By Anne Keisman, Times Community Newspapers – September 13, 2005

Pizza baking in brick oven

Pizza baking in brick oven

Portabella mushrooms, Kalamata olives, sweet Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella – is your mouth watering yet?

If so, there’s a new restaurant in town that is sure to please the pizza connoisseur. Don Corleone’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Cascades, owned by Waleed Zarou, prepares a gourmet pie combining the best styles from New York and Naples, Italy.

“This all came about here by seeing that there really aren’t any high quality authentic pizzerias in Loudoun and seeing the need,” said Zarou.

Zarou explained that many pizzerias bill themselves as “brick oven.” They may have an oven that is made of brick – but aren’t truly using the authentic method, he said.

Don Corleone’s uses natural wood as fuel — not gas – and bakes its pies at a temperature around 850 degrees. These steps are necessary to achieve true Neapolitan pizza, according to Zarou.

A little history: Pizza probably originated as long ago as ancient Egypt, but in more modern times, it developed in Naples.

In the 19th century, Queen Margherita of Italy brought fame to the dish when she summoned the most popular of the Neapolitan pizza chefs, Chef Raffaele Esposito, to her court for a taste test. Esposito named the Queen’s favorite pizza, one with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes, Pizza Margherita. It’s a name that is still used today.

True Neapolitan pizza uses the freshest ingredients, but not too many toppings. Since Americans tend to like to pile on the mushrooms, pepperoni and anchovies, Zarou decided to compromise. He studied famous New York pizza parlors like Grimaldi’s and Lombardi’s.

“We feel our pie is right down the middle between the best of New York style and the best of Neopolitan style,” said Zarou.

The traditional Neopolitan pizza is available at Don Corleone’s, however. It’s made with crushed plum tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil. The mozzarella is made from an bison common in Italy and has a sharper flavor than the mozzarella Americans are used to.

Don Corleone’s sells pizza by the slice, individual pies (10-12 inches) and family pies (18-20 inches). It also sells salads, calzones, New York cheesecake and hand-stuffed canolis.

Almost all the ingredients are imported from Italy to ensure top quality. So far, business couldn’t be better.

“We’ve been open just barely five weeks and without putting a sign on the door … we’ve been rushed ever since,” said Zarou.

The name “Don Corleone’s” is the family name of the mob family in Frances Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning movie, “The Godfather,” and the restaurant is decorated with posters from the film. The motto, “We offer a pizza you can’t refuse,” is straight out of a mob boss’s phrase book.

Seating is limited to a small counter inside and some outdoor tables, but Zarou said he hopes to expand someday with a traditional dining room with red and white checkered tablecloths.

Don Corleone’s offers curb-side service. The restaurant’s menu reads, “Call ahead to place your order, and one of our wise guys will meet you at the curb. Have your money ready!”

Though they don’t deliver to your home, Zarou is in the market right now for a 1940 classic mobster-mobile, for deliveries for special gatherings and corporate events. It already caters to AOL and the United States Postal Service.

Don Corleone’s also sells a lot of the ingredients used in the pizzas to customers, such as balsamic vinegar, Italian olive oil and sea salt.

Zarou is not a stranger to the business world in Loudoun. He also owns a hair salon called Farouk Systems USA in Dulles, which specializes in ammonia-free hair coloring. Both ventures tap into the growing market in Loudoun for top-of-the-line services – whether it be for hair care or gourmet pizza.