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

 

 

A Very Special…

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I love today.  I’m also sad the holidays are winding down.  Christmas means so much to so many.  It’s about the friends, the family, and the love.

Oh and there’s all that food!

I wish there was a feeling of love all the time.   But as several wise folks have said, it all starts with me.   Maybe the holidays wouldn’t feel so special if it were to occur throughout the year.   So it’s up to me, you, or whoever to spread cheer and positivity as much as possible.  I adore the sentimentality.

And speaking of such joy…

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Wawa is sentimentality at its height.   Ever since my first visit in 2000, I’ve been captivated ever since.

When I discover a new Wawa store driving on a highway or a random stretch of road I’m compelled to go in, even if all I get is a coffee or tea. It’s the energy of the store.  It’s an attachment to the good that it represents.  I can never have enough.

In here it always feels like Christmas.

So to my pleasure it was great to discover that they serve Focaccia Pizzas. This is a fairly new discovery.  I think they were introduced back in the fall of 2014.  That’s the first time I saw them.

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I’ve had all 5 pies listed, and they’re not going to be the best pizza you’ve ever had.  And you shouldn’t expect them to be.  But they’re enjoyable on the soft and squishy focaccia bread provided.

If you’re expecting world class pizza, you will be disappointed.   I do find the bread to be heavy and prefer to share the individual pie with someone else.  It’s ambitious to finish this on my own.

Over the course of recent history, I’ve had the buffalo chicken and the vegetable.   I found them both enjoyable within the expectations set forth by myself and within Wawa’s food quality.

The buffalo chicken sauce is really in-your-face and might be a bit arduous for some, but I took my time eating this.   The cream cheese was a bit dense and a substantial amount was thrown on there too.   The chicken and provolone were great.  They really made this pie.  It was the simple stuff that was the best.  I’ve seen this pattern before.

I dig the packaging too.  That can be seen above and below.

The vegetable one I had this week.  Doesn’t it look and feel like Christmas?  Ah those colors are magical. How are the flavors?   The spinach, tomatoes, and onions are magnificent.  I’ve enjoyed them on my subs and I enjoy them here.   This almost looks too pretty to eat. But I ate it.  And I picked the cheese and vegetables off at times when the bread was too much to eat.   But I will gladly get this one again.

A gentleman noted how amazing it looked when I grabbed my pie.   It tells me that he and many others may still not realize pizza is on the menu.

For folks who have been there, you know what you’re going to get. And it’s usually good.  This is not going to be the greatest pizza you’ll have and I doubt you would expect it to be.  But you will likely find joy, peace, and comfort here.  This isn’t just during the holidays but all year round.

For more on this fun store, you can go here and here.

I go to a store at least five times and will be headed there later today.  Yes they’re open on Christmas! Yes!

I will conclude with that.  I want to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and anything else you celebrate.  This is a special time of year that I wish was perpetual.   But once again, it’s up to me.  It’s up to you.  It’s up to all of us.

All the best,

Ideen