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Perfect Pizzas:Cheese, Crust and Convenience

When asked their favorite pizza place, most people interviewed mentioned the big pizza chains. Even when local restaurants were mentioned, the pizzerias tended to be close to where respondents lived or worked. A big reason Ruby Lainez said she liked Paisano's in Alexandria was "they're quick." It might be a product of their busy lives, but Northern Virginians found the best pizzas to be as much a product of convenience as cheese, crust and sauce.

Besides convenience, another reason people liked pizza places was the choice of toppings offered. One reason Stephanie Fluke, 28, of Springfield likes Alexandria's Faccia Luna pizzeria is the artichokes and black olives they offer as toppings. Mostly the toppings were not deciding factors but were a matter of personal choice. On her pizzas, Lainez likes spinach, broccoli and chicken. Delores Henderson, who works in Alexandria, prefers onions, mushrooms and green peppers. Jeanne Mitchell of Fairfax loves feta cheese.

NATIONWIDE, ANCHOVIES are the least-favorite pizza topping . Locally the national trend held true. "I don't understand why people like anchovies on their pizza." said Richard Erkenbreck, 16, of Arlington. "I had them [anchovies]. They're disgusting. Tasted like tuna fish on pizza." "Anchovies have been done," said Mark Lofthus, 18, of Arlington. "They're old; they're out. Those went out with the Clapper in the ‘70s, but they didn't come back."

Pineapple is a divisive topping choice. Some like Lofthus feel that pineapple and ham on pizza are "gross." Others, including Becky Huber, 25, of Fairfax like it.

THICK CRUST VS. THIN is another passionate choice. "I think it’s weird when people don't eat the crust, because that's the best part," said Rebecca Lofthus, a one-time Arlington resident. A.C. Chawan, 21, a college student visiting his home in Alexandria, said one of the main reasons he liked Pizzeria Uno's pizza was that the crust "is the best I've ever had." Jill Allmon, 25, of Springfield believes a pizza "needs to have a thick crust to make it good."

Included in the list of favorite pizzerias were Suprimo’s Pizza & Grill and The Italian Store in Arlington, Paisano's and Faccia Luna in Alexandria, Bertucci's in Springfield, and Tony's New York Style Pizza in Fairfax.

Mark Lofthus' favorite pizza place is Suprimo’s Pizza & Grill. "It's a little bit greasy. You've got to take the napkins, and you've got to soak it to take off the grease; that's part of the enjoyment of pizza. You got to soak off the grease; and when you eat it, it's like [Suprimo's is] the best pizza. It’s a thin pizza, but it's wide. It's like New York style. ... To eat it, you fold it like a sandwich. It’s good, and it’s cheap, too."

"My favorite pizza place would have to be The Italian Store in Arlington;" said Huber. "I like that they have Italians making it; I like that they have pizza by the slice; I like that the pizza is fantastic, and I want to eat all of it. It's the only place in Arlington that I've found that has New York-style pizza, hand-tossed. ... They have big pizzas, too, like 20 inches [in diameter]." And the toppings? "They have an amazing vegetable concoction that they throw together. And sauce? "Spicy, big globs of it. When you open ... [the box] up, it looks like it has six big globs of pepperoni, but it's really the wells of sauce."

"I LIKE THE CHEESE; it has a garlic flavor to it," said Lainez, of Paisano's in Alexandria.

What Doris Henderson, 25, who works in Alexandria, likes about Paisano's is "the cheese ... it’s good! It's not thick; it's not thin; it's just right. ...I like the way they melt the cheese on the pizza; the tomato sauce is so! good; I mean extremely good; when you lift the cheese you see the tomato sauce is automatically stuck on the cheese; it's the cheese and the tomato sauce."

"Bertucci's has all these authentic flavors," said Jill Allmon, 25, of Springfield. "They have pesto pizza. ... They have the wood oven, and the wood oven gives it so much flavor."

"I like Faccia Luna's sauce and their crust," said Fluke. "It's more of a gourmet kind of pizza."

Mitchell likes Tony's New York Style Pizza because they "sell pizza by the slice, and they sell all different types; they sell veggie pizzas, Sicilian style, everything."

Pizza Facts

Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza every day, or roughly 350 slices per second.

There are more than 60,000 pizzerias in the United States.

Over 90 percent of Americans eat at least one pizza per month.

Two-thirds of Americans order pizza for a casual evening with friends.

Each man, woman and child in America eats an average of 23 pounds of pizza per year.

Approximately 3 billion pizzas are sold in the United States each year.

According to a Gallup Poll, children between the ages of 3 and 11 prefer pizza over all other food groups for lunch and dinner.

Approximately 94 percent of the population of the United States eats pizza.

Pepperoni is America's favorite topping. American's eat over 200,000 tons of it every year.

In the United States, gourmet pizza toppings can include oysters, dandelions, crayfish, eggplant, tuna, venison and duck.

Odd toppings that pizza makers have tried include peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, and mashed potatoes.

Some 62 percent of Americans prefer meat toppings on their pizza.

Women are twice as likely as men to order their pizza with vegetarian toppings.

A pizza baked in Norwood, South Africa, in 1990 was more than 100 feet across.

Approximately 60 percent of Americans prefer regular thin pizza crust.

Pizza is America's fourth most-craved food.

Saturday night is the biggest night of the week for eating pizza.

The mozzarella originally used in Italy for pizza was made from the milk of the water buffalo.

The first pizzeria in North America was opened in 1905 in New York City.

Popular pizza toppings in Japan include squid and Mayo Jaga - a combination of bacon, mayonnaise and potato.

In India, pickled ginger, minced mutton and tofu are popular toppings.