Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price range: Pizza from $3 for a small plain one to $13 for a large one with everything on it. Sandwiches and hot lunches, $2.50 to $3.
Credit cards: None; cash only.
Special facilities: Accessible to persons in wheelchairs; no booster seats or highchairs; there is a Pac-Man.
Francesca's is the kind of casual family place where the young son helping out slaps customers' feet with the broom and takes the garbage out on a skateboard.
The atmosphere is late modern carryout. What looks like someone's bowling trophy is on a shelf and a failing plant sits in the window. A stuffed gorilla wearing sunglasses and holding a Redskins pennant hangs over the cash register, completing the decor.
But the crowds don't come for ambiance. They come for pizza.
Francesca's pizza is so popular that it's not unusual for callers wanting carryout on the weekends to be told there is up to an hour's wait.
It wasn't until I began researching Francesca's for a review that I realized that in the year and a half we had been going there, my family had ordered almost nothing on the menu but pizza.
Francesca's version of the old standby begins with a slightly sweet dough that's lightly covered with bits of tomato and spices. Unlike most places, which douse the bread with a bland tomato sauce, Francesca's sauce only accentuates the dough.
With a heavy covering of cheese, the pizza then is browned nicely in the oven; Francesca's is very good about never undercooking or overcooking.
My family takes the purist approach when it comes to pizza. The only acceptable topping is pepperoni, and Francesca's heaps it on. But for those with wider tastes, there are other toppings, including anchovies, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, meatballs, or sausage.
Pizza is available in three sizes: 9-inch, 12-inch and 16-inch. The largest size is $6 plain and $13 with the works.
White pizza also is available, although we found the spicing in the oil-based sauce a bit too bitter. For the lunch crowd only, there is one hot entree on weekdays for $2.50. These include spaghetti and meatballs, linguini and white clam sauce, lasagne and manicotti.
Although pizza is Francesca's mainstay, the restaurant does serve a variety of good submarine sandwiches, which we tried on a recent visit.
Everybody was starving when we arrived at 5 p.m. on a weeknight, and fortunately, the place was empty. Our 18-month-old was particularly antsy, and we were afraid it was not going to be a pleasant meal. We were right.
Our 7-year-old son was fine, entertained with the Pac-Man game in the corner. But his sister began screaming almost immediately, when she was restrained from drinking from a too-full cup of root beer.
To soothe her, I let her walk around, but she soon found the shelves stocked with chips and cheese doodles and began to toss them on the floor with delight.
The couple behind the counter were sympathetic, and rushed through our order of a small pizza for the children and two subs--a sausage and Francesca's special--for my husband and me.
The sandwiches, large Italian sub rolls heaped with filling, were ready shortly after the pizza. The sausage had big chunks of meat dripping with a nice tomato sauce and topped with Romano cheese. The special was even more generous: several slices of different salami, plus cappicola, prosciutto, provolone cheese, crisp shredded lettuce, tomato and onion topped with sweet and hot peppers and a tangy vinegar sauce.
Although cannoli is available for $1.25, dessert was out of the question. The baby was demanding to get down, so we bought a small pack of cookies on the way out.
The bill, including cookies, was only $11.96.
We give Francesca's high marks for economy, good food, and the item crucial to families with small children: speed. The meal set a record, even for our family--29 minutes from order to finish.