& A Lot More


I had been greatly anticipating the opportunity to write about &pizza, but only if the circumstance and proper location presented itself.   I know not every week can nor should be an existential piece on why we love pizza, and why it brings such joy to our lives.  But it certainly makes for a fun discussion, and more importantly, what’s the point if there can’t be enjoyment.


That’s why I find great satisfaction in finally finding the proper instance to talk about my experience with this charming and fascinating pizza paradise.

This is not my first rodeo with &pizza.  But previous visits didn’t feel right to elaborate on. I’m hoping that makes sense.  There should be a little story behind the neighborhood, the time of day it was, the mood,  the ambiance, and all those other quirks that can make the pizza experience all the more memorable, or in some instances forgettable but fun to make fun of.


My visit to the historic Barracks Row location, checks off many of those boxes and brought a little something more to the table than I expected.  How I ended up here is just one of those meant to be scenarios.  But in my traditional curious sense, I needed to see what was nearby, in terms of shopping, food, and of course the za.

It’s funny because I used to spend a lot more time here in what feels like a lifetime ago, but I didn’t recognize it at first.  Some of the bars and restaurants look the same but other than that, like most major cities, more stuff and more stuff is has come and is coming. That means a few more chains but hopefully more local business as well.

&pizza is a local chain that is only going to continue to grow.  With stores in DC, Maryland, Virginia, Philadelphia, and soon to be in New York, you know it’s only going to get bigger.

But it originated in DC first (here is my history of DC area pizza), so that’s where I’m going to begin.

What I loved instantly about this location is the warm welcome from the two team members working the counter.  It was a little bit after lunch hours so maybe the chaos of people had subsided, and they could be a bit more personable, but this was from the heart. And I sensed these folks would be like this no matter how many customers were waiting and how high the stress level may be.

That kind of kindness is usually going to make your food taste better.  I truly believe that. There was a personable aura that is always appreciated.  And this is in Washington, DC, which isn’t the most welcoming and people tend to be in a rush around-the-clock.


I wanted it simple, so I went with the Gnarlic.  Yes that’s exactly how it’s spelled.  I wanted a white pizza with some veggies and on whole grain bread.  Yes you have your choice of white or ancient grains.  I wanted to pretend I was eating healthier.  Maybe I was.


This is over-the-counter style, so everything is made and heated in front of you, and ready to serve in five minutes.  Because I was one of the few people at the time, that wait time felt even shorter.  Maybe time just stood still.


While I was waiting, I noticed the craft soda machine.  I guess I never noticed that before.  I usually never order a beverage in a quick place like this.  It’s usually water.  But for the sake of the experience and trying something new I went with the Pear + Fig Elixir.  This was something special.  I highly recommend this.  What’s funny is while I thought it tasted amazing, I had forgotten that it was pear and fig that it was tasting.  It was a fruit punch that was a punch to the heart and soul, but in a good way.


So my pizza came out and boy does that look beautiful right?


This was a thankfully light and crisp pizza.  Like I stated I’d been here before but never found it memorable, until now.   The garlic and onions were the stand outs.   It was just like eating a simple flat bread or pita bread like I’ve done many times before.  I wasn’t in the mood for thick and doughy crust this time.  And since the weather was nicer this encouraged a lighter fare.   What did surprise me is I didn’t taste much of the pesto that was drizzled on beautifully.   Maybe it was meant to taste light?  But that part wasn’t as memorable as I had hoped.


The cheese also tasted lighter, which I definitely welcomed.  I just adored the shape of this pizza pie.  I adored so much of it.  And the charm and the ambiance of the place certainly helped.  As did seemingly having the whole place to myself for a bit.

The sun was shining, house music was playing inside, and I had a beautiful view of DC and a mix of locals and tourists strolling along enjoying the view.  Is this DC or another dimension?  How about a little bit of both.  And &pizza is a big a part of that.  There’s a feel good vibe that should be the norm but still might be the exception.


This is only the beginning of my recaps of their pizzas.  They have a bunch of locations and a bunch of pizzas to try.  When I go them again will be up to the universe and some complete random series of events.  Or I just walk into a location, haha.  I feel like this set the bar very high and will be hard to match.  I welcome the challenge.

Their website is easy to navigate, for all your informational needs.   More scrolling and less clicking is m.o. here.

Stay gnarlic, oops I mean gnarley, or something.




Fresh Market Pizza Party


And that party was for one, me.  As in most of my posts, my dining experience has mostly been done in solitude.  If there were group outings or with a friend or two, then I most likely made it clear that I had some good company.  And how that might change dynamic of the experience and pizza itself.

This is a different kind of experience than what I’ve usually written about.   When making a frozen pizza in the comfort of your own home, it takes on a whole new life.  Even though we most likely didn’t make the pizza ourselves from scratch, there is something personal about heating it in the oven and enjoying a pie by yourself or with close family and friends.

It’s the whole ritual of looking for a pizza, seeing which toppings would make you and your serving company happy to eat without anyone feeling left out.  But when it’s just you, like it was in that case, the options become unlimited and no need to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings except maybe your own.


Per a recommendation from a close friend, I was told to visit The Fresh Market to grab one of their personal frozen selections and give it a shot.

But first I’ll give you my own personal experience of this grocery shoppe.

A little over eight years ago I was on a drive just like any others and stumbled across a new shopping district a little bit of a ways from the Baltimore area.   When I see a new arrary of stores and places to explore I’m naturally curious and love to discover something fun.   What I was grateful to notice was my first visions of this Fresh Market.

You know anything from the first time you walk in is going to feel wholesome, genuine, and simpatico.   Well not necessarily always but I would like that to be the case more times often than not.  But this is what I felt here.

It felt like a market.  You had your standard grocery aisles and in the middle you had fresh made sandwiches to order (and pre-made to go), your fresh meats, prepared foods, baked goods, and so many other fun things.

But aside from that nut you have a great selection of natural foods (nuts, raisins, dried fruits, sweet treats etc.), coffee, tea, and so many other amazing things.

Now what I just listed reads like any old grocery store, and that might be true, but something about the aura and energy in here just feels right. Maybe it’s the dimmed lights.  Maybe I’m just seeing things.  But something just feels awe inspiring in here at times.

But I had yet to ever try their pizza.  If I did, I forgot.  And that’s on me.


So after a little poking around earlier this week, in the freezer section and refrigerated aisle, I went with the Margherita.  I wanted to keep it light, simple, and a little more down-to-earth, so this felt correct in theory.


I’m immediately charmed by the packing.  It just looks so cool.  That’s a technical term by the way.  Any personal touch, even in the most simplest form, leaves a lasting impression and goes a long way.


When I got ready to prep this at home a feeling of excitement came over me.  I don’t use my oven enough to begin with, so this was going to be a real treat.


Upon opening my pie looked ready to be heated and served to a party of one.  Hey, that’s me!


Details of all this are not necessary.  I just wanted to convey my enthusiasm over something so simple and heating a frozen pizza.

What was even more inspiring were the aromas I was getting through the oven while my pie was cooking.  Those Italian spices were just permeating my kitchen. It w as only a 10-12 minute heating process, so I was patient but I was getting eager to eat.

It wasn’t at the point of staring at the timer, but I just felt like a kid waiting to eat my pizza and periodically checking the oven to see if it was ready.  I’m sure many have been in these shoes before; as a kid, as a parent, or both.


How gorgeous does this look?  Those sights and smells were giving me goose bumps.  And that golden brown crust makes it look almost too good to eat.  But forget that.

But to my mild disappointment, the spices, cheese, and tomatoes didn’t translate from in the oven to actual meal time.

It felt like whatever I was enjoying with my nose never clicked when actually eating a slice.

When talking about a frozen pizza, it’s a different criterion versus your local pizzeria.  I’m not looking for world class and pizza of the year caliber pie.  But I do want it to taste good.

The crust was flaky , crusty, and falling apart, just how I like my frozen gems.  But as a whole, the pizza just tasted average.  I wanted more flavor and I didn’t get it.  I’m surprised but not deterred.

And it’s not to say I didn’t finish.  I ate the whole thing, because even though it wasn’t anywhere close to what I expected, it was good enough to eat.

I did get two meals out of it.  The second meal was a late night snack.  I knew it was at home waiting for me, wrapped in foil.  That’s a good feeling knowing a pizza you heated is ready for a second around.

And yes, I was secretly hoping the seasonings and tomatoes would come alive on a second try.  It didn’t happen but doesn’t mean I won’t try another one of their pizzas.  They have a vast selection to choose from, and  I’m willing to bet will lead to better results.  And just because I wasn’t floored by it doesn’t mean you won’t.  Give it a try.  For $5.99, it’s a great investment into trying something new.


I don’t talk about frozen pizza much, but I would like this to be a regular thing.  I’ve had some amazing ones in my lifetime, and hope to cross paths with some of them, and share them with you.   Whether I continue this next week remains to be seen.  Maybe.


To find the nearest Fresh Market in your area, click here.

In regards to that picture at the beginning of this post, my animal friends wanted to share in my personal experience, but no I didn’t give them any.  You don’t see me eating any of their pizza.  Oh wait…

For my previous foray into frozen pizza click here.

We also made pizzas once, to read more about that click here!

We’ll see what next week brings us.



There Was A Reason For This


As of this writing National Pizza Day will be yesterday, February 8th.   I would be lying if I said I knew this ahead of time.  And I would also be lying if I knew what about what pizza or pizzeria I would be writing about.   The biggest lie would be that I had something big planned all along.

I didn’t have to plan anything.  I’m sure I would have written about a great place, or what I would hope to be great, and celebrate National Pizza Day, and move on to the next week. But no, the universe always has a way of rearranging itself and working itself out for me. Anything is possible and usually is.   We tend to say these things but they don’t always have any meaning.

I want to believe that this has meaning. Either there was a reason for this, or the reason was presented to me and I still need to figure it out, or there’s nothing more.  And there’s closure.

The way I write about pizza makes it seem like it’s some cosmic and metaphysical experience.  To some it is just pizza.  But I tend to think when it comes to things your passionate about, there’s something bigger than us.  It’s a spiritual celebration of food, of feeling, and fascination.    And maybe some alliteration too, ha.

This encounter had such significance that I don’t know if words will be enough to convey how special this was.  I will do my best.

A very unusual set of circumstances brought me the town of Prince Frederick, MD.  Never heard of it?  Well I imagine many folks in Maryland haven’t either nor have the faintest idea where to find it on the map.  A few years ago I would have been one of those folks. This was only my second ever visit, and the first unplanned.

When I find myself in unique towns, like anyone, I like to drive or walk around, and do a little sightseeing.  The grass tends to be greener and everything looks larger-than-life. Perhaps many times it is.  What I do look for, without trying too hard, is a nice place to grab a bite, some coffee, maybe a museum, maybe a charming shoppe, and of course the joyous slice of pizza.

You know every town has a pizza parlor.  And hopefully it’s a locally owned one.  That’s one of the major points of all this, to support local and all the happiness it brings to peoples lives, to go somewhere comforting, where yes someone knows your name and you know the friendly folks behind the counter.

And it becomes a a tradition.

At first your just a customer, then an acquaintance, then a friend, then maybe even a good friend, and then essentially family.

That’s the true heart, soul, and backbone of this thing called life.   So with that I’m grateful to say I may have hopefully started a new, semi-regular tradition with a place I forgot, from my childhood, Pizza Oven Inn.


And I mean it’s a truly forgotten place to me.  As it hasn’t been on my record for at least a decade. Funny the things we forget and with all the information we have, there’s so many pieces of information that become buried in our subconscious, never to return again.

Thankfully this one was revived and now retained.

It was a nice change of pace to be in Southern Maryland.  As I’m starting to heard home I do have a yearning to get some foods, you know, because eating is one of the joys of life and is fun.   I did some scoping around and located some pizzerias close to me, and I know one of them was going to become a part of this everlasting story I’m telling.  Luckily I bypassed one to get to this old-time looking strip mall.  I can’t explain how it looks, but it just has a feeling of a small-town shopping center that’s been around for a long time.  And the sentimentalist in me likes that.


So I see this Pizza Oven Inn, and from the window noticed they didn’t do slices.  So I felt like I was in a rush.  But a rush from what?  I was 90 minutes from my house, and anyways, I needed to enjoy my time in a place I’m rarely in.   But as I’m parking I almost drove away. You know how sometimes you’re indecisive when it comes to food, or just about anything? This was the dilemma.  And I’ve done this a bunch of times with a bunch of places I never ended up eating at.  I didn’t want this to be another what could have been moment.


Before I walk in to a place, I may take a picture of the outside of a building to incorporate into my stories.   However, when I walked in, a gentleman who turned out to be a regular called me out on that.  And I wouldn’t say in a bad way.  But I did feel like I was made.  That happens from time-to-time. It was a pleasant exchange nonetheless.  But what this did lead to was…


I got to meet the owner, Stacy, on her day off of all days.  This led me to explaining what I do and what I write about.  If it wasn’t for being figured out by one of their own, I’m not sure this conversation even takes place.   Lots of weird energy (in a good way) going around during this entire exchange.


My first inclination is to get a small pie to go, as I still feel that I’m in a rush.  Stacy suggested a large to go.  And maybe even a square shaped pie.  At this point I feel like I’m at everyone’s mercy (haha not even close but for for dramatic purposes, sure why not) that she pegged me for a vegetable pizza man.  I took that as a compliment.


So I went with the vegetable pie and resumed this fascinating conversation.

After a few minutes it came up how Pizza Oven Inn was a massive local chain going back decades.  And there were several near where I grew up, one being in Rockville, MD.  I started reflecting back on the past and realized there was one within walking distance from where my dad works (still does after all this time), and where my family still lives.

At this point I started getting goose bumps, and remembering how the outside of the building looked and the image of an even older looking shopping center (which still exists today in almost its original form), and another location where the community gathers and meets regularly.

While my pizza was heating, she made a call looking for verification the old Rockville, MD location and all was confirmed. It was a pleasant and surreal feeling all at once.  I got those warm and fuzzies.

I believe she spoke to her business partner, but I want to believe that phone call was made and received from a much higher place.

Their business has gone through many changes.  What was once a local chain with pizza shops all over the Maryland and DC area, is now down to two.  It has been taken over by a couple incarnations of larger chains, but for me, I’ll stick with the support of local.

So, after all that, how was the pizza?

It made me happy.  It made me feel like a kid,  The square pieces are always a welcome change from the standard pizza shape.  And many of us love that pizza .  They serve that kind of pie as well.


The crispier pieces were from the end slices, and sometimes you found perfect charring on random slices throughout the pizza.   The vegetables tasted fresh.  And those tomato slices made that pie.


I love olives, onions, peppers, and I adore mushrooms. This was all around happiness.


For the first time in a while, I threw on oregano and parmesan cheese to enhance the flavors. It didn’t need much enhancement but for so many reasons this felt like a special occasion.

The pizza lasted me a few days, and I feel it tasted just as good, if not better, than when originally heated.   At some point I did finally take those pizza savers, (or as Stacy called them, Barbie Tables) off of the pie.  With all the excitement of energy of this day, I never thought to remove them.  I never thought to do a lot of things.  I just went with the flow.

And the flow is what makes experiences like this so amazing.


I mentioned that two locations still exist.  I’m not sure when I’ll be back and if their own shoppe will be a part of that.  I certainly hope so.  This is an experience I’m going to be thinking about for a long time.  While it may seem too dramatic for some reading this, there’s a spiritual component of many of these visits, that I don’t always write about.  This one will resonate for some time.


Pizza Oven Inn doesn’t have an official website, which I think adds to the charm.  But you can find them on Facebook.   I posted a picture of their chalkboard menu above, but you can also find it here.

I’m so fortunate to have been a part of something so special and something big.  I can only hope the next time I’m back in Prince Frederick, and I’m back at Pizza Oven, that the next story can be just as or even bigger than the next one.  I welcome it with open arms.


On the other hand, if this was to be a one-time only deal, I will cherish this memory forever.


Happy National Pizza Day!




Happy Birthday Too loulou!

toolouloupie4I could have just said Happy Anniversary Tooloulou, but then I wouldn’t have such a witty (or nerdy depending on your take) title.


Yes, Tooloulou, one of the staples of the Belvedere Square Market, in North Baltimore, just had a major milestone last week.  They celebrated their 5th Anniversary!  Congratulations.


And that’s it for me, thank you everybody!

No, not quite.   I would be lying if I said Tooloulou was in my regular rotation of pizza places.  I wish it was.   But for the duration the intent from me is there.  But what has been a more-than-regular thing is a visit to Belvedere Square.

It’s history is also something I can’t pretend to say I’ve been a part of.  However, I was just finishing college in 2003, when it re-opened, so I have some sentimentality to the newer version.

My love for markets goes back forever.  It’s the local feel, the sense of community, the local businesses, and all around good energy that draws so many people in.  It’s one of those ‘just like the good old days’ feelings that shouldn’t just feel like the old days, but right now.   But it’s good to be sentimental.  When it comes to supporting local, you can never have enough of that love for local and can you really be that overly sentimental.  In my humble opinion, the answer is a resounding no.  Wait, resounding doesn’t sound so humble.  But I think you know what I’m trying to say.

Now back to Tooloulou.  They haven’t always been at the market.  A location change, brought this local creation to Belvedere Market.  And what a welcome and inspiring addition this has been.  Still in nearly three years market, why did my first visit only happen two weeks ago?   I have no explanation other than it hasn’t been meant to be until now.  Well I changed some history and went back for a second time.

So does that mean two pies?  You bet.  The first one was a dine-in experience and the second was carry-out.  Yes these are the riveting details I present to you.

Have I teased you enough?  I obviously love the pizza or I would be misleading you with the tidbits of it being a welcome addition, etc.   Ok onto the za!


First up is the Tooloulou Pizza.  For my first ever visit, it only made sense to go with this one.  And this is where I sat down at their cozy booth and helped myself to this pizza pie.


I loved it.  I was hesitant at first, since it seemed on the surface to be a bit too rich.  But all my man-made fears were alleviated after a few bites.  The combination of crab, Andouille sausage, and banana peppers is a trifecta of wonders.  Who came up with this?  It’s the perfect complement and complement to one another, and then the other.   The flavors came alive when I first thought something would get lost in the shuffle.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And they put a lot of  crab meat and sausage.  No skimming I promise you.

Add to the fact that the base is white sauce with mozzarella makes this all the more extraordinary.  I think a less inspired effort elsewhere would be a disappointment.  But this was tremendous.  And a little old bay was thrown in for good measure.  You have a winner.  And that crust was cooked to perfection.  I’m salivating as I write this.  It was filling though as I got seconds and thirds out of this.  A 12″ pie at $14.50, with what you’re getting it a deal at this price.


Not to be outdone was the Shrimp Pesto.  I couldn’t do a celebratory post without doing a second pie.  If I hadn’t found myself back in the area, then this part would never have come to fruition.  So I’m excited.


In the two plus years of doing this blog, whenever I found pesto as the base, or as an ingredient, I mention how much it’s one of my favorite things period.  Pesto is something of a work of art to me.  If I could do a Pesto Pals blog I would.  Hmm..  But when I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to try this one.  I was actually debating between this and another.  If you look at the menu order, I am following it sequentially.  Whether that mean there’s more to come is quite possible.    Let me get back to this pie before I go on a complete tangent.

I’m not sure which I loved more.  I loved this one for different reasons.  And then reasons that surprised me.  That pesto was authentic.  It tasted homemade or market made, ha!  And not out of a can.  And those pieces of shrimp were pure a joy.   I took a few off the pizza and had myself a good old time.  I re dipped some in the pesto sauce just for kicks.


But knowing me I would think those were my favorite parts.  No, this pizza was so good that the actual highlights for me were the sundried tomatoes and the mozzarella.  When I found pieces of tomato and shrimp covered in that mozzarella, I appreciated every bite. The taste is just too good to describe.  And this is saying something because the pesto was that good.   What have I done to myself?  I’m craving this pie too.  This was the same price as the previous pizza, and worth every bit of it and more.

This crust may have even been charred better than the first.  How is that even possible?

The bonus was the staff both times were overwhelmingly friendly.   The Shrimp Pesto was a recommendation over another pie, which shall remain nameless and be reviewed at a later date.

For our friends in the area or might be travelling to the area, here’s their location and hours.


I know Tooloulou is also widely known for their po’ boys.  And if I get a chance again, the next time I come back, I may incorporate one of these sandwiches with another predicted awesome pizza.

I look forward to it, but for now, I will appreciate these two fantastic pies.  And wish Tooloulou a Happy Fifth Anniversary!

And to many more!