• Ledo Pizza founder Bob Beall invented the Maryland-style pizza, a square pie made with provolone and thick-cut pepperoni, simply by “not knowing any better.”
  • His big-league buddies helped him draw customers in the early days, and the brand still maintains top-of-mind awareness with sports fans.

Related: South Shore bar pizza style isn’t famous, but it should be

As a tobacco farmer and liquor inspector, Bob Beall didn’t know much about the pizza biz when he started out with partner Tommy Marcus, but he already had a businessman’s eye for enterprise. In his inspector job, he was privy to restaurants’ financial books and wanted in on this moneymaker.

“He educated himself, so there was a lot of trial and error, but that made us who we are today,” recounts Jamie Beall, Bob’s grandson and current president and CEO of Annapolis, Maryland-based Ledo Pizza. “We had square pizza instead of round, provolone versus mozzarella, and a very thick-cut pepperoni. Our style came from not knowing any better.”

Still, when the pair opened Ledo Pizza in 1955 in Adelphi, Maryland, Bob’s job experience paid off. He chose a site next to the University of Maryland and bordering a dry county—meaning customers would flock to the pizzeria to down some booze with their meals. He was also a natural promoter, giving away a toaster (a then-novel gadget) to attract attention.

Importantly, as a minor-league baseball pitcher, Bob counted many big-name sports friends, and they counted Ledo Pizza as a favorite spot for hot, fresh pies. Soon, customers were visiting to spot legendary guests like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath. “That really put us on the map,” Jamie notes. “A who’s who came into the restaurant, and it was a staple for the university.”

Related: How an ex-beat cop founded a pizza institution in L.A.

Ultimately, Ledo’s unique recipe—square with a thin, pastry-style crust, a sweeter sauce, and salty smoked provolone on top—helped form the Maryland pizza style. The square shape was borne of necessity: In the 1950s, round pans were still new on the pizza scene and hard to find, while rectangular pans were readily available.

Flashing back to Ledo Pizza’s original Maryland-style pizza

When Bob’s son, Bobby, came into the business in the mid-’80s, he eyed licensing and franchising. With Bob’s blessing, he toyed with several concepts, from sit-down dine-ins to carryout-type locations. The business grew organically, pushing out to a larger radius with three to five new units per year, on average. “They taught the recipes and business—what Ledo is all about,” Jamie explains. “We have good food at a fair price in a family atmosphere. But, most importantly, we try to make our operations part of the community.”

Jamie started working at the pizzeria in 1985 and assumed operations in 1998, with his three brothers as largely silent but involved partners. He brought the business into modern times with a POS system and, eventually, social media and online ordering, which only recently soared from 3% to 35% of total sales (and that’s without offering delivery).

Under Jamie’s leadership, the brand continues to maintain top-of-mind awareness with local sports lovers. Ledo Pizza has been a partner of the Baltimore Ravens for five straight years. On September 11 this year, the company began offering a special Ravens Football Deal—a two-topping 18″ pizza with a large order of Cheesy Garlic Bread and a half-pound of boneless wings for $36.99. The company will take part in other Ravens promotions throughout the football season.

Donta Scott

Additionally, in December 2021, Ledo Pizza took advantage of the NCAA’s new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) policy to cut a sponsorship deal with Maryland Terrapins forward Donta Scott. Scott served as the brand’s ambassador through April 5, 2022. In November 2021, the company made a similar deal with the Terrapins football team’s leading wide receiver, Dontay Demus, Jr.

Today, Ledo Pizza counts more than 110 locations in its network—and is still growing. “We always make sure our current locations are healthy before we add more,” Jamie says. “We try to keep a fun, fresh menu, experimenting with culinary trends. But our heart and soul is pizza.”

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s chief copy editor. This article has been expanded from the original version published in August 2021 to include updated information.

Marketing, Pizza News