I will be the first to admit, I am brand loyal. If I start going to a place and things go well, I don’t consider other options. I’ve been with Comcast through good and bad since 1986. Been with AT&T from the time it was AT&T, to when it became Cingular, to when it went back to being AT&T. Same with banks, auto repair places, grocery stores…you get the idea.
I am also that way with pizza places. I had a professor in graduate school who once asked what product Domino’s sold; everyone looked around like he was crazy and said “pizza, of course.” He told us we all were wrong...the product Domino’s sold wasn’t pizza, it was delivery. With that chain, his theory went, the pizza didn’t need to be perfect because it beat all of its competitors in one category: they brought it to your door for free.
This obviously was 30 years ago, but his point was made. There are places you go purely for the pizza. And there are places you go because it’s cheap and convenient. They are not the same place.
In our family we will use the chains when there’s a 50 percent off deal (which Papa John’s seems to have every night if a Washington team wins) if we’re having one of those “what do you want to eat for dinner?” conversations. But if we want good pizza – and Friday night is always pizza night for us because our daughter decides she will leave her wonderful apartment on the other size of town and come visit at the very moment the pizza enters our front door – we have been going to Ledo’s.
We discovered it a couple of years ago after we moved here and were driving around Leesburg. I walked in and noticed a large family around a circular table in the back near the window. One of them was Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier and I figured if this place was good enough for him to bring his entire family, it was worth trying.
We loved it. They had a sweet sauce which clearly had a lot of onions and garlic in it, they were generous with the cheese and they were generous with the toppings. Good product, nice people, and we came back regularly. I enjoyed it so much that when traveling, I’d see if there was a Ledo nearby. Ate at the one in Virginia Beach while it was still open, same with locations in Williamsburg, Richmond, Sterling, etc.
In short, we liked the place and got a good product at all of them.
Then they opened one in Ashburn. And while I’m sure everyone is getting a good product, I’m apparently the unluckiest man on the planet. It got to the point to get a decent product, I had to order double cheese and double toppings just to get a similar product to what we'd experienced in Leesburg and other locations. I’d get emails telling me of deals, then would call the local store and be told “no, we don’t do that.”
But still, I’m brand loyal. And lazy. I didn’t want to drive all the way to Leesburg to pick up a pizza. But Friday night, my daughter called in the order (I usually do it). She didn’t know I was ordering double everything and just ordered a plain pepperoni pizza. When we took it home, it was awful. Skimpy, overcooked, bare spots in it where there was no cheese at all, the appealing color of a burnt lobster...all would be considered acceptable descriptions. My wife and daughter wouldn’t eat it. I threw half of it away.
So what did I do? What everyone does these days. I took to Twitter and asked if there are any better options. I got several good suggestions, but the most consistent recommendation was for a place called Rubino’s Pizzeria. They have a place over in Southern Walk, so today for lunch we went by to try it. They sell both whole pizzas and by the slice, so I was able to order some of several different styles.
A slice of pepperoni to me is the vanilla ice cream of a pizza place. You have to do that well or you won’t do anything else well either. We ordered a slice of pepperoni and one of everything else they offered today by the slice: Margherita, Sicilian, Canadian and Barbecue Canadian.
It was a step above what we had been having. Thick cheese, great New York style crust, great flavor. This was made by someone who knew how to make pizza, not someone following a recipe. Then halfway through the meal, it became easy to see why.
Someone who I thought was the manager came over to see if we were enjoying everything. We said we did and visited for a few minutes. When he turned to leave, he introduced himself: Stephen….Rubino. Seems three brothers (who all graduated from George Mason and all live in Loudoun County) started the chain, and one of them was running this one. There is something to be said about the quality of food when the owner of the restaurant is actually in the restaurant versus a franchise where to the person running the place, it's just a job.
So we enjoyed it. In fact, highly recommend it. Looks like we found a new brand to be loyal to... :)