More Pizza With My Poppa

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After last week, I’m feeling even more compelled to get nostalgic about pizza memories and the town of Rockville, MD, where my dad has built a great reputation for himself as a small business owner, and has cultivated and nourished relationships for over 35 years

Time flies…

As time goes on, towns change and they tend to start looking like every other.  That can be good but in many instances sentimental folks such as myself miss how towns looked 20+ years ago, and in some instances still look like today, but are on the verge of changing.  With that situation I almost feel that the historic parts of a town, or the signs on the road are there in spite of, or in spite of everything else around it.   See what I’m saying?

The more things change, some things to remain the same.  My dad’s business has changed locations ever so slightly.  Literally from one suite many years ago to its current location.  But the heart and soul has remained the same throughout its entirety.

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I want to believe the same goes for Giuseppe’s Pizza Plus. Here is their menu.

Many years ago it was located in an old looking and aging strip mall (many years ago you would’t call it that), but it was home to many visits by me and my friends after high school or after classes at the local community college.  And sometimes I would grab a slice or pie with my dad.   It was walking distance, so it was convenient, but in a way we took it for granted, because it was so close.

We didn’t eat here enough but when we did we acknowledged that it’s good pizza that fills you up, makes you feel good, and made life easy when cooking or sitting at a restaurant isn’t an option.   And the affordability was a plus too.

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The tremendous deal I remember still exists.  Even with inflation, two slices and a soda is only $5.50.  Beautiful.

And now it sits in its current home next to a movie theater.   You can call it movie theater pizza, you can all it anything you want.  But it’s pizza that you can appreciate for what it is.  It’s the history I have with the place that brings me back.  No it’s not the best pizza you or I will ever have.  But does it really matter in this or most circumstances?  Five dollars and change is the best.

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For my father I got a cheese and random toppings on the other.  He just likes pizza with toppings on them, that don’t always make sense.  But for me I find that endearing.  And I got a somewhat supreme slice with just the pepperoni, onions, and peppers.

Everything was fresh and everything was fine.  It’s going be to be fine…

Thinking back to how the interior and exterior used to be versus now, it’s a tremendous upgrade.  The same goes for its other location in Gaithersburg.  And here is more about this great family business.

I was thinking about this earlier today before writing.  My dad once lived within walking distance of the Gaithersburg location and didn’t go often.  Again, maybe because it’s always gong to be there.

I say lets not take things for granted.  There will always be reasons to go or not go somewhere, to try or avoid something new, and throw all the excuses or ignoring signs to do this or that.  But it’s important to appreciate what’s around you along with going outside of where you reside or work.   But it’s also important to appreciate what’s right in front of you.  This isn’t just abut a restaurant, store, or entity near you.  It’s about everything.  It’s ok to walk past something to revisit it later.  But if something is there, waiting to be embraced, then that’s exactly what you and I should do.

I write this projecting a lot, because life is about seizing the moment and grabbing things while you still can, and while you’re still here on this Earth.

This is only a pizza blog, but it’s the spiritual aspects that I wanted to hone in on.  And I don’t just mean this week, but preceding posts and for the duration.  I will as much as I can.

But for now, I’m sending good vibrations to you, my father, my family, my friends, and the rest of the universe.

There may be one more post down the line incorporating pizza, my dad, and my family. And after that, I hope the next time will be a meal which actually involves my loving family sitting together, and embracing all the love we have or one another.

I look forward to this happening soon.

Peace Be With You,

Ideen

Pizza With My Poppa

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For friends and family who have lived in Montgomery County dating back to the late 1970’s, you know about Potomac Pizza.

I recall growing up as a kid that my friends always gathered at the original location in Potomac, and honestly I don’t remember if I ever joined them.  In my own creation, maybe I thought the place was invite only or an exclusive club.  How foolish of me.  It’s just a pizzeria.  And I don’t mean a pizzeria, but it’s exactly that.  Every patron is a pal and I’m sure they appreciate all business, if it’s good and courteous business.

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What I also think happened that this was not meant to be my go to place until much later.  Location is everything and so is the company.  And it wasn’t until a newer location (not sure if it’s still the newest location in Rockville opened, that this was meant to be my place.  And more importantly this became my dad and I’s place.  So it’s our place, but I always think of it as his place.  It’s one of his places for a pizza pie, a sandwich, a salad, and everything that is quick and convenient.  Sometimes that’s all you want, more so than a need.

My most recent visit was yesterday.  And while I had hoped it would be with certain company, I feel like going to certain places my dad likes is a way of honoring and celebrating him, for all he’s done for me, all he’s done for his family, and all he’s done for everyone, universe included.   So in a way I was dining in with him (we usually eat at his place of business in a beautiful and comfortable setting) in a spiritual and metaphysical sense.

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Potomac Pizza is more about the pies, but I couldn’t eat one on my own. Luckily, they do slices for folks on the go, in a rush, or in solitude.  I’ve always thought not seeing pizza trays takes away from the slice ordering experience  Maybe it’s a visual thing because seeing all those slices is one of those happy place situations.   Even though I would always prefer seeing trays, there is an intrigue and mystery in seeing how the slices turn out when being made behind the counter and behind the scenes.

I’m happy to say that these slices are exactly on the level of how their full sized pies are.

Their pizzas have always been extra cheesy (without ordering the extra cheese), and the sauce has a distinct taste about it.  It’s sweeter than what you might be used to.  But it’s how I’ve always remembered it.  And their toppings are all over the place, just like any good pizzeria should be.

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And when it comes to all over the place, that’s how my dad is with his pizza.  He’ll get toppings for the heck of it, or may not even realize what’s on it.  I like to think he’s an adventurous guy.  That or sometimes he doesn’t know when to stop.  It’s charming either way.

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So in that regard, I went with the plain cheese and then one that he would appreciate, Feta, Spinach, and tomatoes.  It’s part of our culture, our heritage, our family, and just a tradition to have lots of fun veggies, with bread, and feta cheese.   Both these slices were fun.   You can’t compare this (or any pizza) to just anywhere.  It’s not the fanciest, it’s not the most artsy, and they don’t need to be.  It’s charming pizza that makes me feel good and is a part of many enjoyable memories with me and my dad.

And you can never have enough good memories, good experiences, and of course good pizza.

I hope my next experience at Potomac Pizza will be one shared with my dad, and another great one I can share with you.

For menus and online ordering info click here,  For a list of locations click here, here is more of their story, and their contact info.

Thank you so much and have a blessed holiday weekend.

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.

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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.

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Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

That’s The Jingle Bell Bar

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That everything happens for a reason cliche is a legitimate thing.   I was all set to do a review of an experience at Red Red Wine Bar back in the spring.   As luck would have it, my phone died as I was getting pictures of our pizzas and vino, while enjoying a casual outdoor setting in Downtown Annapolis.  I took it as a couple things, 1) this is not the way this wine bar was meant to be portrayed, and 2) the universe had grander plans for me.  And is that an understatement if there ever was one.

No matter what goes on in life, one thing I know for sure, the holidays bring out the best in us.  We go through a million emotions all year, and all of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving, and then it’s December.  What the heck happened here?   That time to reflect, to appreciate, and spread love magically appears this time of year.   Wouldn’t be great it you felt that all of the time?

Downtown Annapolis always feels like Christmas to me.  It has the old world, small town, welcoming feel that radiates an aura of holiday spirit 365 days a year.  That might be an exaggeration, but it’s the feeling I get.  And that’s no accident.  Different neighborhoods bring different feelings.  It’s up to us to choose to embrace it or move along.    Well I’m embracing and moving forward.

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So we move along nearly eight months later, and this was meant to be.  However, this time, it wasn’t the Red Red Wine Bar.  They transformed themselves into a winter wonderland and holiday spectacle, happily titled, the Jingle Bell Bar.

This bar is something else.  The set-up with all the lavish decorations screams holiday cheer.  If this didn’t get you in the spirit than I’m not sure what else might.

Actually, it was my dear friend’s event that brought us here tonight.   The Anne Arundel County, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, for short, has done so much good for the community of Annapolis and nearby.  I’m proud to have volunteered and been associated with some wonderful and unique parties and events.  I’m grateful for that.  And I was grateful for this one.

They had a guest bartender on hand, and part of everyone’s check and tips went to CASA. It’s a win win for everyone.

I  could just sense going in that this was going to be an awesome time.  Sometimes you just know.  When you’re connected with a good community, it’s only going to bring about more of that community.  The folks in attendance were there for the same reason, to celebrate this fantastic organization and the holidays.   I felt so at home.  I think everyone else did too.

After all that, how was the pizza?  To make up for last time, I went with two pies, and was happy to share them with friends, old and new.

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I went with the two that I feel most represented this season, with their flavors, ingredients, and overall presentation.

First up, was the White Chicken on Roasted Garlic Flat Bread.   The look of this was fantastic.   For the simple fact that one of the toppings was garlic puree  is why I went with the garlic flat bread.  It did make me wonder how it would taste with the wheat.  That chicken tasted fresh and organic.   I love brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, and butternut squash.  Tell me another trio that spells out the holidays more than that?  This was a really good pie, but I almost felt like I didn’t get a taste of the squash or onions in every bite.  That could be me trying too hard to find them or some flavors overpowering the other.  Hence why I wonder how the wheat flat bread would turn out.  Nevertheless, my new friends and I finished this wonderful arrangement in mere minutes.  And I would definitely order this pizza again.

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But the quintessential pie of the holiday season might just be the Pear Prosciutto.  You’ve got to be kidding me.   I confirmed with one of the manager’s, Bethany (who was world class by the way), on which pizza to go with.  I’m glad we were on the same page.

Oh my and Christmas was this one of the best things I’ve eaten in sometime.  This is a must with wheat bread.   This is a throwback to my childhood.  And isn’t what Christmas and the holidays does to us sometimes?  The combination of honey, feta, and wheat on a piece of warm and toasty pita bread (usually wheat) alone is something I share with my family, especially my dad, and continue to this way.  So I felt warm inside before even noshing.  And when I finally noshed, everything was confirmed. This is one I’ll be thinking about for a long time.  The pears, prosciutto, and arugula are what you see immediately.  But to me, the heart is the honey, feta, olive oil, and minced garlic.  Again, that’s a family thing.   I’m getting emotional as I expound on this.  I’m getting goose bumps.  I’m not kidding you.

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And combining these pizzas with good people, good wine (click here to read more about the wines), a festive vibe, and a great cause, this is a win-win and then some.

I love this place.  Let me reiterate.  I LOVE this place.  Nestled in the heart of Downtown Annapolis automatically makes a place welcoming.  But there was something special about this night.

Once again, a huge thank you to Bethany for helping me with everything when it came to pizza and wine suggestions.

I’m ecstatic to have been a part of something so special.  I look forward to my next visit to Red Red Wine Bar.   And if you’re in the area I strongly recommend you do the same.

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Here is their story and their contact info.

For my Annapolis Pizza History, click here.

For more on Anne Arundel County CASA and all the good that they do, click here.

And for the last inspiring CASA experience, click here.

This was a holiday party for the books.  I’m so thankful and appreciative to have been a part of this.  All many of us want for the holidays, and out of life, is to feel good.  This event and this bar checks of all the boxes.

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To a safe and happy holiday season,

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping It Simple

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For years I’ve driven by Mamma Lucia Italian Eatery in Waverly and though to myself, this place looks intriguing.  There’s a charm about it and I really can’t put my finger on it. There’s an old school, old feel, and old soul aura about it.  It’s also old Baltimore to me. But old doesn’t mean bad.  It usually means quite the opposite.  It shows character, experience, and a distinguishable look that stands out from many of the cookie-cutter pizzerias and restaurants popping up everywhere.

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Sitting right in the heart of 33rd and Greenmount (3240 Greenmount Avenue), this establishment has been serving its clientele for years.  And that clientele can only be described by me as real Baltimore.  It took this blog for me to finally walk in.  So why the hesitation?   I can only justify it as saying its out of my comfort zone.  Johns Hopkins University is literally footsteps away. But the pizzeria is away enough that it looks like a completely different universe.  And that may be an understatement.

I had meant to write about them over a year ago but maybe I couldn’t come up with the right words to say.  I was over-thinking things.  What I did notice in past photos that I only found myself ordering the same three slices, over several visits.  Yes there were a few trips to this staple of Historic Waverly.  And I feel fortunate to write about them now.

The easy part is their cheese, buffalo chicken, and white veggie are all so similar even if they’re full of different flavors.

This is not the best pizza you’ll ever eat.  It doesn’t come close.  But it’s solid. The one thing I’ve noticed across the board is the crust was legitimately crunch.  It was New York Style taken to new heights.  I don’t know if it was by accident or what, but the crust was incredible.  And the irony is, a year ago in the same place, I would be complaining about how this isn’t pizza.  And that this crunch was born out of laziness and an accident from the oven.  Maybe that’s why I chose not to write about it before.  I felt I needed to expand my horizons and pizza dining experience across-the-board.

But I will say the flavors of the pizza aren’t anything that will win any awards.  But once again, they’re decent and will satisfy their customers.  And two slices and a soda for $7 doesn’t hurt either.

And I’ll tell you something about their customers.  It’s full of some of the most authentic people in Baltimore I’ve ever seen.  I’ve sat inside multiple times and have overheard conversations I wouldn’t hear in a more supposedly posh.  That sounds like I may be demeaning the locals who frequent Mamma Lucia, but the opposite rings true.  This is a breath of fresh air.  I’ve even had a impromptu discussion or two with some of the regulars and it’s been refreshing.   It has only enhanced my awareness and gives me more of an appreciation for one of the originators of Baltimore.

This city has grown so much but it’s always important to support local.  With the holidays here that message is even more vital.

This may not have been the most glamorous pizza place to write about but this is one that has sentimentality to me.  The decor is simple and as long as there’s pizza to be had, friendly folks behind the counter, and a sense of relaxation.  That’s all I can ask for.

For my friends in Baltimore, if you happen to drive by, maybe pop in one day.  It’s not the most alluring but its perfect to me.

Happy Holidays,

Ideen