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

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

…Your Favorite Pizza Shop

LittleItalyPizzas

How many different ways can you articulate your fondness and affinity for a town, for it’s spectacular views, small town vibe, and yes the inspirational pizza?

Annapolis has my heart.  Whether I have theirs is a topic for another lifetime, but even the missteps tend to be charming.  And the charm tends to be all that more charming. Yes I’m romantic.   I just love this place so much.  And part of this reason is I have no reason. It doesn’t necessarily get me and I don’t necessarily get it.  Everything about it just feels right.  I feel one with so much when I’m here.  It’s those proverbial goosebumps.

We’ve arrived at Memorial Day Weekend.  How’d that happen?

As I did two years ago, this kind of a homage and congratulations to the Naval Academy and all the commencement activities that will be taking place this weekend.

Here is my pizza history with my favorite state capital.

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A little bit away from the commotion and situations in downtown is a little hole in the wall, Little Italy Famous Pizza & Pasta.

If I hadn’t done a little research after the fact I would think this place would have been here for decades and honoring the authenticity of Italian Style, New York Style, and any other old world style pizza and restaurant for that matter.

I was asking around to friend who do live, have lived or spent frequent time in the area to see if anyone has eaten there.  I either got no response or pals saying they’d never heard of it.

Then I find out this place has been open less than a year.   I was all set to get excited and talk about how this is a diamond or a gem within many others.  My preconceived notions and presumptions are not going to sway me towards the negative.  Not yet at least.

If the pizza’s good then we’re onto something.

It was once a Peruvian Chicken restaurant that converted into this current restaurant. Maybe it’s new owners and maybe it’s some of the same folks that felt like a rebranding was necessary.  And there’s nothing right or wrong about that.  Local business is what I root for, is what many of us are rooting for to succeed because they’re still the heart and soul of so many things.    And there can never be soul.

With that said, the pizza was not exactly what I expected.  Maybe I was going to strike gold and find something not many others have.   Not quite.  It was good but it wasn’t life changing.  But the pleasant surprise was they had slices.  I was going in assuming I would get a small pie to go, but they have their pizza trays with a few choices and that made me happy.

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I got three and because we feasted heavily on meat last week I figure I would dial it back and go with the cheese, the white, and the veggie.  And did they put on a lot of veggies.

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Again, nothing wrong with them.  I just wanted more.  And I’m one of those people that doesn’t ask for a whole lot except in this instance I want my pizza to taste good.

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The crust was fine on all of them.  Since I don’t have much to say about the cheese or the sauce, I will say the vegetable slice with all of its overloaded vegetables was slightly charming and entertaining in a way.  Maybe I was just (and am) entertaining myself, but it was my favorite of the three.

I do wish I took a picture of the interior.  They had those red and white vinyl tablecloths you might have seen at a restaurant when you were a kid and might still see today.

That’s what made me think this place has been around for a while. I love the attention to detail.  It may not mean to much but I found it endearing in a way.  For that reason a lot it will make me come back.

The pizza may not have been great this time around but I’m all for giving it another chance.  I think this place has some great food to offer including their pizzas.

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Their menu, location, contact information, and story is all available on the main page.

If this works out I will be doing another Annapolis location next week or soon.  And one that’s close to Little Italy Famous Pizza & Pasta.

No this wasn’t my favorite pizza place as the title says but I got a kick of the to-go box. And I thought I saw them all…

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Have a blessed and safe holiday weekend,

Ideen

 

Little Lackluster

I had intended to do a Fells Point related pizza post in conjunction with and leading up to the Fells Point Fun Festival.  That was supposed to take place last weekend.   The universe had other plans and we’ll see you in two weeks.  But the neighborhood posts will keep on coming leading up to the event.

My post from last week was meant to be the revealed on the weekend of the event, but I have adjusted accordingly. I am prepared for the challenge of finding spots that are hopefully informative and do the area justice.

LittleItalyFront

This week brings me to Little Italy Pizzeria, which is right off the heart of Fells Point.  That picture I took makes the place seem very authentic right?

Well that’s where it ends.  This pizza parlor suffers from the same issues, in my opinion, as Brick Oven Pizza which I wrote about two weeks ago.   Up until five years ago I would’ve said this pizza tasted great during the day, at night, by the slice, or a grabbing a whole pie to go.  It wasn’t fine craftsmanship but it was guaranteed to be a good pie that would do its job.  And sometimes that’s all you’re looking for.

Now the last few times I’ve ordered from them the crust, dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings all seem so lifeless.  There’s no feeling behind it.  But it serves its purpose.   I used to always order a za from here day or night and feel like I’ve enjoyed something tasty. And my interest has waned to the point where this might be the last time I go for a while unless I’m desperate.

I will recap the two slices I got, on my most recent a little over a month ago.  I’ll try to find the positives.

You know how when you see pictures of pizza you get hungry and get excited?  Even bad pizza will do that to you.   However, when looking at these photos I am turned off by them.

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There’s barely any cheese or sauce and that’s what I remember tasting. The crust tasted undercooked and a bit soft. Sometimes that’ll work but not here.   I do realize I was eating around 8 or 9 pm so the quality may not be as high.  But I’ve had the same slice during the afternoon and it was just as mediocre.

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The bacon, chicken, and ranch didn’t taste fresh.  The toppings seemed boring and just thrown on there.   Even bad pizza could be good pizza but this doesn’t apply here.  Even bacon which is hard to screw up, either tasted like it was past its sell by date or it wasn’t real bacon.  I’d rate both of these below average.

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My hunch is that the business is just going through the motions.  It can try to please everyone and change the quality of their pies at various times of the day, or just wing it throughout.  I suspect they’re doing the latter.  I can only assume why the caliber of their pizzas has dwindled.

I remember barely eating half of either and feeling bad I had to throw them in the trash.

The interior is narrow.  There’s only a few sets of tables and chairs which is what I do like about it.  It’s a grab-and-go kind of place.  I’d just use caution on the pizza.  Lowered expectations would work here.

More to come.

Best,

Ideen