Say Hello To Everybody

SammysFourPizzaSlices2

That’s the feeling I got when I walked into Sammy’s Italian Pizza Kitchen, in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.  I’ve talked at length (history can be found here), about my fondness for our state capital.

Here’s Sammy’s menus, contact info, and more on their story can be found at the bottom of their main page.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen

I’ve been to Sammy’s many times before, initially out of curiosity, but then out of convenience.   The shopping center itself has a feel from decades ago, and once again takes me back to being a kid, and going out to lunch on a Sunday with my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and you get my drift.

It’s a feeling of comfort and familiarity that is a great reminder that restaurants don’t need to be fancy and over-the-top to produce quality food, service, a warm atmosphere, and a positive dose of energy.

Now in every town, you have your bakery, post office, general store (do those still exist?), local bank (one can only hope), florist, and many other mom-and-pops.  That does include plenty of good food, and of course pizza.

That’s the sense I got the first time I drove through this part of Eastport, and discovered this, among several other hidden gems.

What’s funny is there’s been many instances where I have not been enamored with their pizza.  I thought it was good, but nothing to necessarily write home (or write a blog/story) about.  I have an ongoing list of places I’ve been meaning to talk about, and Sammy’s among others was on that list, but I either never felt the time was right, or just wasn’t feeling it, good or bad.

You’ve got to feel it, positive or negative, or what’s the point?

But something about a recent visit felt different.  Maybe it was me, maybe it was the mood I was in, or maybe there’s just something else inexplicable, where I should just let it just be, and allow the best experience to come to me and find me.

That’s exactly what happened.

I love how you can’t see the inside of the restaurant from the outside.   There’s something mysteriously beautiful about this, that will draw many in, and I’m sure scare a few people off.  I promise you nothing about what I’m saying is to be feared or be made to feel afraid of.

The interior feels more authentic than how many more contemporary restaurants try to portray themselves as.  This just feels real.  And if and when you’re inside, I think you’ll get what I’m selling here.  Nor do I have to sell.  Everything about it sells itself.

SammysFourSlices

To go back to basics, I went with the four most simplest slices there is.   Cheese, pepperoni, white, and vegetable is about as genuine and to the core pizza as you’re going to find.  It’s as if the slices were there waiting for me.  Maybe they were.

The staff working the counter made me feel like home and made me feel good about my visit.  And to feel like a million bucks is not something you ask for or expect, but it’s great when it happens.  The next few groups of people that walked in got that same first class treatment.  It’s good to be feel important.  That feeling should come from within but it’s always gravy when it comes from external sources as well.

Before I go on any further of a tangent, this was the best pizza I’ve had by them in the multiple times I’ve been by.  And it’s not even close.  From what was once mediocre to decent, turned into fantastic.

What makes this all the more intriguing is I got these slices at dinner time.  I don’t know how long the pies were out.  Those are not the questions I should be asking, when the pizza turns out to be this good.  Maybe I answered my own question.

Maybe the reheating from the cold pies made it that much more tasty.  But good pizza is good pizza.  And these four slices really turned out well.

The pepperoni and the white were the true stand outs.   The crust and dough just had a taste about them that once again took me back to my younger days sharing pizza with family and dear friends.   That’s where a long synopsis is no longer necessary.

It’s a simple pizza, with a simple feel, from a creative source.

SammysFourPizzaSlices

What more can you ask for then what I just described?

That’s good pizza, nestled in a neighborhood in one of my favorite places.

If I could write about a place like this every week, I’d be happy.  But then it wouldn’t be so special.  Yet for now, this is to be savored, adored, and appreciated.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen2

I look forward to my next visit to Annapolis, and a future visit to Sammy’s.

Peace Be With You.

 

 

One Olympic Place

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese3

You know how long I’ve been wanting to use that as a title?  All of about two hours…

This came to me earlier today.  It would have made sense to write about Cunningham’s of Towson during the events of last month, yet I find myself having a bit of a laugh as I write this out.

For folks that frequent this charming restaurant, the title of this post will make sense.  I’ll leave the rest of the punchline to the audience right here.  Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as an obscure reference as I might be implying.  Just look at the bottom of the page.

We were out for a good friend’s birthday, and at the halfway point of that winter event that goes on every four years.

I’ll tell you, if I lived closer I would be here on a regular basis.  I chatted with some of the locals, and got a good sense of community from the place.  The vibe is fantastic, the bar set up is tremendous, and the location is ideal.  It’s kind of like a village, but not the village I might be alluding to.  But still pretty awesome.

This is not how I thought this post would go, but I’m just shooting from the hip now.

cunninghamsrestaurant

I’ve been to their Cafe and Bakery directly below the restaurant before, and find their food outstanding.    And more about why their food is just that, can be found here.   The majority of their results come from their own farm just a few miles away.  How can you not love local and love food fresh from the farm?  Try saying that a few times over.

Which makes me surprised that their pizzas weren’t up to par.  I was pleasantly surprise to find pizza on the menu to begin with.  Like I said, this was my first time at the bar and restaurant, and loved everything so far.

We had some appetizers during happy hour, that were tremendous, but I think they were trying a little too hard with the pizza.

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese

The two we shared were the Cunningham Farm Ham & Goat Cheese,  and then the Carne Supremo.    A lot of meat and a lot of toppings going on with both.  That might be the culprit.

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese4

With the Farm Ham & Goat Cheese, the mozzarella and goat cheese is a great combination, but it might have been too much, in terms of being in your face.   The arugula and tomatoes tasted fresh, but the ham didn’t work for me here.  I’ve said it before, it’s a case of the whole not equaling the sum of its parts. Quite the cliche, but it applies.   I think less would be more.   The crust on both of these is fantastic by the way.  It’s comfort food bread that I would enjoy all by itself.    The brick oven really work here, I just wish the toppings did the same.

CarneSupremoPie

What was even more of a challenge was the Carne Supremo.   There’s too much going on.  Lots of meat (pepperoni, sauage, and soppressata) which is balanced by the veggies (onions and peppers), along with mozzarella and asiago.  You think this would be tremendous.  But it’s just once again, overwhelming.   It’s ok if the topping are falling all over the place, and at times can make the experience more fun.   I just didn’t love all this red meat here.  This is based on personal opinion.  A few of our party shared the same sentiment on both of these pies.

CarneSupremo

I think, or actually I know, that less is more here.  This crust is fantastic and would work better with a simple base of cheese, sauce, a few vegetables, and a lighter protein.  A simple chicken pizza would work perfectly here.

CarneSupremo2

This by no means is going to stop be from coming back.  I find an endearing spirit and energy in this restaurant.  If you want quite, peaceful, cozy, and maybe a little noise, this is the place for you.  It’s my kind of place for sure.

If the situation presents itself in time, I’ll definitely try another pie or two again.

In the meantime, for more on Cunningham’s, here is their storymenu, and online ordering information.

Here is my history of pizza in this area.  It’s a town I will always be a bit partial too.

We’ll see you in 2020, oh wait, I mean next week!

Have a blessed one…

Ideen

Well This Was Different

RibaldisDisplay

Ribaldi’s of the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. has generated a lot of buzz and goodwill that it was only a matter of time I would get to writing about them.  This recap comes from a request via a few people, so thank you so much for the suggestion.

Ribaldis

While I raved about a place nearby (that can be found here), I was told that Ribaldi’s is that much better.  I was told it was run by a real Sicilian, and that their pizza was off the charts compared to its counterpart.

If the location seems familiar, you will recall this is where Angelo’s sat for years.  Home of the jumbo slice seemed like it would last forever.  I never lover their pizza but it was good enough.  And sometimes good enough is just enough.   Their was a temporary occupant that left much to be desired, and no here we are with Ribaldi’s.

I met Siro the manager, and he is straight up the real deal.  The staff read me like a book, and not the fact that I’m a blogger (Not sure they’ll see this), but that it was my first visit.  My energy field was in a weird place, and when no matter how your energy level is, you’re going to attract a similar wavelength.  Whether that’s good or bad is up to interpretation.

This was unique.

The guy behind the counter was strange, peculiar, but never made me feel uncomfortable.  But the fact that I’m even implying the latter means something was off.  He was cracking some jokes that were funny at first, but then went off in directions that I won’t even begin to explain.  Words won’t do it justice and there’s no puns here whatsoever.

It did make the impression of this, the food I ordered, the food I ate, and the aftermath long lasting.  And yes it’s been altered.

RibaldisSicilian

I forgot they do slices, so it made my decision that much easier.   I literally ordered everything in plain view, which includes a Sicilian Cheese, Sicilian Pepperoni, a small calzone, and then Siro just broke out a New York Style cheese pie right out of their gas oven.

RibaldisCheese

They called the calzone the Ribaldi and that’s the same guy (who may or may not have been Siro’s second) cracking jokes and maybe losing the plot a little.

As a bonus I got a can of soda and this guy gave me a dessert, which was a sweet croissant on the house.  This whole gag seemed to be lost on me, or maybe there was no gag.  It’s ridiculous to speculate and over-analyze what this visit meant.   It happened for a reason.  Maybe they saw something was up.  I was in a goofy frame of mind.  The whole visit was goofy.  But goofy doesn’t mean bad.

There’s not much to the interior.  There’s a few seats inside and outside, and that’s the way I like it sometimes.  There’s a a place for lavish, and today was not the time or place.

Most importantly of all, how was my food?  This wasn’t all for me, that would be crazy.  But I’m going to base this on my own opinion and nobody else’s.

I didn’t love this.  And I’m not going to base my opinion on anything other than my eating experience.  Something just didn’t stand out, and I really wanted it too.

RibaldisCheeseSlice

The cheese slice was lacking in some cheese and tomato sauce.  That’s the issue for me.  The crust is fine and that’s all I can really say about that.

RibaldisSicilian2

The Sicilian is a bit rough.  I know some people are going to love this and I wouldn’t dispute this, but this was nothing special.  Yet the pepperoni slices tasted great.

The calzone was fine and I’m glad it was a tinier piece, because you can only eat so much of this.  And this dessert?  Man I don’t know.

RibaldisDessert

I don’t know about any of this.  My mind is all over the map here.  I feel like this visit needed to happen.  I’m projecting a lot but something was really off center, and I put a lot of this on myself.  I attracted an experience that might make sense later.

But for now I’m trying to make sense of all this.

RibaldisMenu

Here’s their menu, and that’s all I got for you.  For some sense of closure, I’m going to have to come back.

Ideen

 

 

Happy Birthday Too loulou!

toolouloupie4I could have just said Happy Anniversary Tooloulou, but then I wouldn’t have such a witty (or nerdy depending on your take) title.

tooloulousign

Yes, Tooloulou, one of the staples of the Belvedere Square Market, in North Baltimore, just had a major milestone last week.  They celebrated their 5th Anniversary!  Congratulations.

belvederesquaremarket

And that’s it for me, thank you everybody!

No, not quite.   I would be lying if I said Tooloulou was in my regular rotation of pizza places.  I wish it was.   But for the duration the intent from me is there.  But what has been a more-than-regular thing is a visit to Belvedere Square.

It’s history is also something I can’t pretend to say I’ve been a part of.  However, I was just finishing college in 2003, when it re-opened, so I have some sentimentality to the newer version.

My love for markets goes back forever.  It’s the local feel, the sense of community, the local businesses, and all around good energy that draws so many people in.  It’s one of those ‘just like the good old days’ feelings that shouldn’t just feel like the old days, but right now.   But it’s good to be sentimental.  When it comes to supporting local, you can never have enough of that love for local and can you really be that overly sentimental.  In my humble opinion, the answer is a resounding no.  Wait, resounding doesn’t sound so humble.  But I think you know what I’m trying to say.

Now back to Tooloulou.  They haven’t always been at the market.  A location change, brought this local creation to Belvedere Market.  And what a welcome and inspiring addition this has been.  Still in nearly three years market, why did my first visit only happen two weeks ago?   I have no explanation other than it hasn’t been meant to be until now.  Well I changed some history and went back for a second time.

So does that mean two pies?  You bet.  The first one was a dine-in experience and the second was carry-out.  Yes these are the riveting details I present to you.

Have I teased you enough?  I obviously love the pizza or I would be misleading you with the tidbits of it being a welcome addition, etc.   Ok onto the za!

toolouloupie

First up is the Tooloulou Pizza.  For my first ever visit, it only made sense to go with this one.  And this is where I sat down at their cozy booth and helped myself to this pizza pie.

toolouloupie3

I loved it.  I was hesitant at first, since it seemed on the surface to be a bit too rich.  But all my man-made fears were alleviated after a few bites.  The combination of crab, Andouille sausage, and banana peppers is a trifecta of wonders.  Who came up with this?  It’s the perfect complement and complement to one another, and then the other.   The flavors came alive when I first thought something would get lost in the shuffle.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And they put a lot of  crab meat and sausage.  No skimming I promise you.

Add to the fact that the base is white sauce with mozzarella makes this all the more extraordinary.  I think a less inspired effort elsewhere would be a disappointment.  But this was tremendous.  And a little old bay was thrown in for good measure.  You have a winner.  And that crust was cooked to perfection.  I’m salivating as I write this.  It was filling though as I got seconds and thirds out of this.  A 12″ pie at $14.50, with what you’re getting it a deal at this price.

shrimppestopie

Not to be outdone was the Shrimp Pesto.  I couldn’t do a celebratory post without doing a second pie.  If I hadn’t found myself back in the area, then this part would never have come to fruition.  So I’m excited.

shrimppestoslices

In the two plus years of doing this blog, whenever I found pesto as the base, or as an ingredient, I mention how much it’s one of my favorite things period.  Pesto is something of a work of art to me.  If I could do a Pesto Pals blog I would.  Hmm..  But when I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to try this one.  I was actually debating between this and another.  If you look at the menu order, I am following it sequentially.  Whether that mean there’s more to come is quite possible.    Let me get back to this pie before I go on a complete tangent.

I’m not sure which I loved more.  I loved this one for different reasons.  And then reasons that surprised me.  That pesto was authentic.  It tasted homemade or market made, ha!  And not out of a can.  And those pieces of shrimp were pure a joy.   I took a few off the pizza and had myself a good old time.  I re dipped some in the pesto sauce just for kicks.

shrimppestoslice

But knowing me I would think those were my favorite parts.  No, this pizza was so good that the actual highlights for me were the sundried tomatoes and the mozzarella.  When I found pieces of tomato and shrimp covered in that mozzarella, I appreciated every bite. The taste is just too good to describe.  And this is saying something because the pesto was that good.   What have I done to myself?  I’m craving this pie too.  This was the same price as the previous pizza, and worth every bit of it and more.

This crust may have even been charred better than the first.  How is that even possible?

The bonus was the staff both times were overwhelmingly friendly.   The Shrimp Pesto was a recommendation over another pie, which shall remain nameless and be reviewed at a later date.

For our friends in the area or might be travelling to the area, here’s their location and hours.

belvederesquaremarketdoor

I know Tooloulou is also widely known for their po’ boys.  And if I get a chance again, the next time I come back, I may incorporate one of these sandwiches with another predicted awesome pizza.

I look forward to it, but for now, I will appreciate these two fantastic pies.  And wish Tooloulou a Happy Fifth Anniversary!

And to many more!

Ideen