While living in the city we have slim chances to have brunch with a spectacular view of foliage and clear blue skies. But, when those opportunities present themselves, brunch is much more than our weekend ritual. One Saturday, all the stars aligned for food, drink, setting, and cool summer weather at All Purpose Waterfront.
I peered behind the new Salt Line facing the Potomac river with my two friends, Monica and Dan. We were surprised to find such a beautiful spot tucked behind the giant high-rises and construction sites that surround the Navy Yard. The energy was booming from excitement around Nats Park and we were hungry– and thirsty– for some bottomless brunch.
All purpose has an incredible patio adorned with retro striped awnings and ivy lurking up the sides of the brick building. The inside was cozy, comfortable, casual, and family-friendly. Our reservation was for a seat inside, but fear not for the views were just as good.
The hostess and wait-staff were incredibly accommodating as soon as we walked through the door. I’d been to All Purpose in Shaw for dinner before, so I was familiar with the menu, but the waitress filled me in on some new brunch items that were considered must-haves.
All Purpose is known for its pizzas and Italian-inspired appetizers. As we scanned the menu we unanimously agreed we wanted to embody that feeling of summer in an Italian countryside. So, we ordered accordingly.
We started off with some chilled, refreshing cocktails. I ordered an Aperol Spritz while Monica and Dan ordered frozen cocktails known as the Mario and the Wario. The Mario was a lemon sorbet vodka drink with a cherry float. This combination was seasonally on-point and had natural fruit flavors, rather than fake, syrupy ones. The Wario was a grapefruit sorbet tequila cocktail with an amari float. This was sharp and fruit-forward, but not overly sweet– Monica and Dan consumed multiple of these throughout the meal.
To continue to paint our picture of the perfect Italian summer day, we ordered the classic prosciutto with melon, a sweet version of arancini, whipped ricotta bruschetta, and disco fries to start. We didn’t need all these starters per se, but we couldn’t half-attempt the Italian vibe. For the main event, we ordered the two breakfast-style pizzas on the menu: the Jersey Special and the Barney Greengrass.
As we clinked our cocktails to cheers, we enjoyed the ripe juices of cantaloupe and honeydew. The light, delicate fruits were complimented by smokey, fatty meat all perfectly ribboned together. I loved that this deconstructed version of a classic appetizer was easy to eat and gorgeous to look at. There’s really no better way to enjoy aperitivos than with melon and prosciutto.
Next, our disco fries and arancini hit the table and we no longer felt as posh and dainty as we did just seconds earlier. The disco fries were a slightly less decadent take on Patatas Bravas. They had a red sauce on top and a parmesan aioli-like fonduta beneath the fried goodness– these things could definitely cure a hangover.
The arancini was a trifecta of goodness that is a doughnut, rice pudding, and a churro. Served with a Nutella whipped cream underneath each ball, the arancini was multifaceted and was feasible to share. The flavor and texture was perfect, but I probably wouldn’t order this as an appetizer. The innovation behind a sweet rice ball, though, is seriously admired and well executed– for dessert, that is.
At this point, we just wanted our pizza, but the bruschetta was calling our names. Thin slices of crispy bruschetta chips were a nice touch, and differentiator, to a traditional bruschetta. The chips were dipped into a sweetened ricotta filled with strawberry compote and toasted hazelnuts. These flavors were a marriage where vows were taken very seriously. I want a big bowl of this on hand at all times. I didn’t love the chips, because I believe a simple, slightly chewy, crusty piece of bread is the base of all bases for any sort of spread, but that’s just me.
We are professional eaters, so we were lucky to have known how to pace ourselves for the pizza. A certain emotion is evoked when a waiter puts those metal pizza racks down on the table before a pie arrives. It’s that emotion of being an innocent kid who can’t finish his or her broccoli, but knows that a piping hot, melty pizza is about to be placed right in front of you, and not a single crumb will be wasted. That said, our brunch-style pizzas were incredible and didn’t leave us emotionless. Dan liked the Jersey Special best, while Monica and I preferred the Barney Greengrass.
The Jersey Special was everything you want at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in one. A thick, peppery sausage, a runny egg yolk, and a sweet, saucy base satisfied all the spices and oils a pizza should have. The ratios were done well and it didn’t fall apart like some fully-loaded pizzas. The Barney Greengrass had lox, cheese, tomato, onion, and capers. I’ve often had this debate that Jews and Italians have similar food and family values. If this pizza took the stand in court, I’d surely win this debate. Salty, creamy, and crunchy from All Purpose’s rightly crisp crust, the Italians have stole a Jew’s heart.
The Bitches say: A. Heaven is a place on earth, and that place is All Purpose Pizzeria. We’ll be back for more cocktail-drinking and Italian-vacation-dreaming very soon.
All Purpose Pizzeria serves brunch at the waterfront location on the weekends through 2 p.m. 202.629.1894