Over the next two weeks, Penn Quarter pastry parlor Bakers & Baristas will change its name to reflect a new focus on Roman-styled pizzas defined by rectangular slices with a sturdy base. While the reinvented venue will still bake pastries and serve coffee, it will now go by Vivi, the same name as owner Aaron Gordon’s 2-year-old daughter.
After five years of business, Bakers & Baristas (501 Seventh Street NW) will close Sunday, September 1, and reopen as Vivi on Monday, September 9. Gordon’s adjoining Red Velvet Cupcakery will keep operating as usual. Bakers & Baristas general manager and executive pastry chef Kristen Brabrook, who’s been with Gordon for a decade, is in charge of the Roman pizza dough that undergoes a three-day fermentation. More American diners are falling in love with Roman-styled pies as of late, according to Thrillist.
Gordon describes the dough as “buttery goodness,” producing an airy crust packed with bubbles with a “nice crunch” on the bottom. The pizza holds up well as leftovers, he says, whereas thin and limp Neapolitan-styled pizzas don’t. Roman-style pizza al taglio is already available nearby at Pizzaria al Volo (1299 Pennsylvania Avenue NW).
There will be around eight to 10 types of core pies, piled with ingredients like pepperoni, ricotta, and broccoli. A draft menu also includes “The District” — topped with D.C.’s famed mumbo sauce, braised pork shoulder, thin sliced pickled red onion, collard greens.
An in-the-works “Thanksgiving” pie packs on mashed potatoes, slices of roasted turkey, cranberry relish, gravy drizzle, and toasted breadcrumbs.
A 10-foot-long counter will put pizzas on display starting at 11 a.m. Hours will stay the same, at 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., with pastries still served throughout the day. Hours could extend on weekends, depending on demand.
The rectangular-shaped cuts will be priced at $3.75 to $4.75. Massive whole pies (around 2 feet long) will be available for catering.
A light renovation will scratch the coffee shop vibe to make Vivi resemble an all-day cafe.
“We are going away from Edison bulbs towards a finer, cleaner look,” Gordon says. The owner is a huge fan of art — his Little Beast cafe in Chevy Chase is splashed with playful monster murals created by a Berlin-based graffiti artist — and he plans to also add a large colorful touch to Vivi. A huge mural of its namesake flanked with birds, will hang in the space. Vivi also means “alive” in Italian.
Gordon has become pretty obsessed with pizza over the past year. Last month, he swapped “unremarkable” bar fare at 14th Street NW’s Red Light for Detroit-style square pizza. Little Beast, his 11-month-old neighborhood restaurant, serves up wood-fired pies. Naomi Gallego, an accomplished pastry chef who heads up the kitchen at Little Beast, has overseen those two changes.
“My giant quest is to do every type of pizza,” Gordon jokes. “We thought it’s a great idea to extend the day and have something for lunch and dinner before and after games [at Capital One Arena].”
Aside from &pizza a few blocks north, he says there’s few options for quick-serve pizza in the a foot traffic-heavy area filled with tourists, residents, and workers.
Beer and wine will also debut inside, likely by October.