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Single-serving pizza: the District’s newest scourge?

To know a neighborhood, know what it worries about. “What Direction For Adams Morgan?” asks a poster in storefronts on 18th Street NW. “Massage Parlors? Pizza By the Slice?…National Coffee Chains?”

Massage parlors represent guilt about the neighborhood’s squalid past. Starbucks stands for fears of a gentrified future. Sandwiched in between, emblematic of Adams Morgan’s present state of affairs, is…pizza by the slice.

Across the nation, you can find city neighborhoods battling against single-serving sales of booze. Single-serving pizza is generally not on the quality-of-life radar.

But to stroll down 18th Street late on a Saturday night is to witness the District’s golden age of pizza by the slice. Chris Chisti, the owner of Pizza Mart, estimates that on a good weekend night he serves upward of 1,000 customers. They come drunk and hungry, right up till closing, at 4 a.m. For $3, they walk away with jumbo slices of cheese pizza.

Neighborhood resident Bryan Weaver, for one, says he can’t stomach it anymore. He’s fed up with the mess that sloppy patrons leave behind: the trash cans overflowing with paper plates, the crusts lingering on the curb. He’s tired of ubiquitous pizza ads and the lousy pop music blaring from pizza-parlor speakers.

But mostly, he says, he’s sick of bad pizza. “I think there should be a pizza moratorium,” said Weaver, at a Nov. 19 meeting of the Adams Morgan Community Association. “Not so much because of the quantity of pizza places [in Adams Morgan] but because of the poor quality.”

Despite equal billing on the flier, the danger of Starbucks drew far more attention at the meeting than the subject of pizza did. When the slice issue did arise, however, a chorus of neighbors backed Weaver. One resident suggested that the pizza places, like certain nightclubs, should be forced to mop up the local environs the morning after.

Andrew Miscuk, who was moderating the forum, pointed out that communities have a hard time gaining leverage over pizza places because, unlike nightclubs, they don’t have to periodically reapply for liquor licenses.

“Maybe we could give them all liquor licenses,” joked Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Josh Gibson.

After the meeting, two Adams Morgan newlyweds stuck up for the pizza by the slice. About three years ago, Heidi Eitel and Brian Yourish bumped into each other at Pizza Mart. They had once worked together, years before, at a summer camp sponsored by the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, but had since lost touch. They reunited over giant slices of pizza. “We hit it off,” Eitel explained. “He finished my slice.” CP