When In Pass-a-Grille…

BrassMonkeyPizzaPie3

Yes, I love saying Pass-a-Grille (the southern most point of St. Pete Beach) and will try to slip it into every conversation even if it makes no sense.

When I first touched ground in the Gulf Coast of Florida two months ago, I don’t recall what my first stop in St. Petersburg was, or what my first stop was to begin with.   My host friend, who is a dear friend, helped me get so much in that it looks like one long story, as opposed to a bunch of places that were just there and now are forgettable.

While some might be easy to forget, this trip is loaded with positive memories, and stories that I can take with me forever, wherever I go.

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One that really resonates, and gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling, is when my friend took me to The Brass Monkey.

BrassMonkeySign

Now she had told me weeks prior that she visited a place that is owned and operated by folks who have ties to the Maryland area. That can only mean their love for Baltimore and Maryland area sports.  And that’s exactly what we’re talking about.   It took me a few minutes to realize I was in the presence of so much local sports posters and memorabilia. Not only sports, but symbols of what makes Maryland great also display proudly.

BrassMonkeySide

What’s not to like?

I recall my excitement as my friend and I were deciding on what to eat for lunch and said she had a place in mind.  In hindsight I should’ve put everything together.  But what would be the fun in that?

As we drove down towards beautiful St. Pete Beach my excitement levels were reaching heights I haven’t felt in a while.  I’m on vacation, to an extent we’re on vacation, and just being in a new place, with beautiful weather, and friendly people is going to amp up the enthusiasm.

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I realized as we got closer down the beach where we were headed.   I’m grateful for the ride, this experience, and we have yet to sit down.

BrassMonkeyMenu

Since it was lunchtime, it was the perfect time to grab a seat anywhere (we chose the bar) and to appreciate our surroundings.  And each other of course.  We were in great moods and felt like we ran the place.  Of course we didn’t but we got a kick out of entertaining ourselves each other.  That’s as important as the wining (or in this insance, boozing) and dining.

BrassMonkeyPizzaMenu

Now I’ll cut to the chase.  I did order a pizza, we also ordered wings & fries, and then Fancy Fries which are friend green beans.  It’s bar food with a little twist.  The fried green beans were the true highlight of this meal.

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I didn’t get a pizza expecting it to be world class or this earth shattering experience.  I got a vegetable pie just hoping it would be something to enjoy in the space and time that we were in.

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While it was loaded with more mozzarella cheese than some may prefer.  I didn’t mind. I’d say the more, the merrier, which can also mean even more leftovers.  The cheese, veggies, and crust are simple for a bar, and good enough.   And maybe the quality could have been up there a little more, it’s more than worthwhile to share with friends or to heat up and serve for the next few days after.  Which is exactly what happened.

 

The wings and fries were decent, but I’m telling you these fancy fries are what did it for me.  When I look back in pictures I honestly forgot that’s what we had.  We had a lot of appetizers before the main event.   And the main event might just be any meal you have on vacation.

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If you’re expecting healthy eats with diet friendly portions, this won’t work in your favor. But hearty portions is right in lines with what you’ll get.

BrassMonkeyDrinkMenu

Our frozen drinks were stellar too.  The menu is above, I’ll let you figure out what is what, with the beverages listed below.

 

But the true draw of this place is location, atmosphere, and the local flavor for those of us in Maryland.  It’s the quintessential home away from home.

 

While it was great to be away, it was a charming reminder of where I come from and what I’ll be going back to.

 

And I will be coming back to Brass Monkey (to order something different, maybe those crab cakes!) upon my return to beautiful St. Pete and beautiful St. Pete Beach, and that Pass-a-Grille, which I can never get enough of saying.

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For more on the Brass Monkey, here is their story, their menu,  football info,  beach apparel for sale, and contact info.

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Here’s the now growing list of Florida pizza spots I’ve visited.

Thanks so much and I hope you’re summer has been beautiful.

Ideen

 

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.

JoeSquaredFlag

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

Now Open For Business

AngelinasPizza1

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.

AngelinasPizza3

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

 

Detroit Medleys

8BallMotorCity

A chance meeting with a friend I haven’t seen in decades (yes I said decades), and one pizza place we were going to that was closed on a Monday, led us to our destiny.

8Ball

8 Ball Meatball in the historic Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore, is worth going out of you’re way for. Well if you live in Fells Point or a neighboring neighborhood (ha) you don’t have to venture too far.  But honestly at times it felt like I was in another universe. And based on this experience, this alternate universe is one I welcome on at least a semi-regular basis.

But first here is more about them, their menu, and contact info, and my previous pizzeria reviews of historic Fells Point.

My friend and I cut right to the case and saw two pies we wanted to order, based on the name alone.

8BallMedley4

We ordered the Motor City and the 8Ball aka Meatball.  Our server was in agreement.

Before I continue I honestly heard (honestly I’ve never heard) of Detroit-style Pizza in passing.   But I didn’t know it was a a thing. And I didn’t know if would be something I would be a part of, and what a beautiful experience and first impression it would be.

The 8×10 square shaped pies are perfect for sharing.  It looks deceptive that one might be enough for one.  But with it’s thicker, yet not too heavy of a crust, similar to Chicago-style pizza, a couple of those slices might be enough.

Oh it was enough. But how beautiful these three pies were.  Did I say three? We only ordered two.  More on that in a bit…

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8BallMotorCitySlice

The Motor City was my favorite.  Maybe because it was the first pie I tasted.  It just had everything perfect going for it.   The simple combination of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and pepperoni was perfection.  That pepperoni is something I’m still fully appreciating a few days after the fact.  The crust, the perfectly burnt and oily side of the crust is the reason why I write about this, and sometimes so specifically.  This was the pie.   And it’s one of my favorite pies ever.  Can someone send me some now? So good.

8BallMeatball3

8BallMeatballSlice

The 8 Ball Meatball was good but in honestly pales in comparison to the Motor City. Maybe we were expecting bigger pieces of meatball, but that’s a fault of expectations. The tiny meatballs were charming but maybe I didn’t get to taste enough?  The chives and parmesan were a nice touch yet this doesn’t compete with the Motor City.  That Motor City I tell you.

This is the part where the manager figured out I was a blogger and I had my friend who was a photographer.  The conversation got really good and really quickly.  This part easily couldn’t have happened but our stay became much more about the education, the experience, and all the nuances of this restaurant and the history of how they started serving Detroit-style Pizza.  Which has only been a few months by the way.

And I did mention a third pie right?

8BallBuffaloChicken

Brian, the manager, has proclaimed that he will put their Buffalo Chicken Pizza up against any in the city.  This is one he gave to us on the house. Talk about world class service. We didn’t expect it, didn’t ask for it, but everything was aligning properly.  We were supposed to be here on this night and no other (at least for now) and free is always more fun.

8BallBuffaloChicken2

The melange of Buffalo sauce, cheddar and mozzarella (which is always a beautiful cheese combination), red onion, blue cheese drizzle, and those tiny piece of buffalo chicken meatballs made for a real treat.   Those chicken meatballs really did it for me. This is a masterpiece and I’m not just saying this because Brian said so.  It’s really that awesome.

8BallBuffaloChickenSlice

And it was never messy.  It was all organized.  As my friend stated, all the pies were served clean and the pieces broke apart with no effort whatsoever.  It’s those little details that mean so much.

And I must say, as much as the Buffalo Chicken is fantastic, and it really truly is, it still is a slight notch below the Motor City to me.  I really think it might be the simplicity of the Motor City.

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After all this we also got to meet Paul, the head chef.  And even though it may have been a quieter evening he still took the time to talk about his history in the restaurant business throughout many cities he’s cooked.

He mentioned his training in learning how to cook Detroit-style at Buddy’s Pizza from the man himself.  How cool is that?  We would have never heard any of this if we didn’t come in.  I’m being a bit nostalgic over something a few days ago but encounters like this don’t happen enough, so I want to show my enthusiasm any way I can.

8BallTin

We also learned about the pizza being cooked in the blue steel pan.  Nothing glamorous. It’s just a simple steel pan.  I think some of the best work is done when using the most simple of contraptions but there’s a genuine soul and feeling behind the operation.  This is what we felt here.

Paul said that he uses garlic confit oil in the pan to cook his masterpieces.

What a masterpiece this pizza and this experience was.

As we kept talking a few other pies that were on the menu were shown to us and our mouths just kept watering.

At the moment I knew I had to come back.  I wanted to maybe try every pie and save this for one blog post.  But no,  this deserves another commentary.   How this will match or top this experience I don’t know.  That’s not what I should be striving for.  I should be striving for all the great pizza experiences possible.  And I will.  And I will.

This is one of those experiences that came together as organically as possible.  What we thought would be at the most 30-45 minutes turned into an upwards of a two hour experience.

I can only hope for not the same exact experience but everything coming together masterfully and harmoniously.

But for now, get to 8 Ball Meatball.  This pizza is incredible and off the charts.

Ideen

 

Life Changing and Amazing

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Baltimore is going through rapid changes.  Whether those are good or otherwise is anyone’s guess.  But change can be a good thing.  And with change means an upswing in great restaurants, retail, attractions, and everything in between.  Does that mean good pizza?   The answer is a resounding yes.

I’ve deliberately spaced out the heavy hitters and sexy names in the world of pizza in Baltimore and Washington, DC.  Since I live closest to these two cities, I’ve left other cities out, for now.   I intend to go through all the places I can in both metropolitan areas, and other locations, if and when I can.

PaulieGeesFront

With that introduction out of the way, I’m so happy to have finally eaten at one of the most anticipated and widely regarded pizza restaurants to come to the area, Paulie Gee’s of Hampden.

For whatever reason, circumstances prevented me from dining here at any point in time, until earlier this week.   Close friends of mine went around the time of opening to large crowds, long waits, and long faces because some were turned away.   My friends that did get the opportunity to eat have nearly unanimously said it’s fantastic and it has become a great addition to the Hampden neighborhood.

I am now a believer.  I never really had any doubts other than when I hear everyone else rave about it, does that cloud my judgement?  Do I let the opinions and noise of the outside world unfairly influence my opinion, one way or the other?  Yes there’s the sad truth that we can get tired of hearing how great a place is that we’ll cut off our nose to spite our face.  Just to spite it.  I think that’s the phrase.  Anyways, I want to get this out of the way before I start reviewing,  I loved this pizza.  And I’m only getting started.

Let’s begin what might become a regular staple in my life.  No, I take that back.  This is now a part of my life.  Speaking of life, this was life changing.   I don’t want to throw that term ‘life changing’ around too much or it will lose its luster.

Thank goodness I had the perfect person to join me in my debut feast at this sublime and divine restaurant.   My dear friend is a resident of the neighborhood and is a regular of this fair establishment.  It made this experience all the more surreal.   For what I thought would be an hour to an hour-a-half meal turned nearly three hours.  Yes, that’s when you know things are going swimmingly.   No, that’s when you know things are beautiful.

I’ve always thought the entrance and signage had an aura about it and taken on a life of its own.  I almost got scared to walk in.  The times in the past when I drove by I put this place on quite the pedestal and built this up into something I hope would lead to this day. Success.

The dining room is monumental and has another energy about it I don’t need to put into words.  It just is, and it’s spiritual and it’s special.

PaulieGeesSalad

First up,  the salad to get our appetites churning.  The Grape To Meet You (Ah I love these names) was such a joy and a treat.  The arugula on its own was worth the price of admission, or salad.   No, there is no cover to enter.  But the tomatoes and shaved parmesan cheese made this simple salad taste larger-than-life.  So good.

PaulieGeesSaladWine

Our wines paired perfectly with everything by the way.  We each had a couple of glasses. I just want to tie up those loose ends before we get to the main event.

My friend guided and coached me into ordering ideas.   She had something in mind already for her pie, and starting simple and working forward made sense for me.

Once again, a good cheese pizza is a good judge of how the rest of the pies will fare.  It’s just something that makes sense.  If the original pie is going to be amazing then it’s going to make folks think outside of their comfort zones and order more ambitiously from there.  That also means people will keep coming back.

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So I went with the Beatrix Kiddo.  Yes, that title is awesome.  Perhaps you recall where the name came from.  This is their cheese pizza.  I had fennel sausage added to mine, so if I wanted to pick off the pieces and enjoy a cheese or enjoy a Beatrix with fennel I could. Ah this is so fun I know.

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My friend got a White Pizza, the ‘Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me’ with bacon, basil, post heated ricotta dollops (which were a gem), and wait, fennel sausage again?

I didn’t see double dose of fennel until both are pies were out.  Is there something to this? Hmm..  Yes we did share and both were astoundingly awesome.

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I’m not sure which one I loved more but I’m kind of leaning towards the Beatrix.  Maybe I’was and still am in a purist mood.  But the amount of cheese and tomatoes placed on this pie was measured to perfection.  I’m not kidding you.  The sausage was a beautiful touch but I almost think any topping would have added just the perfect hint of something else.  Yes I did pick my toppings off for a slice and enjoyed my plain Neapolitan slice in all its glory and solitude.

PaulieGeesRicottaSlices

The Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me was the perfect dichotomy to the Kiddo.  The bacon and fennel sausage (which is becoming a new favorite of mine) was a powerful meaty combination. But the basil and dollops were the stand-outs for me.  So much yum.

The crust was charred and heated perfectly.  I like that dough was lighter than I expected.  I was told from previous visitors that it may have been a bit heavy for their liking.  That was one of the few minor critiques I heard.  I thought it was just right, so maybe those complaints were unwarranted.

I used the term ‘life changing” again over the course of the meal.  I had genuine reactions of happiness, jubilation, and then a calming over me.  I felt so comfortable during this meal.

This lends itself to the ambiance, the environment, the energy, and the company being just as important as the food itself.  I felt so happy and felt so overjoyed in such a welcoming and inspiring vibe.

PaulieGeesKitchen

I loved how everything was being prepared in the center of the restaurant.  Yes, their kitchen was hiding in plain sight.   The staff was visible but unassuming.   I want to thank our server Jenn who was helpful with our wine and pizza suggestions, and was extremely prompt and attentive in waiting on us.   Thanks so much.

Since this was my inaugural visit, I’m not sure where to go from here.  I can’t leave this to one post.  It would not be right.   There are so many pizzas with charming and over-the-top names to write about that I must come back.  This will need to be revisited and when I do it will make sense and connect with this post.

There are other points-of-view and pieces of information to expound about with Paulie Gee’s but I shall save that for next time.

To click on more info for a location near you, go here.

For the Baltimore menu, hours, and frequently asked questions click here.

My friend did tell me that they are good in supporting and promoting local businesses, and being involved in the community.   In addition, the general manager was visible and did have a presence about him that commanded the room. I wish I got a chance to thank for him all our awesome food, and an evening that will be imprinted into my memory forever.

But like I said, this will be done again and done again soon.

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Thanks so much Paulie Gee’s and thanks so much for reading.

Feeling fortunate,

Ideen

 

Fame and Fortunatos

FortunatoSlices

I know right.  That’s the title I came up with and I’m sticking to it.  Actually I could change it at any time but I don’t see that happening.

For as long as this blog has been going, and we’re past two years now, I always knew I would get to writing about Fortunato Brothers of Towson.

FortunatoFront

Dating back to 2000, I’ve been a semi-regular visitor of this pizzeria.  And it’s a pizzeria alright.  There’s nothing cute about the inside.  There’s pies on display for slice ordering, a standard soda machine, and a few tables for indoor dining.   First and foremost, it’s all about getting food to go.

I’ve seen it cramped at times with patrons waiting for their orders.  I haven’t seen it quite to the point of being uncomfortable, but it’s been close.

But to tell you the truth their pizza has never done it for me.  It’s not like it’s bad.  Most pizza isn’t truly bad, it’s just that for an establishment that has been around over 40 years I would hope their pizza would be on par with some of the best, if not the good ones, in the area.

I don’t think it’s ever come close.   It’s good enough that I come to get a quick slice from time-to-time, but I’ve always felt it to be averages.  It’s a decent slice and a solid price. And usually two slice with a soda will cost around $7.  No complaints with that.

The main issue to me is the quality.

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This go around I went with a chicken parmesan and a white spinach slice.

FortunatoChickenParm

First, the chicken parmesan was adequate but something was missing.  The pieces of chicken were missing that taste and texture that would complement a pizza.  It doesn’t have to be award winning but I’d like a little more flavor.  Something just felt off. The cheese and sauce were fine.  It made for a decent slice but nothing more.  I will say that the crust was fantastic.  It’s enough to eat if you’re in a pinch for a slice but nothing out-of-this-world.

FortunatoSpinach

Next up is the white spinach.  Again, the crust was good but not quite on par with the chicken parm.   I don’t know what happened but the spinach and tomatoes didn’t work here.  They didn’t taste fresh.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the cheese either.  This one surprised me even more.

It almost seemed that the veggies have gone through multiple heating and then re-freezing.  That means the pizza itself has been heated and then cooled again overnight.  I have no evidence of that other than a feeling and based on past experience of similar issues with similar pizza pies.   That doesn’t explain why the crust was still good, or maybe the crust being just a tad below the first slice might explain enough.

I’m not against saving food but for the sake of making money and reusing slices that seemed have sat out too long, that’s disappointing.

You know me.  I look for the positives in all instances of pizza.  But the negatives outweigh anything else.  And this how it’s been for me for quite some time.

I know people who love their pizza and sing the praises of how this is the original Fortunato’s and it’s the best.  I don’t see if that way. Yes this is an interesting local chain. It’s branched off with other locations but they’re not all connected, if any of them are to begin with.  This version has always been just there to me  It’ll be a place I’ll get something to eat in a rush and that’s about it.    The staff over time has always seem to be laid back.  Maybe they’re too laid back?

This is the beginning of something.  Or maybe not.  I don’t make posts with the intent of not following up or referring to later.  There is significance with all of this.   I will be exploring the  various Fortunato locations in the area to see if there is a connection even when there isn’t.    This could make for some interesting discoveries.  I still don’t know all the details so that’s where the discovering will come in.

Here is their menu and online ordering info for our friends in the Towson area, or the county/city line.

My hunch tells me I got something good for next week.

Ideen

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

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And I mean that.  Ceriello Fine Foods of Brewers Hill and Belvedere Square has that cozy Italian Market feel that resembles a throwback to markets you might have gone to when stores like this were more prevalent, and a lovely meeting place in your neighborhood to talk about anything.   Or if you’re lucky there’s one close to you that still keeps all the traditions and goodness of why you came in the first place.

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I can’t place my finger on why places like this draw me and so many others exactly.  At least for it’s the hope I’m supporting local businesses and that my support is going to a place with good intentions that mirrors the customers intentions.  I hope that makes sense.  I also think my overly sentimental nature wants to believe that these business come more from the heart than more larger and national chains that are strictly business and don’t always bring the personable aspect to how they run their operations, versus say a local one.

And Ceriello is a growing company.  They’re originally in New York and now have added a few more in the state, as well as expanding into New Jersey, and now Maryland. The local flavor is still there.

The feeling I’ve been getting from Ceriello is that they do things the right way.  And they’re making it effortless.

I’ve always had a good feeling and food service every time I’ve visited.  Whether it’s ordering a sandwich, wine (click here to read about the wines pictured throughout this blog) prepared foods, pasta, other various groceries, and of course pizza.

And in the less than one year they’ve been open, they seem to have made a positive impact on the local community in Southeast Baltimore.

This is the first time I’ve tried their pizza.  Luckily, in Baltimore they do have a strong sandwich and pizza menu that seems to have expanded greatly from the link here.

I’m glad I took a picture of their choices here that were in front of the oven.  Oh wait, I got a picture of this beautiful oven too!   So after debating on which pie to get and agonizing over a couple, I went with both.  Yes, when all things are undecided, go with both.  And I’m so glad I did.

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First up is the one I originally wanted and almost hedged on, the Quattro Stagioni aka The Four Seasons.  For our pals in Maryland this is for us.  We’ve experienced all four season the past few weeks weather wise, this made perfect sense.  Little did I know that the pie would actually be divided by the four toppings on separate parts of the pizza.  This looks genius, crafty, creative, and most of all beautiful.   What I did notice that even though peppers were on the menu, I’m guessing onions were the substitute.  And believe me, whether or not that was a honest mistake or meant to be in place of the peppers, I’m happy with that.

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The toppings tasted fresh and I mean fresh.  Maybe even farm fresh.  But I’m no expert on what’s farmed or not.  But the mushrooms, caramelized onions, and zucchini tasted like they were from another universe. Maybe that’s how they’re truly supposed taste, just plain natural. And in my usual true-to-form I took plenty of liberties into picking piece of off my pie and enjoying them on their own.   The prosciutto, or cotta, was also really tasty, and a nice dichotomy to all the vegetables that dominated the pie.

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The mozzarella cheese worked perfectly as a backdrop but was not lost in the shuffle. Cheese is always the heart and soul of any pizza. Without good cheese everything else goes down the tubes.

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I did want to mention the crust.  The way this was heated made the dough soft and chewy which in many instances works perfectly.  Some people aren’t going to like that.  It’s not your New York or crunchy thin crust style.  But it’s a style that is the perfect comfort food for any time of comfort.  And it’s still cold, but by the time you read this it could feel like close to Summer in the Maryland area, but the point is still there.  This is a pizza you can fold in half, or appreciate it for what it is, with the perfect charring and tasty crust.

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It paired with an interesting white wine (more on the wine will be updated this Wednesday here).  As you can see above I got all four seasons in these two slices.  So exciting I know!

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Next up was the pizza maker’s suggestion and favorite, the Pizza Polpetta, which was the Meatball.  And man they did meatballs much differently than I expected.  I’ve had meatballs on top of pies which can sometimes cause a mess, fall off, and be too much to eat in one bite.  Not that it wasn’t tasty or created in their vision, but sometimes less is more.  This was more.  The meatballs were baked into the cheese. and they were sliced in the most precisely cut small pieces.  I did not expect that but was pleasantly surprised.   The caramelized onions which seemed to be familiar, oh wait haha, and the provolone really made this pie.  The red sauce and mozzarella once again played second fiddle but in a good way.

I wanted to show you the inside of one of these slices, so without sounding gross, this literally is a dissection of the sliced meatballs and onions with slices of provlone baked under the mozzarella.   I know, so cool right?

This paired with a standard Chianti.  And pizza with meat and red sauce screams an Italian red.

For more on the wines, go here.

The list of their pies is boundless so if I get the opportunity, like I’ve said about many places before, I would love to come back again.  But regardless of that, this place has so much to offer.

And you don’t have to live in the area to get all the  good products and good energy they have to offer.

Here are some links to help you in that direction.

Here’s their list of stores and contact info.

To order by phone, click here.   And here’s where you can order gift baskets and their catering info.

And for our friends in Baltimore, here is their food menu, that I know has grown immensely.

What a treat this was. Seriously, this was two fantastic pizzas.  And I look forward to having more again, in times of comfort or any season I care to celebrate, or all four!

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Oh by the way, they do a pizza and wine night.  For our friends in Baltimore you have may experienced this.  I have yet to have the pleasure.   I hope I get the opportunity.  Oh and…

Happy Early Spring,

Ideen