RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- A familiar, if not universally popular, fast-food staple at U.S. military bases worldwide is ending its long run in Europe and possibly worldwide.
Anthony's Pizza at Ramstein will soon turn off its ovens after more than 30 years of dishing out thick-crust pizza for troops and their families.
It's the last one remaining in Europe. Two locations at Spangdahlem Air Base and Kleber Kaserne closed last year as AAFES looks to phase out the product worldwide, said Loyd Brumfield, an AAFES spokesman in Dallas.
Anthony's Pizza was the Exchange's first signature brand when it was developed in 1984, Brumfield said. At one point, there were about 40 Anthony's Pizza shops in Europe and more than 185 worldwide.
The shop perhaps does some of its best business on open base days in places like Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, where Japanese visitors have in some years lined up by the dozens for pizzas, which are normally much more expensive and smaller off base.
Thirteen Anthony's remain in the Asia-Pacific region and seven are in operation stateside, Brumfield said.
"To better reflect customer preferences, the Exchange, where possible, intends to convert these locations to name-brand offerings," Brumfield said in an email.
Customer demand for a slice of Anthony's, whose AAFES slogan is "The World's Greatest Pizza," was lukewarm at lunchtime Wednesday. When a line formed, it was usually no more than three people long. But at the busy Ramstein food court, that was a draw for Marvin Mens, 51, an Air Force civilian.
He was at Anthony's "because there's no line," he said, describing his sausage and pepperoni pizza as "edible.
Staff Sgt. Kyla Blackshear was familiar with Anthony's but not a fan. She tried it at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where she works, but the pizza "was always cold and the wings were not that good," she said, while passing through the food court Wednesday.
Some loyal customers, saddened to see it go, spoke up for their go-to pizza while they picked up slices for lunch.
"Ever since I got pregnant, I come here at least four times a week," said Kaitlyn Banque, 21, an Army spouse. "I like it better than Pizza Hut."
Jamie Royalty, 37, also an Army spouse, said her family usually hits up Anthony's when shopping at the base exchange. "We're pizza people," she said. "We're not snobby pizza people. If it's pizza, it works."
The pizzeria sells an average of about 60 pies a day, most sold by the slice, said Willie Bristow, the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center food court manager. Pepperoni is the most popular topping, followed by cheese only.
Capt. Jesse Tyler, 34, a national guardsmen from Illinois, said he's eaten at Anthony's at bases stateside but remembers it fondly in Japan, where he ate after spending several weeks in the field while training last summer. "I waited 20 minutes in line because I hadn't had pizza in a month," he said Wednesday, after arriving at Ramstein on temporary duty.
Spudz, a relative newcomer to the military food court scene with its lineup of loaded baked potatoes, tater tots and salads, will replace Anthony's Pizza at Ramstein, said Jennifer Jordan, KMCC general manager. It's slated to open in late May or early June, she said.
People are nostalgic for Anthony's since it's been around for so long, she said. But the trend "has gone more and more toward the name brand" and AAFES is committed to offering restaurant "brands that people recognize regardless of where they are," she said.