Bubbling cheese had just returned to Congress, but &pizza quickly became “no pizza” on Monday after a run on the restaurant.
So great was the pent-up pizza demand inside the Rayburn House Office Building that the newly reopened shop was forced to close three hours early when ingredients got low.
“We’re so excited to be back serving your favorite food, including &pizza. You liked it even more than we thought, and we’re actually running out of pizza today!” said a note to congressional staff from Catherine L. Szpindor, the House chief administrative officer.
Szpindor’s dispatch announced the pizzeria would close at 3 p.m. Monday, but would resume its normal hours Tuesday, vowing to increase supply “so we can make pizzas until 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, moving forward.”
The line to get pizza stretched to nearly a dozen and remained steadily busy during the lunch rush, according to a reporter at the scene. In what could be described as a pandemic oddity, the cafeteria double doors were left open so those waiting in line could see all the way to the back, where people were waiting the prescribed 15 minutes after getting vaccine shots.
After a year of pandemic-related closures and eerily empty office buildings as staffers scattered to work remotely, some returned unaware the local pizza chain had been sliced from the House food offering landscape for the prolonged period.
“I didn’t even know they were closed,” said a House staffer who shared only his first name, Herb.
The staffer, who has been working remotely, said he came in for his vaccine, saw there was pizza, and grabbed a “Maverick” za topped with mozzarella and an assortment of meaty toppings.
The pizza-prompted closure came hours after the CAO sent a notice to House staff announcing the House campus would be getting back some of its pre-pandemic dining options. On voting days, the Jamba smoothie chain and the Boar’s Head and MyDish food stations in the Longworth Building will also reopen, the announcement said.
Another House staffer, Dylan, who ordered the “White” pie, said he hadn’t explored the other House-side options but was excited to finally add variety to brought-from-home lunches or Longworth cafeteria food.
In less than four hours, &pizza sold as many pizzas as it would on a normal day before the pandemic, said David O’Boyle, the CAO’s communications director.
Maybe they should have foreseen the voracious appetite. “There are well-documented instances of pizza literally fueling democracy during long days and nights of voting and debate” at the Capitol, O’Boyle said.
The decision to let &pizza and the other spots reopen was based on “steady and consistent” feedback asking for more food options and “a possible increase in the number of staffers on the Hill due to an increase in vaccinations,” he said, adding that the CAO consulted with the Office of the Attending Physician.
The return of the crispy-crusted offerings, for some staffers who had been around during the lean times, provided a bit of familiarity that had been lost since the pandemic began.
“I’m super excited to have it be open,” Dylan said, holding onto the cheesy pie in the pizzeria’s distinctive keyboard-shaped box. “You know, it’s been well over a year now, so I’m just excited to get back to feeling normal, I guess.”
Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.