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 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