Sentimental Sicilian Style

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For months I’ve wanted to go to Joe Benny’s. 

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Circumstances have presented themselves that it wasn’t supposed to happen just yet. Either because I came after hours (I find their schedule endearing and down-to-earth), or on days they weren’t open (they’re closed Mondays).

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It just wasn’t meant to be, for that time.  I have so badly wanted to try their foccacia pies.. And in the few years they’ve been open, I’ve heard almost nothing but glowing reviews, and how inviting and approachable their establishment is.

I concur.

A dear friend of mine had asked me where I wanted to go to dinner this past Saturday.  It was a welcome invitation that mirrors the theme of this post and experience thus far. And bear in mind, I had some idea of where I wanted to go.  I had a few days to think about it.   As the day approached and my friend reminded me of that fact, I came up with a few suggestions.  But Joe Benny’s was at the forefront of my mind.   It only made sense.

My original post about Little Italy can be found here.

We love Little Italy, we love Italian food, my friend is Italian, and it’s a place that had forever alluded me.

Funny that my friend had never heard of it.

What makes this even more charming is the place is self seating, a narrow space, with a few seats at the bar, and a sizable yet ample (cozy) amount of seats.   My friend got there before be and (at the time) grabbed the last one.   I love the restaurants of Little Italy because it’s in a universe all its own in Baltimore.  Many have great food, great wine lists, and many suggest reservations.

What makes Joe Benny’s stand out is their menu.  While many restaurants in Little Italy serve similar entrees, Joe Benny’s is not only the only Foccaceria in Little Italy, but it’s the first and only in all of Baltimore.  That right there is going to attract patrons of little Italy, old and new.

And it’s going to attract me back many times over.

This was perfection.

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We started with their seasonal sangria, that had a fall like taste to it.  I swear I tasted some cinnamon sticks, but I could be wrong.  It was enjoyable, and complemented our heavy meal that was yet to come.

 

The irony is that the heaviest part of the meal might have been the Mimma’s Meatballs. The baked beef and pork mix was delightful enough but it was that tomato sauce that screams habit forming.  And the bread that came with it nearly made us full before we even got to our pies.   I can’t stress enough how amazing this sauce was.  Of course we dipped parts of pizzas into the sauce…

…And speaking of which…

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My friend went with the Angry Ginger.  I went with the Kimtucky.

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How perfect that this past Wednesday (9/20) was National Pepperoni Pizza Day.  And that we have a pie to discuss on this most important of all holidays.  Did you happen to take off work that day?  Ha.  Well you might think pizzas of this magnitude would do just that.

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But the bread was not as filling as you might think.  There was a refreshing amount of air and a light heartedness to the pizza that doesn’t bloat you or make you full to the point of being down for the count.  It was quite the opposite.

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The all around red components of this pie made this not only beautiful to eat, but beautiful to look at.    The melange of pepperoni, roasted red pepper, spicy red pepper (yes both), tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella made this approachable looking pizza an absolute gem.   It was almost too pretty to eat, but well nah, enjoy.  It was tremendous.

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The Kimtucky continues my tradition of loving pesto.  I’ve emphasized this point many times and I’ll never get sick of it.   And the asiago cheese, roasted red peppers, along with that homemade pesto and fennel sausage made this another masterpiece.  Fennel is something I’m really enjoying on pizzas.

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And I’m glad we went with two contrasting pizzas to see how two different sauces, meats, cheeses, and veggies work on the focaccia.

I think they’re going to be alright.  This is one of the better experiences you’re going to have, not just with pizza, but dining in Baltimore.   The great company helps, the great atmosphere helps, but that food and drink made this all wrapped up in those pretty little bows we might make jokes about.  But this is no joke.  This was worthy of all the superlatives you want to throw at it.

We didn’t have room for dessert, we didn’t have room for much more.  We each took a little more than half our pies home.  Because while it wasn’t that filling, there’s always room for seconds.  And my kimtucky tasted just as amazing the next day, or maybe it was later that night.  Oops!  Yes, it was so good.

And we learned from our server, that the staff have their pies on the menu as well, sometimes as specials and sometimes as mainstays.  Judging from the looks of it, we will be back and will be back soon.

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You see the prices.  $15, give or take for these pies is well worth it.

I’m hooked, I’m a fan, and I always was before I even ever walked in the door. I can only hope the next time is coming soon.

Even their website is down-to-earth.

For more on Joe Benny’s, here is their menu, contact info, and their mission, which truly matches what we experienced.

 

Yes, their mission states it might take a few minutes longer than normal for the food.  But it’s so worth being patient.  Good things come to those…

I envision the same will happen for you.

Peace be with you.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

A Slice Special

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We took this show on the road all the way up to quaint and charming Shrewsbury, PA.

I don’t imagine many people reading this would consider this town the mecca of action, move making, let alone pizza.   This is now why my friend and I drove through necessarily.  It’s good to go on adventure, go with the flow, and discover places, gems, and inspiration on the way.

And that’s exactly what happened.

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My buddy and I did some advanced research on pizza places in the vicinity and Sons of Sicily was on the list, and one that got a decent amount of praise.

With that the strip mall itself looked like something out of the past, which is always refreshing and welcome.

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The interior was also simple, no thrills, and may feel uneventful and lacking enthusiasm to some, but I found it once again, refreshing.

When slices are not in display there may be the moment of concern that wait times to get a personal, medium, or larger sized pie may be longer, and then you’re stuck with all this pizza that you may or may not want later.  But who are we kidding, there’s always time for more pizza.  Seconds and thirds have never been an issue to me and I can’t imagine and issue to many.

But a legitimate concern I’ve had is when a place doesn’t have slices on pizza trays, but will make slices and add any toppings you like.  That takes the fun out of it for me.  If I want a cheese and a cheese with a topping of two I’m either better off getting two cheese slice or two slices of something else and pull the toppings off to pretend that I got a cheese instead.  I’m going a bit off course but I’ve always felt asking to add toppings, while giving us a sense of control, also takes the fun out of it.

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Luckily, the special for today and this week was a Barbecue Chicken.   My friend and I got one cheese, one bbq chicken, and a fountain drink.  For the two slices and a soda the total came out to under $6.  Yes $6 for a lot.

And by a lot I mean these slices are no joke.  As you see in these pictures they got some size to them.  The argument can be made that this is the legitimate equivalent of having 2.5 to 3 slices.

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The cheese was fine but nothing to write home amount.  I honestly thought it could have been heated just a little longer.  I’m not sure how much of a difference that would make as the cheese wasn’t anything memorable and the sauce was sweeter than what I’m used to.  Sometimes sweeter pizza sauce will enhance a pizza.  That didn’t work here.  If anything it took something away from it.

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However, the barbecue chicken had a little more soul and effort put behind it.   The cheese looked and felt more inspired.  The shredded pieces of chicken with the barbecue sauce glaze looks as good as it tastes.  I adore how they put on the drizzle.

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You can also see the difference in how long this pizza was in the oven.  This dough was cooked to near perfection.  This is a great slice and I’m so grateful this was the special today, or else I would have never gotten a chance to write about it.  I mean it because…

I don’t know the next time we’ll be back in the area.  Summer and life is for adventures, so the change in towns, locations, pizzerias, and fun things in general will hopefully be the norm and not the exception, not only this summer but throughout the year and throughout life.

So it’s possible a return will come sooner rather than later.   And I look to find some more hidden and not so hidden gems along the way.  Speaking of which the staff was extremely friendly and asked us how we felt about our choices.  One was particularly adamant about her love for the barbecue chicken.   We concur.  I concur.

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If you’re ever in the area and want to try a local, welcoming, and affordable pizzeria then Sons of Sicily may be just what you’re looking for.  Here is their menu and their contact information.

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Here’s to a Summer of great adventures and hopefully equally great pizza.

Feeling great,

Ideen

 

…Your Favorite Pizza Shop

LittleItalyPizzas

How many different ways can you articulate your fondness and affinity for a town, for it’s spectacular views, small town vibe, and yes the inspirational pizza?

Annapolis has my heart.  Whether I have theirs is a topic for another lifetime, but even the missteps tend to be charming.  And the charm tends to be all that more charming. Yes I’m romantic.   I just love this place so much.  And part of this reason is I have no reason. It doesn’t necessarily get me and I don’t necessarily get it.  Everything about it just feels right.  I feel one with so much when I’m here.  It’s those proverbial goosebumps.

We’ve arrived at Memorial Day Weekend.  How’d that happen?

As I did two years ago, this kind of a homage and congratulations to the Naval Academy and all the commencement activities that will be taking place this weekend.

Here is my pizza history with my favorite state capital.

LittleItalyAnnapolis

A little bit away from the commotion and situations in downtown is a little hole in the wall, Little Italy Famous Pizza & Pasta.

If I hadn’t done a little research after the fact I would think this place would have been here for decades and honoring the authenticity of Italian Style, New York Style, and any other old world style pizza and restaurant for that matter.

I was asking around to friend who do live, have lived or spent frequent time in the area to see if anyone has eaten there.  I either got no response or pals saying they’d never heard of it.

Then I find out this place has been open less than a year.   I was all set to get excited and talk about how this is a diamond or a gem within many others.  My preconceived notions and presumptions are not going to sway me towards the negative.  Not yet at least.

If the pizza’s good then we’re onto something.

It was once a Peruvian Chicken restaurant that converted into this current restaurant. Maybe it’s new owners and maybe it’s some of the same folks that felt like a rebranding was necessary.  And there’s nothing right or wrong about that.  Local business is what I root for, is what many of us are rooting for to succeed because they’re still the heart and soul of so many things.    And there can never be soul.

With that said, the pizza was not exactly what I expected.  Maybe I was going to strike gold and find something not many others have.   Not quite.  It was good but it wasn’t life changing.  But the pleasant surprise was they had slices.  I was going in assuming I would get a small pie to go, but they have their pizza trays with a few choices and that made me happy.

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I got three and because we feasted heavily on meat last week I figure I would dial it back and go with the cheese, the white, and the veggie.  And did they put on a lot of veggies.

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Again, nothing wrong with them.  I just wanted more.  And I’m one of those people that doesn’t ask for a whole lot except in this instance I want my pizza to taste good.

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The crust was fine on all of them.  Since I don’t have much to say about the cheese or the sauce, I will say the vegetable slice with all of its overloaded vegetables was slightly charming and entertaining in a way.  Maybe I was just (and am) entertaining myself, but it was my favorite of the three.

I do wish I took a picture of the interior.  They had those red and white vinyl tablecloths you might have seen at a restaurant when you were a kid and might still see today.

That’s what made me think this place has been around for a while. I love the attention to detail.  It may not mean to much but I found it endearing in a way.  For that reason a lot it will make me come back.

The pizza may not have been great this time around but I’m all for giving it another chance.  I think this place has some great food to offer including their pizzas.

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Their menu, location, contact information, and story is all available on the main page.

If this works out I will be doing another Annapolis location next week or soon.  And one that’s close to Little Italy Famous Pizza & Pasta.

No this wasn’t my favorite pizza place as the title says but I got a kick of the to-go box. And I thought I saw them all…

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Have a blessed and safe holiday weekend,

Ideen