Julien Adrianiall life is pizza. He’s been in the game for nearly four decades, working as a pizza maker, pizza consultant, and instructor, overseeing the opening of around 100 pizzerias and flipping, by his estimation, millions of pies. Along the way, he’s won trophies at the Pizza World Championship and Pizza World Cup, as well as a Guinness World Record for helping create the world’s longest pizza: 2 km long.
When I first meet him, he’s wearing a white Italian football track jacket with the word “Caputo” emblazoned across the front in marina red, all in capitals. If you cut it, I’m sure it will bleed crushed San Marzano tomatoes.
Although Adriani is based in New York, where he is co-owner and head of Forcella and Pizza Bar Rosieand spends time traveling the world – in Las Vegas, Mumbai, Hawaii, Canada and elsewhere – consulting on projects, his latest ventures are Lucy and Slice and Pielocated at the corner of 14e Street and Florida Avenue NW. The first is a lively and airy bar that serves pizza; the latter aims to be a classic New York-style take-out pizzeria. They are a partnership with co-founders Pierre Bayne, Geoff Dawsonand Todd Galaida from Tin Shop, which has a host of watering holes around town, including Franklin Room next door, Big boy to Shaw, and Astro Beer Hall in the Metro Center.
The seeds of the collaboration were sown before the pandemic, when Bayne took a pizza-making course at Marra Forni’s Pizza University in Beltsville. “I signed up thinking, stupidly, that I could make pizza after three days of Giulio scowling at me for my ineptitude,” he jokes.
On both counts, he was not a good student. But the two became friends. When the pandemic hit, they complained about its devastating impact on their businesses and what they were doing to cope. At one point, Adriani broached the idea of opening a slice shop.
The idea found a taker, evolved, expanded. Initially, the partners planned to offer Neapolitan pizzas, but the rise in delivery and takeout during the pandemic changed their thinking. They opted for New York and Detroit-style pizzas that travel better, for sale at Slice & Pie, which would be complemented by Lucy, a bar serving pizza, playing to the strengths of the Tin Shop collective. (You know it’s a bar that serves pizza, rather than a pizzeria with a bar, because they take your credit card at the start of the meal rather than at the end.).
At Lucy’s, garage door-style windows open onto the street, where there’s a scattering of tables. Inside, you can grab a seat at the bar that spans the length of the space or at the window seats and high tops overlooking the street. The design aesthetic is decidedly eclectic: a globe sits at one end of the turquoise-bottomed bar; mirrored plates festoon a wall; another has a pair of floral portraits, a tulip and a daffodil. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s not without its quirky charm.
When it came time to develop the dough for the 11-inch rounds at Lucy’s, Adriani settled on a recipe that takes about four days to fully prepare. He calls him “the modern American, the modern Neapolitan”. The final crust is quite light and fluffy, with a little crunch when folded. Edges are brown, bubbled and blistered. It goes down easily and doesn’t weigh you down.
There are eight options, ranging from a simple margherita and classic pepperoni to a white truffle round with mushrooms and another no-sauce option topped with ricotta, roasted tomatoes and chunks of ‘nduja. The best seller is the devil, made with spicy soppressata, jalapeños and warm honey, but the best is a surprise: the Hawaiian. Here, the oft-maligned pizza is transformed from an abomination to a revelation. If you’ve never been a fan of Hawaiian – I was the same – give this one a shot. Rather than the usual squares of deli ham and canned pineapple chunks, Adriani uses bacon and roasted pineapple (“There’s less water, so it doesn’t soak the crust,” he explains. -he). The salty, salty sweetness of the pie works and isn’t as far removed from classic Italian flavor profiles as you might think. Just consider prosciutto with figs or melon, or pancetta with pears or stone fruit.
There’s more to eat at Lucy’s — small bites, salads, sliders, beef lasagna, a few sweet finales — but focus on Adriani’s pizza, even if an order of puffy, fluffy garlic knots sprinkled with pecorino would not be out of place.
Beverages are overseen by Beverage Manager Gavin Pierce, who previously worked with Room 11 and bad saint. Cocktails include the Black Magic, an Old Fashioned with notes of burnt sugar, ginger, allspice, saffron and star anise, and the Barney (“Because it’s the purple drink,” explains Pierce), an effervescent beast made with tequila rich in blueberry, hibiscus and lemon. Of course, there is also a trendy espresso martini. To keep the summer vibe fresh, there are frozen piña coladas and orange grapefruit crushes. Pierce is currently developing a wine list featuring minimal intervention varietals, including bottles from Ruth Lewandowski Wines and Luís Pato.
On June 19, Lucy will launch a weekend brunch service, her menu filled with fun dishes: Eggs Benedict served on garlic knots, mushroom pizza topped with delicate quail eggs and grated truffles, and eggs shakshuka type cooked in a casserole of tomatoes and peppers.
Lucy, 1350 Florida Ave. NW. (202) 299-0514, lucybardc.com
Any advice on opening a new restaurant? Email [email protected]. Follow Nevin on Instagram @nevinmartell and on Twitter @nevinmartell.