Grotto Pizza – The Revival

GrottoSlices

A dear friend of mine had asked me I had written about Grotto Pizza, and specifically about the Columbia, MD location.  I never asked him why that one specifically?  I could envision him saying, ‘well why not?’  That’s exactly right.  And this is in celebration of National Pizza Month.

GrottoFront

I never explained to my pal that back in May of 2015, I was pretty harsh on the place.  But this was the Dewey Beach location. We’re talking Memorial Day Weekend, loads of people, lines for food and drinks everywhere, and a likely rush for the way anything is prepared.   I don’t often read my old posts but I can imagine I said something similar but still being really hard on their pizza.

I’m not usually one to be critical.  I discuss a place on how it presents or how I feel it tries to present itself.  It’s all in the intention.  If a place carries some weight and gives off the aura and energy that their pizza, their ambiance, their energy, and their everything is larger than life, then I’ll look at them in a different light than a more casual pizza place.  And if it thinks it’s a little too cool for school or a bit ostentatious, then I will factor that in.

Fortunately, Grotto carries itself in a quite laid back fashion.  Even as this chain grows into a full service bar and restaurant, with locations growing from the Maryland and Delaware beaches slowly into the DC area, it still maintains a welcoming and folksy vibe that I believe they’ve been presenting for the 57 years it’s been open. Yes since 1960!  Math is fun!

While I don’t do many repeats, I feel this was necessary.  And I love thoughtful requests and I love a good redux.

I will say that the Columbia location is among the many spots where there is new development, a new era in living (which is happening in many places), and a revival of sorts.  Whether that’s good or bad is all relative and all on how you think communities should look.

But in the end it’s still always about the pizza, and then some of those other details.

I came at a quieter time, before the lunch rush.  So I had the full and undivided of the kind folks behind the counter.  Yes they were so kind.

You have an easy to use to-go board for ordering, if you don’t feel like sitting at a bar or table.  Before I departed the tables were starting to fill, but I digress.

As an homage to my first recap, everything was to go, and of course I ordered a cheese and then a pepperoni slice.  As a bonus, and just to see how another pie tastes, I went with the Buffalo Chicken.

GrottoCheese

The cheese and pepperoni were much better this time.  I love that the pepperoni is buried under the cheese. And the way the cheese is layered on top, in a charming and well thought out pattern is always a joy to see.

GrottoPepperoni

No, these are not to be the best pizzas of all time.   They’re fun.  The crust is a standard thin crust.  These are good slices for on the go and they do the job.  At around $6-$7 for two slices and a soda, that’s a solid deal.

GrottoBuffaloChicken

I can’t quite say the same about the Buffalo Chicken.  My main issue is the price.  At $18 for a medium, which presents itself more like a small, it’s a little pricier than I feel it should.

The sauce, chicken, cheese, and crust were fine but nothing special.  It’s a solid pizza, but not at the price.

You can see by the menu, that they have a plethora of pies, that you see in many pizzerias, with a few of their own creative takes thrown in…

…this is why I think another visit before the year is over is necessary.  So I’m thinking by the holidays, and I have a specific location in mind.

GrottoSlicesMenu

If you’re a fan of Grotto, my opinion is not going to sway you one way or another. People love the tradition and history behind the place.  I love tradition.  I love sentimentality.  It’s a place many of our parents and grandparents took us during Summer outings to the beach.  And now that it’s in a neighborhood or town near you, new traditions, homages, and memories can be made.

I look forward to creating another memory later this year.

For more on Grotto, here is their menu, locationscontact info, and their history.

Thank you so much.  Happy National Pizza Month.  And peace be with you…

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True Tampa Style

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaSlices3

I owe all this one to a dear friend who I visited this past June in St. Petersburg, FL.  I visited many friends, many amazing places, and experienced many awesome things.  For that I’m grateful to everyone who welcomed me and made me feel like home.  And it certainly did.

This vacation was somewhat bookended my some sight seeing in Tampa.  While it’s always fun playing tourist, it’s always a pleasure when a friend looks up pizzerias in the vicinity, to try, and for the sake of this blog.  If it wasn’t for my friend’s insistence this post would never see the light of day.

Thank goodness for good friends.  And thank goodness for great ‘za.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaFront

After a few circles and strolls around Downtown Tampa, we marked our territory in what I now realize is the highly sought after and touted, Eddie & Sam’s N.Y. Pizza.

Eddie&SamsSide

As many of us do on a trip, we over indulge, we like the finer things in life, and we should always strive for those finer things.   With that said, I had five massive slices.

I mean who knows when I’ll be back here? I have every intention of doing so, but still, you never know.  And before you ask, no I did not eat everything.  I essentially ate a little bit of each, and then some more, and then some more.  And hopefully the significant amount that was saved was left for the person it was intended for.  I ask and I still don’t think I remember how that turned out.  Alright enough of that.

How I review is this going to be instinctive yet going with the flow as I write this.  That might mean the same thing, I’m not quite sure right now.

First, let me say that the dough on these pies is tremendous.  For some it stood out with much more passion than others.

Eddie & Sam’s imports water from New York to make this as authentic as it possibly can. I understand that the elements of time, space, and travel may not make this exactly New York Style.  And being in another state may pay a part in that.  But to be honest, I haven’t been to New York in quite some time.  I forgot how their pizza tasted.  I just remember some places being great, some being drab, and some everywhere in between.

We’ve all been to places that claim NY Style, only to be disappointed or accept the fact that it’s just pizza, sometimes good, but nothing memorable.

It’s been three months and I still think about these slices.  A lot has to do with being a new city, an unfamiliar city, an unpredictability of where this day was going, and being around great company.

Here are the five I ordered:  1) Cheese, 2) Blanca aka White, 3) Buffalo Chicken, 4) Chicken Bacon Ranch, and 5) Lasagna.   I realize now that vegetables are missing in this discussion.  I must have been in the mood for some protein.  This also leaves the door wide open for another visit and post sometime.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaCheeseSlice

The cheese and buffalo chicken were the two main stand outs for me.   And if you judge a place by its cheese, this place is doing things perfectly.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaBuffaloChickenSlice

But it was the dough on the buffalo chicken that stood apart from all the other slices. And yes while they overloaded all these stunning pieces of chicken on this pie, the softness of the dough mixed in with periodic crispy bites made this comfort food to perfection.

These were my two favorite slices by far.

Eddie&Sams LasagnaSlice

The lasagna was loaded with flavors but maybe I was expecting something more.  While still really good, I wanted a little more wow.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaWhiteSlice2

The Blanca, while good, still is not what I had come to expect from a white slice.  I’ve mentioned this numerous times before, and maybe I need to lower expectations.  Maybe my tastes keep evolving but I don’t remember the last time a white pizza blew me away or was at least great.  This came close but not quite what I was looking for.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaChickenBaconRanchSlice

The Chicken Bacon ranch was my least favorite of the bunch.  But it does get credit for having real pieces of breaded chicken and genuine pieces of bacon.   In many instances the slices served by many pizzerias will only include diced pieces of chicken and bacon bits.  That’s defeatist and in a way misleading to a pizza patron.  For presentation, Eddie & Sam’s get a lot of credit.

Overall, this was a wonderful, memorable, and joyous experience.   Another thing, these pizza slices vary in price.  I think for my five I spent around $25.  It sounds pricey but an experience like this was invaluable and worth its weight in pizza, and in everything else.

And while the exterior feels welcoming yet intimidating all at once (depending on your point of view), there’s room for everyone and the staff was working hard and were extremely friendly.  I sense many of the folks took pride in the pizzas they were creating, and aimed to make them the best they could possibly be.

That’s all you can ask for.

Eddie&SamsMeatLovers

Well my friend did order this work of art.  What else needs to be said?

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaMenu

Here is Eddie & Sam’s Menu and their contact information.

They make over 20 slices a day, so I want to say we’re just getting started.

We’re just getting started.   It’s New York Style yes, but I’d like to call this Tampa Style. Tampa now has my heart, but maybe it always did.

Let’s do this again sometime.

Take good care,

Ideen

 

 

 

South River Situations

BellaSeraSlices

A dear friend, who has helped me with this blog over the past couple of years, always suggests to change up the city or town of pizzerias and pizza parlors, whenever I can.  If I end up in a place I’ve never written about, you know for sure I’ll be looking and hoping I discover something of a gem.

BellaSeraFront

Bella Sera of Edgewater, MD is a not-so-hidden gem in a strip mall loaded with chain restaurants and box stores that so many towns are loaded with, and make an otherwise charming town look well, just like every other.

So you could look at it and say, thankfully there is a local pizzeria, restaurant, in a sea of chains, and think to yourself, that it’s good that local business is still there and still thriving.  The other school of thought is well, you have a local operation that’s there and allowed to exist, in spite of everything around it.  I hope that makes sense.  And I’m not talking about this restaurant in particular.  It’s more of how I’m observing things.

Last year I had passed through Edgewater several times and literally just kept on going.  I didn’t stop and appreciate what was around me.  These things and moments are important to me.  It’s not a big thing, but the little things lead to big things.  And they’re all significant.   I had seen Bella Sera in pizzeria searches and then driving through, but I kept moving along.  I can tell myself that it wasn’t meant to be.  But at the time, it wasn’t…

Now it’s over a year later, and I’m back again under the most unusual, yet entertaining of circumstances.  That’s more of inside joke to me, but that’s how the universe works.  The currents and the energies led me here and I finally need to make the most of it.

Snuggled (or nestled) in one of the more approachable looking shopping centers, this pizzeria looks like a castle from the outside.   I had high hopes and sometimes those hopes based on nothing but how the exterior looks can lead to unrealistic expectations.

It was right before dinner time, so it was just starting to get busy, but thankfully they still had a lavish display of pizza slices on the counter.  I’m grateful for this because many establishments will nix slices in favor of whole pies for dinner time.  It’s a concept I completely understand, yet I find it refreshing when slices are available open to close. It’s so beautiful.

The exchange when I ordered was awkward to say the least.  And I’ll put most of this on me.   For inspired reasons, I went from wanting to order two slices to four.   Realizing that I would actually be saving money if I ordered a whole pie, I still went with the slices. I didn’t get the sense that mentioning my blog would be rejected, but nor was I feeling like explaining myself.  I stand by that decision.

And now I figured out why I might have been better off ordering a pie… I’ll get to that in a few moments.

BellaSeraSlices3

I ordered (here is the menu) the cheese, buffalo chicken, the spring white, and the inspired call was the spaghetti slice.   I’ve reviewed a similar slice here, to great results.

First off, I did not eat all of this right away,  I saved a lot for later.  Eating too much of this would be crazy.  I got three meals out of this, and that’s me trying to make myself feel better about this.

BellaSeraCheese2

The cheese was the best.  It’s simple.  The thin crust was great, and the cheese and sauce are exactly what you would want from a plain slice.  How does it stack up again others I’ve had?  I can’t say.  They’re all similar yet unique in their own essence.  I know there’s a real soul and a real emotion behind the making of these particular slices, and that counts for a lot.

BellaSeraBuffaloChicken

The buffalo chicken, again had a great crust.  The crusts on all of these stood out in a good way.  I see that the buffalo chicken is homemade.  That’s always a plus.  This wasn’t my favorite.  Something about the blue cheese, and maybe the mozzarella cheese didn’t work this time. It was a style clash that may work more times than not. But this didn’t click for me.

BellaSeraChicken

The spring white looked gorgeous.  The grilled chicken strips were so great. I could’ve had a plate or bowl of those on their own.  So in my traditional fashion I had a few on their own.   Maybe my tastes for white pizzas have changed or I’m having higher expectations because this didn’t gel like I hoped either.  The tomatoes tasted fresh, as did the boat loads of spinach (which I appreciate), but the actual white pizza by itself felt like it was lacking something.  It didn’t wow me.  I really wanted it too.

The spaghetti slice was $7.  That’s why I was told an actual pie of anything else would be better.  This was not worth $7.  This will fill you up.  And while it was good, the reminder of what I paid for did bring this down some.   This is something you could get multiple meals out of if you wanted.   But I wasn’t loving it.

If you look at their menu, their prices are on the higher end of what you may see elsewhere.  But that comes with a local business, and being in proximity (20-30 minutes Southwest) the state capitol of Annapolis will do that.

With that understanding I can understand the prices.  The other slices were $3-$4 which is reasonable and justifiable.

I will absolutely come back.   I’ll put a lot of this on me.  Maybe I forced this experience and it didn’t feel as organic as I hoped.  That’s going to make any food taste a bit differently.   Our minds are funny like that.

But I’m all for local and always want these businesses to succeed.  So if I’m in the area (which happens more times than I realize), I will absolutely get some more pizza, and maybe try some of their other entrees once again.

BellaSeraDoor

Here is more of their story, their menu, their contact info and location, and online ordering for our pals that are local.

Thanks so much and have a blessed weekend.

Ideen

The Cheese Stands

AnthonysSlices

I wanted to love everything Anthony’s N.Y. Pizza & Pasta House.  It wasn’t quite everything I hoped it would be.  But after thinking about it I don’t know what I was hoping for exactly then and now.   I wanted good pizza and there was some of that.  But that little extra oomph wasn’t there.  And I really thought it would happen.

AnthonysStoreFront

The beautiful thing is pizza is everywhere and it will always be everywhere.  In every town, every city, and every neighborhood there’s going to be some semblance of a pizza parlor, pizzeria, or a restaurant.    It makes my day discover a new one in a town I don’t always frequent, Bowie, MD.

What I’ve found fascinating is in talking to close friends who live in proximity have never heard of this place.   In doing further research there is a similar sentiment.  Maybe the location isn’t ideal or noticeable immediately.  To me it’s perfect.

However, I wouldn’t say this is in the most folksy or most approachable part of town. Where that is in Bowie I don’t know, but when I see a pizza place, in particular, one with slices to go, the small town and romanticizing of a happy place and folksy folks (while a more-than-welcomed bonus) is not always going to be there.  And that’s ok.  I  think.

I had come to find out that owner of this and the Clarksville (I’ll get to that later) locations are from New York, which means the N.Y. Style is actually more authentic and since than many of these places that say N.Y. Style as a cliche and the slices are bland and taste worse because they portray themselves as something they’re not.

So expectations were set a little higher.   I didn’t expect this to be just like New York Pizza.  To be honest, I could barely count on two hands how many times I’ve had N.Y. Style and it’s different.  But you don’t have to be an expert to know the difference.  There is an aura about it.  There’s so many elements that make a pizza a pizza.  And for with New York like any city, there is an aura about it.

Just like any other food, it’s going to be best served in the city or country of origin.

It could be the water, the universe, or just being there in that moment that makes it what it is.

And just because the location is different means the pizza will be a cheap imitation.  It doesn’t necessarily have to match the authenticity of said location, but it can be great and it can even be a masterpiece.

AnthonysBuffChicken3

I wanted to love the three slices I ordered.  I don’t always feel like that about places.  But this one had something else going for it I can’t put into words.  That could be once again romanticizing the situation and only hoping for the best.    Luckily, one slice really stood above all else.  Maybe the title gave it away.  I’ll save that for that.

AnthonysChickenSpinach

First up was the Chicken and Spinach White with balsamic glaze.   I’ve said it before that certain pizzas have that whole doesn’t equal the sum of its parts situation.  This one also fits that bill.

AnthonysChickenSpinach3

This white pizza looked spectacular.  And you’re going to get a theme from this and the next slice.  It’s not a case of judging a book by its cover.  But in the reverse sense.  This had all the makings of an amazing pizza but something didn’t completely work.

I think there was too much going on.  I never got a taste of the balsamic.  And the cheese also seemed to vanish.  The spinach was great.  I enjoyed picking pieces of spinach off my slice and enjoyed them on their own.  But that chicken was phenomenal.  I would gladly eat pile of these blackened pieces of chicken on their own, or with a spinach salad.  I mean it.  The chicken was spectacular.  I think the main take from this was the pizza crust didn’t work here.  I think if the crust had more of that crunch you’d expect I might be telling a different story.   But it didn’t necessarily need to be NY Style.  Something was just off.  This was ordered right at lunch time so the pizza was fresh.  But something fell short.

AnthonysBuffChicken2

The same goes for the Buffalo Chicken.   It looked so beautiful.  The celery was fantastic as was the breaded buffalo chicken.   What went wrong for me was the blue cheese. It was bit too heavy for me.  And equally as rough was the buffalo sauce.   This is something that can easily be remedied.  I’ve personally made foods with buffalo sauce and sometimes add a little too much.  It happens.   I think others will love it but this wasn’t as good as I hoped.   Again that crust was the issue.

AnthonysBuffChicken

But…

AnthonysCheese

The cheese.  It may look like a standard cheese slice, which is everything right.   I don’t know if I planned it that way, but I did eat this one last.  And I’ll tell you, you can always judge a place by how good their cheese is.  This was fantastic.  This is not the best cheese slice I’ve ever hard.  And honestly, I don’t remember where that was.  But this was tremendous.  There is no special reason why this was.  And I wouldn’t say this because it’s authentic N.Y. Style.  I think there’s a bigger spirit and soulful element here.  What that is I don’t know.  And maybe I’m not supposed to.  Not yet at least.

I don’t often do repeats.  And if I do it may be a different location.  It makes it exciting to do a compare and contrast.

I’m sentimental to the small town of Clarksville, MD and had no idea there was a second location there.   Small business is a beautiful thing and I’m happy to support it.   So when I get a chance to visit this will be revisited again.

AnthonysFloor

And I look forward to sharing it with you.

Have a happy holiday weekend.

Ideen

 

Four For The Fourth

VitosAllFour

It’s already July and that makes me sad.    Some people view the upcoming 4th of July Holiday as the halfway point.  Halfway point of what?   Ah I don’t even want to say it.

The intrigue continues as I’m literally going to review four slices that I (sort of) purchased earlier tonight.  How quickly I forget how apropos this was going to be.  I’ve expounded on different ways but I’ve never been one to believe in coincidence.

VitosFront

I found myself at a familiar place, Vito’s Pizza in Baltimore.  For my friends in Baltimore, you might be asking which Vito’s exactly?  There’s too many to count.  Or maybe I just don’t feel like counting.  No, I just don’t care.  This is my Vito’s today and their website offers no help and that’s fine with me.

Sometimes we just want pies without all the other bells and whistles.  Even though a multitude of businesses have some form of a social media presence, some like to live in the past.  I’m ok with the past and the simplistic way of going about things.

To be specific, the neighborhood is called Cedarcroft.  This is the first time I’m hearing this.  I’m not sure what to make of it.  I find the whole thing hilarious, but it’s really not that funny.  Haha.

I went to a university not far away so Ii’ like to consider it Towson/Baltimore border.  I don’t know if this place existed when I was a student, but nevertheless now the place is infiltrated with them.  Students.

The vibe in the area is something I subconsciously (wait what?) paid attention to, but never put my finger on why I was drawn to this place.   But I figured it out on this night. There tends to be a sense of community and togetherness in the plethora of neighborhoods behind the strip mall where this pizzeria stands.  Whether it’s genuine, artificial, transparent, or hollow, it’s there and I can’t escape it nor do I want to.

Enough of the metaphysics, how was the pizza?

VitosCheese&Veggie

I’ve always loved the cheese and veggie here.  That continues on this visit.  Keeping it simple is the theme of this post.  The cheese is essentially an extra cheese with delicious pizza sauce and that crust is masterful.  Throw on some onions, peppers, and other various vegetables and you got the latter slice, which also was stellar.

VitosChickenDuo

The breaded buffalo chicken was good but as great as it’s been in the past.  My only thought is the lack of buffalo sauce.  Otherwise this was good.  The barbecue chicken was not edible for me.  I’ve never liked that combination on a pizza but this was disappointing here.  3 out of 4 ain’t bad.

But why did I get 4?  Well I came in late enough that the owner was trying to get rid of as many slices as he could.  He messed up my order and basically gave me that barbecue chicken for free.  But I think he would have done so anyways.  He almost gave me the equivalent of a large pie to go but I wasn’t feeling greedy.  Hopefully those slices didn’t go in the trash as they tend do to at close of business hours.  And no, I’ve only had tiny portions of my slices, I may be able to get a total of four meals out of them.

The owner is funny.  He seems like a real Italian.  At least I want to believe that.  He isn’t friendly or standoffish.  But he has the look of a guy who works hard or maybe just carries himself like he does.  I wouldn’t expect him to recognize me but he always has this same snarky and dry sense of humor with me and his other customers.   Hopefully that’s his way of showing appreciation.  Otherwise I could see my people would be turned off.

Speaking of which, he did double charge me on my meal, so look at your bank statements after the fact.  This shouldn’t dissuade you from trying a slice.

Neither should the lack of atmosphere on the inside.  I’m all for ambiance but this is just a pizza after all.  Those beautiful distractions are eye-candy but the pizza has got to be yummy.  That’s a technical foodie term by the way.

If you like solid pies that are bigger than usual and a throwback to what an authentic no-nonsense pizzeria might feel like, this is right up your alley.  If you’re looking for something inspiring, you might get it outside, or maybe that’s just me.

Happy 4th,

Ideen