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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halal’s It Going?

UpperCrustPizza1

Happy April.  That got here quick didn’t it?  I felt like I was making the same statements for the same months last year or even this year.   Happy Spring to you too.

You can call this the Iranian New Year Special.

Columbia, MD is a town I’ve written about before and about this chain too, but it also does have its local businesses, and local is what I always strive to write about first.

UpperCrustSign

Upper Crust Pizzeria has been a staple of the town and nearby neighborhoods for a number of years.  In the vicinity there’s two other strip malls with all the chains you need (or don’t), for your convenience, that you could easily pass by this local pizza place and not even know it.

I’ve done the same the thing many times and I’ve also hesitated ever ordering from here to the point of grabbing food from a place next door or nearby.  That’s over and done with now.

The establishment is unassuming.  And you know the places with little decor, limited seating, and no website (that I know of), could turn our to be some of the better pizza and food experiences.  It’s the hidden gems, the hole-in-the-walls, and the off the beaten paths that are truly special.  At least for this go around, this was all that.

That sentiment doesn’t always ring true.  I’ve been to some mom and pops that have turned disastrous, but they usually come through and show why local is the way to go, as much as possible.

I was all set to order a standard or maybe a slightly unique pizza on this day.  But then after scanning the dry erase board (I love that) menu, at the very bottom I see the Halal Meat Pizza.   This would be a historic first for me.

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I had no idea what the pizza would entail.   I didn’t know if there would be a different crust, cheese, or sauces.   None of the above.

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It was a cheese pizza, with tomato sauce, and that crust.  Wow this crust.  Let me say some more about this.  I ordered a personal pie and I did the smaller triangle slices.  As the weather gets nicer this is the kind of consumption I’ll be looking for more.  It’s not necessarily a thin slice.  It’s their slice.  And that golden brown color is a sight for happy eyes.   This was beautiful.

UpperCrust6

Now let me get to the Halal meat.    What a pleasant surprise that is also included chicken and they didn’t half-heartedly throw on these toppings.    There’s a lot but not too much that the pizza takes a back seat.

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The beef was seasoned similar to gyro meat and it was magnificent. If it was gyro meat then I’m happy with that too.  The diced chicken was a nice touch.  And in my usual ways I pulled plenty of the toppings off and enjoyed them on my own.  But in this instance it’s not necessary.  Everything complements itself perfectly.

UpperCrustPizza5

I’m dreaming about this crust right now.

Now I’m really wondering how other Halal meat pizzas would fare.  It’s not a frequent occurrence on pizzeria menus.

There’s no website but this page can look to the menu and all other necessary information.

I don’t know when I’ll be back.  That sounded a bit too dramatic.  I’m in the Columbia area at least once a month.  And I’m always seeking out hidden gems of all kinds to write about.  So maybe I will try another one of their hopefully awesome pizzas.  I’m overstating this but the crust on this one was just so special.

And speaking of special I’ve contemplated going to ratings system for pizza and maybe the other universes I speak of, here and here.   It would likely be a 5 star system with half and quarter stars when necessary.    If I do institute this, I will go back and rate previous postings I’ve made.  It’s just a thought I’m contemplating and appreciate any feedback.

So far I’ve liked my reviews to speak for themselves.

 

Blessed,

Ideen

 

The Best View

wholefoodsshrimp

I honestly don’t know what to say.   Columbia, MD has always been an intriguing topic of discussion with my friends.  Actually I tend to be the one that brings it up.  I’m softy for the area.  Some of my friends don’t care for it for the same reasons I adore it.  It’s been deemed to safe, too happy, and too transparent.  Well it may be all of those things to some and some (or many) may be fine with that.    I see the good but understand why others see the negatives.

wholefoodsfront

As we approach the town’s 50th birthday (which I didn’t know about until doing research), I thought it would be cool to do another write-up (here’s my original) about one of the the best places to live in the states.  And based on this intro, it almost makes complete sense to write about the local Whole Foods.

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Yes they have pizza, something which not every store has.  They also have one of the most incredible views you’ll ever see from a grocery store, like the one you see above.  But how was the pizza?  In short, I’ve had much better.  I’m also looking at this from a standpoint of this being a supermarket.   That doesn’t mean I’m lowering my standards.  It means I still expect it to be on par with the better pizzas we’ll have at a restaurant or at home.  It should still taste good.

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There was a lot of confusion with what their pizza is.  Is it Artisanal, Neapolitan, Wood Fired, Brick Oven, or all of the above?  That first word, artisanal, is used so much and by everybody, I’m not sure how much value it has anymore.  This has nothing to do with Whole Foods, but everywhere.

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I went with the Grilled Shrimp Pizza (which was the weekly special) and the White. Neither blew me away nor was either one terrible.

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The shrimp looked mightily impressive but something just didn’t add up.  I think as whole these ingredients didn’t work well together.    I love feta, shrimp, tomatoes, and red onions.  And I imagine if this was prepared in a different fashion or with a different energy (but with the exact ingredients and dough) that this would work to near perfection.   Maybe feta on top of mozzarella is a clash of two cheeses.  It may not work.

However, even when I picked off the shrimp, it didn’t taste like I had hoped.  The sauce may have tarnished the shrimp and everything else.  These ingredients don’t work with their tomato sauce.  The crust wasn’t anything special either.  This pizza was ok but this was an opportunity lost.

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The white was a little better but not anything special.  It was kind of just there.  And I’m honestly surprised.  I thought this would be simple yet delicious, and I wasn’t wowed by it. Both slices were ok to eat but not out-of-this-world.  And I didn’t finish either.

I can’t complain on the prices though.  For a place that charges a lot of for their groceries, salad bar, and hot bar, etc., getting two slices for $6 is a bargain anywhere.

I just wished what I ate would have been one to write home about, as opposed to expressing my disappointment.   This won’t deter me from trying some more in the future.   As you can see, they have an assortment of slices and I’m certain there’s a few that will be praised in a post here down the line.

But these views from the outside dining area are worth coming back for alone.  This is one of the newer additions in town, and one of the more visually pleasing parts of town.  That storefront is quite welcoming.  It draws me in more time than not when I’m visiting.  I haven’t done many repeats, yet I’ve teased doing some down the line.  This has been added to that list.

So as I’ve said before, this is just the beginning…

Ideen