It Just Feels Real

ConstantinoPie

It’s not like I’ve been looking for the perfect time to write about DiPasquale’s, but this might be it anyways.

I love this place so much.  A lot of Highlandtown (and Baltimore in general) locals come here on a more-than-regular basis and still think they don’t go in enough.

The aura and energy is second-to-none.  I always love walking in here and checking out their wines, their market & deli, and just appreciating their history altogether.

100 years plus in they’re still going strong and are as popular as ever.   They know what they’re doing.  And the staff has always been so welcoming and approachable during every visit I’ve made.

Honestly, I don’t go enough.   I try to go at least once or twice a month and I don’t always succeed.  Folks such as myself live for their subs.  Some  for their pasta.  Now I and many others may be pining for their pizza.  I am in love.

DiPasqualesOven

For the longest time I didn’t even know they served Brick Oven Pizzas. How foolish of me.  I doubt doing a blog would have led me to find out. I’m sure I’ve known about their pies for over a year or have I?

The two pies I will present to you may have some similarities and a familiar look to them.  Tis’ the season, so by happenstance or not, the colors are apropos.

ConstantinoPie

Back in July of this year I ordered the Constantino. This is magical.   This pie was heated to perfection. Just look at the precision amount of burn on the dough.   The mozzarella cheese is some of the best I’ve ever had.   I love spinach and tomatoes so this is all just making my day.  And the fresh grilled chicken pieces thrown on top make this a sure-fire winner.

ConstantinoYum

ConstantinoSlice

Needless to say this pie never had a chance.  I devoured this in minutes.   I may sound like a fat pig but this was glorious, outstanding, and resonating. I’m salivating for one as I expound on this for you now. Notice the colors of shade of the pie?  Was this a little foreshadowing of the holidays.   Can I be that clever?  Maybe.

I only wish I took my time and savored it more.  Great pizza is meant to be eaten slow and appreciated.   I do appreciate this pie but I’ll be a bit more leisurely the next time.

DiPasqualesGiardino

And speaking of next time, my second purchase took place yesterday. I went with the Giardino.

Once again the dough and cheese were magnificent.   I was excited to know what vegetable would go on top, as the menu leaves it open-ended.

To my pleasant surprise, I got a Christmas looking pie. The red and greens looked so beautiful.  This was a visual I’m grateful to have captured.

The pizza was good but not like the aforementioned Constantino.

I love eggplant but maybe it didn’t fit my palate.  I love asparagus, red peppers, and spinach as well.   As individual veggies I loved pulling the pieces off and noshing on them on their own.  For me, as a pie the flavors may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

GiardinoSlice

And I had no problem finishing it but it wasn’t up to the level of the previous choice.  I know some people love it and will continue to.   Maybe my expectations were very high.

This only means I need to keep coming back and on a significantly regular basis.  I want more pizza pies!  I love this place and I love everything about it.  There’s a history and authenticity that you don’t get with the newer shops, the chains, and the box restaurants.  I’ll support local establishments like this as much as I can.  They deserve the business.

And speaking of supporting local, the timing of this post is no accident.

The Holidays In Highlandtown kick-off celebration takes place today.   I will be attending and hope to see you there.

It’s a neighborhood I’ve fallen in love with much more recently.  There’s so much character and so much soul that I can’t help but be drawn to it.

Look forward to seeing ya.

Happy Holiday Season!

Best,

Ideen

 

 

Mary Queen of Fells

AleMarysPieWine

After a delay and hopefully a lot of patience, the Fells Point Fun Festival commences this weekend.

My sincerest hope is that we get some good weather and that the original postponement won’t hinder folks from coming down in the usual masses that we are accustomed to.  And the hope is that local businesses and vendors get some great exposure and boost their bottom lines.  Many deserve it and many are fantastic people.

Speaking of fantastic, it’s my pleasure to write about what could be my last neighborhood pizza review for the calendar year.   A few extra weeks have been fun and I hope I’ve been able to capture some of the essence of this place of wonder and joy.

Ale Mary's

Ale Mary’s is the quintessential neighborhood bar.  It’s a haunt that I wish I frequented more often.  The set-up, ambiance, and dim lights are right up mine and many others’ alley.

The times I’ve eaten here have always been pleasant. It’s great bar food that doesn’t pretend to be anything overly pretentious or unapproachable.  And more times than not, that’s all we want. It’s just close enough to the commotion and heart of Fells Point, while also a safe house for many that want to avoid that.  It’s the perfect balance and especially for this weekend, the perfect pizza.

AleMarysPizzaMenu

I was in here over a month ago, and when examining the menu, I never realized they served pizza.  Even better, they tout it as personal Bowlin’ Alley Pizzas.   An instant light bulb and cheesy television theme music went off in my head.   I had to come back and try a pie!

The very likeable bartender suggested the Fresh Veggie with mushrooms added on.   How could I say no to that?

AleMarysPie

I had no idea that there’s parmesan already thrown on top of the pie.  And with all the vegetables piled on, it was a splendid addition that enhanced the flavor of my pizza and the vegetables.   This is a piece of information I was pleased to discover.

The crust was so crisp and so crunchy, that I had to slow myself down and appreciate what I was having. The melange of cheese, sauce, and the veggies makes this such a charmer.  This is a really fun pizza.

AleMarysSlice

I don’t remember what bowling alley pizza tastes like or is supposed to taste like.  I don’t recall the last time I’ve had pizza at a bowling alley, if ever.   I don’t have that to compare it too, but I do know that this was so enjoyable, I could have had another.  This pie was decimated in minutes.

AleMarysPieEaten

And as always, it paired well my vino.

AleMarysSliceWine

I’m grateful to have Ale Mary’s as my day of festival post and highly recommend checking them out if you’re in the neighborhood this weekend and looking to venture outside the chaos at Broadway and Thames.  The regulars, who always seem so friendly, don’t need to be sold. They’ve appreciated their visits time and time again.

This may be the penultimate post for the neighborhood this year or this might be it.  I do have one more place in mind that I really want to talk about.  I hope and aspire to get to it.

I’ve really enjoyed visiting some new places, giving some old ones their just due (or justified critiques), and enhancing my love for one of the greatest places I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.

Hope to see you this weekend on the cobblestone streets of Fells!

Best,

Ideen

Called An Audible

The Fells Point Festival Version 2.0 is now only a week away.   And the pizza party has taken a detour and we are making some new moves!

This post is about what I ate last night.   Sounds like a normal thing to write about.  But this is what makes blogging so fun. The dining establishment I’m expounding on today was nowhere on my radar.  It was suggested by a couple of friends. And away we go.

Cockey’s was nowhere on my radar.  It was suggested to me by a couple of friends last night.  And in the context of where these posts are going, I feel like this was the perfect place to write about for today.   I took the inspirational several block walk from near the heart of the neighborhood to Upper Fells or Butchers Hill.   Since the website states Cockey’s Fells Point, I think I am ok.

I had only been here once before and really liked the atmosphere.  The interior is beautiful, the staff is friendly, there’s a nice outdoor dining area, and they have a good wine list.   The place has been open less than two years and a lot of the locals seems to enjoy it.

CockeysMenu

While going over the menu, I saw a lot of other meals I was interesting in getting.  But pizza is the name of the game, and I ordered the Ace Special.   I ordered this simply because the name stood out and I was in the mood for portabella mushrooms.

CockeysPie

When they brought the pizza out, I noticed it was cut awkwardly.  If the pizza tastes good, I wouldn’t think anything of that. But, I sensed the way it was uneven has to do with how hard the crust was to eat in certain places.  Some of it felt a bit overcooked and I had a hard time biting into my mini slices.  The tiny cuts are always a nice touch by the way.  It just felt rough on my teeth at times.

CockeysSlice

The toppings were very good.  I liked the cheese, sauce, diced chicken, mushrooms, and red peppers.  This is a simple yet tremendous mix of cheese, protein, and vegetables.  I just wish the crust was cooked a bit more evenly.   It was a distraction.   It didn’t detract entirely from the pie, but I was more perplexed than anything.   My wine was very good and complemented the pizza well.

CockeysSliceWithWine

Nevertheless, I will come back again  I will gladly get another pie or maybe something else that looks like it could be scrumptious.   Since it’s a fairly new restaurant and so much work seems to have been put into it, I want this place to flourish. There is a charming feel and energy surrounding the whole place.    This has the look and feel of what Fells Point is really all about; cozy, quaint, and approachable.

Cockeys

I look forward to coming back again.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen

Little Lackluster

I had intended to do a Fells Point related pizza post in conjunction with and leading up to the Fells Point Fun Festival.  That was supposed to take place last weekend.   The universe had other plans and we’ll see you in two weeks.  But the neighborhood posts will keep on coming leading up to the event.

My post from last week was meant to be the revealed on the weekend of the event, but I have adjusted accordingly. I am prepared for the challenge of finding spots that are hopefully informative and do the area justice.

LittleItalyFront

This week brings me to Little Italy Pizzeria, which is right off the heart of Fells Point.  That picture I took makes the place seem very authentic right?

Well that’s where it ends.  This pizza parlor suffers from the same issues, in my opinion, as Brick Oven Pizza which I wrote about two weeks ago.   Up until five years ago I would’ve said this pizza tasted great during the day, at night, by the slice, or a grabbing a whole pie to go.  It wasn’t fine craftsmanship but it was guaranteed to be a good pie that would do its job.  And sometimes that’s all you’re looking for.

Now the last few times I’ve ordered from them the crust, dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings all seem so lifeless.  There’s no feeling behind it.  But it serves its purpose.   I used to always order a za from here day or night and feel like I’ve enjoyed something tasty. And my interest has waned to the point where this might be the last time I go for a while unless I’m desperate.

I will recap the two slices I got, on my most recent a little over a month ago.  I’ll try to find the positives.

You know how when you see pictures of pizza you get hungry and get excited?  Even bad pizza will do that to you.   However, when looking at these photos I am turned off by them.

LittleItalyCheese

There’s barely any cheese or sauce and that’s what I remember tasting. The crust tasted undercooked and a bit soft. Sometimes that’ll work but not here.   I do realize I was eating around 8 or 9 pm so the quality may not be as high.  But I’ve had the same slice during the afternoon and it was just as mediocre.

LittleItalyBacon

The bacon, chicken, and ranch didn’t taste fresh.  The toppings seemed boring and just thrown on there.   Even bad pizza could be good pizza but this doesn’t apply here.  Even bacon which is hard to screw up, either tasted like it was past its sell by date or it wasn’t real bacon.  I’d rate both of these below average.

LittleItalyDuo

My hunch is that the business is just going through the motions.  It can try to please everyone and change the quality of their pies at various times of the day, or just wing it throughout.  I suspect they’re doing the latter.  I can only assume why the caliber of their pizzas has dwindled.

I remember barely eating half of either and feeling bad I had to throw them in the trash.

The interior is narrow.  There’s only a few sets of tables and chairs which is what I do like about it.  It’s a grab-and-go kind of place.  I’d just use caution on the pizza.  Lowered expectations would work here.

More to come.

Best,

Ideen

Alexander’s the Great

The Fells Point Festival is just one week away.  I find that so exciting and freaked out that time is just flying.

And As promised, the pizza theme of this neighborhood continues.  This visit brings us to a much more favorable spot, as opposed to last week, Alexander’s Tavern.

A month-and-a-half ago a huge group of us were out in the neighborhood for a dear friends birthday. Several stops were made but none were better than this location.

Our group of about 50 or so had taken over the entire front bar area.  And there was such a powerful and magnetic energy in the room.  My words alone will not do it justice.   The day was phenomenal.

And speaking of that, I saw a few friends eating a few appetizers and other foods to soak up the libations that were being procured throughout the afternoon.

To my pleasant surprise, a couple pals were eating pizza.  So I just had to jump on this opportunity while I was there.

ThreeLittlePigs

Now I’ve noshed here a multitude of times before and always enjoyed myself.   I forgot they served pizza and shame on me for that fact!   After making several inquiries to the friendly bartenders and perusing the menu, the unanimous suggestion was to order the 3 Little Pigs!  Mama Mia!

Alexander'sMenu

I had this in early August but the taste still resonates with me.  The crust was thin and just perfect.   On just a visual level it was almost too beautiful to eat.   One thing about me, I’ve never seeked out red meat on my pizza.  It’s just never been near the top of the list for me.   It’s not that I don’t love it.  I just prefer chicken, vegetables, seasonings, yummy sauce, and of course lots of cheese.

ThreeLittlePigsSlice

But this is something else.  The trios of ham, pepperoni, and sausage taste so fresh and so real.   For a second, I thought all this meat could clash and some flavor might be lost.  How wrong I was!  I also do love some ham so this was a treat. Just looking at the toppings I can tell this is real quality and a lot of effort was put into preparing this.  I took a few pieces off my mini slices and ate them individually and it was glorious.

The sauce and cheese were easy to taste even with all that meat piled on top.   My mouth is watering at the though of having one right now.

ThreeLittlePigsWine2

The presentation was inspiring as well. I found the plate that it came on to be very charming.  Whether the color was intentional or not, I don’t know.  But I do believe they do serve red plates and I find this detail to be an added bonus.  And it went perfect with my wine!

ThreeLittlePigsWine

These are personal size pizzas and I would’ve devoured another one.  But I also found this too good not to share.  I passed around a few slices to the buds of our birthday crew, and the positive reviews were unanimous.  It was superlative city.   Being in a great mood also helps.   Everything just felt right about the day.  And the was pie is stupendous, sensational, and splendid.   It was so good that a little over-the-top alliteration was necessary.  And they’re only $6 on Thursdays!  That’s highway robbery!  This pizza is worth every penny and then some.

Alexander'sFrontAlexander's

If you’re in the neighborhood or going to be headed to the festival next week, I strongly recommend stopping by for a pizza or anything for that matter.  I’ve always had a great experience here.  And I cannot wait to try some more of their creations.

Thank you so much.

Best,

Ideen

BOP or Bust?

The Fells Point Fun Festival is the first weekend in October.  For at least the next four weeks, the posts will be dedicated to a pizza joint (or wherever I made eat a pie or slice) in this historic neighborhood.

BOPFront

I knew for a while that I was going to write about Brick Oven Pizza.  This is not going to be pretty.

I had been eating here since moving to the area in 2000.  And like many a tourist I either discovered it by walking around the neighborhood after a night of libations, or through word of mouth.  It’s been a while but for me I think it was the former. And then the latter after learning more about this amazing part of the city.

And if memory serves me correctly, I loved it the first time I ate it.  I loved it all the way up until about 2007 or 2008.   And I’m not quite sure what happened.  Either the quality of the food got cheaper, the way the pizza was prepared and heated changed, or my tastes went into a whole different trajectory.

BOPBuild

Lets be clear.  At one point this was my favorite place for pizza.  I craved getting pies of all flavors.  I loved the cheese, white, pepperoni, and many other toppings.  When I lived in Towson, during and after college, my friends and I would make special weekend trips to get a couple of boxes for carry-out.   I thought it was quality pizza.  And high quality at that.   Not anymore.

In the late 2000’s to now I have seen such a sharp decline that it’s alarming.   I’ve eaten here day and night and the quality has been lackluster regardless of the hour.   I wanted to think that the effort is not quite there after the bars close vs. during the day, but it’s bad all-around.

But yet I kept going back because I wanted to believe that the quality would resurface.  And it’s one of the first places I grabbed a slice when living in the area.   Then I started to go out of my way to avoid it.   What’s even worse now is when I’m in the area, I don’t even think to go unless it’s with friends or for the purpose of this blog.

BOP.Cheese.WhiteBOP.Pep.Pesto

And speaking of that, I will be reviewing four slices, albeit briefly, which took place over two different visits.  One was during the day and one was near closing time.  It doesn’t matter which took place when as they were all pretty disappointing.

BOPCheeseBOPWhiteBOP.PepBOP.Pesto

When I said I will be brief I was serious.  The order does not matter but I got a cheese, white, pepperoni, and that funny looking one.  That’s a cheese with pesto on top.  I had ordered a white slice with said pesto and they gave me that.  I wasn’t even in the mood to tell them they messed up, as the point is moot.

BOPOven

There is no soul to this pizza anymore.  The crust, the cheese, and the toppings had no flavor.  Sometimes I felt like I was eating soap.  It was a struggle to finish any of these.  They look so much better than they tasted.  The dough was cooked funny and I don’t see how a brick oven can make this.  It’s a tragedy.

BOPMenu

And for what they charge there is no justification.  These are not premium slices.

The staff working the front has also left a lot to be desired.  I get people have bad days but a lot of these folks seem to phoning it in.  And that energy reverberates to everything.

BOPCeleb

I think the celebrity testimonials are wonderful but I suspect many are from years ago, when the pizza was impressive.

I write all this because I care.  I miss the old B.O.P.   And I don’t it coming back.  In a way it’s heartbreaking but it’s also time to move on.  Every now and again if I’m desperate maybe I’ll grab a slice but there are food options elsewhere.

Many folks from the area will disagree and I understand.   Some of my friends are loyal to this place.  I was but my heart isn’t there anymore.   It’s time to move on.

BOPVan

I can only hope the Fells Point pizza will get better from here.

Best,

Ideen

Highlandtown Strong

FilipposPie

This past Saturday, September 5th, 2005 was a day I made sure to mark down on my calendar.   I didn’t believe it ahead of time, but it was National Cheese Pizza Day.  Yes there is a day dedicated to one of the most enjoyable things to nosh on.

In honor of this historical fact I wanted to find a place that would be befitting of such a monumental day in history.  This also means there will be nothing artisanal, farm-to-table, or overly pretentious.

It’s about good old-fashioned cheese pizza that is no thrills but full of deliciousness!

Nearly a month prior I visited Filippo’s in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore.

If you had been going here before late last Summer, you saw the old Filippo’s.  It had a feeling of a very old and sketchy neighborhood bar and restaurant.  The times I had visited then felt so disorganized and disheveled that I actually found it refreshing to some of the more pretentious joints popping up all over the place.  Nevertheless, it still felt uneasy being in there that I never felt good about my purchases.  And they weren’t always up to par, food or drink.

Filippo'sStore

Transformation is a wonderful thing.  Nearly a year ago the restaurant and bar has been refurbished to the point of being unrecognizable.  And that’s meant as the highest compliment.   It’s a place locals and visitors from farther away can be proud to say they’ve frequented.

The pizza up until a year ago was mediocre-to-decent at best.  Again, what a little hard work, belief, and rejuvenation can do!

Of course a large cheese pizza was on the menu and that’s what was purchased.  I believe we got the 16″ for the price of $13.99, and it was well worth what the asking price was.

FilipposSlice

What a vision of beauty that is!  When I think of a very good pie that doesn’t try to be something it isn’t, this would be a strong example of that.

The crust was the right mix of crispy with just a little softness to make a perfect balance per slice.  The cheese tasted like a great mozzarella would.  And there’s always room to mention how awesome the cheese looks baked into the crust.  It’s done with precision. And the sauce was just right.  This makes this one of those quintessential pies that is worth seeking out for.

It’s not going to win any awards but maybe that isn’t their intent.  It’s just a delicious pie, in a thriving neighborhood, that deserves praise.

FilipposWithWine

I enjoyed my slice with a glass of wine and drizzled some parmesan cheese in for good measure.

For a pizza pie to commemorate on National Cheese Pizza Day, this is one I’m grateful to have tried.

I will add that the vibe and energy inside has increased ten-fold since they’ve redone the place. The bartenders have always been friendly and the outdoor seating has a cozy small-town feel going for it.

If there is a complaint, the pie took a while to come to us and it wasn’t too busy of a night.

They do have plenty of specials on drinks as well, more can be found here.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a review of a spot in Baltimore.  More is coming and some are going to be very familiar with the locals…

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen