Mythbusting rumored pizza-mob connections in Adams Morgan

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Annalucia Parra-Jordan and Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger

It’s a well-known and widely accepted fact that jumbo slice pizza is an 18th Street specialty. There’s a total of three (four, if you count the cross street) jumbo slice restaurants. Jumbo slice is not good, per se, but it is an 18th Street—and therefore, Adams Morgan—institution. So why, if you were an up-and-coming local business owner, would you try to open a pizza place on a street that already has so many of them?

If you follow the logic of Adams Morgan residents, it’s because you’re in the mob.

Having heard this theory about the local business, Pi Pizzeria, a number of times, each time with a different twist—‘The owner also owns half the street, but he keeps it secret!’ ‘The businesses are all drug fronts!’—‘The owners are responsible for all those murders!’—it’s a little difficult to find a solid story. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the speculation is there, and that many locals firmly believe it. Despite how far-fetched (and potentially dangerous) it sounded, we decided to investigate.

To begin with, Pi Pizzeria got disturbingly average reviews on Yelp. While this might seem normal for your regular hole-in-the-wall pizza place, it’s shockingly hard to keep a business open on 18th Street if it’s not turning people away every night. This is one of the common themes among the rumors that circulate the parlor. John B. from New Orleans wrote on Yelp: “Pizzas were small, soggy, and lacking in flavor.” While we try to draw conclusions so early on, we maintain that it would be very difficult to sustain a less than average business on 18th Street unless one were, say, well connected.

Well, whatever connections there were (or weren’t), they seemed to have evaporated when we decided to look into this. Pi Pizzeria has been closed for months, with most locals citing a lack of customers as a cause. While that is likely true (even the most positive Yelp reviews mentioned oddly slow business) we suspect the real reason is the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) audit that one owner, Mr. Smith, (names have been changed to preserve anonymity)was met with in November of 2016. ABRA fined him $30,000 for discrepancies in his recordkeeping.

A commenter aptly named “Mr. Commenter” (no photo either, shockingly) said: “No surprise whatsoever. This establishment has ‘seedy’ written all over it, and is in no way, shape, or form, a restaurant.” While we might steer away from immediately aligning ourselves with Mr. Commenter, we agree that the audit revealed certain unignorable connections. The owners of Pi Pizzeria also own Spaghetti Garden, Brass Monkey, Peyote Cafe, and Roxanne. They do, quite literally, own half the street.

But it goes even deeper: a Washington City Paper article from 2005 revealed that the collective also owned a venue called Tom Tom, which has either been renamed or shut down. The article tells the sordid tale of two separate Adams Morgan stabbings (it really is a lovely neighborhood) in nightclubs. Smith told the City Paper that he “was aware of the allegation” that someone was stabbed in his club, but not aware that any fights took place. Someone was, in fact, stabbed—Kyle Rodekohr—who was 24 at the time. He survived. While we’re not sure why our neighbors think random stabbings indicate a connection to the mob, we consider this to be another testament to this collective’s shadiness. We can’t say we weren’t excited to be potentially living across the street from them, we could use a bit of actual excitement in Adams Morgan (thanks again, gentrifiers); but we think it’s probably for the best that this yielded nothing.

This all goes to show that either the clan of owners of these unpopular restaurants are normal business owners with capitalist agendas, or, like any proper members of “the family,” they’re good at covering their tracks. We’ll leave the ultimate judgment to you, but we wouldn’t recommend frequenting any of the other venues if you’re looking for a good meal in Adams Morgan. That’s what you have the three other jumbo slice places for.