Oprah features Ledo’s as among country’s best pizza

Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006

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Brenda Ahearn⁄The Gazette
Tommy Marcos, Jr. shows off Ledo’s pizzas, which were featured as among the nation’s best on the Nov. 1 Oprah show.

Many Prince George’s County residents don’t need an introduction to Ledo’s Pizza, since it’s been around for 51 years.

But the entire nation got an introduction three weeks ago, when The Oprah Winfrey Show featured Ledo Restaurant on University Boulevard — the original Ledo’s — as one of the best pizza places in America.

Winfrey’s friend Gayle King, a former University of Maryland student, remembered Ledo’s from her time here in the 1970s, and made it her first stop on her televised ‘‘quest” for the best pizza ever, which aired Nov. 1.

‘‘I have always liked pizza, but there is no pizza in the world, in the world, that I am still talking about and remembering and thinking about 30 years later,” King stated in a summary posted on the show’s Web site.

Ledo’s special combination of light, flaky crust — a rolled, pie-type crust rather than the standard tossed dough — fresh tomato sauce with a hint of sweetness, and savory smoked provolone drew the show’s attention, said owner Tommy Marcos, Jr., whose father opened the restaurant in 1955.

‘‘They focused on the fact that we make our own dough, we make our own sauce ... by hand when the order’s put in,” he said. As for the smoked provolone, ‘‘it has got that saltiness to it where mozzarella doesn’t. It lends to the flavor of our pizza tremendously.”

The pizza is also visually unique, with small pizzas made in round pie pans and medium and large pizzas made on rectangular cookie sheets — the way they were made in the very beginning when the restaurant was trying to save money, and pizza pans were expensive specialty pans, Marcos said.

Not only is the dough made fresh every two hours — never frozen — but Ledo’s is generous with its fresh toppings, too, said Rob Beall with Ledo’s Pizza System, the company that now owns the Ledo’s brand and franchises.

For example, its pepperoni is sliced thicker than industry standard, and only locally-made, fresh sausage is used.

‘‘Everything is just piled on there,” Beall said. ‘‘A large cheese pizza comes with a pound of smoked provolone. We’re not shy about giving you what you ask for.”

Beall’s grandfather partnered with Tommy Marcos, Sr., when Ledo Restaurant first opened. In the 1980s, Beall said, they began to realize that Ledo’s was a well-known name around the state, so by 1989 they had decided to open their first franchise, in Prince Frederick. Now Beall’s company owns 80 franchises in nine states.

The Marcos family split off in 1994 to focus on the original restaurant in Adelphi, as well as a Bowie restaurant, T.J. Elliott’s, that also serves Ledo’s-style pizza.

The original Ledo Restaurant has had its share of local recognition as well. At its 50th anniversary in 2005, Tommy Marcos, Sr., garnered proclamations from the Prince George’s County Council and Sheriff Michael Jackson for his long-lived business and involvement with the community and the University of Maryland.