When In Pass-a-Grille…

BrassMonkeyPizzaPie3

Yes, I love saying Pass-a-Grille (the southern most point of St. Pete Beach) and will try to slip it into every conversation even if it makes no sense.

When I first touched ground in the Gulf Coast of Florida two months ago, I don’t recall what my first stop in St. Petersburg was, or what my first stop was to begin with.   My host friend, who is a dear friend, helped me get so much in that it looks like one long story, as opposed to a bunch of places that were just there and now are forgettable.

While some might be easy to forget, this trip is loaded with positive memories, and stories that I can take with me forever, wherever I go.

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One that really resonates, and gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling, is when my friend took me to The Brass Monkey.

BrassMonkeySign

Now she had told me weeks prior that she visited a place that is owned and operated by folks who have ties to the Maryland area. That can only mean their love for Baltimore and Maryland area sports.  And that’s exactly what we’re talking about.   It took me a few minutes to realize I was in the presence of so much local sports posters and memorabilia. Not only sports, but symbols of what makes Maryland great also display proudly.

BrassMonkeySide

What’s not to like?

I recall my excitement as my friend and I were deciding on what to eat for lunch and said she had a place in mind.  In hindsight I should’ve put everything together.  But what would be the fun in that?

As we drove down towards beautiful St. Pete Beach my excitement levels were reaching heights I haven’t felt in a while.  I’m on vacation, to an extent we’re on vacation, and just being in a new place, with beautiful weather, and friendly people is going to amp up the enthusiasm.

BrassMonkeyMenuOut

I realized as we got closer down the beach where we were headed.   I’m grateful for the ride, this experience, and we have yet to sit down.

BrassMonkeyMenu

Since it was lunchtime, it was the perfect time to grab a seat anywhere (we chose the bar) and to appreciate our surroundings.  And each other of course.  We were in great moods and felt like we ran the place.  Of course we didn’t but we got a kick out of entertaining ourselves each other.  That’s as important as the wining (or in this insance, boozing) and dining.

BrassMonkeyPizzaMenu

Now I’ll cut to the chase.  I did order a pizza, we also ordered wings & fries, and then Fancy Fries which are friend green beans.  It’s bar food with a little twist.  The fried green beans were the true highlight of this meal.

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I didn’t get a pizza expecting it to be world class or this earth shattering experience.  I got a vegetable pie just hoping it would be something to enjoy in the space and time that we were in.

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While it was loaded with more mozzarella cheese than some may prefer.  I didn’t mind. I’d say the more, the merrier, which can also mean even more leftovers.  The cheese, veggies, and crust are simple for a bar, and good enough.   And maybe the quality could have been up there a little more, it’s more than worthwhile to share with friends or to heat up and serve for the next few days after.  Which is exactly what happened.

 

The wings and fries were decent, but I’m telling you these fancy fries are what did it for me.  When I look back in pictures I honestly forgot that’s what we had.  We had a lot of appetizers before the main event.   And the main event might just be any meal you have on vacation.

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If you’re expecting healthy eats with diet friendly portions, this won’t work in your favor. But hearty portions is right in lines with what you’ll get.

BrassMonkeyDrinkMenu

Our frozen drinks were stellar too.  The menu is above, I’ll let you figure out what is what, with the beverages listed below.

 

But the true draw of this place is location, atmosphere, and the local flavor for those of us in Maryland.  It’s the quintessential home away from home.

 

While it was great to be away, it was a charming reminder of where I come from and what I’ll be going back to.

 

And I will be coming back to Brass Monkey (to order something different, maybe those crab cakes!) upon my return to beautiful St. Pete and beautiful St. Pete Beach, and that Pass-a-Grille, which I can never get enough of saying.

BrassMonkeyPromo

For more on the Brass Monkey, here is their story, their menu,  football info,  beach apparel for sale, and contact info.

BrassMonkeyIDontKnow

Here’s the now growing list of Florida pizza spots I’ve visited.

Thanks so much and I hope you’re summer has been beautiful.

Ideen

 

Happy Feta Fridee!

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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

 

It’s In The Way That You Use It

NewmansWhite2

I wanted to have some fun with this one.  I want to have fun with all of these posts.  But sometimes the universe throws you a curve ball.  Actually no it didn’t.  I’ve wanted to write about Newman’s Own for many months now.  The obstacles, or experiences might be a better word for it, came my way, and even though I never forgot, it took me a lot longer to get here.

Because of that I’m going to write about two pizzas instead of one.  And I’ll get it out of the way now.  Both were absolutely phenomenal.  And with all the choices you have on a frozen pie, that’s not a gimme, and it’s not always accurate.

The idea of giving this careful thought and attention came back to me earlier this week.  And we all know how great the actor Paul Newman was.   More importantly, is his philanthropic work that resonates with many of us today.

First things first, how was the pizza?  Absolutely incredible. I kept it simple, which I like to do quite often.  And when it’s summertime we don’t want to think too hard about what we’re eating. Simple food is meant to simply be enjoyed.  With that being said I went with the four cheese, and one of my favorites, the white with spinach.  Both were exquisite.

Maybe its knowing the good behind this operation.  And knowing that 100% of profits go to charity is going to make not just the pizza, but all of Newman’s Own products taste that much better.  Your mind is going to make it believe so. When it’s great, a belief in someone or something makes it even greater. I firmly believe that’s how the universe and our hearts and souls are wired.  But it also helps when his food is usually delicious.  This was no exception.

It was bigger than that.

Maybe it was the place I was in, which might have been at peace, if even for a few moments, that both of these frozen pizzas turned out so amazing.   The thin crust and the golden brown goodness that these pies shows after heating told such a story.  I had this feeling, even before purchase and even before preheating stages, that I was going to eat something special.

The cheese and white had the most beautiful, flaky and thin crust that didn’t fall apart after each bite.  You know many frozen pizzas are known to that.   They each had their own personality and their own ways of showing that great pizza doesn’t have to be delivered or eaten at a swanky pizzeria.  Sometimes the best is at home.

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The white with the spinach combination is just a gift from beyond.  Spinach is great and the white cheeses are the perfect complement to one another.  Visually stunning.

NewmansWhiteSlices

Now I’ve had these pizza pies before, but not like this.  I mean all I did was put them in the oven as 12 minutes later they came out glowing.   It’s something so simple that I think, no I know, represents something bigger than all of us.  To some, it’s just pizza.  To me it’s a metaphor.

It’s the most beautiful thing that can’t always be put into words.

So I don’ have much more to say, except wow.

There’s six more pizzas that I could try in the future, and I will.  And maybe in a future story I can elaborate on how amazing this foundation is.  When nearly $500 million has been donated worldwide, it’s something nice to be a part of, even if it’s just the ever slightest.

It’s good to be a part of good, and doesn’t take much effort.

It’ll be much sooner than later when I revisit this gorgeous entity.  I look forward to sharing more with you and with the universe.

For more on Newman’s Own, click here.  Here’s a link to their foundation.  And here’s a list of all their products.  And finally, more on the company, the charity, and there’s love for our animal friends too!  Yes! This is all happiness.  And it’s an extensive list of greatness.

This is greatness.

Thank you so much and have a blessed weekend.

Ideen

 

Joe To The Second

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There’s quite a few instances where I could have done a pizzeria more justice.  There’s times where I either know was too harsh on a place, not hard enough, or too kind.  But more importantly is the overall energy levels that surround said pizza place.  And that also applies to me.  I have to be in the best mood possible.  Yet I must go in unbiased and treat everything with equal importance, equal respect, and equal praise and criticisms.

Of course I have favorites.  Some I’ve written about, and some that are yet to come.   And believe me, more is coming…

JoeSquaredFront

And with that I present to you, an oldie but a goodie, but not quite an oldie, Joe Squared in the Station North neighborhood in Baltimore.  This is the Artscape special for this year,2017 edition, which is becoming a fun little tradition (here’s the last two years of posts related to this awesome festival) that I’ve grown to become fond of.   And Joe Squared will be right in the vicinity of all the activity this weekend.

They moved locations not too long ago.   Their original location footsteps away from their new locale had a charm to it.  It felt Baltimore, it felt old world, and it just didn’t feel like how many newish places are looking and feeling today.  It had an authenticity, which still exists in many places, but is slowly dissipating.

However, I never had their pizza in the old spot.  I only grabbed a drink and maybe an appetizer from time to time.  I wasn’t there enough to consider myself a regular.  Not even close.  But I did feel at home and felt cozy when I was there.

Several year later, my first pizza eating experience at Joe’s was actually at their (at the time) second location at PowerPlant Live.

It’s where friends and I would prefer to eat before a concert.  We all love pizza, and as a bonus we loved their risotto, and indulged there on a number of occasions. 

I couldn’t tell you exactly what we ate.  But I know once we had this mushroom risotto that was existentially awesome.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  Actually I could but I think that’ll work.

I don’t remember the pizza we ate, but the square shapes and the simplicity of our cheese, our toppings, and the pizza crust, made it always enjoyable.  I never said it was the best pizza I ever had, but it surely belong in the conversations of the better pizzas in Baltimore.

And after all this time, I impulsively decided today to grab two personal pizzas to go.  Yes as I alluded to earlier, I wanted to keep the Artscape theme going, and I nearly dropped the ball. Since, I was short on time, instead of sitting down and dining it, I opted to get two pies to go, to have a little now, and maybe save some more for later.  And I saved quite a bit.   Don’t read into too much of that just yet.

The interior is nothing to be too mesmerized about.  It’s a basic set up with pictures, a spacious dining room, and a medium sized bar.  Because of this, no pictures are really necessary, outside of the food.  It also made the decision to get my za to go that much easier.

JoeSquaredMenu

I went with a simple one, The Flag, and then a more complex pie, The Cumin Braised Lamb.

In a nutshell, these are no the pizzas I remember.  Much time has passed, nor should they be. But the charm and the openness and welcoming vibration I got from these pizzas was not there. It’s been replaced with something not as enthusiastic, and not as down-to-earth.  At least not on this day.

The big positive is the coal-fired and thin sourdough crust.  That’s tremendous and a gave the pizzas a distinct taste, outside of the toppings.  Because…

I’ll go with the more adventurous pie first.  The lamb had a lot going on.  The lamb by itself was absolutely terrific.  You can’t help but pick pieces off yourself and enjoy.  I did bit of that. Because otherwise the eggplant didn’t work for me here.  It tended to dominate each bite I took. Now I love eggplant but this was a bit much.  The onions didn’t mesh well either.  As individual entities the ingredients were fresh.  But I don’t think this came together as capable as it should. I I can envision many people loving this because of the lamb.  I loved the lamb but I wanted to love everything, and I couldn’t.  It was merely ok.

JoeSquaredFlag

Now the usual standbys of The Flag, which is essentially three pies in one, a cheese, a variation of their white, and their pesto mozzarella.

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This should be a safe bet correct?  Well not quite.

The cheese and white were missing something.  I tasted more of the crust (which is a good thing sometimes) than anything else.  The cheese was missing something. Maybe more  cheese?  And the white was too creamy and then not creamy enough.  I feel that depended on the bite.  Garlic cream is usually beautiful, but maybe it was trying too hard.

But the pesto will never let you down. I could eat this all day, but I wouldn’t because that would be unhealthy or something.  Yet that pesto taste so real, so magical, and just plain delicious.  I wish I got that as a pie by itself.  It’s fantastic.

What else I want to do is give this another go.  There’s so many pies to choose from, maybe I just found two of them that didn’t resonate with me.  They might with you though.   But a place that carries this much weight deserves to have more of their pizzas sampled.

Speaking of which, if you’re at Artscape this weekend, I would absolutely recommend Joe Squared as a dining destination, if seating is available.  I imagine on a weekend like this that seats might be at a premium.

Next time I’m back I will hopefully be with a friend or two, and absolutely try a couple more pizzas.  Again, one being rather simple, and one being out of the norm.  There’s plenty of that, and options for everyone.  They do offer vegan and gluten free options as well.  Always a good thing.

So this is just the beginning.  I’ve been saying that a lot but it’s the truth. I look forward to coming back and having another go at this.

For their menu click here, location and contact information, and their list of specials.

JoeSquaredSpecials

Maybe I’ll try a special next time myself.

We’ll see you at Artscape.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of…

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I don’t remember.  And I also don’t remember everything that was on Deb’s Veggie from Pizza Box of St. Petersburg, FL.

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That’s because it didn’t quite meet my hopeless romantically like expectations.   I really wanted to like this, to the point that I was genuinely despondent that I didn’t.   And per the recommendation of the cook I went with it.

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You see Deb’s Veggie changes monthly with fresh peak season veggies.  I was here in mid-June and assumed that this would be a perfect time as any to try some magnificent vegetables on a thin crust.

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The crust was really good but maybe just bit overcooked and then undercooked in parts.  I hope that makes sense.  Aside from that I don’t know what happened exactly.

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The vegetables included corn, peppers, tomatoes, and topped with parsley.  I think.  If I’m wrong I’ll stand corrected.   On paper and visually this is art.  Look at that pizza.  This is masterfully created.  And topped with that aioli usually means a winner.  This is one the most gorgeous looking pies I’ve seen in sometime, I just wish it translated the same when eaten.   Individually the toppings were great, but as a whole it didn’t register as anything but a pie that I tried to eat and then I forgot about it.  But I didn’t forget about it enough not to write about it.

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That’s because this pizzeria was introduced to me by a dear friend.  I appreciate when friends send me links and videos of pizza suggestions and reasons to get excited.  And believe me St. Pete has given me many reasons to be excited.  I was was nostalgic before I even arrived, and even more so as nearly a month now as passed.

 

Yet there’s so much to love about this place, and the space.  The space is small.  There’s a few tables for dining in but this place encourages carry out and dining outside behavior. Whether that’s just an assumption or presumption by me is what it is.  But the weather here always seems to be gorgeous and there’s so much to do outside.  Being indoors for too long just seems to defeat the purpose of all this.  Again, it’s just an observation but it’s what I well, observed.

PizzaBoxMenu

In addition, all they serve is pizza.  I find that so endearing,  It’s a true pizza joint.  And I’ll stand corrected on this one, technically they do serve a few side items, but you’ll notice those items all go on their signature pizzas.  

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And a signature pizza is what I will try again next time.  There’s so many beautiful options that I may just chalk this one up to a misstep and nothing else.   I just liked the idea of not knowing what was going on my pie.  It’s the joys of being on vacation, on holiday, and on an adventure.   And even though the pizza wasn’t up to par this time, I’m confident that the next time (and there will be a next time) will be a success.

The vibe of the pizzeria, the staff behind it, and the folks outside doing all kinds of fun things, make me want to come back.  It makes me want to come back to a lot of places, and that makes me want to come back to St. Pete.  I love this town and there’s so much more to try.  And I’ll potentially have a couple more pizza places in this lovely town to review.

As much as I felt like a tourist (not really) I did feel at home too.  I got used to this real quick.  The laid back approach of everything surrounding this place and this town makes me so happy.

Moral of the story, I will be visiting again soon and a return to Pizza Box  is on the agenda.  Even though the best vacations are with no itinerary and no agenda, this’ll still be near the top of the list, that doesn’t exist.

PizzaBoxBoard

Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

Still Plenty of Good

BronxSlices2

For those friends and other peoples that have lived or spent time in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, right outside of Washington, DC, you’ve seen change right before your very eyes.

Whether those changes are for the better is probably not even up for debate.  That may sound defeatist and helpless but in the past 10+ years this neighborhood is hardly recognizable compared to how it used to be.  This is an overly sentimental person viewpoint which is what I’ve always tended to have.   I’m not sure what the rush was but it’s happening all over and the best we can do is either embrace it; seek out the local, the character, and the older style businesses, or move somewhere else.

Well I never lived here, but I did hang out here quite a bit.  I never fully felt like I belonged here but I appreciated (and still do) my friends who live in and around the area.  And can still appreciate the gems that still exist, when I visit.  And there are gems. As I write this there’s more than I realize within in all the chains, the sameness of the bars and restaurants, and the box stores.

There’s still plenty of good in a place where the good seems to be vanishing.

BronxFront

This brings me to Bronx Pizza & Subs that’s smacked right in the heart of everything, where heart might not always be in the right place.  With plenty of restaurants (many new, many have been entrenched before massive changes) in the vicinity, maybe you just want a slice, something quick to eat, and something you don’t have to think about.

Bronx Pizza would be your place.  I was in the area right after most people had lunch, so the wait time was even shorter and there was plenty of room to sit.  But I just wanted a couple of slices to go as I had some exploring and adventures to partake in throughout the day.  But this isn’t about me, it’s about the pizza. Well it’s about me too haha.

BronxMenus

I ordered a cheese (Bronx Pizza) and a chicken carbonara, which they call the Tremont Avenue Chicken Carbonara. Both slices and a soda came out to about $7.  For the location you can’t complain about that.

BronxCheese

But I was a bit surprised as the size of my slices.  I saw others on the counter for both pies that looked larger. Maybe that’s the luck of the draw and those are the breaks. However, quality is what’s paramount and I think something was off.

The cheese just tasted like a cheese pizza.  There was a spark, some inspiration, and a taste that was lacking,   I just didn’t feel anything from the cheese, the sauce, and the crust.  It was good enough to finish.  Actually no, I think I saved it for later and I don’t know what happened.

BronxChicken

Same goes for the chicken carbonara.  I just didn’t feel that wow I want to feel from a slice, or anything that I eat.  Maybe I was expecting too much.

There’s a couple things I find surprising to me.  I didn’t realize they’ve been open for almost a decade.  Have I been here before and not realized?   They’re open late night, which for the location is a pure money maker.  When the bars pour out I’m assuming many folks walk in for the their late night cravings.

BronxSlices

What this also says is I don’t hang out enough here, and I’m not sure what I’m missing if anything.   It also tells me that if I were to have their pizza again, I would once again want it to be during the day.  I’ve rarely written about late night eats because unless a pizzeria is known exclusively for their after hours slices, I don’t think that’s the correct judge of a places’ character.

Even though these slices were not my favorite, I would give it another go, because I’m all about supporting local business, and local is the way to go.

BronxBanner

For those in the area or are going to be, here is Bronx Pizza’s Menu, their story, and their contact information and hours.

Unless things change I think this adventure will continue footsteps away at another Arlington/Clarendon pizzeria.

Thanks so much and Happy 4th.

Ideen

Four Corners of Fun

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Yeah that title is cheesy (ha!) I know.   I just think it’s appropriate considering the pizza, the location, and the all around mood I was in.

JetsPizzaShoppe

Jet’s Pizza is somewhere I should have heard of.   Maybe I have and knew or the time it was not quite within driving distance and slightly out of reach.

A trip to sunny and glorious Florida included a visit to Ft. Myers, which has its own sense of beauty that my words won’t do it justice.  But how happy I am that my first visit to a Jet’s location takes place here.

JetsPizzaGuy

There wasn’t anything out of this world about the store, and that’s just how I liked it.  I don’t recall any tables or chairs to sit in, but that could just me being overly excited about trying some pizza that was quick and easy.  And would be easy to write about.   This will be one of the easier ones.

Just envision that life is going good, you’re on vacation, time is standing still, and you spent it with some fantastic people.  That’s going to make most foods, most experiences, and most anything taste better and feel that much more invigorating.

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It helps that this pizza was spectacular.

When I walked in the door I had no idea what I was expecting.   The joy comes initially comes from knowing I’m trying a pizza out of the way, and might not be on my radar anytime soon.

JetsPizza2

Time wasn’t necessarily of the essence, but I did want something for the road.   I was hoping for a cheese and a pepperoni (you know keep it simple), but all they had was the latter.  Considering the store had just opened (yes I was more excited than usual, but pizza is exciting…) the only thing available pepperoni.    And as I’ve said before,  I could easily pick the pepperoni slices if necessary.

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In this instance it wasn’t necessary.  The deep dish and greasy goodness is the stuff of vacation, it’s the stuff of marvel, and it’s the quintessential and affordable comfort food is just what the travel Gods ordered.

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And when I mean greasy, I mean greasy.  And this is a compliment.  I wanted something like this to capture what I don’t know.  Maybe just some happiness.  I was happy and honestly one slice was enough that I saved the other for later.   Deep Dish squared pizza just has this approachable look about it.   It takes me back to my youth and my childhood, and from where I can’t quite picture it.  But it brings back joyful memories and sentimental feelings that only be described as fun.

As their synopsis says, pizza should be fun.  And ‘Life is Short. Eat Better Pizza’, is their mantra and I agree on both.    And I recall my two slices and a soda was $6 or so, at the most.  A tremendous deal.

JetsPizzaPlate

This isn’t meant to be the world class, overly analyzed artisan pizza that many places tout themselves as, and throw that word ‘artisan’ around to the point it means nothing. Their pizza means something.  The crust was heated to perfection, the cheese was great, the pepperoni was great, everything was great.  I have no complaints.  I only have good things to say.

I imagine if I came across a Jet’s Pizza in not so romantic circumstances I would still be heaping praise where praise is deserved.  I absolutely love the lack of pretension and I adore the genuine vibe I get from their pizza and this pizzeria.

An awesome vacation visiting some awesome people helps.  But that’s for another time. I’m so happy right now!

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For more on Jet’s Pizza, here is their menu, their locations, and their charming story.

JetsPizzaBox

I can’t wait to go back, when can I go back?  There’s so many pizza options that calling this the beginning is an understatement.

Where do I go from here?  Hopefully a return engagement can match the joy attained fro this visit and my visit to Ft. Myers overall.

This makes me feel so good.

Ideen