Classic Italian in Del Ray

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By Mike Salmon

Pizza with fresh toppings and thin crisp crust keeps locals coming back. Photo by Mike Salmon
Pizza with fresh toppings and thin crisp crust keeps locals coming back. Photo by Mike Salmon

From the humble café-style front, the Sapore D’Italia Italian Ristorante and Pizzeria at 1310 Mount Vernon Avenue fits right in with the quaint mom-and-pop shops that define this portion of Alexandria. The food is authentic Southern Italian cuisine with homemade pasta and sauces as well as tantalizing pizza. The eatery is a favorite of the locals, such as Toni Lundeen who says, “…we always get their pizza. It’s authentic ‘little Italy’ style with a thin, crispy crust,” as she picks up her take out order.

In 2009, Oscar Bermudez and José Dominguez opened Sapore D’Italia with Bermudez as chef and Dominguez running the front of the house. And they like it this way, insists Bermudez. With years of restaurant experience under their belts, they are able to contribute specific talents to each area of the restaurant’s management.

Oscar Bermudez, left, and José Dominguez keep the oven hot. Photo by Mike Salmon
Oscar Bermudez, left, and José Dominguez keep the oven hot.
Photo by Mike Salmon

Bermudez learned how to cook at Mama Maria’s & Enzio’s in Georgetown, where he worked for 25 years under an Italian husband and wife team that were from opposite ends of Italy, which made for one or two food arguments over the years. “I learned all the sauces from him,” Bermudez states. “Day and night, from 11 to 11, he treated me good, like a son.”

And Bermudez is proud of his daily creations, from the many pasta dishes to the ever popular pizza. “We use all fresh ingredients.” He points out that Northern Italian food is dominated by white sauces and lighter components, but their menu at Sapore D’Italia is more tomato-based. “We sauté and bake in Southern Italian style.”

The satisfying house salad is tossed with a variety of Italian seasonings and minced vegetables in a balsamic vinegar base, giving the dressing a slightly tart taste that highlights the greens. “Some people ask if we bottle it,” Bermudez offers. (And they should!) Customer favorites include their exceptional garlic bread, spaghetti carbonara and ricotta cheesecake.

This is definitely not a pizza joint, but rather a traditional Italian bistro, ideal for special, cozy dinners with friends or family. As well, with the Braddock Road metro station just around the corner, the walking distance to Sapore is almost the exact time it takes to bake a pizza. So place your order at the metro station to pick up on your way home by calling 703/683-9680 or visiting saporeditaliaristorante.net. Delivery is also available within the immediate area.

In a place that prides itself on small, independent businesses amid a fervent pedestrian crowd, Del Ray is perfect for this enchanting Italian destination that includes a small, intimate bar and a dozen or so ample tables as well as patio dining during the warm months. So order a glass of Chianti, sit back and relax. At Sapore D’Italia, you can visit Italy every day.