Our 13-year-old son introduced us to the Grand Cafe Pelicano, where anyone who can climb the stairs of the handsome old Corn Exchange building on Alexandria's waterfront will be rewarded with a delicious, reasonably priced pizza made in the kitchen of one of the city's new Italian restaurants.
"The sausage and mozzarella is good," our son suggested knowledgeably, his favorite after a Saturday of soccer and skateboarding or an evening babysitting.
Rock music, which both our boys thought improved the atmosphere, was playing relatively softly as we slid into a window booth to enjoy a drafty but pleasant view of Alexandria's King Street and the restored 18th and 19th century warehouses. The World War I Torpedo Factory with its artists studios is on the opposite corner and the work of local artists adorns the Grand Cafe's walls.
Homemade Italian bread and glasses of beer, coke and for our 11-year-old a "Shirley Temple" - ginger ale and grenade - helped pass the time while we awaited our orders of pizza with sausage, one with fresh mushrooms, one "Neapoletana," with cheese, and my wife's choice of cannellone.
The Sunday night crowd was small, and the cafe it self is small, with a bar and only a dozen tables, so we had little difficulty listening to a family of four in the next booth returning their orders of spaghetti which they complained were lukewarm. When the spaghetti arrived the second time they said it was hot but dull. My wife reached a similar conclusion about her cannellioni - ground veal in pasta - but the pizzas with their gobs of cheese and good crust were a great success.
In fact, the Grand Cafe's pizza was a success for almost an entire week after, since three foot-wide pizzas are too much for three people and we took almost a whole one home to freeze. It provided after-school snacks, hors d'oeurves and a pleasant memory of the Grand Cafe until the following weekend.
While many of the cafe's patrons take away bags or boxes of leftovers, the restaurant also does a bustling pizza carry-out business. At $3.75 to $4.75 they are reasonably priced.
Our meal came to $22.75 without tip and including a second round of beer, coke and Shirley Temples. We were stuffed.
Looking back at the large Renaissance palazzo Corn Exchange building, built in 1871 but used more recently for offices and a warehouse for Dockside Sales, we decided it is Alexandria's most magnificent pizza parlor and carry-out.
No reservations. Difficult for handicapped because of stairs. Parking on nearby streets and public and private lots. Accepts Mastercharge, BankAmericard, American Express and Carte Blanche charge cards.