Price range: From a cheese sandwich at $1.95 to the largest, most decorated of the deep dish pizzas at $8.95.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays from 1 p.m. to midnight.
Special facilities: Accessible by wheelchair. Parking on nearby streets.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Credit cards: Master Charge, Bank Americard and American Express.
Whether or not it's true that Armand's follows a recipe reconstructed from the garbage cans of a famous Chicago restaurant, the deep-dish pizza at this "Chicago Pizzeria," with its homemade bread crust, is worth the 20- to 30- minute wait on the sidewalks of Wisconsin Avenue and another 20 minutes while it's cooked.
Our family cooled its heels outside Armand's one cold Friday night, although several other families took one look at the waiting line and left. We placed our orders while still hopping from one foot to the other, as ordering outside is supposed to cut down on the waiting time inside this small former pharmacy - which Armand's owners turned into a pizzeria in 1975 after their visit to Chicago.
Until that visit there were only Armand's Sub-Ways here, selling what are variously known as submarines, torpedoes, hoagies or heroes and other assorted long sandwiches. While Armand's does not proclaim in its advertising that its deep-dish pizza recipe came from a garbage can, the story goes that after they tasted a delicious pizza in Chicago and were unable to get the recipe, the enterprising Armandians took some uneaten pizzas from the restaurant's garbage cans and had them analyzed in a laboratory.
The Chicago recipe heist accounts for the 1930s gangster motif on the pizzeria menu - "There's a guy with a gun on the cover," one of our boys remarked - and perhaps for the pleasant 1920s Art Deco decor and the waitresses' black bow ties.
We ordered a large pepperoni and a small vegetarian pizza for two adults and three boys, which turned out to be about the right quantity, and one Italian sub for a boy who recently turned 15 and somehow had never tried one.
The hot plates brought gasps of pleasure when they arrived, as our hands were still cold even after 15 minutes at the table. The gasps were followed by ecstatic exclamations when the pizza itself appeared.
"The best pizza I've ever had," concluded our 14-year-old, who hasn't been to Chicago but has made the rounds of local pizzerias. "The crust is a little sweet, but I love it," our 11-year-old proclaimed. "Delicious," said his friend. "The Italian sandwich is very good," our submariner supplied.
My wife and I gave somewhat lesser huzzas.
"The tomato sauce is ordinary but the bread crust is very good," said the family bread maker. I enjoyed the thick crust and the fresh ingredients, like mushrooms and peppers, but thought they were spread too thin, that the "deep dish" pizza contained little more than its shallower and less expensive relatives. But these were quibbles, as we enjoyed the pizza and the dark draught beer that accompanied it, and our boys were pleased.
The bill for six, including tip, was $30.41, including a second round of root beer floats for the boy's desserts, a persuasive argument for family pizza outings.
There are four Armand's Sub-Ways, which do not serve pizza, a second Chicago Pizzeria in Rockville and a third on the way in College Park. The wait at Wisconsin Avenue will be shorter, and a lot pleasanter to bear, when spring and warm weather arrive and the restaurant's outdoor cafe reopens.