You Say Tomatoes

HotTomtoesSlices

Two years ago, when leading up to The Fell’s Point Fun Festival, I did a series of posts featuring pizza from restaurants, pizzerias, and the like from the neighborhood.   I didn’t do them all, I didn’t avoid any on purpose, but I wanted to discuss some that may be off the radar or not within anyone’s crosshairs on a regular basis.

HotTomatoes

Then there’s Hot Tomatoes.  It’s one of those things where if you live or hang out in the area, you know what you’re getting.  I was thinking myself that it was too obvious and almost unnecessary to write about this establishment.  This is not a knock on them or their food.   It’s just that it’s always been there and it’s not going anywhere.  And imagine any late night, especially on the weekends, where slices are coming and going at a rapid-fire place.  The place isn’t going anywhere as long as people had a good night (or even a bad night) out and need something to finish the night off and feed their bellies.

But with the Festival starting this weekend, I felt like if I’m not going to write about Hot Tomatoes now, I may never.

For me, I don’t know if I have any sentimental attachment to Hot Tomatoes.   I’ve been and many of us have been too many times to count.  But after a while we look for other sources for greasy food to keep us satisfied.   And while a couple of places have closed nearby (Little Italy Pizzeria and Italian Graffiti come to mind), this neighborhood staple has stood the test of time.  Having a prominent location on Broadway helps.   Location….

HotTomatoesCheese

So how’s the pizza?  Its’s pizza.  It’s food.  There’s some folks prepping the pies, putting sauce, putting cheese, toppings, and throwing it in the oven.  Then when it’s ready they’ll slice it up and put it in a box or you to go.  See where I’m going with this?  It’s pizza that looks rough, is not going to win any world title belts, but it serves its purpose.  And that’s just the way they want it.  And it’s just pizza.  Many of us at later hours don’t care about artisanal quality and world renowned craftsmanship.

HotTomatoesGreek2

But something happened recently.  They’ve changed their slices up quite a bit.  I had a Greek slice with olives, onions, feta, and a whole slew of awesomeness.  It was a white based and it was surprisingly good.  I mean that with all sincerity.  Because of Hot Tomatoes presents itself, you expect what you expect.  But when they throw a good slice that is, your taste buds are feeling good and it’s a welcome change from the standard cheese and pepperoni.   If this slice is on display this weekend I’ll gladly get another.

 

Their slices are in the $4-$5 range but their big, and prices at the late night hour are really not what folks are worrying about.

What is their true stand out if their deep fried cheese steak.  They don’t always make it, but when it’s there, jump on it.  It’s the most unhealthy and glorious of all guilty pleasures.  I’ve always had to split mine with a pal.  It’s incredibly bad for you, yet incredibly delish all at once.

And now their other venture, at the same location, Diablo Doughnuts is really wowing people. I had my first opportunity to try their sweet treats and a wedding last weekend.  I believe I had one with fruity pebbles.  So good.

UPDATE :

This has been updated with my actual first purchase of donuts from said Diablo, during the festival, which was rather mellow on Sunday.

I grabbed an iced coffee, along with a Samoa (yes the Girl Scout kind), and a Blackberry Lime.  I thought they were both fine, but in what ways do I compare this to other doughnuts?  I like the creativity of flavors, but not sure if this is anything amazing in my eyes.  They were tasty though.  That’ all that matters.

I’m assuming they will still have a stand outside of their shoppe.  Per neighborhood and logistical changes the festival will be condensed this year, to try to make it even a heavier focus on local business and give it a more cozy and welcoming feel.  I’ve always felt was it inviting and approachable to people from all walks of life.  I’m hoping this change is a good one.  We shall see.

BroadwaySquare

Broadway Square, with the exception of the pretzel dog and lemonade stand, has opened back up in time for this weekend.  All signs pointing to a positive experience and a great time.

FellsPointFestival

I’ve been attending this festival every year, except for 2003, since 2000.  It’s become a part of me, a part of many of us, and it’s that first weekend in October that many of us look forward too.  For me, it hasn’t always been the most amazing of times, mainly because I think the festival got carried away with trying to be too big and getting carried away with outside food, drink, and traveling carnival like vendors.

But the last few years have been fantastic, with being able to drink on the streets, and keep it more local, has been a welcome addition.  And an addition by subtraction.

FellsPointFestivalSchedule

For those attending this weekend, here is the link to the maps and parking at the festival, the band list, purchasing drink packages (it’s $20 for 3 drinks versus $5 for just the cup in previous years), and contact information.

With so many many changes going on in the city and one of the great neighborhoods in the country, I’m hoping the integrity and heart will always be there.

We’ll be seeing ya this weekend.

Take good care,

Ideen

 

 

Happy Feta Fridee!

BuonAppetitoSlices2

Any time I go a bit out of the area, I’m going to seek out a pizzeria.  No matter how fancy or simple it might be, it’s good to leave home (that’s a relative term) and get to trying new pizzas and having new experiences somewhere else, even if it’s only an hour or so away.

So last Sunday I had the opportunity to be in Chantilly, VA.  I’ve mentioned before that I have ties to the area, so any opportunity to be in or around the vicinity makes me happy and feels like home (see) and feels so real to me.

Chantilly like most of Fairfax County, like most of Northern Virginia, and like many flourishing suburbs in the Mid-Atlantic, and then around the country, is loaded with neighborhoods with fancy houses, pricey houses, lots of trees, a good mixture of people, and lots of peace.  Well hopefully lots of peace.

With that also comes lots of chain restaurants, stores you see everywhere else, and entities that might be deemed too safe the the rest of the world.  Sometimes that’s just what people want, and I don’t see a right or wrong to that.

As I leave one of the these gorgeous neighborhoods, I do a quick search for pizza in the area.  There’s always pizza nearby, you have to believe and trust the universe on this one.

BuonAppetito

And thankfully Buon Appetito’s was minutes up the road waiting for me, and waiting for my patronage.  Well I’d like to believe that.

There’s a lot of offices nearby so I had an idea of how the whole vicinity would look, and it was what I was expected.  And that’s not the most complimentary of well, compliments.

The shopping complex I entered is as bland and generic as it gets.  It’s loaded with stores I’d never want to set foot in, unless I’d really have to, and even that is a stretch.  I as hoping the pizzeria would be an oasis of hope within all the box stores that bookend (and elsewhere) dominate the place.

Fortunately, that would be a yes.

The owner is originally from Naples, so that lends to credibility and authenticity that you’re not going to get everywhere.

The inside is massive, it’s spacious, yet it’s so welcoming.

And I had this idea in my head that I was going to discover a different kind of slice.  I asked politely, and I received.

BuonAppetitoCheese

The cheese slice was reasonably good, but nowhere near the best I’ve ever had.  It’s a solid slice with good cheese and the sauce is what didn’t wow me as I’ve grown accustomed to.  The thin crust was fantastic.  If it’s a simple cheese pizza you’re seeking this will do the job and then some.   Many will love it, and do.

BuonAppetitoFeta

But here comes the slice that’ll keep me coming back.  The white pizza with spinach, and feta cheese cubes planted on top, is what pizza is all about.  Lately I’ve had some white slices that have disappointed.  As simple as it is to make it can also be botched and lose the taste, or either become too cheesy and too oily, or both.  This succeeds on all levels, the cheese, the crust, the spinach, and that feta oh my goodness. I write this in the morning and I’m craving one right now.  It’s absolutely off the charts stunning.

BuonAppetitoSlices

The bonus is that both slices came to under $5.  Yes you read that right.   For that and the feta, and likely so much other goodness, I highly recommend a visit to one of their two locations (Chantilly and Dulles), and I believe you’ll be dazzled as well.

For those who are local, you can order online.  For Chantilly click here, and for Dulles, here you go pal.

BuonAppetitoMenu

Here’s their menu and catering info, and their awesome story.

If I’m back (and I will be), I’d like to to this again.   This was fun.

Thank you so much.

Ideen

 

Word To The Wiseguy Version 2.0

wiseguysiciliantruffleslice2

This is one of those once-in-a-while posts where the pizza experience was so fascinating, that it had to be sliced into two parts. No puns whatsoever. Last week’s posr can be found here.

I’ll cut (oops) right to the chase.  Wiseguy NY Pizza has some of the best slices I’ve had some time.  I know we tend to heap praise and glamorize while in the moment, and after the dust settles and we’ve had a few minutes to process, we come back down to reality. It’s been a couple of weeks and I’m still thinking about these slices.

While last week at the DC location had one incredible slice, the visit to the Arlington had a one-two punch that is up there with the best of them.

We’ve all had those meals and those experiences that resonate with us.  We do tend to romanticize those events from the past as being much better than they were.  But then there’s those times you knew something was special and that over time, it was going to feel just as awesome (if not more) now than it did then.  Ah who am I kidding, it’s just pizza, or is it something more?

After that build-up this better be good right?

A drive through Arlington isn’t anything visually inspiring, unless you like big buildings, corporate entities, and people moving fast trying to look important.  But nestled in the heart of all this commotion, was my inaugural trip to Wiseguy.

I never have presumptions when it comes to food.  Several factors such as, price, location, atmosphere, my mood, and the universe dictate my feeling of the pizzeria and the pizza itself.  I don’t ask for much.

But to say certain biases don’t shine through when I’m near our nation’s capital would be a lie.  However, when you find a parking spot right in front of the place, you know it’s going to be a good day.

When I waked in I had no idea what I was going to get.  And fortunately I was in a short line (unlike visit two)  at lunch hour, so everything was available.

wiseguysiciliandisplay

And the first thing I saw was those squared shaped, Sicilian Style, cheese falling from the sides and some of it fried from the way it was heated in the oven.  I knew this was going to be remarkable.

wiseguysicilian1

I didn’t even know there was Feta immersed in this gem until I perused the menu again. Feta on a white pizza, feta when done right is perfection.  It’s one of those cheeses I’ve appreciated since I was a kid, thanks in part to my parents and my background.  I don’t have it enough or maybe I have it just enough to appreciate it and look forward to it more.   And of course you have your appropriate cheeses, fresh motz and mozzarella, and fontinella, to make one of the best slices I’ve had in a long while.  This is bordering on five stars.  The roasted garlic makes it five stars. Garlic and feta on a white pizza, who knew? Yum!  And even for a thicker style dough, I loved every minute of this.  I’m crazing a slie now.  Just as I’m craving…

…When I thought it couldn’t any better, I up and get the Mushroom Truffle.  You would think that eating two slices like this in concert with each other, that the flavors would overpower from one pizza to the other.  I took my time, I ate them separately, and I savored every bite I could.  The mushrooms tasted fresh out of the garden, and the inclusion of truffle, goat cheese, and basil makes this pure insanity.  How is this slice even possible?

wiseguytruffleslice1

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the crust.  This was one of the best thin slices I’ve had in a while.  Something about the soul and character behind this slice is second-to-none.  That and I love mushroom.

For my pals in the area, you can also order online.  And for pals in Arlington there’s the Door Dash option.

wiseguysiciliantruffleslice1

I think I painted the right picture of my two experiences at Wiseguy.  If not, I think the paintings, I mean pictured above tell the story.  This is a nice segue into November. What that means I don’t know but I’m looking forward to continuing this ride.

Stay warm,

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.

wholefoodsview2

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.

wholefoodsprices

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.

wholefoodsshrimp2

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

wholefoodsshrimp5

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.

wholefoodswhite3

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

 

All Fired Up

JZ'sDuo

A serendipitous moment took place at a wine festival I attended and volunteered at took place.  While sampling various vinos a little chow is not only going to be necessary, it’s going to be inevitable.

JZ'sTruck

From generic food stands to flavored nuts to seafood to pasta, and everything in between. I’m only glossing over what I saw or what I choose to see, but once I saw JZ’s Brick Oven Pizza, it only felt right and this was destined to be.

JZ'sSign

As you can see they had a limited menu for the festival which is only right.  You only need just a few slices to please everyone.  Luckily, they pleased me and it seems like most of the attendees would concur.

I went with the cheese and since I’ve seldom had it anywhere, the Greek.

What immediately stood out is how cheap all these slices were.   Everything, including the aforementioned slices, the pepperoni and buffalo chicken were only $3.00.  For any type party, festival, or facsimile that is a bargain.  And I may be understating that.  I’ve seen similar food trucks charge more than double what they’re asking for.  That’s automatic brownie (or cheesy, man I’m cheesy) points in my book.

JZ'sWoods

These slices would be worth double that.  I mean that sincerely.  These were highly enjoyable.  No it’s not going to win best pizza in the world nor that does scenario really apply here.   These tiny guys were delectable.  I really got the brick oven feel and taste that I haven’t always gotten from places that proclaim the same.  Maybe it’s the people and brains behind the operation, but the folks behind these slices seemed to be enjoying themselves.  And the charring looks artistic.

JZ'sCheese

In spite of the growing lines, my pizza came out swiftly and efficiently.  The cheese tasted exactly how I had hoped, nothing more, nothing less.  Maybe it was the festival vibe and atmosphere, but this was comfort food and it’s finest.  And this was a source of comfort.

JZ'sGreek

The Greek was the stand-out of the two.  I could have devoured a whole pie of these.  The garlic, feta, olives, spinach and tomatoes blended  together to make a champion.

Maybe the stroke of genius is these slimmer slices only left you wanting more.   I did notice familiar faces going back more seconds, and maybe thirds (even more?) and that’s the sign of a winner.

JZ'sOven

I do believe this would work in a multitude of settings.  The atmosphere of this event lent itself to foods and wines maybe tasting better than they normally would in a regular environment.   Most people aren’t too picky, they just want good food with a good vibe.  This was the best of both.

And I would love to have this again.

The website is easy to navigate.  The menu, contact information, and other particulars can be found all on the same page.   Everything about JZ’s would point to be being on the same page.

For more on the wine festival I added, you can go here or here.

I’d like to make mention that I had the good fortune of meeting someone, while volunteering, connected to this group but misplaced their contact information. She said her family is the ones behind this and have now opened up a new restaurant in the Towson, MD area.  I had promised to do an honest write-up and wanted to give them credit as well.  If you happen to read this I just wanted to make mention and say thanks so much.

Here’s to a great Summer and festival season,

Ideen

To Serve, with Love

UncleMaddios

I recently took a nice drive down to Dulles, VA and the great things always find you when you aren’t looking. Well, maybe I looked a little.  While I was here, I investigated any nearby places in the area and to my pleasure, I found a gift from the universe.

UncleMaddiosCollage

Everything about Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint is done right.   The food, the staff, the images on the walls, and the overall energy of this place, make this a can’t miss.  I can’t say enough good things about the overall presentation.

But most importantly, how is the pizza?  Well what I ordered will go down as one of my favorites.

The set up here is of the assembly line variety.  You can order a custom pizza or create your own!   The concept is simple, but for a pizza, could be hit or miss. This is a certifiable hit.

UncleMaddiosMenu

With their plethora of menu options, I opted for the Portobello Pesto.  And I’m so happy I did.  This is a masterpiece.   I ordered this with the Whole Wheat Dough, and that was a call I’m grateful for.  What a wonderful tasting pita style flat bread. It really complemented the pizza well.

UncleMaddiosPie

Maybe there’s a bias, but this pie is a culmination of some of my favorite toppings.  The pesto, feta, portabella and white mushrooms, tomatoes, and basil all come together for something so simple, yet so wonderful.  I was happy to read that their dough is made in-house and that their vegetables are local and delivered every morning.  No wonder everything tasted so fresh! And the energy and love behind the making of this was obvious.

UncleMaddiosZa

I say love, because that’s what’s promoted throughout the shoppe.  Since I was a newbie, that staff was happy to help with suggestions and explain how the whole process works.  They were patient and never seemed in a rush, as on this day, there was a bit of a line.  But they kept it moving, while all the while grateful to help every customer the same.

Sometimes the pizza is enhanced by how great the customer service was.  And this is near the top, on both levels.  The positive vibrations put it over the top. The theme is love and love is a good thing.

I’d never heard of this place until last week.  I see it’s a chain that is growing in popularity.  If you’re every in the Dulles area, I strongly recommend eating here!

I wish them all the success and I can’t wait to try another inspiring item!

UncleMaddiosLotsOfLove

UncleMaddiosLove

All The Best,

Ideen

Isabella’s – Inspirational, Incredible, & Iconic

IsabellasStoreFront

It took me a while to get to Little Italy, didn’t it?   When I first thought of doing this blog, Isabella’s Brick Oven, was one of the catalysts.  I’ve eaten here a few times and have always had a positive experience. Simply put, their pizza is awesome.

And I adore Little Italy.  I don’t come here as often as I should.

Not all brick ovens are created equal.  I’ve had many a pie this way and some have tasted exquisite. Other have tasted atrocious.  This falls in the former category.

It’s been so long, I forgot what I’ve ordered here previously.   To make up for that and to support our awesome local establishments, I ordered three amazing pizza pies!

IsabellasCheese

First, was their Traditional Cheese.  This was a joy to eat.  Their homemade dough really shines through here.  The crust is heated to perfection.  And the way the mozzarella is baked into the bread is impressive. This is one of the best cheese pizzas in all of downtown Baltimore.

IsabellasBlanca

My second order was the Pizza Bianca.   Their take on the white pizza included feta.  And what a fantastic addition this is. How beautiful does that look?   The ricotta, mozzarella, and feta really come together here.  My taste buds were blown away.  Again, the crust is dynamite.  And feta is one of my favorite cheeses.  This is the kind of white pizza one can only dream of.  But then it comes true.

IsabellasLombdardi

Last and nowhere close to least, is the Lombardi.  We wanted to change it up this time.  So we got a specialty pie.   And special is an understatement. Putting a pie like this together is a stroke of genius. We have pancetta, gorgonzola, and walnuts.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  This was a lesson in Pizza 101 and all other courses combined.  I really wanted to take my time eating this and appreciate every bite. My last helping of it came together perfectly.  It’s as if the cheese, meat, and walnuts all hit each other symmetrically and with unison.  That was one of the best bites I can recall in sometime.

IsabellasAllThree

I can’t pick a favorite as I loved all three.  But Isabella’s is one of my favorites in all of the Baltimore area.  I can’t recommend this place enough.   They have many other pies I look forward to trying.  Their slices may seem smaller than what we’re used to. But I find it all the more charming.

The girl that was working yesterday was very kind and courteous. She seemed truly appreciative that I stopped in.  That always leaves a great impression.

And for being open less than 10 years, they’ve already made their mark in the neighborhood and the city.   I can’t wait to go back.

Take good care.

Best,

Ideen