City Desk

What Pizza Did Joe Jacoby Really Eat?

20100104logoMariosPizzaThe local media blessed us with tons of great memories of the glory days of the Redskins franchise over the weekend, what with Russ Grimm’s induction to the Hall of Fame.

My favorite came with Mike Wise’s column on the Hogs, going over the birth of football history's most durable and successful offensive line. I was particularly taken with what the young Skins would bring with them to their Redskins Park post-practice hangout, dubbed The Shed, in the early days.

From the story:

It's where Riggo and friends could down a brew, Russ could chew his Copenhagen and Joe Jacoby could bring back his favorite sandwich from Merino's in Fairfax, two pieces of Sicilian pizza pressed together with chopped beef and white, runny cheese spilling over the sides – the Hog Cheesesteak, named for him.

I'm a product of Northern Virginia, and I'd never heard of Merino's Pizza or the Hog Cheesesteak. But I bet if we jump into the way-back machine, we’d find that Jacoby’s foodstuffs actually came from Marino’s, a carryout outlet in the brief and mostly disastrous attempt to franchise the glorious Mario’s Pizza, the Arlington fixture. (The name was altered during franchising for legal reasons related to too many "Mario's" already being in business, is the story I'd always heard.) And I'd bet the sandwich he describes is Mario's BBQ pizza, where a blob of meat – I've always believed it was pork, but Wise says beef, and I've never had it tested – was thrown on square, but not Sicilian, slices of pizza.

Why is this important? Because Mario's is one of the few institutions in this area that means more to folks than the Redskins. (Full disclosure: My first pizza came from Mario’s, and, my last probably my will, too.) You can still go to the original Mario’s on Wilson Blvd., open all the time, with Lefty Lindsay and Joe Williams serving up subs and square, but not Sicilian, pizza. Last I checked, Lefty and Joe have been there for 45 and 48 years, respectively. Loading up on Mario’s Pizza on Redskins Sundays was a tradition I carried with me after moving into D.C. 24 years ago. I'm not as devoted to either the eatery or the team these days, and that saddens me now that I think about it.

I've never been able to figure out why Mario's franchising was such a debacle. (An outlet in Petworth on Georgia Avenue, the last franchise to open as far as I know, shuttered just months after opening.)

The Hogs beer recollections in the story — Coors and Bud Light are said to be the faves way back when — are probably faulty, too. You couldn’t really get Coors beer east of the Mississippi until the mid-1980s. I know this because I used to bring cases home from Lubbock, Texas, and one of the great tragedies of my life came when a portion of my Coors shipment, already spoken for by friends in NoVa, was stolen by baggage handlers at Dulles. Plus, I've seen "Smokey and the Bandit." And, Bud Light didn’t hit the market until 1982, with Lite from Miller remaining the dominant light beer in football for years afterward, with its NFL-centric media campaigns.

But why quibble about food and beer during such a grand tour. Thanks for the memories.

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  • sock puppet

    Back late 70's, once in a blue moon (or even less) you could find Coors at a 7-11, but it was always snatched up as soon as it came in. I also seem to remember that the Mario's crust didn't (doesn't) always turn out to be a hard tack substance.

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