Spotlight: Pasta and pizza with a smile

Lines often extend into Kogan Plaza. The aroma of garlic and cheese escape and travel down H Street. But this is not one of D.C.’s five star restaurants. The popular eatery is John Rider’s pasta and pizza cart, a favorite dining alternative for many GW students.

The cart has been a permanent fixture at GW since 1992. Greg Miller first owned the cart until his wife had triplets two years ago. Last August Rider bought the stand that provides up to 250 GW students daily with cheap, quick and tasty pasta and pizza.

Pasta marinara, the most commonly ordered dish, is just one of the entrees Rider serves each day. Students choose from traditional and white pizza to pasta pesto. Rider said his favorite item on the menu is pasta nation, a combination plate with pizza and pasta. Prices range from $2.25 for a personal pizza to $5.75 for pasta nation.

Rider also runs a coffee and espresso stand in the mornings on Capitol Hill, but said he enjoys the energy of being on a college campus more.

“The students are great, and the atmosphere is so relaxing and laid back,” Rider said.

Rider, who has an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson and Wales College, has served as an executive chef in many hotel restaurants. He has also owned several restaurants.

Of all the jobs, Rider said running the pizza and pasta stand is his favorite and most profitable.

Last week, Rider gave away free pizza and pasta to students. His reason was simple: many seniors who were first-time customers told him they wished they ate there sooner. Providing free food is a way to grab new loyal customers immediately.

This semester Rider said he faces new competition from the espresso stand next to his cart on H Street, which began selling pasta during Rider’s absence this summer. Rider said he may begin selling coffee if the vendor continues.

“If he doesn’t (leave) by Monday, be prepared to taste the best latte you have ever had,” Rider said.

Although Rider is working hard to attract new customers, many of his students have been enjoying his food since their freshman year.

Senior John Lerner has been a customer since his first year at GW. He said he eats Rider’s food at least three times a week. In Lerner’s opinion, the food and service is much better than in J Street.

“John is a good guy that knows people’s names,” Lerner said.

Senior John William agreed.

“Its something different, easy and cheap,” William said.

It’s not just the food that has students coming back for more, its Rider’s friendly attitude. Whether discussing the events of students’ days or chatting about the weather, Rider puts a personal touch on his service.

Rider can strike up a conversation with anyone about anything, and he said he truly enjoys what he does.

“He always has a smile on his face and makes you feel good,” junior Beth Stauber said.

“It is the way service is supposed to be,” junior Kris Harmon said.

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