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Jul 21, 2008 04:24 PM

Pizza Pantry in Arlington (Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike)

Grew up in the area and had never eaten at this longtime establishment.

My wife and I recently shared one of their traditional square pizzas and a Filmore sub. We just got the pizza plain -- cheese with no toppings. The crust is thin and flaky. I thought the sauce was fairly sweet, making the overall taste of the pizza a little too sweet for my liking. Not bad, but not great. I'm told longtime customers (I think this place has been open since the '50s) go back because they're nostalgic for the unique taste. I can certainly understand the nostalgia element. In the '60s and '70s my family used to eat square pizza with a similar look from a little place on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington at the intersection of George Mason Drive which as far as I can remember was simpy called "The Pizzaria." (I think this space is currently occupied by the Two Chefs restaurant which has a diner type menu.) I recall a similar crust but I seem to remember a little less generous portion of cheese and the sauce not being as sweet. But that's reaching waaaay back for that memory. Anyone else here remember The Pizzaria?

As for the Filmore sub at the Pizza Pantry, it's a gem. It's basically a meatball sub covered generously with cheese and baked in the pizza oven. Friends rave about it and it really does deserve high praise. If I go back, it's what I'll order. I highly recommend it.

Any fans of this place on here? And does anyone here recall how the original Pizza Pantry was set up? It's a takeout place only now, but did they have one of the adjoining spaces to accommodate table service at one time?

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  1. Pizza Pantry was mentioned a good few times a few years ago by myself and a couple of other Hounds. Definitely had its territory that was well deserved. Nothing great, but on the positive side of the fence, for sure.

    Jamie D last reported on it as far as I know. He said the name changed but the owners were the same, and trying out a new arrangement. Here's that post:

    Here's more posts on it:

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dennis S

      Reviving this thread from several years ago because I found another pizza place selling the square pizza many of us DC area natives grew up with. Pepi's Pizza Box in Alexandria makes a square pizza with the cracker-like crust which tastes pretty much like what I remember eating as a kid. If you are from this area and know what I'm talking about, it's worth the trip to find this unique taste and bring back memories. To get this style of pizza, make sure to order the "Thin Crust" pizza as listed on their menu. (They also make a "Hand Tossed" pizza.) Located at 330 South Van Dorn Street in Alexandria (on the opposite side of the shopping center from Home Depot).
      Anyone else have recommendations for finding this DC-style pizza that aren't already listed in this discussion thread?

      1. re: EatOrGoToYourRoom

        I'll have to try the thin crust, because I tried the "hand tossed" and thought it was instantly forgettable. This after ordering a "pizza" at the Mediterranean place across the street and getting a pita covered with ground meat and chopped hothouse tomatoes.

        Italian Inn in Landover Hills does Ledo's style crust. Not far from Pizza Oven, although the decor is straight outta the 1950s: cushy booths, stucco everywhere, and a really nice cozy bar area. They even have a wooden phone booth, minus the telephone.

    2. I believe I was the first to mention the Pizza Pantry on this board in December of '03:

      "Well, many on this board will laugh but for those of us who grew up in D. C. there is atruly great pizza in Arlington: Pizza Pantry on Walter Reed Drive just off of Columbia Pike. But before you start thinking of Pepe's in New Haven or Grimaldi's in Brooklyn I should tell you that this is an acquired taste. The type of thing that if you grew up with it you will go to bed at night saying prayers for it still being in business after 50+ years. For many that go there it is NOT what they are looking for. But for the few, the very few native born Washingtonians, this is pizza to have for a last meal. In the '50's and '60's it was good, cheap neighborhood pizza. Nothing more. Today, with Pizza Hut and Domino's it has been elevated to an unparalled cult status for this area.

      It is even better after midnight. That should speak volumes about the type of pizza that it is."

      Also, in the same thread:

      "This is not Greek pizza. It is not New York pizza. It is D. C. pizza that originated with a salesman in the 50's who sold pizza ovens and recipes which used fresh dough pizza to maybe a hundred or more neighborhood places. They all put out somewhat similar pizza and today only a handful survive. In Arlington it is the Pizza Pantry, in Rockville, the Pizza Oven and in East Pines another Pizza Oven, although Rockville for whatever reason is a bit better. I believe all of the other 97+ have closed. It IS an acquired taste, sort of like Imo's to St. Louis, Old Forge near Scranton, or Dayton, Ohio. Not in league with the original Ledo's in West Hyattsville (always the best in the Maryland suburbs). But for greasy, gloppy satisfying, belly whopping satisfaction, with a beer or a cold Coke this is true D. C. comfort food. The Pizza Pantry uses more cheese than does the surviving Pizza Ovens but if one orders extra cheese in Rockville or East Pines they are very, very similar."o

      | Permalink | Report | Reply
      Joe H. Dec 19, 2003 02:05PM

      1 Reply
      1. re: Joe H

        Thanks for the info. Pizza Pantry really is only a carry out place now. In the early years, did they used to have more space and table service? If so, do you know when they changed to carry out?

        It really is a throwback in terms of the style of pizza they serve. It was a hot, slow summer day on Columbia Pike when we went there. The whole experience had the feel of old Arlington.

      2. I remember a few places called the Pizza Box, one in the shopping plaza at Lorcom Lane and Old Lee Highway in Arlington and the other next to the post office in Falls Church that later became Anthony's. They were okay for back in the day, but not exciting. Besides Pizza Pantry, there is Mario's on Wilson Blvd.near Washington Blvd. of approximately the same vintage (1958). Huge square pizza sold by the slice. Not bad straight from the oven, 2 a.m. when it's about 20 degrees out. I usually forgo the pizza and go for the steak and cheese sub, which is killer. I had a po'boy at Mother's in New Orleans last week and was surprised to discover that their "dressed" sandwich is virtually the same as a Mario's sub "with everything"--cabbage slaw, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles and hot peppers. Gotta admit that Mothers had better bread, though.

        1 Reply
        1. Oh --- my --- gawd!

          It's been fifty years but it all came back when I ordered a thin-crust pizza like Pizza Pantry makes!

          We usedta get it somewhere up Georgia Avenue.

          Things that are the same - the crust comes out of the fridge pre-rolled into a rectangular pan, the size you probably make cookies on at home. I should have asked for "light sauce," and the cheese was about right when I asked for "light cheese." As mentioned, the crust does not really rise - it's really sort of like a big cracker.

          Things that are different: toppings? What are those? There's the crust, the sauce, the cheese, who needs anything else? And the box - should be white single-layer caredboard (not corrugated) with no pictures, just the restaurant's name in big red block letters. That way you'd have to hold it in both hands so it wouldn't flop open, and then you'd cuss under your breath at the transmitted heat, just like you used to. Oh, well ... people today want toppings, and when people cuss it isn't under their breath.

          The pizza lady asked why I was standing stock-still grinning at my pizza ... fifty years is a long time!

          15 Replies
          1. re: wayne keyser

            I went to Thomas Jefferson Jr. High (class of 1956) on the site of what's now the Arlington Career Center or something like that. For Health class, we interviewed some of the local shops about how the county conducted inspections. I wanted to be in the Pizza Pantry group but got assigned to the barber shop across the street.

            1. re: MikeR

              How was the space occupied by the Pizza Pantry configured back then? They only have a small storefront operation doing carry out now but I assume they must've had a larger space with table service back then. Please let me know how it was. Thanks.

              1. re: EatOrGoToYourRoom

                Oh, geez, that was 50 years ago, I didn't even like pizza back then, and I have probably only been there two or three times in my life, probably only to pick up a take-out pizza.. Besides, I was on the barber shop team.

                I could, however, describe Gifford's on Lee Highway pretty accurately. That was a place I visited often.

                1. re: EatOrGoToYourRoom

                  My wife graduated from Wakefield in '64 (same year as I from Blair in Silver Spring). She was almost a regular at the Pizza Pantry then. She insists that there is no difference today from what was the setup then. (i.e. one or two tables and mostly carryout). BUT she also adds that a place/joint called The Broiler at 3601 Columbia Pike has THE EXACT SAME PIZZA AS DID THE PIZZA PANTRY IN THE '60's. (I also believe The Broiler has been there almost as long.)

                  Carol was also something of a regular at the Gifford's in Bailey's Cross Roads. I was on a first name basis with the man who was the plant manager in Silver Spring. When Gifford's closed he started his own place...York Castle at Georgia and Seminary.

                  I trust my wife. She is as opinionated as I am, just not quite as vocal!

                  1. re: Joe H

                    Not to hijack the thread, but I also was at least a once-a-weeker at the Bailey's Crossroads Gifford's after it opened. I still miss it, and every now and then I buy a pint of the current Gifford's Swiss Chocolate at the grocery store. I don't have a great memory for exact tastes, but it still tastes pretty good to me.

                    1. re: MikeR

                      The base is different. I haven't been in several years but the original York Castle on Georgia Avenue near Seminary road had Gifford's exact ice cream and Swiss sauce along with making their sundaes exactly as before (i.e. Swiss sundae had homemade Swiss chocolate, with real cream whipped in house and chopped nuts; strawberry sodas were made with some cream stirred into the soda water first). Pumpkin, Swiss, Oreo and Peach were also identical. The focus at York Castle were the tropical/Island flavors-but this was Gifford's made by the Jamaican man who was Gifford's plant manager for over ten years and started his own store a couple of months after the Silver Spring store and plant were closed. He used the exact same base made by Shenandoah Dairy.

                      Some flavors at the "new" Gifford's are different from the original (i.e. "cookies and cream/Oreo" where the original had far more Hydrox cookies in it than the "new" Gifford's). Butter pecan was another one.

                        1. re: Mister Big

                          She was in my plane geometry class in 11th grade and didn't cover her paper during tests.

                    2. re: Joe H

                      Thanks very much. I've had subs at The Broiler -- many years ago -- but I'll have to try the pizza as a matter of historical interest. :)

                      1. re: Joe H

                        Thanks very much. I've had subs at The Broiler -- many years ago -- but I'll have to try their square pizza.

                        1. re: EatOrGoToYourRoom

                          We went to The Broiler tonight. Forty nine years after it first opened. Perhaps as good of a steak and cheese as can be found in the D. C. area.

                          And really lousy pizza. Serious. Horribly disappointing. To make it even worse we drove by the Pizza Pantry and they were selling "pizza by the slice." We didn't go in but my guess is that the Pizza Pantry is no more, just a shell of what it once was.

                          I'd go back to The Broiler for a steak and cheese sub; but I seriously doubt that I will ever have a bite of their pizza again.

                          1. re: Joe H

                            Joe H: When I went to Pizza Pantry and saw the pizza by the slice in the window, I was bummed. BUT I went in and asked and they do still make the square pizza, which we ordered and which was the reason for my original post. So the bottom line is that Salvo's Pizza Pantry sells BOTH round and square pizza. Not sure why. Anyhow, they told me the square pizza is the same stuff they've been serving for years. I hope you read this post so you will know that you still have a reason to go back!

                            1. re: EatOrGoToYourRoom

                              Thanks! Really appreciate your post. My wife (we're both native born Washingtonians-she went to Wakefield '64) grew up with the Pizza Pantry and until a few years ago would make a monthly pilgramage from Reston to there for pizza.

                              We'll probably be back there tomorrow! Thanks.

                              1. re: Joe H

                                I hope other longtime fans of their square pizza aren't driven off by the display of round pizza visible through the window. It certainly creates confusion. Perhaps they should have some sort of sign in the window explaining that they still make square pizza to order as well.

                        2. re: Joe H

                          I read these posts before leaving work this evening, and started getting excited about possibly having a pizza similar to that I used to eat growing up, from a place called Pizza Fair at Rt. 50/Graham Rd. in Falls Church. The rectangular shape and description of the crust at Pizza Pantry sounded just like what Pizza Fair used to serve up. When I got to Pizza Pantry, it had closed for the evening, so I headed down to the Broiler (less than 1/2 mile away), to order up one of theirs.

                          The crust was in the same ball park as my old Pizza Fair. The sauce and cheese were not even close. The sauce had almost no flavor, nor did the cheese. In addition, the cheese was so thick and heavy, I considered using some slices to replace some roof shingles on my house. Instead, 3/4 of the pizza ended up in the trash.

                          I will try to get to Pizza Pantry to see if their pizza is a close fit, or is at least edible, and possibly enjoyable, but if it is really like that currently made at The Broiler, it will be my last foray into Arlington to try to regain a pizza treat from my past.

                          The Broiler used to have great steak and cheese subs, and they are still pretty good (had one about a year ago), but there was definitely a noticeable decline in the quality of the steak from, say, 5 or more years ago.

                  2. Pizza Pantry is now called Sicilian Pizza. The also have a location in Alexandria. I haven't been.