Station House Ledo's Pizza
11845 Scaggsville Rd.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Subs $3.39 to $4.99; large pizzas start at $9.95.
Credit Cards: None. Cash or checks only.
While pizzologists don't agree on what constitutes the perfect pie, they might concur that a Ledo's pizza is at the top of its class.
The pizza-loving public thinks so, having steadily patronized Ledo's since the first restaurant opened in an Adelphi storefront in 1955. People have continued to buy the pies, which now are also available at 15 other locations -- some of them full-scale restaurants with liquor licenses and menus that include pasta standards, and others, like this Fulton cafe, that do a big carryout business and serve a basic pizza and sandwich menu in no-frills dining rooms.
The Station House, which opened a little more than two years ago, is dishing out the famous rectangular pizzas as fast as you can say, "Hold the anchovies," while it maintains the Ledo's standard. It is a clean, brightly lighted little eatery with tile floors and a few hanging plants and ruffled valances that relieve the boxiness of the building.
It is also a family-run, family-oriented place, where toddlers are expected and where older children can amuse themselves with video games. There's a pile of Redskins schedules at the front counter. And during football season, you can watch games on the television suspended in one corner of the room.
If you're dining in, place your order with one of the scrubbed youths at the counter, then go to the corner station to collect disposable plates and cutlery. In the same place are shaker bottles of red pepper flakes, Italian herbs and grated Parmesan. Tables may be hard to nab on weekends, so stake one out as soon as you arrive.
If you've never been to a Ledo's before, prepare for a different but perfectly valid pizza experience. The difference begins with the crust, a brittle, crispy foundation that is derived more from a matzoh cracker than a yeast bread. The sauce is a thin layer of crushed tomatoes, subtly spiced and mildly sweetened -- no relation at all to the saccharine, sludge-like tomato concentrates that come on the convenient but dreadful dial-a-pies.
At this Ledo's, topping portions are generous and of good quality. Sausage comes in good-sized chunks and is wonderfully full of fennel. Hamburger is lean but needs salting. Pepperoni slices are thicker than elsewhere.
Some will appreciate that the green pepper strips are boiled before baking; others will miss that raw crunch. The onions are just right: cooked but still a bit crunchy, in nice small slivers.
Don't order double cheese on a Ledo's pizza -- the wonderful delicacy of its crust can't take the extra weight and the pie becomes soggy toward the middle. Besides, the regular portion is generous enough. This pizza, even more than other types, is at its best and most balanced with only one or two toppings.
Overshadowed as they are by the good pizza, some of the subs and sandwiches deserve mention. The pork barbecue has surprisingly big chunks of delicious, smoky pork and is a good buy as a sandwich ($3.49) or a sub ($4.89). Other good bets are the beef sandwiches (hot beef and onion, steak and cheese, and pepper steak), which are built upon either thin-sliced or whole rib eye steak.
As pleased as I was with these sandwiches, I couldn't help thinking that the pork barbecue deserved a better bun or wishing that the sub rolls had been crisped in the oven. No doubt the staff would be happy to comply with the latter, if requested.