Cauliflower Alley

GustoObeyTheClaw

For years, and even decades (oh boy…) I have spent time at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD, that it will always be a part of my childhood, a part of my youth, and a part of something that I don’t always think about when I’m in the vicinity.

However, earlier this week I was back again and the reasons don’t matter.  I was just there.  No, not that bad kind of there where you just exist and you’re mediocre, or average.  I’m talking about a place in time where everything felt ok.  I was one with the universe and the universe was on with me.  It’s one with you too.

Many shopping centers, malls, strip malls, and the like have gone through necessary renovations to keep up with the times and evolution.  It’s that progress and that sometimes gives the illusion of well, progress.  It’s that more things change, the more they stay constant and maybe even, just there.

Something told me to go to this place where I spent many times ‘hanging out’ (aka sitting around doing nothing) and being a kid.  I still feel like a kid at times.  And being a kid means…

That food court has evolved while everything else around it looked the same.  In a way, I like that.  It’s the old sentimental in me.  I’m good with change (sometimes, that’s my own issues at play) but I find such endearing charm in things looking like they will always be the same.  This is a mall I’m talking about mind you, yes I could be referring to anything, maybe I am.

I liked what the food court has become.  You have your staples, you have your local food operations, and you have some places I had never heard of.

Gusto

That brings us to Gusto (here are their locations, their story, and of course the food), which makes all their food with love, and the farm fresh ingredients that we’ve grown accustomed or at least are becoming more aware of.

Because of the location, fast is the name of the game, and I went with two pies and got  creative with the differences.

GustoObeyTheClaw2

First is their current season item, the Obey The Claw.

I’m not going to explain how I thought about everything on this pie, that would be too much.  There’s so much going on here, and I would be lying if I told you I could taste everything.  Yet, nothing is too in your face or crammed down your throat.

GustoObeyTheClawClose

The crab meat itself is tasty, and the various vegetables all look so beautiful, yet everything feels like they complement the other. It’s understated in a way that I didn’t expect.  Maybe that’s the point.  The thin whole grain crust is a a nice touch.  I really enjoyed this thing and took my time, never felt full, and felt good.

GustoWildShroom

You may have heard about cauliflower based pizza crusts becoming more predominant, as we continue to look for ways to eat right and more health conscious.   For the Wild Shroom pizza I went said crust and it was different, it was distinct, and at the same time it felt satisfying.

There’s an art to heating a crust, and there’s an art to a lot of things.  I’ve had cauliflower crusts before but in such small doses, that I can’t compare one to the other.  All I can say here is that it worked with the mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese.  I don’t know if the crust could have been heated differently or this is how it was supposed to be.  But no need to quibble, I had fun.   For a couple extra dollars, this was a fun experience.

GustoMenu

At $9 a pie ($2 extra for cauliflower and gluten free) it may feel pricey, but I understand with the location and what we’re supporting.  I’m all for supporting it and I highly recommend a trip to Gusto if there’s one near you.

GustoPizzaToGo

You can just sense that more stores are coming and we’re going to be hearing and seeing a lot more from them.

Beautiful.

Peace Be With You

Ideen

Try the Caprese

MargheritasSlices2

Three years and change ago, I wrote about Margherita’s, and their Kingsville, MD location, knowing that more would be coming.  Another location would coming.

When I saw the signage and construction begin for their newest digs in Bel Air (menu can be found here) like a goofy kid, I was excited.  But in similar ways, I got distracted, and I got busy.  And I kept saying I would get around to it.  I would be in the vicinity and just not be in the mood for pizza (sacrilege I know) and keep saying there will be a next time.  There’s always next time

Enough rambling, how was the pizza this time?

MargheritasCaprese

Try the caprese, is all I can say.  This is phenomenal.  Even if the heavier Siclian Style is not your slice of pizza, I would say go for it, or just pick the toppings off and enjoy.  There’s a captain obvious in there somewhere, but yeah no…

What we have here is the freshest of ingredients, cheese, and the finest soul and spirit behind this slice.  You know when you walk into a place, and you know the pizza (or any food or anything is going to be good?  That’s what I sensed and have been sensing.

I’ll be honest, I go to Margherita’s a little more than I’ve let on, but never felt the story was there, or was inspired to do as such.  Maybe this is the first time I noticed the Caprese.  That’s inspiration enough.  In many ways, it’s a great choice for the summer and warmer temperatures.

MargheritasBuffaloChicken

The buffalo chicken and white veggie slices are just as delicious.  The thin crust on these are heated to perfection.  I would say I got there at the perfect time, as many of the pies had just come out of the oven and looked as fresh as a daisy, or a pizza.

MargheritasWhiteVegetable

Seriously, the crust was a New York Style and comforting bread you don’t get too often, from anywhere.

I adore the presentation of the buffalo chicken, as you can tell there’s thought and feeling behind it.   And the white veggies, well, the toppings are prolific but they won’t take away from the pie whatsoever.  This is well done.  These three slices were under $10, yes another reason to be grateful.

I feel like I’m writing this in a way like I did three years ago.

What else is there to say?  This was great, and the Bel Air location feels welcoming and feels quite neighborhood life.  Their Kingsville pizzeria has a small town feel with just a couple of tables, that it’s made for carry-out.  But that’s what makes both places distinct, approachable, and wonderful.

Just about every neighborhood in every town has their pizzeria, their grocery store, bank, bar, restaurant, and those other gems that make a town so charming and has that home like feel.  And the staff was friendly and personable, like any neighborhood spot would traditionally be.

MargheritasSlices1

Margherita’s fits right in like it’s been there forever.  And in many ways it has…

And by all means, try the Caprese.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

See The Innovation…

ItalianMarketPizzaSlices2

Well it’s innovative to me.  The Italian Market of Annapolis is one of those venues that’s going to need a few visits to fully appreciate and grasp everything that’s going on.

ItalianMarketStorefront

Because it feels like a stadium or an arena from the outside.  And I almost felt intimated walking in.  But I made myself feel intimidated.  No one else made feel that way or can make me feel that way.

If I told you I drove by numerous times and wanted to go in, that would be a mix of an understatements and also exaggerations.   Sometimes you just don’t notice what’s hiding in plain sight.  For many things it’ll always be that way.  But with the Italian Market (here’s their menu, their contact info, upcoming wine tastings, and their extensive selection of cheese and pastas) that’s over and done with.  I’m a fan and it’s going to make multiple visits to fully appreciate what’s going on.

ItalianMarketMenu

I came specifically for the pizza this time, not realizing that this coliseum like vibration was inside.  There’s a waterfall in the middle of this place.  I would have presented a picture but there were so many people around that it wasn’t possible.  I had no preconceived notions about this place.  I liked the idea of going in with no idea what’s going on, the crowd, the busy times, or what’s on the inside.

Don’t judge a book by its cover or anything else.  Not yet at least.

I’m glad I got there when I did.  It was almost the nick of time as the line was growing by the doorway, and there were barely any seats in the house.  People were (hopefully patiently) waiting for their food taking upwards of 20-30 minutes.  That’s what I overheard at least.  I’m going to safely assume it was worth the wait.

The pizza was getting decimated and serendipitously I was able to grab a cheese, pepperoni, white vegetable, and meat lovers to go.  I got 2-3 meals out of this, so I took time to savor, reheat when needed, and appreciate my food on a much more patient and deeper level.

ItalianMarketWines2

And on that note, while I waited, I was in awe of their wine selection, along with their cheese, pastas, and various other grocery items.  There were parts of the store I likely never got to explore and one short visit is not going to be enough.  This is going to be an experiment in something amazing.

Apparently I’m the last person to find out about this place, as it seemed all of Annapolis (pizza history lesson here) was there (well it was lunch time), but this was a madhouse and chaos in the most beautiful of fashions.   Maybe it’s my perception but people seemed pretty excited and elated to be there.  I know I was.  I hope recurring visits would bring about that kid in a candy store feeling. I’m leaning towards yes.

ItalianMarketPizzaSlices

The pizza is good to great.  Again, for how crazy it was tasty, crisp and didn’t feel like it was rushed or reheated poorly.   Surprisingly, the meat lovers was my favorite of the four.  I could say I was in a good or something just felt right about it.   By default, the cheese is also solid. It’s a good balance of everything.   And the white vegetable was also a winner.

ItalianMarketPizzaSlices3

Again like last week, not life changing or knock your socks off, but just really good pizza.  I imagine whole pies would even taste that much better.   I believe my four slices were only $12 and change, which seems like a bargain to me.   I know a whole pie may have run me the same, but that’s for next time.  There will be plenty of next times.

ItalianMarketWines

If you haven’d had the opportunity, I highly recommend a visit, even if just to get a bottle of wine to go.  It’s all so beautiful.

ItalianMarketWines3

The interior is immaculate and has a charm all its own.  I look forward to many visits down the line.

Thanks so much.  Have a great weekend, and peace be with you.

Ideen

Annapolis’ Best Kept Secret?

GiolittisSpecialPizzaPie2

It just might be, because when I mention Giolitti Fine Italian Market & Delicatessen (here is their lunch menu, their dinner menu, more about them, and contact information)  to friends who live, work, or spend time in the area, either they haven’t heard of it, or didn’t realize they make pizza.  I was one of them.

I found this place by accident.  But I don’t believe in accidents, or any of that.  No such thing.

The charm of most Italian markets is at least from my experience, they were built way before what we have today.  They were both chains, box stores, and all these corporate entities we see today.

For over 25 years Giolitti’s has been serving the Annapolis community, and has sustained a loyal following (for those who know about it, and plenty do for the others that don’t…), that these chains would envy.

I discovered this place actually heading to one of these more well known stores, but knowing how important it is to support local, and at worst window shop and browse, I wanted to see this for myself.  And how beautiful it is…

Along with a plethora of great wines for purchase, a charming ambiance, friendly staff, and an overall good energy, is just some of the many reasons why this place is thriving, and boy it is it thriving.   On this particular day, the place was packed.

On a recent search for pizza in the area, I was getting the sense that I was running out of new options (My love for Annapolis all around can be found here.) but the universe and a little  searching has its benefits.  The truth is, I will never run out of places to talk about.  And in the chance that I do, I can always revisit, as more than enough time has passed on some of my favorite pizzerias and places in general.  I will revisit several in time, but first things first.

How about the pies?

I’ll admit that I’ve been spoiled by Italian delis and markets food and pizza in general. My standards and bar has been raised.  I have expectations now.  I want the best.  But good and great is well, sometimes good and great enough.

I adore Neopolitan style pizza, and I’ve had it probably more times than I realized.  One of many things not to take for granted.

GiolittisPizzaPie

I went with their simple cheese and made it half pepperoni, and then the Giolitti’s Special which is Prosciutto, Arugula, and Gorgonzola.  On the latter the substituted spinach since they were out of arugula, and I’ll have more to say on that in mere moments.

GiolittisPizzaSlice

The cheese and pepperoni is just good pizza.  No, it’s not the best I’ve ever had, but that crust, that dough, the way it was heated brought me such joy and comfort.  Joy and comfort is good.  The greasy style of cheese and pepperoni has that feeling of many pizzas shared with family when I was kid, in present times, and hopefully in the future.  This is a great slice and great pie, the more I think about it.

GiolittisSpecialPizzaPie1

The Giolitti’s Special is something I must have again.  I think the arugula would have made this so much better.  I have to be honest here.  I like spinach and it doesn’t take away from the pie, but I don’t know if it adds anything.  I actually found the pie with just the prosciutto and Gorgonzola to be just fine.  But it’s one of those, I can’t wait to try this again at full strength kind of things.

GiolittisSpecialPizzaSlice

But there’s no need to quibble and no need to complain.  This is a great place, was a great experience, and the pizza is definitely worth it.  And quite affordable too.

Local business always has a special place in my heart, and so does Annapolis.  That combination is why I will be back time and time again, to try many of their other foods, grab bottle of vino, and maybe have a pie or two again to share with friends.

This is a place to share with friends, family, and anyone that brings you joy.  This place brings me joy, Annapolis brings me joy, and I love this market and our state capital so much.

More next week? Hmmm..

Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

Break The Contradictions

MaisysBuffaloChicken

Maisy’s is what Downtown Baltimore or what a downtown in general feels like.  I prefer the latter, because it reminds me of a part of any city, that truly feels like a city.  Baltimore has a lot of neighborhoods within it, yet it does have parts that seem like there’s lots of action.

This particular part of Charles Street, which bridges downtown to Mt. Vernon, is an area I used to frequent all the time.  While it gets busier things also seem to be a bit slower.  Time has stood still, and so does the traffic, so does everybody.

Maisys

Good friends of mine were regulars of Maisy’s when it first opened maybe 5-6 years ago, but for various reasons, life happens, and life goes on.  That didn’t mean to sound so dramatic.   But my friends did sell me on the place without having to sell it.  It’s a hidden gem, hiding in plain sight.  Near several other restaurants, bars, and other establishments it might be easy to overlook and take for granted.   I could see that.

MaisysBoard

The first time I ate here was literally five years ago.  And that might have been my only time.  This was before any blogs or pizza storytelling were on my radar.  Well it was slightly on my radar or we wouldn’t be here now.   I just recall the pizza being pleasantly awesome.

I had been tipped off (sounds so exciting) on the fact that their pizza is one of the more underrated in the city.  That’s a relative term.  What’s rated one way to you, is well, yeah..

Having no recollection of what exactly I had, I can say that the pizza and atmosphere was tremendous.  Maybe it’s having no expectations, going somewhere alone, and going somewhere for the first time.  I also recall that I was in between social engagements that day, so that time alone is always welcome.  Don’t take that for granted.  We all know how time alone is fewer and far between than it used to be.  If we let it.

That was a moment in time.  Nothing noteworthy, newsworthy, or life changing.  Sometimes those are the best.   The way the place was lit did leave a lasting impression, and there’s a quaintness, despite the large space, that is perfect for this or any neighborhood.  It works in a downtown setting.

Moving along a few years later, you can’t replicate the first time.  I was with a friend, and was craving pizza. Surprise surprise.  But this time something felt off.

By no means was I trying to relive something that doesn’t exist.  The restaurant looked exactly the same, which I like.  Well maybe it was different.   I don’t know.  It’s been a while.

MaisysMenu

We shared the Buffalo Chicken and The Mediterranean.

MaisysBuffaloChicken2

There isn’t much home to write about.  It was fine. It was food.  It was there.

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You’ll notice the charring on the crusts of both pies. They went a little overboard.  I love brick oven pizza.  I love any way a pizza is cooked, as long as the end result is that it tastes good.  Sometimes you want it greasy, crunch, and with little thoughts to the craftsmanship behind it.

There’s some effort put into these pizzas, but something was missing.  It just didn’t wow me.  The style in which it was cut is in line with what I remember, maybe.

The tastes on both were fine.  Once again, I don’t know what happened.  But it’s average pizza.  I wish I could say otherwise.   On the Mediterranean there’s too much going on, and many of the vegetables, feta cheese, and even the pesto got lost in the shuffle.  When the pesto doesn’t work, you know something is off.   The Buffalo Chicken looks amazing, and the pieces of chicken are great, but again something fell flat.  The sauce and cheese is fine but…

If we’re counting this exactly, we’re 1-1.   I supposed the third time is the time charm.  You’ll be the first to know when that is.

Thanks so much and peace be with you…

Ideen

 

For Me…

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaPie2

I had all these titles in mind, and nothing stood out.  It all seemed forced.  It all seems, well, suited for another time.   In a way I’m working backwards and forwards, and it’s a continuation of something I spoke of two weeks ago.

There’s going to be a point where my love for Annapolis (and my love affair can be found here) is going to sound repetitive, and all the phrases and connotations are going feel trite.  I’m hoping I’m nowhere close to that point.  Because this is a good one.

This was an interesting day, that takes me a few weeks ago, to where I was in a vulnerable and confused place.  I was in a state of shock and numbness that I had never felt before.  It was a sense of relief, peace, and forthcoming (still waiting…) rejuvenation.  Maybe.

When I’m feeling the blues or anything uncomfortable, the natural inclination is to hide under whatever I can for as long as I need to, as in a way to stamp out that feeling.  That works every once in a while.  That feeling is going to be there, so why not make the most of things.

So I got in the car and just went with a sense I would head to Naptown, literally to buy some tea and maybe get some fresh air.

That did happen, but who knew this would become a marathon like afternoon that turned into evening, that I will always remember with every emotion ever created.  Even if I never wrote about this particular day, it’s going to stick with me.

Some things age well and resonate with you because the memories are amazing.  This one tells a story that I’m torn on now, but it got better as I say I’m torn, and it’s becoming the night out of all nights out that I’ll look back so fondly on.

And it was all on my own.

I’ll leave a lot of the places out, because I’ll revisit those another day.  But I did a lot of wandering, and discovered some unfamiliar places that may be considered home sometime.   It’s good to go to places where you feel like you belong.  That’s what most of us are wanting. Yet, that belonging first comes from within.

Annapolis has that aura about it.  If you hang around long enough (and maybe not even that long) you’re going to know everyone and they’re going to know you.  That’s a powerful thing, can be a dangerous thing, but can be the most beautiful thing.

In the back of my mind, I’m aware that news travels fast, and that people talk…

It’s a place I always called home.  And I have several fond family memories of our state capital, going back to childhood.   More come to mind as I write this.

While I’ve made so many new ones with so many new amazing friends, and people I consider family.  This one is just for me.  And anyone who reads this.

FoxsDen

Fox’s Den is what I thought was a hidden gem in the heart of Main Street.  Well there’s a lot of hearts of Main, but that should go without saying.

FoxsDenPizzaWine

Back in January, I was all set to do a review of a wine and pizza experience here, but it was packed with state officials, and instead of faking it till we made it, we were shown the door.   A few days later, it was a typical crowded happy hour, but it didn’t feel right.  Not even close.

Four months later, it took a life changing experience, an unplanned (sort of) drive, and the universe rearranging itself to present me with a magnificent pizza, wine, and personal experience that is too good not to share, or too good to share.  Either one applies, but I’m happy to continue…

It was an early afternoon Thursday, before the long holiday weekend, so it was quiet.  And quiet is good.  Those steps that lead to this basement bar exciting.  I felt like I was on a runway and that fox at the top has all eyes on you and I.  No need to get over yourself, it’s looking…

FoxsDenMenu

I was told the pizza here is fabulous, and it absolutely is (here is their menu,their story, and contact information); it had the most comforting wood-fired crust, that remind me of many meals with family.  It had a familiarity that I’m sure many of us can relate to.

In reading what the owners and management had in mind, a family and locally oriented kind of vibe is always welcome, and you can never have enough of it

FoxsDenCheesePepperoni2

I ordered a half pepperoni & pepperoncini, and half cheese.   I figured basics was first, before I went any further.  Those piece of pepperoni are absolutely divine.  What else is there to say?  This is a pizza eaters pizza.

When I was told what pies to get, this was one of the stronger recommendations from dear friends who have visited, and from Ryan who was working behind the bar, who has a big help and could not be more hospitable.  Thanks so much.

FoxsDenPepperoniPizzaWine

The pie worked perfectly with the wine I chose.  I forgot the grape, but it doesn’t matter.  None of the details matter.

I did randomly meet some people at the bar, and throughout the day, people were just talking to me.  I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t looking for anything really, and that’s how it usually goes.  I was content and at peace with myself.

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaPie

To go, Ryan suggested the El Matador, and it’s another gem.  The chorizo, feta, provolone, olives, and honey combination sounds like a lot, but the medley works beyond belief and beyond comprehension.   And that dough, my goodness.  This is one of the best heated pizzas I can ever remember.

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaSlice

I almost write this in a way that takes away from the pizza.  This day was about a lot of things, and a lot of emotions.   I felt like I was carrying the weight of the universe, but the universe carried me and protected me from what I was feeling.

The amount of walking and thinking I did along this beautiful town, through the historic streets, the majestic buildings and colonial architecture hopefully burned off all this yummy food.  But it didn’t matter.  It’s a day that even as I write this, can’t be completely captured in words.

I’m glad I got this in before this coming Father’s Day.   I only realize this now, as I took a couple of weeks off to relax, find peace, and well keep trying to find peace.

This town, officially felt like my town, but that wasn’t the intent.  I was born in one place, that’s also home, but this to me made it official.   Annapolis has always had my heart, but this experience was beyond romantic.  It’s on that kindred spirit level.

I don’t know where we go from here…

I just don’t know, but I know someone out there, a spirit bigger than me, and bigger than us, is telling me everything is going to be ok.

It’s going to be ok…

Happy Early Father’s Day everyone…

Ideen

 

 

Family Time…

MammaLuciaSlices

The title might give it away?  Well, it’s about mamma, but it’s also about papa, family, and all the simple things in life you should appreciate as much as possible.   Don’t take the good stuff in life for granted.   Easy said, easy done,  but I know myself, and sometimes I forget to stop and smell the roses, or the pizza.

Almost two years ago today, I wrote about Mamma Lucia, and their Rockville Pike location.

I want to get the pizza part out of the way first.

I’ll just say that the plain White Pizza from today was one of the best slice I’ve had in some time.    The rest were solid but nothing to write home about.  The cheese and the sauce on the meat lovers, and the one veggie itself were missing something.  But today it didn’t matter.   I just wanted to get a little pizza review in before I completely went off the rails here.  The New York Style crusts were all good to great on there.  But that White Pizza, oh my goodness.  Something was in the air today.

MammaLucia

Something today (as of this writing) has brought me back many times over this week and over the past several months, that I was due to stop into their Fallsgrove location.   But first, let me get all the particulars out of the way…. For more on Mamma Lucia, here is their menu, their list of locations, and contact information.

MammaLuciaMenu

Now that’s out of the way, I want to talk about sentimentality.   Family is everything.  That meaning your mom, dad, brother, sister, cousins, etc.. etc…  But family is also dear friends who started out as acquaintances but evolved into people you would do anything for, and they would do anything for you, without hesitation.  That’s a special bond,  that’s spiritual beings, kindred spirits, and anything else that seems fitting, which is also family.

MammaLuciaArt

Family can also be the places you go, whether it be a restaurant, a bar, a social club, or the comfort of your own home.  My cat is family, I’m lucky to have many good friends, and a few that I consider family.

Yet you’re also born into family.  That’s your blood, and that’s the family that’s your meant to have initially.  The universe presented that to you, for you, and with you.  Where I’m going with all this is, I recall fondly the many meals I’ve shared with family over the years, many being at this Mamma Lucia location. This goes back nearly 20 years.   I know, time flies.

I’m grateful to have grown up near where I did.  As much as it’s cold at times, congested, and much more populated then 30 years ago, I look forward to going home and seeing family.

It’s not always about the food, but the company.   And that company, is your friends, but growing up, it was always family too.

The pizza here just brings back instances of when I was younger.  It’s not one or two specific incidents or events, but an accumulation of so many things.   Why this place stands out, I can’t tell you.  But driving around the area today really hit a nerve with me.  I’m not as young as I once was.   That’s part of it.  But it’s one of those things, where the more things change, the more they will continue to change.  Some remains constant, but something has evolved, for better or worse.  As have I, as have all of us.  My family dynamic has changed.  And it will continue too, for all of us.

So when I walked in today to other some slices like I always did, I just had this moment of clarity.  Not so much a new lease on life, because that time is coming (if I’m not already going through it), but something else.  It’s something I can’t put into words just yet.

Today it’s not about the pizza. It’s about everything else.

Their might be a follow-up in some way, shape, or form.   This is one of those existential moments that will resolve itself, because that’s how the universe works, for all of us.  It’s looking out for us.   It’ll be ok.   I have to tell myself that.  But…

It’ll be ok.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen