From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @frijolita.
Edan MacQuaid is fairly quiet guy. He doesn’t have the bravado or in-your-face ego that most chefs exude upon meeting them. But once you get him talking about pizza, he starts to talk with his hands, he smiles and he gets almost… humble?
MacQuaid’s passion for pizza can be found in the details — details that have been well documented by the likes of Tim Carman and Don Rockwell. The delicate crust, the charred edges, high quality toppings and olive oil are all hallmarks of Macquaid’s work at the brick oven, and that work, as we now know, is coming to 14th Street: to 1832 to be exact, just south of Room & Board.
But DC almost lost him. See, MacQuaid seriously considered packing up and leaving life in DC to return to Maine. (His shuffles from restaurant to restaurant are also well documented.) He attended high school in Maine and has a buddy who owns a coffee shop up there; the perfect respite from the madness and sometimes incestuous drama of DC’s fine dining kitchens. After working in hotels in his youth, MacQuaid left Maine at the age of 19, with dreams of starting a band here in DC. And that’s when he landed at the original Pizza Paradiso in Dupont Circle.
The passion for pizza making stuck, while dreams of being a rocker went by the wayside.
MacQuaid has worked with a number of great chefs over time, but his no-fuss approach to food is what sets him apart from the rest. See, the pizzaiolo doesn’t really see eye to eye with most chefs. He’s not a fan of “silly plating” as he called it, saying that he prefers to “let good food speak for itself.” And where most would be talking about the amazing kitchens they’ll be installing in a new restaurant or the amount of steel going into them, Macquaid focuses on the flame.
“I like to cook with fire. There’s something very primal about it,” he said.
And he’s not talking about fire from a gas range, mind you. MacQuaid plans to invite a crew of Neapolitan builders for a 10-day brick oven building extravaganza. The oven won’t just serve the four to five pizzas on the menu — there will also be an assortment of small plates, oven cooked dishes like casseroles or roasted lamb chops.
Oh, and there’ll be a green salad on the menu too, though that’s not at all what I’m chomping at the bit to try. Daily specials will give the chef a chance to play around with locally sourced ingredients from places like Whipple Farms, with which Local 16 has a well established relationship.
While MacQuaid is working with local restaurateur Aman Ayoubi, both are quick to remind me that this spot will be uniquely MacQuaid’s. He’s 100% in charge of the vision and execution behind what will likely become our favorite neighborhood pizza joint.
What’s next for MacQuaid? While nothing’s in the works yet, he says he’d love to open a pho shop. Key word: yet.
The culinary team at Local 16 is a regular boys’ club — but in this case, that’s a good thing. The U Street favorite has undergone some changes, which include a new menu that continues to highlight regionally gathered flavors, and smoked and cured meats from their own collection.
Charcuterie Prepared, Aged at Local 16
Owner Aman Ayoubi briefly thought of putting in a speakeasy in the basement of his restaurant, but instead has dedicated the next phase of Local 16 to charcuterie that is prepared and aged on-site.
Ayoubi has teamed with Seth Cooper of White House Meats to bring humanely raised meat to the restaurant directly from Highview Farm and Mount Airy Farms.
As part of their new initiative, Cooper butchers the meat on-site and then begins the six- to 12-week curing process in a humidity and temperature-controlled cooler that will age the meat under proper conditions.