A Flair For The Gold

FranksTrios

I’m writing this as I watch the unofficial first day of coverage of the Winter Olympics, so please bare with me, I’m a bit excited.

I wanted on the eve (or day of depending on where you are and when you read this) of National Pizza Day, for this story to be inspiring, remarkable, heartwarming, and all those other superlatives and blessings.

FranksPizza

When talking about Frank’s Pizza & Pasta in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Hamilton, or is it Overlea?  Well it’s Baltimore and it’s an institution that’s been around for over 30 years.   That to me is worthy of a medal itself.

I had actually intended on doing a story nearly two years ago but something told me the timing wasn’t right.  If I’m recalling correctly, my pictures looked underwhelming, or maybe some universal force told me it wasn’t time.   Some things can’t be explained nor need an explanation.

All roads brought me here this week.   Actually that’s exactly what happened.  Yesterday I drove passed Frank’s later in the evening, with the thinking that I need to get back here.  And while I was on my way home, if the situation presented itself, I know I’d be back again soon.  Literally, less than 24 hours later… And the rest is well…

My expectations had been raised after hearing about their pizza, from a couple peoples’ opinions that I respect immensely.  And it’s all about your own opinion, your own beliefs, experience, and all that good stuff.  But I can’t help but admit that I had high hopes.

If we’re using Olympic terms, the technical scores may be a bit low, or the qualification times may be enough to make the next round but I don’t know.  There are some deductions and maybe some penalties.   There may need to be a redo.

What does this all mean?  I’ll get to the point.  I wanted to love it but I can’t say that.  I want to love every pizza and every experience, but it’s not always going be that way.  While it’s easy to find positives (and there are), the faults do stand out.

I got three slices, and how perfect was this selection.  I might have stopped by right after the lunch rush since a lot of slices were bunched together, and the pickings were minimal. No problem at all, I still got a cheese slice, a meat lover’s, and the Mediterranean, which looked like it just came out of the oven.

FranksMeatLovers

I’ll get my critiques out of the way first.  The cheese, and meat lover’s looked much better displayed on trays beforehand than how they looked after they were heated.  Maybe my eyes were deceiving me but the plain cheese looked like it shrank.

FranksCheese

You can also see that they reheated these slices a little too long.  You can see the burnt parts, especially in the meat lover’s, that the crust actually fell apart where it was charred.  Now there’s good charring and then there’s this.   It wouldn’t have mattered though, as neither slice did much for me.  The cheese felt flat and something just didn’t taste right.  Maybe there wasn’t enough?  Maybe it was out there too long.  I don’t know.

FranksMeatLovers2

The meat lover’s is not one I would ordinary try anyways, but I figured why not.  This one I could only take one or two bites of before I had enough.  It was burnt and it was a little too hearty for me, but that’s more of a personal opinion as well.   I like more of a….

FranksMediterranean2

And this brings me to the Mediterranean.  This was the gem, or the crown jewel if you will, of the slices.  Maybe the fact that it just came out hot and fresh had a lot to do with it.  The toppings were exquisite and the pesto was tremendous.  I think I got some magnificent olive oil too.  All the toppings complemented each other perfectly.  It’ll make me want come back.    All this on top of a white pizza, is masterful.

And I will.  I think this place is capable of so much.  It wouldn’t be around so long if it hadn’t, even with changing times and tastes.

FranksMediterranean

That’s the most in depth I’ve been about pizza in some time.  I usually look for all the positives and situations related to everything outside of the food itself, as well.   And I still did here.  The staff is great, it’s very old school and very authentic in terms of service and appealing to a loyal clientele that serves a part of Baltimore you don’t always hear about, or think to go to.

All I know is that it won’t be another few years until I’m back.  If time allows, we shall do this again soon.  I know I say that a lot, but we shall do this again soon.

For more on Frank’s, here is their menu, and their storied history.

Enjoy the Olympics, the opening ceremonies, and all the good that comes from that.  I know I will.

And Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Well This Was Different

RibaldisDisplay

Ribaldi’s of the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. has generated a lot of buzz and goodwill that it was only a matter of time I would get to writing about them.  This recap comes from a request via a few people, so thank you so much for the suggestion.

Ribaldis

While I raved about a place nearby (that can be found here), I was told that Ribaldi’s is that much better.  I was told it was run by a real Sicilian, and that their pizza was off the charts compared to its counterpart.

If the location seems familiar, you will recall this is where Angelo’s sat for years.  Home of the jumbo slice seemed like it would last forever.  I never lover their pizza but it was good enough.  And sometimes good enough is just enough.   Their was a temporary occupant that left much to be desired, and no here we are with Ribaldi’s.

I met Siro the manager, and he is straight up the real deal.  The staff read me like a book, and not the fact that I’m a blogger (Not sure they’ll see this), but that it was my first visit.  My energy field was in a weird place, and when no matter how your energy level is, you’re going to attract a similar wavelength.  Whether that’s good or bad is up to interpretation.

This was unique.

The guy behind the counter was strange, peculiar, but never made me feel uncomfortable.  But the fact that I’m even implying the latter means something was off.  He was cracking some jokes that were funny at first, but then went off in directions that I won’t even begin to explain.  Words won’t do it justice and there’s no puns here whatsoever.

It did make the impression of this, the food I ordered, the food I ate, and the aftermath long lasting.  And yes it’s been altered.

RibaldisSicilian

I forgot they do slices, so it made my decision that much easier.   I literally ordered everything in plain view, which includes a Sicilian Cheese, Sicilian Pepperoni, a small calzone, and then Siro just broke out a New York Style cheese pie right out of their gas oven.

RibaldisCheese

They called the calzone the Ribaldi and that’s the same guy (who may or may not have been Siro’s second) cracking jokes and maybe losing the plot a little.

As a bonus I got a can of soda and this guy gave me a dessert, which was a sweet croissant on the house.  This whole gag seemed to be lost on me, or maybe there was no gag.  It’s ridiculous to speculate and over-analyze what this visit meant.   It happened for a reason.  Maybe they saw something was up.  I was in a goofy frame of mind.  The whole visit was goofy.  But goofy doesn’t mean bad.

There’s not much to the interior.  There’s a few seats inside and outside, and that’s the way I like it sometimes.  There’s a a place for lavish, and today was not the time or place.

Most importantly of all, how was my food?  This wasn’t all for me, that would be crazy.  But I’m going to base this on my own opinion and nobody else’s.

I didn’t love this.  And I’m not going to base my opinion on anything other than my eating experience.  Something just didn’t stand out, and I really wanted it too.

RibaldisCheeseSlice

The cheese slice was lacking in some cheese and tomato sauce.  That’s the issue for me.  The crust is fine and that’s all I can really say about that.

RibaldisSicilian2

The Sicilian is a bit rough.  I know some people are going to love this and I wouldn’t dispute this, but this was nothing special.  Yet the pepperoni slices tasted great.

The calzone was fine and I’m glad it was a tinier piece, because you can only eat so much of this.  And this dessert?  Man I don’t know.

RibaldisDessert

I don’t know about any of this.  My mind is all over the map here.  I feel like this visit needed to happen.  I’m projecting a lot but something was really off center, and I put a lot of this on myself.  I attracted an experience that might make sense later.

But for now I’m trying to make sense of all this.

RibaldisMenu

Here’s their menu, and that’s all I got for you.  For some sense of closure, I’m going to have to come back.

Ideen

 

 

Sentimental Sicilian Style

JoeBennysAngryGinger3

For months I’ve wanted to go to Joe Benny’s. 

JoeBennysFront

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).

JoeBennysBoard

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.

JoeBennysMeatballs&Sangria

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…

JoeBennysThePizzaPies

My friend went with the Angry Ginger.  I went with the Kimtucky.

JoeBennysAngryGinger2

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.

JoeBennysAngryGinger3

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.

JoeBennysAngryGinger

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.

JoeBennysKimtucky5

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.

JoeBennysKimtucky7

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.

JoeBennysMenu2

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!

BuonAppetitoSlices2

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

 

…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.

LittleItalyAnnapolis

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.

LittleItalyPizzas4

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.

LittleItalyPizzas3

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.

LittleItalyVeggie

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.

LittleItalyaPizzas5

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…

LittleItalyPizzaBox

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.

LittleItalyCheese

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.

LittleItalyBacon

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.

LittleItalyDuo

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