Loyal customers at Neapolitan pizzeria 2Amys, one of D.C.’s most revered restaurants among diners and hospitality workers for nearly two decades, shouldn’t expect to eat at one of the restaurant’s tables for at least seven months. In order to limit exposure to the novel coronavirus, the Cathedral Heights standby (3715 Macomb Street NW) will offer carryout only for the rest of 2020.
On Friday, May 29, restaurants in D.C. reopened for outdoor seating only at limited capacity. The next phase in the city’s reopening recommendations allows indoor seating at half capacity, but 2Amys doesn’t plan to participate that way, either.
“Everyone needs to make their own choices ... but it just seems like a risk that is unnecessary to take at this point until everyone has a vaccine,” says owner Peter Pastan, noting his dad is a scientist and his brother is a kidney doctor.
Pastan plans to start serving pizza again Wednesday but could reschedule if D.C. enacts a fourth straight night of curfews. The city has seen chaotic scenes while police have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and riot gear on protesters demonstrating against brutality and systemic racism.
“If we have to close another week or two we will,” Pastan says. “The bigger picture of the country is more important than people eating pizza.”
Pastan says he’s been in the D.C. area for the better part of 60 years. He was a kid when the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. led to days of civic uprising.
“This is so much worse because our government is so irresponsible,” Paston says. “It’s unbelievable. Where is the adult in the room? It’s a nightmare we keep waking up to day after day.”
When 2Amys was grappling only with the pandemic, it experimented with sporadic takeout. After a few weeks of selling pickup orders, the owners realized the logistics of churning out so many pizzas were unrealistic with a staff that shrank from five people to two.
“It’s hard enough to do social distancing in large public spaces — it’s almost impossible to do in a kitchen situation,” Pastan says.
2Amys brought back takeout in early May but kept pizza off the menu. Instead, the restaurant sold cook-at-home options for pasta kits or three-course dinners, as well as cured Italian meats, anchovies, and ice cream.
The restaurant recently installed a second wood-burning pizza oven in the dining room to help manage production. The new Marra Forni oven, covered in a mosaic of white tiles, also enables employees to keep a safe distance.
“A light bulb went off,” Pastan says. “I spend all day in the dining room and have a ton of space I am not using any time soon.”
When it does start carryout, a dozen pizzas will return to the menu. There will also be a New Haven spin on a clam pie, Pastan says. “Stuffed” pizzas full of ricotta and other ingredients will likely come back a week later.
Takeout hours will be 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The new takeout plan lets Pastan keep almost all of his kitchen staff working, and a “large percentage” of his wait staff for processing and packaging orders.
Pastan says he’s known Maryland-based pizza oven manufacturer Francesco Marra for 20 years, “and he’s been trying to sell me an oven for 10. He had it ready for me in 10 days.”
The new toy will able to churn out 350 pies a night, Pastan estimates. His original oven will be mostly used to bake bread. Fans missing 2Amys pizza have kept inquiring about its return. Pastan says “90 percent” of callers have asked when the pies would be available again.
A day-long installation project entailed dismantling the front windows and using a fork lift to plant the heavy oven in the middle of the dining room.
Pastan plans to revive dine-in service at his 19-year-old restaurant down the road. He expects 2Amys to break even in the next year, “or lose a little money.”
“We like seeing our customers,” Pastan says. “It’s nice to see them in masks through the window but it’s just not in any way the same. It’ll be nice to have them in the restaurant again. It just seems really irresponsible at this point.”