Joe To The Second

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There’s quite a few instances where I could have done a pizzeria more justice.  There’s times where I either know was too harsh on a place, not hard enough, or too kind.  But more importantly is the overall energy levels that surround said pizza place.  And that also applies to me.  I have to be in the best mood possible.  Yet I must go in unbiased and treat everything with equal importance, equal respect, and equal praise and criticisms.

Of course I have favorites.  Some I’ve written about, and some that are yet to come.   And believe me, more is coming…

JoeSquaredFront

And with that I present to you, an oldie but a goodie, but not quite an oldie, Joe Squared in the Station North neighborhood in Baltimore.  This is the Artscape special for this year,2017 edition, which is becoming a fun little tradition (here’s the last two years of posts related to this awesome festival) that I’ve grown to become fond of.   And Joe Squared will be right in the vicinity of all the activity this weekend.

They moved locations not too long ago.   Their original location footsteps away from their new locale had a charm to it.  It felt Baltimore, it felt old world, and it just didn’t feel like how many newish places are looking and feeling today.  It had an authenticity, which still exists in many places, but is slowly dissipating.

However, I never had their pizza in the old spot.  I only grabbed a drink and maybe an appetizer from time to time.  I wasn’t there enough to consider myself a regular.  Not even close.  But I did feel at home and felt cozy when I was there.

Several year later, my first pizza eating experience at Joe’s was actually at their (at the time) second location at PowerPlant Live.

It’s where friends and I would prefer to eat before a concert.  We all love pizza, and as a bonus we loved their risotto, and indulged there on a number of occasions. 

I couldn’t tell you exactly what we ate.  But I know once we had this mushroom risotto that was existentially awesome.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  Actually I could but I think that’ll work.

I don’t remember the pizza we ate, but the square shapes and the simplicity of our cheese, our toppings, and the pizza crust, made it always enjoyable.  I never said it was the best pizza I ever had, but it surely belong in the conversations of the better pizzas in Baltimore.

And after all this time, I impulsively decided today to grab two personal pizzas to go.  Yes as I alluded to earlier, I wanted to keep the Artscape theme going, and I nearly dropped the ball. Since, I was short on time, instead of sitting down and dining it, I opted to get two pies to go, to have a little now, and maybe save some more for later.  And I saved quite a bit.   Don’t read into too much of that just yet.

The interior is nothing to be too mesmerized about.  It’s a basic set up with pictures, a spacious dining room, and a medium sized bar.  Because of this, no pictures are really necessary, outside of the food.  It also made the decision to get my za to go that much easier.

JoeSquaredMenu

I went with a simple one, The Flag, and then a more complex pie, The Cumin Braised Lamb.

In a nutshell, these are no the pizzas I remember.  Much time has passed, nor should they be. But the charm and the openness and welcoming vibration I got from these pizzas was not there. It’s been replaced with something not as enthusiastic, and not as down-to-earth.  At least not on this day.

The big positive is the coal-fired and thin sourdough crust.  That’s tremendous and a gave the pizzas a distinct taste, outside of the toppings.  Because…

I’ll go with the more adventurous pie first.  The lamb had a lot going on.  The lamb by itself was absolutely terrific.  You can’t help but pick pieces off yourself and enjoy.  I did bit of that. Because otherwise the eggplant didn’t work for me here.  It tended to dominate each bite I took. Now I love eggplant but this was a bit much.  The onions didn’t mesh well either.  As individual entities the ingredients were fresh.  But I don’t think this came together as capable as it should. I I can envision many people loving this because of the lamb.  I loved the lamb but I wanted to love everything, and I couldn’t.  It was merely ok.

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Now the usual standbys of The Flag, which is essentially three pies in one, a cheese, a variation of their white, and their pesto mozzarella.

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This should be a safe bet correct?  Well not quite.

The cheese and white were missing something.  I tasted more of the crust (which is a good thing sometimes) than anything else.  The cheese was missing something. Maybe more  cheese?  And the white was too creamy and then not creamy enough.  I feel that depended on the bite.  Garlic cream is usually beautiful, but maybe it was trying too hard.

But the pesto will never let you down. I could eat this all day, but I wouldn’t because that would be unhealthy or something.  Yet that pesto taste so real, so magical, and just plain delicious.  I wish I got that as a pie by itself.  It’s fantastic.

What else I want to do is give this another go.  There’s so many pies to choose from, maybe I just found two of them that didn’t resonate with me.  They might with you though.   But a place that carries this much weight deserves to have more of their pizzas sampled.

Speaking of which, if you’re at Artscape this weekend, I would absolutely recommend Joe Squared as a dining destination, if seating is available.  I imagine on a weekend like this that seats might be at a premium.

Next time I’m back I will hopefully be with a friend or two, and absolutely try a couple more pizzas.  Again, one being rather simple, and one being out of the norm.  There’s plenty of that, and options for everyone.  They do offer vegan and gluten free options as well.  Always a good thing.

So this is just the beginning.  I’ve been saying that a lot but it’s the truth. I look forward to coming back and having another go at this.

For their menu click here, location and contact information, and their list of specials.

JoeSquaredSpecials

Maybe I’ll try a special next time myself.

We’ll see you at Artscape.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of…

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I don’t remember.  And I also don’t remember everything that was on Deb’s Veggie from Pizza Box of St. Petersburg, FL.

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That’s because it didn’t quite meet my hopeless romantically like expectations.   I really wanted to like this, to the point that I was genuinely despondent that I didn’t.   And per the recommendation of the cook I went with it.

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You see Deb’s Veggie changes monthly with fresh peak season veggies.  I was here in mid-June and assumed that this would be a perfect time as any to try some magnificent vegetables on a thin crust.

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The crust was really good but maybe just bit overcooked and then undercooked in parts.  I hope that makes sense.  Aside from that I don’t know what happened exactly.

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The vegetables included corn, peppers, tomatoes, and topped with parsley.  I think.  If I’m wrong I’ll stand corrected.   On paper and visually this is art.  Look at that pizza.  This is masterfully created.  And topped with that aioli usually means a winner.  This is one the most gorgeous looking pies I’ve seen in sometime, I just wish it translated the same when eaten.   Individually the toppings were great, but as a whole it didn’t register as anything but a pie that I tried to eat and then I forgot about it.  But I didn’t forget about it enough not to write about it.

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That’s because this pizzeria was introduced to me by a dear friend.  I appreciate when friends send me links and videos of pizza suggestions and reasons to get excited.  And believe me St. Pete has given me many reasons to be excited.  I was was nostalgic before I even arrived, and even more so as nearly a month now as passed.

 

Yet there’s so much to love about this place, and the space.  The space is small.  There’s a few tables for dining in but this place encourages carry out and dining outside behavior. Whether that’s just an assumption or presumption by me is what it is.  But the weather here always seems to be gorgeous and there’s so much to do outside.  Being indoors for too long just seems to defeat the purpose of all this.  Again, it’s just an observation but it’s what I well, observed.

PizzaBoxMenu

In addition, all they serve is pizza.  I find that so endearing,  It’s a true pizza joint.  And I’ll stand corrected on this one, technically they do serve a few side items, but you’ll notice those items all go on their signature pizzas.  

PizzaBoxMenu2

And a signature pizza is what I will try again next time.  There’s so many beautiful options that I may just chalk this one up to a misstep and nothing else.   I just liked the idea of not knowing what was going on my pie.  It’s the joys of being on vacation, on holiday, and on an adventure.   And even though the pizza wasn’t up to par this time, I’m confident that the next time (and there will be a next time) will be a success.

The vibe of the pizzeria, the staff behind it, and the folks outside doing all kinds of fun things, make me want to come back.  It makes me want to come back to a lot of places, and that makes me want to come back to St. Pete.  I love this town and there’s so much more to try.  And I’ll potentially have a couple more pizza places in this lovely town to review.

As much as I felt like a tourist (not really) I did feel at home too.  I got used to this real quick.  The laid back approach of everything surrounding this place and this town makes me so happy.

Moral of the story, I will be visiting again soon and a return to Pizza Box  is on the agenda.  Even though the best vacations are with no itinerary and no agenda, this’ll still be near the top of the list, that doesn’t exist.

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Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

Goody’s Is Exactly That

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I promised after last week, that I would venture across the street.  And I did just that.

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Goody’s Pizza in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington has a strange, eerie, and yet familiar feeling about it.  And when I say eerie, I only mean it in a good way.  There’s just something going on here that reminds me of another place, another time, and maybe a past life.

This past life could be in this life, but it feels so homey, so approachable, and so inviting that it reminds me of places I used to go to in my childhood and I swear something beyond my existence on this planet.  I may be going on a limb but it felt like another dimension.

And once again, I say this all with love and the most sincerest of feelings.

And for all the times I’ve hung out in the neighborhood,  I never ate here. I’ve walked by how many number of times after a night or day out, and never set walked in.  Why?  I don’t know.  A place that looks so cozy from the outside is exactly what I want in my life.  I want more establishments, not just pizzerias, this genuine in my life.  They still exist.

I’m glad in this instance I didn’t have to look so hard.   Like I’ve said before, my first time was meant to be this time.   If not just for this blog, but for something I want to explain, but I can’t.  Maybe it will make sense later.

What does make sense is how tremendous these slices are.  I’m serious.  I’ve had New York Style in that said city, and even though we’re in Virginia, this is close to that.   I almost think they used the water from New York to make these pies.  It’s that great.  No these are not the best slices I’ve ever had nor did I expect them to be.   But just something hit me in a special place.

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The interior is so quaint  that I just wanted to sit there and appreciate the moment.  I did for a little bit.  And I did the same outside.

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My decision on what to order was made simple.  The slices on display were cheese and pepperoni.   I got one of each and was more than excited to try them.

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The amount of cheese on each may look like a lot to some, but it was just perfect. It was chewy, gooey, and everything else that makes a cheese slice magnificent and breathtaking.  Yes I said breathtaking.   The pepperoni’s made me feel like a kid again. Whether they were the freshest or most hearty pepperoni’s I don’t care.  Both slices made me so happy.

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But what made these pizzas so endearing was the dough.  It’s the epitome of comfort food.  And I got comfortable, full, and full of happiness.   That word artisanal gets thrown around too much to where it means nothing.  This to me is what you would call that overblown word I said two sentences ago.  If you had to call it something then you could also call it awesome.  The dough was soft in spots, crunch in others, and it made me so happy.

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This is my kind of style of pizza.  And sometimes it doesn’t need a city or a label to describe that style.  It’s just marvelous eating day or night.

I say day or night because they’re open for the late night crowd on the weekends as well. But I would put this pizza up against any of the greats in the area for a great daytime slice or pie.  I mean that.

It was so affordable too.   And for this area, affordable is always welcome.  I think I barely spent $6 on both.

Most important of all, the owners behind the counter could not have been nicer.  It wasn’t just what they said but it was how they carried themselves and how they said things.  They just seemed so sincere, so genuine, and so happy to be running a great business that looks like is doing well and is a bright spot in a sea of chain restaurants and bars that all start to look the same after a while.

Local business is what it’s always about and I’m honored to have supported this one.

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If you’re in the area I cannot talk about how great this place is.  Here is their menu,  here is more on the pizzeria itself, and contact information.

GoodysUSA

Everything about this was beautiful.  I can’t wait to see where the pizza journey takes me next.

Thank you so much.

Ideen

 

 

Still Plenty of Good

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For those friends and other peoples that have lived or spent time in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, right outside of Washington, DC, you’ve seen change right before your very eyes.

Whether those changes are for the better is probably not even up for debate.  That may sound defeatist and helpless but in the past 10+ years this neighborhood is hardly recognizable compared to how it used to be.  This is an overly sentimental person viewpoint which is what I’ve always tended to have.   I’m not sure what the rush was but it’s happening all over and the best we can do is either embrace it; seek out the local, the character, and the older style businesses, or move somewhere else.

Well I never lived here, but I did hang out here quite a bit.  I never fully felt like I belonged here but I appreciated (and still do) my friends who live in and around the area.  And can still appreciate the gems that still exist, when I visit.  And there are gems. As I write this there’s more than I realize within in all the chains, the sameness of the bars and restaurants, and the box stores.

There’s still plenty of good in a place where the good seems to be vanishing.

BronxFront

This brings me to Bronx Pizza & Subs that’s smacked right in the heart of everything, where heart might not always be in the right place.  With plenty of restaurants (many new, many have been entrenched before massive changes) in the vicinity, maybe you just want a slice, something quick to eat, and something you don’t have to think about.

Bronx Pizza would be your place.  I was in the area right after most people had lunch, so the wait time was even shorter and there was plenty of room to sit.  But I just wanted a couple of slices to go as I had some exploring and adventures to partake in throughout the day.  But this isn’t about me, it’s about the pizza. Well it’s about me too haha.

BronxMenus

I ordered a cheese (Bronx Pizza) and a chicken carbonara, which they call the Tremont Avenue Chicken Carbonara. Both slices and a soda came out to about $7.  For the location you can’t complain about that.

BronxCheese

But I was a bit surprised as the size of my slices.  I saw others on the counter for both pies that looked larger. Maybe that’s the luck of the draw and those are the breaks. However, quality is what’s paramount and I think something was off.

The cheese just tasted like a cheese pizza.  There was a spark, some inspiration, and a taste that was lacking,   I just didn’t feel anything from the cheese, the sauce, and the crust.  It was good enough to finish.  Actually no, I think I saved it for later and I don’t know what happened.

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Same goes for the chicken carbonara.  I just didn’t feel that wow I want to feel from a slice, or anything that I eat.  Maybe I was expecting too much.

There’s a couple things I find surprising to me.  I didn’t realize they’ve been open for almost a decade.  Have I been here before and not realized?   They’re open late night, which for the location is a pure money maker.  When the bars pour out I’m assuming many folks walk in for the their late night cravings.

BronxSlices

What this also says is I don’t hang out enough here, and I’m not sure what I’m missing if anything.   It also tells me that if I were to have their pizza again, I would once again want it to be during the day.  I’ve rarely written about late night eats because unless a pizzeria is known exclusively for their after hours slices, I don’t think that’s the correct judge of a places’ character.

Even though these slices were not my favorite, I would give it another go, because I’m all about supporting local business, and local is the way to go.

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For those in the area or are going to be, here is Bronx Pizza’s Menu, their story, and their contact information and hours.

Unless things change I think this adventure will continue footsteps away at another Arlington/Clarendon pizzeria.

Thanks so much and Happy 4th.

Ideen

Four Corners of Fun

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Yeah that title is cheesy (ha!) I know.   I just think it’s appropriate considering the pizza, the location, and the all around mood I was in.

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Jet’s Pizza is somewhere I should have heard of.   Maybe I have and knew or the time it was not quite within driving distance and slightly out of reach.

A trip to sunny and glorious Florida included a visit to Ft. Myers, which has its own sense of beauty that my words won’t do it justice.  But how happy I am that my first visit to a Jet’s location takes place here.

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There wasn’t anything out of this world about the store, and that’s just how I liked it.  I don’t recall any tables or chairs to sit in, but that could just me being overly excited about trying some pizza that was quick and easy.  And would be easy to write about.   This will be one of the easier ones.

Just envision that life is going good, you’re on vacation, time is standing still, and you spent it with some fantastic people.  That’s going to make most foods, most experiences, and most anything taste better and feel that much more invigorating.

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It helps that this pizza was spectacular.

When I walked in the door I had no idea what I was expecting.   The joy comes initially comes from knowing I’m trying a pizza out of the way, and might not be on my radar anytime soon.

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Time wasn’t necessarily of the essence, but I did want something for the road.   I was hoping for a cheese and a pepperoni (you know keep it simple), but all they had was the latter.  Considering the store had just opened (yes I was more excited than usual, but pizza is exciting…) the only thing available pepperoni.    And as I’ve said before,  I could easily pick the pepperoni slices if necessary.

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In this instance it wasn’t necessary.  The deep dish and greasy goodness is the stuff of vacation, it’s the stuff of marvel, and it’s the quintessential and affordable comfort food is just what the travel Gods ordered.

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And when I mean greasy, I mean greasy.  And this is a compliment.  I wanted something like this to capture what I don’t know.  Maybe just some happiness.  I was happy and honestly one slice was enough that I saved the other for later.   Deep Dish squared pizza just has this approachable look about it.   It takes me back to my youth and my childhood, and from where I can’t quite picture it.  But it brings back joyful memories and sentimental feelings that only be described as fun.

As their synopsis says, pizza should be fun.  And ‘Life is Short. Eat Better Pizza’, is their mantra and I agree on both.    And I recall my two slices and a soda was $6 or so, at the most.  A tremendous deal.

JetsPizzaPlate

This isn’t meant to be the world class, overly analyzed artisan pizza that many places tout themselves as, and throw that word ‘artisan’ around to the point it means nothing. Their pizza means something.  The crust was heated to perfection, the cheese was great, the pepperoni was great, everything was great.  I have no complaints.  I only have good things to say.

I imagine if I came across a Jet’s Pizza in not so romantic circumstances I would still be heaping praise where praise is deserved.  I absolutely love the lack of pretension and I adore the genuine vibe I get from their pizza and this pizzeria.

An awesome vacation visiting some awesome people helps.  But that’s for another time. I’m so happy right now!

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For more on Jet’s Pizza, here is their menu, their locations, and their charming story.

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I can’t wait to go back, when can I go back?  There’s so many pizza options that calling this the beginning is an understatement.

Where do I go from here?  Hopefully a return engagement can match the joy attained fro this visit and my visit to Ft. Myers overall.

This makes me feel so good.

Ideen

 

Burnin’ In My Soul

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I like to write about things.  Last year I wrote about a mobile pizza food truck at a wine festival.  Now I like wine too, but if I feel compelled to write about the tastings and various festivities at well, this festival, then I will get around to it.   If you sense my enthusiasm is lacking then you’re spot on.

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But every cloud has a silver lining or something.  And this one goes by the name of Fireside Pizza of Hagerstown, MD.   This years’ pizza truck kept it simple but then it didn’t.

FiresideMenu

You could purchase two slices of cheese or pepperoni for $5.00 total.  Noticed I said cheese or pepperoni.  Their explanation was that they were cooking the pies separately and couldn’t give you one slice of each.  I understand the rationale.  Whether that’s the explanation given to everyone is not something to question.  Wait I think I just questioned.

But based on the grande scale of the event and the clientele being a bit demanding when it came to wine samples, food samples, and who knows what else, food trucks, food stands, stations of all kinds have to protect themselves.

I respect the $10 credit card minimum for that reason among others.

A whole cheese with one topping was $20.00.  I didn’t have enough people in my party of a big enough appetite to justify that a the time.  And the specialty pies at $22.00 may be a stretch for many people.

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I sound like I’m being hard but I’m really not.  I didn’t see a lot of people ordering full pies, but this was earlier on the day.  As more people have had their samples, their sips, and then their bottles, they will get hungry.  And they’ll be willing to spend a little more to eat, and eat right away.

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Myself, I was one of the folks who ordered two slice of pepperoni but made one of them a cheese.  Simple I know.

FiresideCheese

This was good pizza.  And when I mean good, I mean good.  I bet at a more controlled and less raucous event the pizza would taste that much better and made under more ideal conditions.  I hope I’m making sense.

These were solid thin slices, that even though were on the small side had a great charred taste to them.  And the cheese and pepperoni did their job and did it well.  I think I enjoyed my pepperoni and my faux cheese slice equally.

If I was in a more laid back atmosphere I think the pizza would taste that much better.

Local business is one of the most beautiful things out there, so I hope they succeed, wish them all the best, and hope to catch them at another event down the line.  And maybe try one of their specialty pies.  I’m curious now.

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For more on Fireside, here is their website and their other page with more information.

Summer means more outdoor events, more parties, and hopefully more chances to write about brick oven and wood fired pizza served outside, served with some soul, and served with the best of intentions.

I look forward to it.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

 

 

Now Open For Business

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The joy of this thing comes in finding the pizzerias outside of major cities.   And the joy also comes in when I’m not looking too hard for it, or not looking at all.

This brings me to Odenton, MD, which is a town not everyone in Maryland (or outside Maryland) has ever heard of or let alone visited.  Until a few years ago I was one of those folks.

But that’s the fun of it, different town, different experiences, and that means finding a hidden gem, pizza or otherwise.

It made me so happy as I was driving towards a nearby neighborhood in the area when I saw decorative signs for something.  I had to look closer and even closer, and to my pleasure it was for the newest pizza place in town, Angelina’s.

AngelinasSign

Just the thought out of that alone made me so happy.  I have a log of things to write about, and I’m glad to keep certain places on the back burner for now.  They didn’t fit write just yet.   While a place that has been barely opened a month certainly fits perfectly.

The space is massive.  I have no idea what was in this space (if there was another restaurant) and in this instance it doesn’t truly matter.  What matters is what was going on at the time.

But back to the space.  There’s plenty of picture frames on the wall from all walks of life. There was Italian music playing as soon as I walked in.  I think I heard an Andrea Bocelli song once or twice.  No complaints there.

And the dining room with their beautiful chandeliers on one end was gorgeous.  It’s a great setting for a dinner party with pals.

There were plenty of slices to choose from.  All averaging around $3-$4.

Because I’m hardly ever in the area, and the newness of the place, I wanted to recap more than just my standard two slices.  This time we have four.  And as I write you’ll understand that I didn’t finish everything all at once, or at a later time.

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I loved how the white and the caprese looked so bright and so inviting.  I just had to try these two first.  But neither one translated into quality slices.  The crust was fine but had a flatter kind of crunch than what I would prefer.  And the cheese seemed to be missing something.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the quality of the cheese, the crust, and the toppings on both just missed that wow factor.  It wasn’t close to that.  I would call it decent but not much else.   After picking at both slices, I didn’t finish half of either.

AngelinasCaprese

AngelinasWhite

That’s because I was saving for a couple more to go.

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For the road, I went with the cheese and buffalo chicken.  And while my expectations were lowered I didn’t discount how good either of these could be.  I love the look of breaded buffalo chicken on a pizza, or anywhere.  But unfortunately the chicken tasted dry and flat.  The celery and sauce were fine but the chicken took away from the rest of the pie.  The crust was once again decent, but it felt under cooked as the previous two slices.

AngelinasBuff

But we know the truth.  You have to judge a place by the cheese, and the cheese alone.   So after feeling a bit dismayed at my previous endeavors, the cheese was tremendous.

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Even at first glimpse it seems a little more care was put into this pie versus the others. The sauce was better, the crust was eons better than the others, but the cheese reminded me of the great slices I’ve had in a while. This isn’t the greatest cheese I’ve ever had but I’ll be thinking about this for a while.  I’m thinking about it now.

AngelinasCheese

If I’m back I will try some more.  If you’re in the area I would suggest giving them a try and finding out for yourself.   Local and family business is always the best.  And I have to say it again, their cheese was fantastic.

Here is their menu and their contact information.

AngelinasPoster

Man that was cheese was good.

Ideen