“How does your tongue feel?”
That’s what Eater photographer Rey Lopez asks me after completing a taste test of jumbo slice pizza.
“Not good,” I answer.
You see, in the interest of the public service journalism, the editors at Eater DC decided that there needed to be “an authoritative verdict” on which jumbo slice reigns supreme. And I was the “lucky” victim chosen to decide which pie reigned supreme.
Disregard the fact that you can get stabbed for cutting a person in line when visiting a restaurant that serves the stuff. Or that this exact same taste test has been performed on animals (animal cruelty, if you ask me). Or that jumbo slice restaurants tend to have less than stellar health department records.
Risks aside, I was up for the challenge of tasting several offerings of pizza measured by the square foot, piled with pounds of melted mozzarella, and grease that runs like the mighty Mississippi. And despite the fact that this stuff is designed to feed an army of drunk people at 1 a.m., I would be performing the test mid-day, while sober.
For this test, we tried the trinity: Duccini’s, Pizza Mart, and Bestoli Pizza, to see which greasy slice outshines the rest. We would have visited Jumbo Slice Pizza as well, but as you’ll read below, circumstances intervened. This crawl focuses on the birthplace of the jumbo slice, Adams Morgan, though epic pizza slices can, of course, be found outside the neighborhood as well. Slices were measured and are rated on a scale of one to four... slices, four slices being a blow-your-mind, New York-quality kind of slice.
These opinions, of course, are subjective — readers should feel free to insert their own opinions in the comment thread below (but please refrain from sharing any pizza conspiracy theories there). Each slice was tried only once — while we aim for accuracy here, our personal health also matters.
1778 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Price (plus tax): $5.00
Size: 13 1/2” x 12 1/8”
Ranking: 3 out of 4 slices
“We started off very, very strong,” I say to Rey, as he watches me down half a slice of Duccini’s jumbo slice (we decide to split each slice in order to avoid congestive heart failure). Amazingly, this is the first time Rey has ever seen a jumbo slice. His mind is blown. It’s also important to note that Rey is a hardened New Yorker, so his instincts on pizza are sharp and laser-focused.
“I would order this one again ... sober,” he said, and he’s exactly right. The pizza has a crispy outer crust. It’s prepared in less than two minutes, but there’s no indication that this slice has been sitting around on a shelf. Fresh mozzarella cheese dominates each bite, with a light touch of unsweetened marinara. It’s the right sauce-to-cheese ratio, which also means the slice is structurally sound. Even though it’s gigantic, you can still properly fold this jumbo slice in half and eat it without risking an avalanche of grease.
At 13.5 inches long, this is the smallest of the slices, but it’s also the cheapest—just $5. Discerning Duccini’s patrons will spring an extra dollar for the pepperoni topping. Since Rey and I have to adhere to strict taste-testing standards (cheese only), we add red pepper chili flakes for some added zip. Duccini’s ranks highest with three out of four slices.
Jumbo Slice Pizza
2341 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Price (plus tax): $5.50
Size: pizza length unknown; Cockroach Size: about 3”
Ranking: 0 out of 4 slices
Okay, Jumbo Slice Pizza got disqualified for two very good reasons. First, it was closed, despite Google, Yelp or Foursquare all listing its operating hours from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. There’s also no website, and the storefront does not say whether it’s opened or closed. But the door does have something else on it: a giant cockroach. The thing was a healthy three inches long, and it was just hanging out on the front door. Maybe it was also waiting for the store to open? Jumbo slice is DQed: Zero out of four slices. I shudder for a moment, as this is only our second stop on the Jumbo Slice crawl, and soldier on.
2445 18th Street, NW, Washington DC 20009
Price (plus tax): $5.50
Size: 15 1/4” x 12 3/4”
Ranking: 1 out of 4 slices
Pizza Mart seems to be resting on it laurels quite a bit. When the owner sees me pull out a measuring tape to record the official pizza length and width, he asks, “Hey, what’s this for?” As it turns out, he’s never heard of Eater (despite a writer having spent several hours here), but he quick to explain that Travel Channel once filmed here, and TBD.com (a local news site that folded more than four years ago) once wrote them a promising review.
Yup, this is the home of the original jumbo slice, since 1995. But it needs a paint job, and an overhaul on the pizza. Congealed cheese sits sadly on my slice. It’s bland and rubbery. “Definitely rubbery,” Rey confirms. Not to mention that the crust is dry and crunchy. You guessed it—cardboard consistency. The only saving grace is the sauce, which is slightly sweet with just a hint of spice. If we want to make the jumbo slice great again, let’s focus all of our attention on Pizza Mart. It gets one out of four slices.
2455 18th St NW, Washington DC 20009
Price (plus tax): $5.50
Size: 15 1/2” x 12 5/8”
Ranking: 2 out of 4 slices
Just a couple doors down from Pizza Mart is a slightly better version of the jumbo slice. You might know it as Pizza Boli’s from its signage, but it’s really called Bestolli Pizza. This shop prides itself on making each 32 inch round pizza within the hour. Manager Nana Kadunic admits that it’s been a much longer period since she’s eaten the jumbo slice. “I stopped eating jumbo slice because I’ve been working here for seven years,” she says. “I also haven’t tried the other ones, so I can’t tell you which one is better.”
Don’t worry, Nana. That’s why Eater is here. We order a slice and watch Nana flip a 68-ounce pack of dough into a perfectly-formed pie. She moves with grace and precision. The Washington Ballet would be proud. The culmination of her performance is of course, the cheese. She fiercely sprinkles what seems like several pounds of mozzarella onto the pie. When she finishes, I feel compelled to applaud.
Five minutes later, Nana serves us a steaming hot jumbo slice. She earns two stars on freshness and quality of ingredients, but it’s by far the greasiest pizza that we try. Come prepared to eat this slice with a fork and knife because it falls apart as soon as you pick it up. Structural integrity aside, Nana makes a perfectly acceptable slice. Her performance routine is a perfect 10. Just make sure you have lots of napkins on hand because the grease, it flows forth, like molten lava. Bestolli is awarded two of four slices.
Rey and I leave this crawl feeling weighed down by salt and cheese. Jumbo slice may not be D.C.’s premium pizza, but it offers something else—a one-of-a-kind experience. While food trends may come and go, Jumbo Slice seems to have left an enduring mark on D.C. Or at the very least, a grease stain.