Born To Za!

ChickenParmPizza!

Of course I find a way to incorporate Bruce Springsteen into the pizza discussion.   This past Tuesday we celebrated the 40th Birthday of Born To Run!  And what does any sane person do?  They take a drive to Freehold, NJ and eat at one of the pizza places The Boss has been known to frequent.  But there’s more!

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After doing a little research and asking friends, I took the two-hour drive up the New Jersey Turnpike and made my first ever visit to Freehold.

This had such a good vibe from the get go.  There’s a very small town feel and energy that would only make sense, based on where I was.  We had a plethora of local shops, restaurants, and services, with a limit on chains.  And I like the sound of all of that.   It was an easy town to navigate.  And after a little bit of exploring I stopped in at Federici’s.

Federici's

The feeling inside and out was just as authentic as the town itself.  No bells and whistles, no hoopla, just a good energy with folks enjoying their meals and the company they were with.  Or you have someone like me, enjoying their meal in solitude.

Federici'sOutdoorMenu

I did a quick scan of the menu and decided on the Chicken Parmigiana to go.   The thin crust was outstanding as well as were the ingredients.  This came together perfectly.  This was a joy to eat!   Needless to say, for an individual pie, this didn’t have a chance.  I savored many bites as slowly as I could to appreciate what I was experiencing.   What an absolute pleasure this was.  The cheese was baked in perfectly as was the chicken.  And this tasted like real breaded chicken.  And I could go on all day about that sauce!  Holy moly!  Incredible stuff!

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This was masterful work.   I should have had another. I was full and satisfied.  But I don’t come around too often that I wish I had another to praise and laud.  It’s been a week but now I can’t stop thinking about how amazing this pie was.   There was a great soul behind the making of this pie.  Oh my goodness.

And the staff was incredibly friendly, even though the restaurant and take-out lines were starting to get hectic.  There were pictures of Bruce visiting on the wall, but I never could come across them.  Next time.

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For more on Federici’s and their story, you can go here and always my favorite is the community section of any website.

Of course when I’m visiting a new place, I do need to make some touristy moves.

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Directly across the street is the Columbia Triumphant statue.   Where you see that, you see a bunch of Jersey-related icons with their names on the bricks.  I was informed that Bruce had one with a special kind of cement in its spot in case anyone felt compelled to be bad and steal this piece of history.   I found it and got real up-close-and-personal photo! Woohoo!

Here is where I get a little cuckoo.  I had caught wind of the fact that the house, at 39 1/2 Institute Street, Springsteen grew up in from age five to the eighth grade was close by.  And thanks to help from a dear friend, I found it.  And I got some great up-close photographs!

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This street was so eerily quiet I was a tad nervous at times.  Literally, there was no one walking or driving by.  Maybe that’s how it was meant to be.  I spent a good few minutes appreciating this piece of history.

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The tree is the famous one that Bruce posed with for a photo shoot for the “Born in the U.S.A” album over 30 years ago.   Think I got enough of the tree and the house?

I could have stayed here for a while and done some more inspirational discovering, but I left on a very high note.  And that just means I’ll have to come back.

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Everywhere I went I felt the energy of something powerful.  It could have been the amazing pizza, being in a new place for the first time, how I was feeling at that very moment, or maybe just appreciating one of the New Jersey and this country’s greatest icons.

Thanks so much.  And Happy Birthday, Born To Run!

Best,

Ideen

Mione’s – Back To The Beach

I was really hoping to like Mione’s on my first visit, but that didn’t happen.  I was also hoping to write about another great pizza joint at the Eastern Shore, but that didn’t happen either.

I love Ocean City and there’s good pizza to be had, like I mentioned in a previous post.   But this was not it.

I’m all for trying something new, and going to places that may not be the most prominent of names is a part of that.

I hadn’t heard of Mione’s until driving through the resort town last year, and I had a couple of slices that day.  I recall they weren’t that memorable.   This go around took place on a busy weekend in July, and this visit was much worse.

Mione'sSlices

I don’t know how else to put it.  The pizza and service left so much to be desired.   I understand during the Summertime that slices and certain preferences can be unavailable at any time.  However, during my visit, no standard slices were available. There was no cheese, nor pepperoni, nor white.   The wait time on the former to come out, I was told, was nearly 30 minutes.  Not many people trying to get a slice, or most foods to go, would be willing to wait even half that time.

My negativity is not necessarily based on the lack of slices, but on what was available.

Thankfully, the chicken and vegetable pesto, white pizza was available.  And a white veggie which included eggplant was also one of the few slices ready to be heated and eaten within minutes.  Now I understand why.

Both slices were disappointing.   The dough and crust didn’t taste right.  It was crisp but not in a good way Pieces of crust were falling off and tasting like it was burnt toast.  Good pizza is good pizza, and it can withstand being heated and then reheated many times over.  I imagine the reheating process made both of these worse over time.

The chicken didn’t taste fresh and neither did the vegetables that  came with it.  The roasted red peppers didn’t have much flavor.   The silver lining was the pesto. Pesto is always good and even this wasn’t the best tasting pesto.

The vegetable slice was much worse  I’m glad I was forced to try a new slice with the eggplant but the results were abysmal.  The eggplant, red peppers, and I think those were mushrooms, did not make a good melange of anything.

Needless to say, I barely ate a third of either slice.  I don’t like wasting food but I didn’t feel good eating this and saw no point in forcing the issue.

Mione's

Despite my harshness, I will be willing to try some other slices.  There is much on the menu to choose from, in term of pizza, so next time I’m back, I’ll give ’em another shot.   And the fact that the staff was so friendly albeit stressed and seemed rush plays a factor in why I will go back, and also why the pizza was disappointing based upon this visit.

The pizza this time around wasn’t good, but they all can’t be winners.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen

Brick N Fire Fridays

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I had heard so much about BrickNFire Pizza out of Catonsville, MD, that I knew I was destined to try it.   How or where I would have my first encounter would be purely unplanned.

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As luck would have it, I was enjoying myself at a wine festival last Friday, and I was happy to see they were serving up their pies as part of the event.

In talking to people in the past, the great majority of them have sung the praises of their pizza.  They’ve said how great the crust tastes.  And that the overall flavor and presentation is distinct.   Their toppings are homegrown which is always a plus. And they make their own sauce.  Everything sounds amazing here. And in just the one year they’ve been operating, they have made a wonderful impression on a lot of pizza lovers.    Sounds like a recipe for success.

However, to my surprise, I did not have the best of experiences.  I can take what people tell me and use the information as a basis to form my own opinion. And maybe understand where they’re coming from. But in this instance something fell flat.

I do say this with a disclaimer, I got my pizza in the latter stages of the evening.  I ordered the Megan’s, which looked really good on paper.  I don’t think I’ve ever had squash on a pie, so I was really excited to try it.

To my disappointment, they were out of their Heirloom Tomatoes, as they told me this was the fastest selling pizza of the night.  I can understand that and willing to try something else.   The staff there suggested green peppers in place of that and I was ok with that.

BrickNFireMenu

It just did not come together well.   I could see the tomatoes were a huge part of this one, and the flavor was missing.  But, there were a couple of other things wrong.   I didn’t taste much in the way of basil on half the pie.  The garlic oil and mozzarella seemed non-existent. It just tasted very plain to me.  However, the vegetables were great.   I really liked  the squash and the peppers were fresh but they did not fit in with this pizza at all.  And I will not give them demerit points for offering a new topping to replace the tomatoes.

But I will question the $15 for this pie.  I understand this being market price but I don’t see the justification in the cost, especially for not having all the ingredients as advertised.

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The dough was tasty and the burnt parts really added something.   A friend who was with me liked how certain parts were more charred than others, but agreed with me that the pie had been compromised. It was a serviceable yet mediocre creation.  I think the soul was missing from here. And that’s just as important as anything else.

I like Neapolitan-style pizza so this made me sad.

I know it was towards the end of the evening, but this was disappointing.   They also took a while to making my order by a few minutes longer than promised.  I understand they were backed up, but I feel as if I hadn’t come back to check on my food, they may have forgotten about me.  Heating it up at this temperature only takes a few minutes.

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With all this being said, I will definitely try one of their za’s again.  I have mainly heard positive things about their pies, so I was a bit surprised at my troubling experience.  Their wood-fired oven looks impressive and I have posted pictures of the massive work of art. I’m not big on first impressions, and I expect my next pie to be nothing short of stellar.

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For more on the wine festival I attended, where BricknFire was click here.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen

Johnny’s On The Spot

After last week I may just do beach related pizza posts into September.  I shall see where the wind takes me.

Johnny's

Johnny’s is a pizzeria that is one of the newer pizza parlors to surface. When one pizza place opened up, it seems so many followed.  If it wasn’t for the to go box pictured below, I wouldn’t have known they set up shop in 2010.  But 5-10 years would have been my hypothesis.  Now I’m willing to bet the amount of places in OC to get a slice or a pie are in at least in the 100+ range.

Like many of these other comfort food locations, they’re open into the wee hours of the morning.  So if a quick slice or two to go is what you’re looking for, they will oblige and with pleasure.

I’ve had slices from here in the past and did not care for them.   They were adequate.  For after a night of going out they were purposeful but I didn’t like the feeling in the morning.  I guess that’s the point.

They have quite the expansive menu and many specialty pies to choose from.  For purposes of this visit, I ordered a pie for friends and I to try.   I got really adventurous here.

Johnny'sThaiChicken

The Thai Chicken Pizza was something else.  I had no expectations.  It turned out better than I thought.   If it seems like it’s just a bunch of items thrown together, then you would be correct.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be good.  The peanut and ginger sauce was a bit aggressive that it was a bit hard to eat in spots.  It was spread randomly all over.

Aside from that I was pleasantly surprised.  The mix of mozzarella and cheddar really came together well. And I love onions.  They threw a lot of whole pieces on there as you can see.    But not only white onions (which are not listed as part of the pie but were included anyways) but the green ones as well.  Which are always great.  If there were carrots I barely noticed them.  Maybe the white onions were the substitute. The peanuts were a nice touch too.  It really tasted like a Thai dish or salad.

Johnny'sThaiChicken2

What really makes this pie however, is the chicken. It tasted a lot fresher than I thought it would.   Kudos to that.  The crust was a nice mix of crispy and soft that it didn’t detract in any way from the pie.

So in hindsight this was a better pie than I realized. It wasn’t the greatest.  But this was a solid indluging that will make me want to come back and try something else.

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The bar and restaurant, along with the carry out area, is usually always packed in the peak months.  This means getting there at the right time can be a challenge.

Till the next visit to the beach.

Best,

Ideen