The scene: 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday night in Adams Morgan, a neighborhood in Washington D.C. described to me last week as “the place in D.C. to black out.” Fluorescent signs run up and down 18th Street NW, seemingly imported from Times Square. Twentysomethings pour out of Madam’s Organ, Asylum, and Town Tavern, all looking to hook up or keep the party going.
And you, you’re drunk and hungry and looking for a fix. That’s why you’re taking notice of the fluorescent signs.
Like most nightlife districts, Adams Morgan runs on a string of unverifiable brags and boasts: “Best House Band in DC,” “The District’s Most Famous Falafel.” The list goes on and on. One shows up more than the rest, however: “Original.” As in “The Original Jumbo Slice.” The claim is posted three times in a one-block stretch alone.
There’s not much to DC’s iconic jumbo slice of pizza that extends beyond the components of its name; no secret sauce that goes into a jumbo slice to make it more delectable, local, or noteworthy. Each slice is just downright huge — longer-than-your-forearm huge, two-plates-necessary-no-exceptions huge — and that alone is enough to keep hordes of drunk noshers lining up night after night, waiting not-so-patiently for that never-ending slab of greased cheese or pepperoni (plain slices will run you $5, pepperonis $6) destined to induce the evening’s coma.
The biggest jumbo slice on record is Napoli Pizza’s, a fifteen-inch behemoth that comes cut out of a pizza 30-inches in diameter. Like every slice on the 18th Street NW block, it comes floppy and sloppy, served on two paper plates on top of a thin sheet of foil. (Aesthetics and dining experience have never been pressing issues in the jumbo slice community. The aptly named Jumbo Slice Pizza doesn’t even have chairs or tables in its store. Size, and size alone, is what matters here.)
So how do you eat this thing, this titan of dough, tomato sauce, and mozzarella? As with thin-crust pizza of any size, the first step is to create a fold at the crust. You’ll notice that the big half of your slice will crease and firm up to the point of relative pizza normalcy. It’s the small half that ventures into uncharted territories. Try as you will to fold it into the mix; you will undoubtedly need a second hand. Expect that hand to work like a drying rack for a wet blanket.
Our expert advice: Eat the smaller half immediately. Don’t try to carry a conversation or find a seat. Just house it. Turn jumbo slice back into manageable slice. Your second hand will thank you.
And don’t think about ordering a second slice.