All Purpose

Photo: Enzo the Baker Pizza at All Purpose

Last Updated: September 2022

Current Status: They are open for business at both locations with dine-in, take-out and delivery.

Gift Cards

Before Times Review:

Last Visited: February 2019

All Purpose is more “American – Italian” than “Italian – Italian” but delicious whatever the category.  It is a sibling to, and shares an executive chef with, the excellent Red Hen.  The first location, in Shaw,  manages to create a vibe that is resonant of the food that floats in an imaginary spot between Manhattan and Grandma’s in Jersey (for a night you can pretend you have one).  Décor matches that vibe, with subway tile, intentional touches of roughness and pretend patina.  The second Navy Yard location has less decoration and more river views – and outdoor seating.

The food seems to come from some Platonic ideal of Italian-American cooking.  Do not skip the pizza.  That seems like an obvious statement, but you might think you have to go either mains & sides or pizza.  Get at least one pie, split it or take the rest home if you need to.  Pizzas are Neapolitan in size but a little more doughy.  Anything fried is usually good (artichokes, Arancini), managing to be crispy but not oily.  Any version of the Stracciatella cheese, if it is on the menu, is likely to be decadent creaminess offset by some kind of brightness.  The eggplant Parm arrives bubbling and crisp on the edges.  Like many of the dishes, it is hearty without crossing into the land of “abbondanza.”

Cocktails and other beverages are done well.  Befitting its young age, the wine list is well-chosen but not deep.  Almost none of the bottles are over $100.  In the summer, they do a good Negroni (technically they do it all year round).

The initial rush has subsided, so getting a table is possible, but reservations recommended.

Other guidance:  Vegetarians can eat their way around the menu, but vegans and GF will have slimmer pickings.  The vibe is casual.  Shorts are not out of place.

Rating: Worth Paying for Cab
Cuisine: Italian
Shaw Location:
– Address: 1250 9th St NW
– Reservations: Resy
Navy Yard Location:
– Address: 79 Potomac Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003
– Reservations: Resy

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post:  was 3, but knocked down to 2.5 without explanation.

Washingtonian: #22 in 2020; #25 in 2019; #18 in 2018; #15 at 2017.