish is simple and satisfying.
The pizzas are most impressive, especially for their toppings. Not every pizzeria has buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, and Manilla clams at the ready, but be glad this one does. Those ingredients only scratch the surface of a lengthy topping list that includes many gourmet Italian meats and cheeses.
About a dozen pizzas with set toppings can be ordered, from the classic Pepperoni ($11.50) and the Neapolitan-style favorite Margherita ($12), to the exotic Boar Sausage ($14). The sausage crumbles, with distinct and savory flavor, are scattered atop melted puddles of smoked buffalo mozzarella, toppings encircled by a crust that is ultimately chewy but made lightly crispy at the edges by brick-oven baking.
An assortment of Italian desserts awaits at the end of the meal, like a Tiramisu ($5.50) that alternates layers of spongy cake with sweet cream, topped in a fine dusting of espresso powder.
Pizzerias aren’t uncommon. And in the D.C. area, even Neapolitan-style pizzerias are relatively plentiful. What makes this particular pizza restaurant stand out from that crowd is something more than the pizza. It’s those unique ingredients – the Italian cured deli meats, the gourmet cheeses – and, with its many shareable dishes, the chance for adventure in trying them that make this restaurant so appealing.
RedRocks is located at 2501 S. 9th Road, Arlington. For more information, call 703-920-0706 or visit redrocksdc.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. and Sunday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.