Back To Studio…

PizzaStudioTruffledMushroom

Some time ago, a few people asked me my thoughts on the Pizza Studio (here is their menu, locationscontact info, and their story), and I wasn’t sure what to say.   I was grateful friends already assumed I had tried them out, and that my list of places to review are abundant.  They’re correct on both counts.

While I had not been so quick to embrace the over-the-counter and rapid fire pizza making type places, they all have their well, place.

In visits to stores like this one, I’ve touched on that fact, but at some point, which is now, it doesn’t matter what I or truly anyone thinks about how food preparation and presentation has evolved, or otherwise if you feel that way.  If people enjoy it, and appreciate it for what it is, then I see nothing wrong with it.  Only right.

I hadn’t been to their Charles Village location (right in the heart of Johns Hopkins University country) in a while.  It could have been months, or maybe a couple of years, and while time is flying, it doesn’t take a lot of time to get a pie from here.

Life just keeps going faster, whether we choose to acknowledge it or otherwise.  While it’s always been constant, we just keep going and keep trying to keep up.  When it comes to food, in many other parts of the world, there is a time to rest, a time to embrace what’s in front of us, and a time to say hello and appreciate one another’s company, at least for a reasonable amount of time.

With what we do here, there’s such a rush.  I know I always feel like I’m in a rush, and I see it constantly in the eyes and feet of so many people around me.

This may sound like a dig at food places (or many other entities) like this, that are assembly line style, and yet you may just feel like a number or a statistic, or you may not feel anything.   And neither may not be mutually exclusive of the other.

But I still can find a way to appreciate the work put into adding the toppings and heating the crust, even if it was only two to five minutes in its entirety.   They promote hot and fresh in two minutes.  To a pizza purist that may feel like blasphemy.  I’ve had friends tell me this isn’t pizza and it’s a slap in the face to restaurants and pizzerias all over the world.  I understand that.  But these places are here and they’re not going anywhere.

I ordered the Truffled Mushroom on rosemary herb crub, and for a second pie, the Buffalo Chicken on traditional crust. I chose to refrain from creating my own selections this time, as I wanted to present to you their signature pies for more of a unbiased opinion if you will.  I’ve created my own before, and to my own success or detriment, the results have been mixed.

PizzaStudioTruffledMushroomSlice

I won’t go into detail of every topping, but I do like the extra thin crust on both of these bad boys.  It’s been hot and the lighter, the more necessary.   The respective crusts complement both pies solidly, especially the mushroom.  Now you can also get a whole grain & flax seed, firecracker crust with jalapenos, or a gluten free crust at additional cost.  Maybe next time.

Both are fun and both are no thrills, harmless, and enjoyable pizzas.  They aren’t going to change your life, and you won’t necessarily remember this a year from now, let alone a few days.  Yet, it must mean something to be a day later after my visit, as I write about it.

PizzaStudioBuffaloChicken3

The side blue cheese dressing for the latter pie is a charming touch.

At $8.50 a piece, it’s adequately priced, and you can get a few meals out of this.  Luckily, I was able to share this with pals, and still save some for seconds.   So in a way, there’s still time to embrace company, friends, and the simplistic nature of a pizza like this.

PizzaStudioBox

There could be another visit down the line, but for now, I’ll hold off on saying, back to studio…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Try the Caprese

MargheritasSlices2

Three years and change ago, I wrote about Margherita’s, and their Kingsville, MD location, knowing that more would be coming.  Another location would coming.

When I saw the signage and construction begin for their newest digs in Bel Air (menu can be found here) like a goofy kid, I was excited.  But in similar ways, I got distracted, and I got busy.  And I kept saying I would get around to it.  I would be in the vicinity and just not be in the mood for pizza (sacrilege I know) and keep saying there will be a next time.  There’s always next time

Enough rambling, how was the pizza this time?

MargheritasCaprese

Try the caprese, is all I can say.  This is phenomenal.  Even if the heavier Siclian Style is not your slice of pizza, I would say go for it, or just pick the toppings off and enjoy.  There’s a captain obvious in there somewhere, but yeah no…

What we have here is the freshest of ingredients, cheese, and the finest soul and spirit behind this slice.  You know when you walk into a place, and you know the pizza (or any food or anything is going to be good?  That’s what I sensed and have been sensing.

I’ll be honest, I go to Margherita’s a little more than I’ve let on, but never felt the story was there, or was inspired to do as such.  Maybe this is the first time I noticed the Caprese.  That’s inspiration enough.  In many ways, it’s a great choice for the summer and warmer temperatures.

MargheritasBuffaloChicken

The buffalo chicken and white veggie slices are just as delicious.  The thin crust on these are heated to perfection.  I would say I got there at the perfect time, as many of the pies had just come out of the oven and looked as fresh as a daisy, or a pizza.

MargheritasWhiteVegetable

Seriously, the crust was a New York Style and comforting bread you don’t get too often, from anywhere.

I adore the presentation of the buffalo chicken, as you can tell there’s thought and feeling behind it.   And the white veggies, well, the toppings are prolific but they won’t take away from the pie whatsoever.  This is well done.  These three slices were under $10, yes another reason to be grateful.

I feel like I’m writing this in a way like I did three years ago.

What else is there to say?  This was great, and the Bel Air location feels welcoming and feels quite neighborhood life.  Their Kingsville pizzeria has a small town feel with just a couple of tables, that it’s made for carry-out.  But that’s what makes both places distinct, approachable, and wonderful.

Just about every neighborhood in every town has their pizzeria, their grocery store, bank, bar, restaurant, and those other gems that make a town so charming and has that home like feel.  And the staff was friendly and personable, like any neighborhood spot would traditionally be.

MargheritasSlices1

Margherita’s fits right in like it’s been there forever.  And in many ways it has…

And by all means, try the Caprese.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Break The Contradictions

MaisysBuffaloChicken

Maisy’s is what Downtown Baltimore or what a downtown in general feels like.  I prefer the latter, because it reminds me of a part of any city, that truly feels like a city.  Baltimore has a lot of neighborhoods within it, yet it does have parts that seem like there’s lots of action.

This particular part of Charles Street, which bridges downtown to Mt. Vernon, is an area I used to frequent all the time.  While it gets busier things also seem to be a bit slower.  Time has stood still, and so does the traffic, so does everybody.

Maisys

Good friends of mine were regulars of Maisy’s when it first opened maybe 5-6 years ago, but for various reasons, life happens, and life goes on.  That didn’t mean to sound so dramatic.   But my friends did sell me on the place without having to sell it.  It’s a hidden gem, hiding in plain sight.  Near several other restaurants, bars, and other establishments it might be easy to overlook and take for granted.   I could see that.

MaisysBoard

The first time I ate here was literally five years ago.  And that might have been my only time.  This was before any blogs or pizza storytelling were on my radar.  Well it was slightly on my radar or we wouldn’t be here now.   I just recall the pizza being pleasantly awesome.

I had been tipped off (sounds so exciting) on the fact that their pizza is one of the more underrated in the city.  That’s a relative term.  What’s rated one way to you, is well, yeah..

Having no recollection of what exactly I had, I can say that the pizza and atmosphere was tremendous.  Maybe it’s having no expectations, going somewhere alone, and going somewhere for the first time.  I also recall that I was in between social engagements that day, so that time alone is always welcome.  Don’t take that for granted.  We all know how time alone is fewer and far between than it used to be.  If we let it.

That was a moment in time.  Nothing noteworthy, newsworthy, or life changing.  Sometimes those are the best.   The way the place was lit did leave a lasting impression, and there’s a quaintness, despite the large space, that is perfect for this or any neighborhood.  It works in a downtown setting.

Moving along a few years later, you can’t replicate the first time.  I was with a friend, and was craving pizza. Surprise surprise.  But this time something felt off.

By no means was I trying to relive something that doesn’t exist.  The restaurant looked exactly the same, which I like.  Well maybe it was different.   I don’t know.  It’s been a while.

MaisysMenu

We shared the Buffalo Chicken and The Mediterranean.

MaisysBuffaloChicken2

There isn’t much home to write about.  It was fine. It was food.  It was there.

MaisysMEDITERRANEAN

You’ll notice the charring on the crusts of both pies. They went a little overboard.  I love brick oven pizza.  I love any way a pizza is cooked, as long as the end result is that it tastes good.  Sometimes you want it greasy, crunch, and with little thoughts to the craftsmanship behind it.

There’s some effort put into these pizzas, but something was missing.  It just didn’t wow me.  The style in which it was cut is in line with what I remember, maybe.

The tastes on both were fine.  Once again, I don’t know what happened.  But it’s average pizza.  I wish I could say otherwise.   On the Mediterranean there’s too much going on, and many of the vegetables, feta cheese, and even the pesto got lost in the shuffle.  When the pesto doesn’t work, you know something is off.   The Buffalo Chicken looks amazing, and the pieces of chicken are great, but again something fell flat.  The sauce and cheese is fine but…

If we’re counting this exactly, we’re 1-1.   I supposed the third time is the time charm.  You’ll be the first to know when that is.

Thanks so much and peace be with you…

Ideen

 

One Step Up and Two Steps…

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak

It’s good that I can take appreciate what’s a little bit closer to home to me.  There’s plenty of places that serve pizza anywhere, in one shape or another.  In one form or another form, pizza pies can and will be found.   And while the flavors, topping, and ingredients remain constant, everyone has their take, their soul, and sometimes just different types of pies are going to be prepared and served to you.

FranksAberdeen

Frank’s Pizza in Aberdeen, MD (all menu and no website makes this a bit easier), is not far away from home, and the nearby streets surrounding it have a small town feel, but then it kind of doesn’t.  I don’t mean to sound do obscure, but I’m really not.  Every town has its historic part with their post office, cafes, small shoppes, a few businesses that add to commerce, and a few randoms.  I love the randoms too.   And yet there’s always another constant, pizza.

Frank’s is as no thrills as it gets.  It’s got a simple counter, a massive space, and old school seating that makes it easier to write about, so the artisanal and sometimes pretentious aspect is out the window.   It’s refreshing to write mainly about the pizza itself and nothing else.  Well the staff was busy yet courteous.

The pizza trays are the first things you see when you walk in.  That’s a strategy that’s not rocket science, and I’m always been a fan of.

I’ve been here before, and the pizza is pizza.  It’s nothing life changing nor does every experience, food, or pizza need to be.   It does its job, does its job well, and you’ll likely to come back if you work, live, or are in the area.

This time I noticed a couple of stuffed pizzas on display, and for the sake of changing it up, this was necessary to purchase.   I did not eat all of this one sitting.   These four slices are the equivalent of four meals, at least.

FranksAberdeenCheese&BuffaloChicken

So along with getting your simple cheese, a buffalo chicken, a stuffed cheesesteak, and a stuffed romano (pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom… if I’m missing something, I’ll stand corrected).

The cheese and buffalo chicken are fine.  Nothing amazing, nothing that’s going to be questioned.  Unless you write about it.  The crust is fine, but nothing extraordinary.

The same can be said for the romano.   The golden brown color is always a nice sight to see, but again, it’s solid but not much more than that.

FranksAberdeenStuffedPizzas2

I gloss over these three slices for a reason…

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak

Finally, the cheesesteak is a guilty pleasure.  And as you see with the romano, they pile on the toppings.  And I don’t care how authentic this cheesesteak and the steak itself (Frank’s is less than an hour outside of Philadelphia), it’s the height of comfort food.  But again, you could get multiple meals out of this.  This is not meant to be eaten all at once.

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak2

I have all four slices, resting comfortably in my refrigerator, that may be sitting there for a while.  I don’t recommend all of this in one sitting, or even a couple.   Get a work out in before, and one sometime after.   This can’t be healthy, but this is not why you eat this stuff to be healthy.  This is not some conspiracy theory.

Sometimes you just want to eat and not worry about the consequences.   That’s what you’re going to get with Frank’s.

Maybe next week we’ll go artisanal and a little more classy?  Whatever that means.

Blessings to you…

Ideen

Pizza I Feel Good About

WegmansSouthwestStyleReady

I mean that with all sincerity.

Ever since I set foot into my first Wegmans many years ago (that feels weird to say), the love affair has remained and grown infinitely.   What’s not to love?

If you’ve ever visited one (a location hopefully near you can be found here) you know the possibilities of happiness are endless.  You know it’s more than just a grocery store.  It’s a source of joy, peace, harmony, and more food than you know what to do with.

Within each Wegmans is a pizza shop (which I wrote about once, you can find that here), a sub shop, hot bar, bakery, deli, and all the other good stuff you’d find at many a grocery store.  But like I said there’s something cosmic going on in a place like this.  When you walk in to a Wegmans, be prepared to walk out inspired.  I’m not kidding you.

And speaking of such inspiration, while I was at my local Wegmans recently, I felt like the time was right to try a couple of their frozen pizzas.

I’m not that highly critical of pizza.  It’s not that serious.  I like to have fun with this, and that’s truly the whole point of doing this, or hopefully most of what you and I do.  My criteria for grading frozen pizzas might be different than when I get a pie or slice from a slightly upscale or fine dining establishment.  But the constant is that as long as the pizza tastes good and comes from a place of soul and feeling, I know it was prepared with the best of intentions.

This is why I feel it’s ok to be critical when a pizza may not live up to mine or your expectations.  And that’s what we have here.  One pizza is tremendous, the other leaves much to be desired.

I’ll begin with the latter.

The Buffalo Chicken was disappointing.   For all how it appears on the box, it doesn’t translate to anything positive after the fact.

WegmansBuffaloChickenReady2

My first concern was how little chicken you actually see on the pizza itself.   But I’m not going to judge it on its cover or unwrapped before even heating.  But after the fact was really missing so much.

WegmansBuffaloChickenSlices

Whatever ranch and buffalo sauce I’m supposed to be tasting, I ain’t getting.  And while I secretly hoped some more pieces of chicken would appear, that was not the case.  The mix of mozzarella, white cheddar, and gorgonzola cheeses were non existent. It’s not that they weren’t there, it’s just that they didn’t seem to taste like any of the aforementioned cheeses.  It just seemed like mozzarella, bad sauce, and some poorly prepared white meat chicken.  The crust is really good, as is in the..

The Southwest Style is the pie you want to get.  This is the complete opposite of what I wrote above.   This mix of mozzarella and cheddar cheese is how you do it.   The pieces of chicken are light years ahead of the chicken in the previous pie.

WegmansSouthwestStyleReady2

The taco sauce layered on top of the pizza is distinct yet it’s not invasive to anything else on the pizza.  That’s an important detail when it comes to a pie like this.  The peppers and onions really add a nice charm to a pie that you might overlook or not even find to your liking.

WegmansSouthwestSlices

That’s what makes this pizza experience so fun.  If you asked me, I would’ve thought the Buffalo Chicken would be the pizza to look forward to going in.  My pleasant of all surprises is how great the Southwest Style is.  It’s fantastic.

With their frozen pies at $4 per pizza, it’s worth giving a look, and you can get a couple of meals out of it.  In a world where we’re always looking to save money, that’s a great deal.

Wegmans is always going to be a great deal, no matter how you look at it.  Not everything is going to be perfect but when it is, it makes everything that much better.

The amount of pizzas and appetizing entrees in general to try is unlimited and unpredictable.  This place makes me so happy and even if I’m not writing about it, I’m here multiple times a week.

If and when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll try a couple more pizzas.  This might call for a bonus post outside of a Friday, if I find the time.

And I will…

Happy New Year!

Ideen

 

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