By Morgan Politzer
The Original Ledo Restaurant in Adelphi, Maryland, hasn’t changed a whole lot since Tommy Marcos Sr. and his business partner opened it in 1955.
In 1976, Marcos’ son Tommy Jr. began working in his father’s restaurant, and continued to run the business after his father passed away in 2010. Marcos Sr. had no intention of ever selling his restaurant, and bought the other half of the company in 1989. They sold half of the franchise rights to create Ledo Pizza Systems, which owns the name Ledo Pizza, according to Marcos Jr.
The franchise has since opened nearly 30 locations around Maryland, Washington and Virginia, according to the company’s website.
The flaky rectangular pizza crust and thick pepperoni have stood the test of time as both larger corporate chains and locally owned shops have transitioned to rounder pies. Ledo moved from its original location in Adelphi to College Park in 2010, bringing its charms, traditions and famous square pizza with it.
“We wore the building out,” Marcos Jr. said. “The building was around 70 years old.”
While the looming red brick building might not be the original home of the family business, some things never change.
“We bought a new structure for the ovens and put the same firebrick in it, so we basically moved the ovens,” Marcos Jr. said.
Transferring the original ovens is just one example of Ledo Restaurant’s deep-rooted traditions and family loyalty. When the restaurant opened in the 1950s, rectangular baking pans were more readily available than the newer, round baking pans that have become so popular today, according to their website.
Customer loyalty to the original square pizza has since led to a longstanding tradition of “not cutting corners.”
“Neither my father nor myself has ever changed the pizza from the way we’ve always done it,” Marcos Jr. said.
Alongside its bestselling pizza and lasagna, the restaurant also sells other classic Italian dishes and American favorites including seafood, sandwiches and chicken.
Keeping in line with Ledo Restaurant’s policy of fresh ingredients and homemade dishes, the meat used in the restaurant is all cut by hand, Marcos Jr. said. The thick pepperoni that made the company famous was originally used to save time, since using thicker slices of meat meant the job was done faster, according to their website.
Surrounded by other College Park pizza shops, Ledo Restaurant looks for ways to stand out. For starters, their tall, neon red logo stands on the corner of Knox Road and Yale Ave.
“You have to reinvent yourself every once in awhile,” Marcos Jr. said. “We have to constantly be looking for new menu items. At the same time, you’re always running numbers to see what is selling.”
“It is important to remember, particularly now, that customers have options,” said Trevor Foulk, an assistant professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. “In nearly all situations, customers have choices, so it’s critical that a business understand why customers like them and make sure they keep satisfying customers on those dimensions.”
Leisha Mahajan, a sophomore political science major at George Washington University, grew up going to her local Ledo franchise, and often comes to College Park to visit her boyfriend and friends from high school.
“There is literally something for everyone [at Ledo’s],” she said. “It never gets old and was my favorite place in high school. Living in D.C., the closest ones to me are in Bethesda and College Park, but I still manage to make my way once in awhile just to enjoy the pizza I know and love.”
While many Ledo Pizza restaurants have opened as part of the franchise, the original Ledo Restaurant is sentimental for a lot of locals.
“My wife is there, my daughter works there,” Marcos Jr. said. “We have people that have been coming in for years, [who] are now like friends and family. We’ve seen families grow up there.”