July 19, 2024


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What the Primary Ledo Restaurant Intended to Maryland

What the Primary Ledo Restaurant Intended to Maryland

a person sitting at a desk in front of a computer: Ledo Restaurant founder Tommy Marcos Sr., right. with his Tommy Marcos Jr.

© Courtesy of Ledo Restaurant
Ledo Restaurant founder Tommy Marcos Sr., right. with his Tommy Marcos Jr.

Lefty Driesell did not want the occasion to finish. So when the University of Maryland honored the Corridor of Fame men’s basketball mentor, elevating a banner in his honor in 2017, he finished his acceptance speech by inviting an viewers of close friends and household to be a part of him for pizza at Ledo Restaurant. The night went late at his beloved hangout, and Driesell’s bash consumed several slices with his most popular topping, chewy parts of bacon that do not get cooked until finally they are put on major of pizzas in advance of they slide into the oven.


Driesell’s huge night was a single of numerous special occasions that took spot at the primary Ledo Restaurant, a Maryland landmark with a history courting again to 1955. But just after 65 several years across two places, the founding family that runs Ledo introduced in November it was closing the iconic Italian-American cafe in College or university Park, which experienced operated underneath diverse expectations than the franchising operation that break up off to spawn additional than 100 places throughout the East Coastline.

Operator Tommy Marcos Jr. sold the primary Ledo Restaurant to a management firm that now operates quite a few franchises for the chain. Jim McGinnis, who brokered the sale, says Marcos has presented to consult on recipes, and administration team Chesapeake Hospitality ideas to renovate the space right before reopening it in 2021. But for longtime supporters like Driesell, there is very little like the unique, and the retirement of the next-generation operator represents the end of an era.

“No opposing fans had been there after video games. It was all Maryland,” suggests Driesell, who took his staff members to a typical lunch at Ledo for 15 decades. “[Co-owner] Tommy Marcos was a large-time admirer. He was a tremendous guy. Pretty welcoming, upbeat. He was a wonderful businessman. Restaurants are not successful if they really do not have excellent management and meals. I’ll generally recall Ledo.”

Marcos identified as the conclusion of his family’s involvement in the enterprise “bittersweet.” A collection of health and fitness problems confident him to provide just after a 43-12 months tenure. His father, Tommy Marcos Sr., and associate Robert Beall opened the initial Ledo Cafe in 1955 in a strip buying center in close by Adelphi, which was a long stroll for hungry Maryland college students. Continue to, they observed the rectangular pies with flaky crusts, cooked in steel pans that have been frequent in the 1950s, worthy of the trek.

a pizza sitting on top of a table: Ledo Pizza split off into a chain with more than 100 locations on the East Coast

© Sean McCormick for the Washington Put up through Getty Illustrations or photos
Ledo Pizza split off into a chain with extra than 100 places on the East Coast

Ledo pizza is much more about the middle of the sq. than the corners. It’s a combination of pastry-thin crust with sweet sauce and a gentle layer of cheese that places the concentration on generous toppings. Marcos estimates that the restaurant bought extra than 1 million pizzas in excess of the years, which includes 200,000 because 2015.

His purchaser foundation went outside of pupils and popular basketball coaches. At 1 point, a significant white limo sporting “My Way” on the license plate arrived to decide up a pie for Frank Sinatra, who gave a live performance at the aged Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. The Rolling Stones also ordered takeout. The Doobie Brothers came by. So did many expert athletes, like Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, Jets quarterback Joe Namath, Baltimore Colts QB Johnny Unitas, and Washington Senators All-Star outfielder Jim Lemon.

Marcos Jr. suggests a feeling of family members drew lots of regulars. Ledo was a next house for Maryland little ones and a homecoming location for alumni. Grandchildren of some of the earliest employees labored at the cafe, which moved to close by Knox Highway in 2010. Marcos says the unique Ledo has utilized much more than 10,000 individuals.

College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn stated restaurants like Ledo become section of a community’s identification.

“It’s crucial to have establishments that folks affiliate with School Park,” mentioned Wojahn, who’s a fan of the exclusive taco pizza, topped with spiced beef, picante sauce, cheddar and smoked provolone, iceberg lettuce, and diced tomatoes. “It’s a place exactly where you realized the bartenders and the servers. I’m truly going to miss that.”

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Maryland sporting activities and Ledo Cafe were often tightly aligned. Marcos Sr. became a Terrapin Club member in 1958, attending both of those road and household soccer and basketball game titles until eventually his loss of life in 2010. Lovers crammed into the previous restaurant in Adelphi, lined with pictures of Terps athletes and associates of the Washington Senators baseball group on the wooden panel partitions, just before and immediately after game titles. Driesell generally dined at Ledo immediately after household online games. He was a large admirer of the spiced shrimp and Italian-design egg drop soup, as nicely as the pizza.

“They were the old group,” Marcos Jr. says. “They went to all the game titles. They beloved Maryland. All people understood just about every other.”

a tall building in a city street: Ledo Restaurant sits under a parking garage on Knox Road in College Park, Maryland.

© Cafe Brokers and Builders, Inc.
Ledo Cafe sits underneath a parking garage on Knox Road in Higher education Park, Maryland.

a store inside of a building: The bar at Ledo Restaurant in College Park, where the original pizzeria relocated in 2010.

© Restaurant Brokers and Developers, Inc.
The bar at Ledo Cafe in College or university Park, where the primary pizzeria relocated in 2010.

Ledo Restaurant is known for extra-thick slices of pepperoni

© Marvin Joseph/The Washington Write-up by means of Getty Pictures
Ledo Cafe is regarded for further-thick slices of pepperoni

Dave Pacella, an offensive lineman on the Terrapins soccer group in the 1980s, says his recruiting stop by incorporated a take a look at to Ledo, wherever he grew to appreciate the slices of pepperoni the kitchen area lower further thick as a time-saving evaluate.

“We received a pizza late-night time,” Pacella remembers. “It was slim, a minimal greasy due to the fact of the pepperoni and sweet sauce and a various crust. I believed it was so unique. I usually go to Ledo any time I’m in town. I could try to eat it chilly all day extended.”

Lefty Driesell holding a basketball: Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, left, and star center Tom McMillen frequented Ledo Restaurant in the 1970s

© Getty Photographs
Maryland mentor Lefty Driesell, still left, and star heart Tom McMillen frequented Ledo Cafe in the 1970s

Tom McMillen, a star center who anchored Driesell’s terrific basketball groups of the 1970s right before participating in in the NBA and becoming a congressman, was a ham-and-pineapple enthusiast.

“My brother and I went there each individual Friday night,” McMillen suggests. “So a lot of occasions teammates and good friends would buy pizza for the dorm. It was a staple.”

Soon after arriving in School Park in 1969, Driesell served Ledo pizza to reporters in advance of game titles and at midweek press conferences. That tradition ongoing until the recent closure.

“When folks occur to protect games, in particular from out of town, you want to demonstrate them a slice of your group, pretty much and figuratively,” states Doug Uninteresting, a 1981 Maryland graduate who spent 10 decades as a athletics information and facts director for the athletic department.

“Everybody looked ahead to it,” suggests Zack Bolno, who also worked as a sports information and facts director at Maryland. “I understood the press space would be silent when the pizza arrived.”

Wealthy Daniel, a 1986 Maryland graduate who owns the DC Divas women’s soccer workforce, says consumers had been drawn in by a perception of family members. Consuming at Ledo Restaurant “was like a Thanksgiving food you only get a pair times a year” he states. “Other men and women make pizza, but you really do not have a square or the exact sauce. It was distinctive. … It was ease and comfort foodstuff.”

The Ledo chain and first cafe divided many years in the past. Sons of the primary partners opted to franchise in 1989, but the Marcos family determined to concentrate on the initially cafe. Beall’s family operates the Ledo Pizza chain, with product sales of $120 million in 2018, according to Pizza Now. All that enlargement led to some destinations that had been inconsistent, presented a watered-down variation of the primary, or skimped on the cheese. At the authentic Ledo, shoppers could always be expecting the higher level of high quality that came from Marcos Jr.’s management.

Marcos Jr. made a decision to promote the restaurant final spring and sooner or later uncovered a purchaser, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been devastating for eating places. The choice was not uncomplicated for Marcos Jr., whose daughter functions as a part-time manager. He’s sentimental about the cafe and its historical past. The name arrived from his father’s company in Earth War II. Marcos Sr. flew around the Himalayas through Planet War II and landed after a mission at an airport on Ledo Highway. With signal-makers charging by the letter, the elder Marcos seemed to that memory for an affordable selection.

“My father always reported the restaurant was his golfing match. I fully grasp now,” Marcos Jr. suggests, describing how the organization was much more like a passion. “You appreciate remaining there, speaking to the consumers, staff. It begins to turn into a relatives, and that’s what I’ll overlook. It’s been a good journey.”

Rick Snider identified Ledo pizza as a Maryland pupil in 1980 and blames his waistline on taking in way way too many. His most loved topping is pepperoni. No, sausage. No, pepperoni, sausage, and added cheese.

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