Mike, our genial neighbor who plays softball for fun and pizza, was holding down first base smartly for the mighty Zebra Room team when our cheering section of six pulled up along the sidelines. Soon he would get to the plate to take a few good slices-just as he does every week back at the restaurant after the game.
This time, the Zebras' best run of the day was the one they made from the park to the team table on the sidewalk along Macomb Street. We civilians took longer to drive there and had to take our places in the lines for indoor or outdoor seating-for it was a Thursday, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it's half-price pizza for on-premises consumers.
Both lines seemed to move equally slowly, so we held out for a sidewalk spot. That way our 12-year-old son and his buddy, known affectionately as Worm, wouldn't be glued to the Orioles' game that was in progress on two TV sets at the big circular bar.
Our 10-year-old daughter and her friend Laura kept a close by patient eye on the progress of the line, duly noting the proliferation of pizza as well as kids.
Another brief eye-popper during our half-hour wait (this long because a party of six really needs two tables at once) was a pair of women the kids spotted. We'll never know if it was legpulling time, but their dresses, though different, were both black-and-white-striped-a ludicrous if thematic complement to the whole Zebra Room motif.
The uniform for everybody else seemed to be some variation of running shorts, tank tops and cut-off jeans.
On to our seats and a brief study of the menu, even though we'd all agreed that the password for the evening was pizza. If you must know, there are many other offerings for which we cannot vouch, from 22 sandwiches under $2.25 to spaghetti every-which-way, including with veal scallopini for $4.25, and steaks or chops, shrimp or chicken, crab cake or shrimp for under $5.50.
Down the list of pizzas we went, gleefully dividing every price by 2 and then adding up the group's various topping preferences for common denominators.
Over a round of colas and a pitcher of brew, an accord was struck: The two girls would split a large pepperoni- which at half-price was going for $2.40, and the rest of us would have a go at the grand prize-the Zebra Special, which has to be seen to be believed.
On an ordinary night you'd have to part with $18 to get a load of this item. But for $9, we figured that the two boys, my wife and I couldn't go too wrong. You can top this model with anything available; we agreed on pepperoni, sausage and bacon.
One of the "special" aspects of this order, we would learn, is that it can take the better part of an eon to prepare. There were some apolgies citing an exceptional foul-up, but the girls polished off their pizza with gusto well before the King Kong meal showed up.
This pizza was a show-stopper, though-easily the size of a large trash-can lid, a 2-foot-long oval crust with generous helpings of all the topping-goodies requested. It was such a sprawling thing that the slices weren't your basic pie-cuts; toward the center, there were square pieces.
A note of class: the bacon bits were real, honest-to-goodness crinkled strips. And the crust was exceptionally flaky-not at all gummy. You should know, too, that it took the full time tummies and attention of all four contestants to do in this number.
Soon this hearty fare would dim the memory of the wait; we would people-watch some more: In would enter the softball team for Amtrak, followed by more neighbors.
The entire bill for this pizza feast for six was a mere $18.36- hardly a nick in the old wallet. No wonder that over the years of rising prices, the Zebra Room has earned its stripes as a family feedbag.
The Zebra Room
Wisconsin Avenue and Macomb Street NW. 362-8307
Hours: Every day from 8:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Atmosphere: Nobody can remember a family that ever dressed up to show up here. Pizza is the big draw; it goes for half-price two nights a week.
Price Range: The Tuesday-Thursday pizza offers are hard to beat. Anything else is yours for under $5, except for steaks for $5.50 and $6.50.
Credit Cards: Master Charge, Visa
Reservations: It's first come, first served-and it pays to be early.
Special Facilities: Accessible by wheelchair. There's a booster chair available. Street parking isn't difficult.