…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.

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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…

LittleItalyPizzaBox

Have a blessed and safe holiday weekend,

Ideen

 

Detroit Medleys

8BallMotorCity

A chance meeting with a friend I haven’t seen in decades (yes I said decades), and one pizza place we were going to that was closed on a Monday, led us to our destiny.

8Ball

8 Ball Meatball in the historic Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore, is worth going out of you’re way for. Well if you live in Fells Point or a neighboring neighborhood (ha) you don’t have to venture too far.  But honestly at times it felt like I was in another universe. And based on this experience, this alternate universe is one I welcome on at least a semi-regular basis.

But first here is more about them, their menu, and contact info, and my previous pizzeria reviews of historic Fells Point.

My friend and I cut right to the case and saw two pies we wanted to order, based on the name alone.

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We ordered the Motor City and the 8Ball aka Meatball.  Our server was in agreement.

Before I continue I honestly heard (honestly I’ve never heard) of Detroit-style Pizza in passing.   But I didn’t know it was a a thing. And I didn’t know if would be something I would be a part of, and what a beautiful experience and first impression it would be.

The 8×10 square shaped pies are perfect for sharing.  It looks deceptive that one might be enough for one.  But with it’s thicker, yet not too heavy of a crust, similar to Chicago-style pizza, a couple of those slices might be enough.

Oh it was enough. But how beautiful these three pies were.  Did I say three? We only ordered two.  More on that in a bit…

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8BallMotorCitySlice

The Motor City was my favorite.  Maybe because it was the first pie I tasted.  It just had everything perfect going for it.   The simple combination of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and pepperoni was perfection.  That pepperoni is something I’m still fully appreciating a few days after the fact.  The crust, the perfectly burnt and oily side of the crust is the reason why I write about this, and sometimes so specifically.  This was the pie.   And it’s one of my favorite pies ever.  Can someone send me some now? So good.

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8BallMeatballSlice

The 8 Ball Meatball was good but in honestly pales in comparison to the Motor City. Maybe we were expecting bigger pieces of meatball, but that’s a fault of expectations. The tiny meatballs were charming but maybe I didn’t get to taste enough?  The chives and parmesan were a nice touch yet this doesn’t compete with the Motor City.  That Motor City I tell you.

This is the part where the manager figured out I was a blogger and I had my friend who was a photographer.  The conversation got really good and really quickly.  This part easily couldn’t have happened but our stay became much more about the education, the experience, and all the nuances of this restaurant and the history of how they started serving Detroit-style Pizza.  Which has only been a few months by the way.

And I did mention a third pie right?

8BallBuffaloChicken

Brian, the manager, has proclaimed that he will put their Buffalo Chicken Pizza up against any in the city.  This is one he gave to us on the house. Talk about world class service. We didn’t expect it, didn’t ask for it, but everything was aligning properly.  We were supposed to be here on this night and no other (at least for now) and free is always more fun.

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The melange of Buffalo sauce, cheddar and mozzarella (which is always a beautiful cheese combination), red onion, blue cheese drizzle, and those tiny piece of buffalo chicken meatballs made for a real treat.   Those chicken meatballs really did it for me. This is a masterpiece and I’m not just saying this because Brian said so.  It’s really that awesome.

8BallBuffaloChickenSlice

And it was never messy.  It was all organized.  As my friend stated, all the pies were served clean and the pieces broke apart with no effort whatsoever.  It’s those little details that mean so much.

And I must say, as much as the Buffalo Chicken is fantastic, and it really truly is, it still is a slight notch below the Motor City to me.  I really think it might be the simplicity of the Motor City.

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After all this we also got to meet Paul, the head chef.  And even though it may have been a quieter evening he still took the time to talk about his history in the restaurant business throughout many cities he’s cooked.

He mentioned his training in learning how to cook Detroit-style at Buddy’s Pizza from the man himself.  How cool is that?  We would have never heard any of this if we didn’t come in.  I’m being a bit nostalgic over something a few days ago but encounters like this don’t happen enough, so I want to show my enthusiasm any way I can.

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We also learned about the pizza being cooked in the blue steel pan.  Nothing glamorous. It’s just a simple steel pan.  I think some of the best work is done when using the most simple of contraptions but there’s a genuine soul and feeling behind the operation.  This is what we felt here.

Paul said that he uses garlic confit oil in the pan to cook his masterpieces.

What a masterpiece this pizza and this experience was.

As we kept talking a few other pies that were on the menu were shown to us and our mouths just kept watering.

At the moment I knew I had to come back.  I wanted to maybe try every pie and save this for one blog post.  But no,  this deserves another commentary.   How this will match or top this experience I don’t know.  That’s not what I should be striving for.  I should be striving for all the great pizza experiences possible.  And I will.  And I will.

This is one of those experiences that came together as organically as possible.  What we thought would be at the most 30-45 minutes turned into an upwards of a two hour experience.

I can only hope for not the same exact experience but everything coming together masterfully and harmoniously.

But for now, get to 8 Ball Meatball.  This pizza is incredible and off the charts.

Ideen

 

I Was Scared At First

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Over the past few days I was thinking a little too hard about how to follow up last weeks’ incredible feast and experience.

I shouldn’t take this to or much of what I do too seriously.  It’s pizza.  It’s always going to be fun even when it isn’t.  As someone once said, even bad pizza is good.  No that’s not entirely true.

Perhaps because it’s a murky and rainy morning in May as I write this that my mood is thrown off kilter.   But every dark cloud has many cheesy linings.  And if you’re talking cheesy, I couldn’t think of a better pizza to talk about than the Screamin’ Sicilian.

ScreaminPackage

Here is the link to find their pizzas.  Alright until next week.  Ha…

I realize that today is a day of celebration and I may have missed a golden opportunity to talk about something unique.  I may get to that next week.

It’s pouring out there.  A frozen pizza is perfect comfort food in a time when comfort is not only necessary, but well, comforting.

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Frozen pizzas always had always been a staple of my life when I was a kid.  I can safely assume that goes for many of us.  It’s an easy alternative to cooking and cheaper alternative to pizza delivery, dining out, or maybe even cooking general.  Many pies will go under $5.  The Screamin’ Sicilian went for $7-8 and is worth every cent and then some.

ScreaminNotes

Over the past few months I would their artwork on their boxes and I would immediately be scared, and somewhat put off.  I see an open mouth with frozen pieces of pepperoni and cheese, and I immediately walked (don’t run) to the nearest exit, or nearby aisle for a safe haven to hide and maybe just leave.

All jokes aside, one day I examined a little bit closer and saw the label was much more humorous than I expected.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Maybe I should lighten up on that.  But fake moustaches on anyone make me scared.  It’s not my business.

But the point of all this is to try different things, even if it’s just frozen pizza.  Trying new anything adds to our memories and adds to things to talk about either with friends, or with ourselves.  And I don’t mean in a schizophrenic sense either.

Going through their pizza menu, I wanted to find one that gave me enough comfort but not to the point where I can’t leave the house.  Actually on days like this, staying in is perfect.  I went with the Mambo Italiano.  This pizza was perfect.

The description mentions something about taking this pizza to the mattress and some cliche terms that start with the letter ‘b’, but I’ll let that slide haha.

Upon opening the package I could just sense that something special was about to happen. This is why you never judge a book by its cover.  And by the way, because they got me thinking so much about their artwork, I bought a pie anyways.  So it worked on me.

20 minutes later after heating I was dazzled.  The cheese and sauce is great.  The pepperoni is good.  The crust was heated and toasted (thanks oven) perfectly. But it’s the meatballs.  I could smell them first and did they smell something awesome.  I picked off a few pieces for me and it was beautiful.

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Some of the meatballs became baked into the golden brown crust that felt like it rose to the heavens.  This is more art.   And the generous amount of toppings shows the kind of soul and character behind this operation.

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I’ve only had a fifth of the pie.  It doesn’t take much to give me comfort.  And it also means I have meals covered for the next day or so.  Ah the little things.

I’m a fan and I think I would like to do this again.  I may or may not do another post about it.  But I’m thrilled to be a part of something so fun.

Here is their contact info, once again the store finder, and all their infos.  Yes they actually call it all their infos.  I’m loving this company more and more.  Their sense of humor if infectious.

I feel comforted.

Ideen

 

Life Changing and Amazing

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Baltimore is going through rapid changes.  Whether those are good or otherwise is anyone’s guess.  But change can be a good thing.  And with change means an upswing in great restaurants, retail, attractions, and everything in between.  Does that mean good pizza?   The answer is a resounding yes.

I’ve deliberately spaced out the heavy hitters and sexy names in the world of pizza in Baltimore and Washington, DC.  Since I live closest to these two cities, I’ve left other cities out, for now.   I intend to go through all the places I can in both metropolitan areas, and other locations, if and when I can.

PaulieGeesFront

With that introduction out of the way, I’m so happy to have finally eaten at one of the most anticipated and widely regarded pizza restaurants to come to the area, Paulie Gee’s of Hampden.

For whatever reason, circumstances prevented me from dining here at any point in time, until earlier this week.   Close friends of mine went around the time of opening to large crowds, long waits, and long faces because some were turned away.   My friends that did get the opportunity to eat have nearly unanimously said it’s fantastic and it has become a great addition to the Hampden neighborhood.

I am now a believer.  I never really had any doubts other than when I hear everyone else rave about it, does that cloud my judgement?  Do I let the opinions and noise of the outside world unfairly influence my opinion, one way or the other?  Yes there’s the sad truth that we can get tired of hearing how great a place is that we’ll cut off our nose to spite our face.  Just to spite it.  I think that’s the phrase.  Anyways, I want to get this out of the way before I start reviewing,  I loved this pizza.  And I’m only getting started.

Let’s begin what might become a regular staple in my life.  No, I take that back.  This is now a part of my life.  Speaking of life, this was life changing.   I don’t want to throw that term ‘life changing’ around too much or it will lose its luster.

Thank goodness I had the perfect person to join me in my debut feast at this sublime and divine restaurant.   My dear friend is a resident of the neighborhood and is a regular of this fair establishment.  It made this experience all the more surreal.   For what I thought would be an hour to an hour-a-half meal turned nearly three hours.  Yes, that’s when you know things are going swimmingly.   No, that’s when you know things are beautiful.

I’ve always thought the entrance and signage had an aura about it and taken on a life of its own.  I almost got scared to walk in.  The times in the past when I drove by I put this place on quite the pedestal and built this up into something I hope would lead to this day. Success.

The dining room is monumental and has another energy about it I don’t need to put into words.  It just is, and it’s spiritual and it’s special.

PaulieGeesSalad

First up,  the salad to get our appetites churning.  The Grape To Meet You (Ah I love these names) was such a joy and a treat.  The arugula on its own was worth the price of admission, or salad.   No, there is no cover to enter.  But the tomatoes and shaved parmesan cheese made this simple salad taste larger-than-life.  So good.

PaulieGeesSaladWine

Our wines paired perfectly with everything by the way.  We each had a couple of glasses. I just want to tie up those loose ends before we get to the main event.

My friend guided and coached me into ordering ideas.   She had something in mind already for her pie, and starting simple and working forward made sense for me.

Once again, a good cheese pizza is a good judge of how the rest of the pies will fare.  It’s just something that makes sense.  If the original pie is going to be amazing then it’s going to make folks think outside of their comfort zones and order more ambitiously from there.  That also means people will keep coming back.

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So I went with the Beatrix Kiddo.  Yes, that title is awesome.  Perhaps you recall where the name came from.  This is their cheese pizza.  I had fennel sausage added to mine, so if I wanted to pick off the pieces and enjoy a cheese or enjoy a Beatrix with fennel I could. Ah this is so fun I know.

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My friend got a White Pizza, the ‘Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me’ with bacon, basil, post heated ricotta dollops (which were a gem), and wait, fennel sausage again?

I didn’t see double dose of fennel until both are pies were out.  Is there something to this? Hmm..  Yes we did share and both were astoundingly awesome.

PaulieGeesBeatrixSlices

I’m not sure which one I loved more but I’m kind of leaning towards the Beatrix.  Maybe I’was and still am in a purist mood.  But the amount of cheese and tomatoes placed on this pie was measured to perfection.  I’m not kidding you.  The sausage was a beautiful touch but I almost think any topping would have added just the perfect hint of something else.  Yes I did pick my toppings off for a slice and enjoyed my plain Neapolitan slice in all its glory and solitude.

PaulieGeesRicottaSlices

The Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me was the perfect dichotomy to the Kiddo.  The bacon and fennel sausage (which is becoming a new favorite of mine) was a powerful meaty combination. But the basil and dollops were the stand-outs for me.  So much yum.

The crust was charred and heated perfectly.  I like that dough was lighter than I expected.  I was told from previous visitors that it may have been a bit heavy for their liking.  That was one of the few minor critiques I heard.  I thought it was just right, so maybe those complaints were unwarranted.

I used the term ‘life changing” again over the course of the meal.  I had genuine reactions of happiness, jubilation, and then a calming over me.  I felt so comfortable during this meal.

This lends itself to the ambiance, the environment, the energy, and the company being just as important as the food itself.  I felt so happy and felt so overjoyed in such a welcoming and inspiring vibe.

PaulieGeesKitchen

I loved how everything was being prepared in the center of the restaurant.  Yes, their kitchen was hiding in plain sight.   The staff was visible but unassuming.   I want to thank our server Jenn who was helpful with our wine and pizza suggestions, and was extremely prompt and attentive in waiting on us.   Thanks so much.

Since this was my inaugural visit, I’m not sure where to go from here.  I can’t leave this to one post.  It would not be right.   There are so many pizzas with charming and over-the-top names to write about that I must come back.  This will need to be revisited and when I do it will make sense and connect with this post.

There are other points-of-view and pieces of information to expound about with Paulie Gee’s but I shall save that for next time.

To click on more info for a location near you, go here.

For the Baltimore menu, hours, and frequently asked questions click here.

My friend did tell me that they are good in supporting and promoting local businesses, and being involved in the community.   In addition, the general manager was visible and did have a presence about him that commanded the room. I wish I got a chance to thank for him all our awesome food, and an evening that will be imprinted into my memory forever.

But like I said, this will be done again and done again soon.

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Thanks so much Paulie Gee’s and thanks so much for reading.

Feeling fortunate,

Ideen

 

A Lovely Cheese Pizza Just For…

HarrisTeeterCheesePizza

…for anyone!   Harris Teeter is one of those friends you shouldn’t take for granted.  By me saying that I almost sound derogatory or patronizing.  Well I do like patronizing their stores.  I think you know what I mean.  Well I hope so.

HarrisTeeterStore

I only realized a few minutes ago that the first time I visited one of their stores was in North Carolina, which is where they’re originally based out of.   Now they’re everywhere. And if you live in a city or a suburb chances are there’s more than one store right up the street and walking distance from you.

This isn’t going to be a history lesson or discussion of their groceries and free samples. Even though the latter is readily available and always appreciated.   I knew in time I was going to be discussing their pizza.

I’ve saved a few pictures of slices over the past few months knowing I would be sharing my thoughts with the world.

The results were a mix bag.  The prices are fantastic and they always have some exciting specials going on.  Sometimes on a monthly basis.

I’m judging these pizzas on the premise that this a grocery store, and not a pizzeria.  This is not meant as a slight or insult to their store.  It’s more along the lines of how I rate pizza. I don’t ask for much. I just want it to taste good, be reasonable priced, and makes feel happy when its over.

HarrisTeeterPrices

Over 4 different stores (at least) I tried 4 different slices, and maybe a little more. Perhaps the title gave it away.  I’ll get to the slices first.

HarrisTeeterChickenPesto

First, the chicken pesto.  This is one I thought I would be in love with.  It was fine but within the context of good pizza and pesto this was only ok.  The crust was fine but noting special.  Fortunately with this slice, the crust didn’t dominate as you may see in another pizza shortly.   I didn’t taste much chicken, onion, or pesto.  I didn’t taste much of anything.  The toppings all seem to get lost in the shuffle.  And that’s never what you want.

Next, is two I’ll blend together.  The Steak and Cheese, and then the Deluxe actually both tasted the same to me.  And you can see with these two, the crust sort of envelops the actual pizza itself.   I know the sign says the pizza is made fresh every two hours but these slices felt like they were out longer than that.  And that’s fine.  If they’re reheated they should taste adequate enough.  Again, these were ok but I would’t go out of my way to try them over others.   And speaking of which…

HarrisTeeterGreek

The Greek was a pleasant surprise.   I love feta cheese, olives, onions, and tomatoes.  And they do it all here perfectly.    It looks like a lot and it is.  But that’s the fun of this.  The toppings seem to a bit more over-the-top than the previous three slices I mentioned.  You can tell such a difference in this slice versus the others.  And the visual is so different.  They throw on a lot and it pays dividends.  I absolutely adore this slice.  And the crust was fantastic as well.  This is a great slice.

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But finally, the reason for this post, is the April Four Cheese pie special, at only $8.   You can always tell how good a place really is based on the cheese.  And the cheese was fabulous. This is along the lines of the Greek with loads of toppings but instead loads of cheese. And I mean loads of cheese.  You can see how high they stack this thing.

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To be fair, this was fresh out of the oven, placed in a charming to go box, and it felt so good on my hands.   The difference in having it right out of the oven, after 15 minutes, going against slices being heated up is significant, but I didn’t know it would be this significant.

HarrisTeeterCheeseSlices

This is cheese that makes you feel like a kid.  It reminds me of a cheese pie I shared with my family many times over, when I was a kid.  The pizza sauce is tangy, yet it works perfectly with this pie.  And the golden brown and slightly burnt ends of the crust makes this pizza worth going out of your way for.  Actually wait.  You don’t have to go out of your way for it.   Wow I’m cheesy.  Oops!

HarrisTeeterSpecials

And at only $7.99 for the rest of the month of April, it’s a bargain.  This is usually $12.   I got four meals out of this.  And it just kept tasting as awesome, if not better, every time. I’m craving some now as I write about this for you guys.

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This pizza isn’t going to win any awards and I don’t think Harris Teeter is looking for any. But they do cheese pizza right.   I will be back again.  Maybe I’ll review some more slices or another to-go special.   Any way you slice it, I look forward to sampling (not those free samples, but I love those too) more of their creative slices and pies in the near future.

To find the nearest Harris Teeter near you, click here.

There’s still a lot of April left so I highly recommend getting this pizza, at this price, while you can.

Thanks so much,

Ideen

Halal’s It Going?

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Happy April.  That got here quick didn’t it?  I felt like I was making the same statements for the same months last year or even this year.   Happy Spring to you too.

You can call this the Iranian New Year Special.

Columbia, MD is a town I’ve written about before and about this chain too, but it also does have its local businesses, and local is what I always strive to write about first.

UpperCrustSign

Upper Crust Pizzeria has been a staple of the town and nearby neighborhoods for a number of years.  In the vicinity there’s two other strip malls with all the chains you need (or don’t), for your convenience, that you could easily pass by this local pizza place and not even know it.

I’ve done the same the thing many times and I’ve also hesitated ever ordering from here to the point of grabbing food from a place next door or nearby.  That’s over and done with now.

The establishment is unassuming.  And you know the places with little decor, limited seating, and no website (that I know of), could turn our to be some of the better pizza and food experiences.  It’s the hidden gems, the hole-in-the-walls, and the off the beaten paths that are truly special.  At least for this go around, this was all that.

That sentiment doesn’t always ring true.  I’ve been to some mom and pops that have turned disastrous, but they usually come through and show why local is the way to go, as much as possible.

I was all set to order a standard or maybe a slightly unique pizza on this day.  But then after scanning the dry erase board (I love that) menu, at the very bottom I see the Halal Meat Pizza.   This would be a historic first for me.

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I had no idea what the pizza would entail.   I didn’t know if there would be a different crust, cheese, or sauces.   None of the above.

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It was a cheese pizza, with tomato sauce, and that crust.  Wow this crust.  Let me say some more about this.  I ordered a personal pie and I did the smaller triangle slices.  As the weather gets nicer this is the kind of consumption I’ll be looking for more.  It’s not necessarily a thin slice.  It’s their slice.  And that golden brown color is a sight for happy eyes.   This was beautiful.

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Now let me get to the Halal meat.    What a pleasant surprise that is also included chicken and they didn’t half-heartedly throw on these toppings.    There’s a lot but not too much that the pizza takes a back seat.

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The beef was seasoned similar to gyro meat and it was magnificent. If it was gyro meat then I’m happy with that too.  The diced chicken was a nice touch.  And in my usual ways I pulled plenty of the toppings off and enjoyed them on my own.  But in this instance it’s not necessary.  Everything complements itself perfectly.

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I’m dreaming about this crust right now.

Now I’m really wondering how other Halal meat pizzas would fare.  It’s not a frequent occurrence on pizzeria menus.

There’s no website but this page can look to the menu and all other necessary information.

I don’t know when I’ll be back.  That sounded a bit too dramatic.  I’m in the Columbia area at least once a month.  And I’m always seeking out hidden gems of all kinds to write about.  So maybe I will try another one of their hopefully awesome pizzas.  I’m overstating this but the crust on this one was just so special.

And speaking of special I’ve contemplated going to ratings system for pizza and maybe the other universes I speak of, here and here.   It would likely be a 5 star system with half and quarter stars when necessary.    If I do institute this, I will go back and rate previous postings I’ve made.  It’s just a thought I’m contemplating and appreciate any feedback.

So far I’ve liked my reviews to speak for themselves.

 

Blessed,

Ideen

 

Lovely Lena

LenasPizza3

Any chance I get back to Alexandria, VA, I’m all about it.   I live closer to Baltimore now.  And even though Alexandria is 90 minutes away it still feels like a road trip or vacation.

I was born here.  It’s not something I always bring up to the world or make it a focal point of conversation.   None of us have any control over where we’re born.  It’s just one of those things that happens, literally.   But even though I didn’t grow up here, it’s something I’m happy here and believe there’s a reason it happened.

LenasSign

More of those reasons will be presented to me over time and when the time is right.   One was made available to me earlier this week with a visit to Lena’s Wood-fired Pizza & Tap.

Now this isn’t in Old Town like my one previous pizza dining experience around Christmas (link can be found here), but the location, on the outskirts of Old Town, near had a charm and aura all its own.

Braddock Road may not sound glamorous but the area where this new pizza restaurant sits still feels has the older feeling of Northern Virginia houses built decades ago, and while more development is coming, the neighborhoods nearby look like they won’t be going anywhere for a while.

LenasPatio

Why do I mention this? Because on first glimpse the newness of the building that houses Lena’s may look like the sign of the times.   More things starting to look the same and a lessening of the character of what made these small towns so charming in the first place.  Lena’s is part of a bigger restaurant group called Alexandria Restaurant Partners that extends outside the state.

LenasFront

Now just because a restaurant is a part of a growing chain or restaurant conglomerate doesn’t mean I will alter my opinion.  My goal is always to support local business and give all the love to mom and pops, independents, and stand alone pizzerias, restaurants, and similar establishments.    With that being said, how was the pizza?

LenasPizza

Well there was more than pizza.  I want to first give a huge thanks to my server, Francesca, who was absolutely first class in every sense of the word.   She was helpful with all aspects of my meal.    I almost ordered a glass of wine or a similar libation, but this was not the day for that.

 

LenasCider2

I usually just have water with my meal.  But what a pleasant surprise to hear that they had fresh and hot apple cider on tap.  I mean, how often is this available in a restaurant?  And it’s Spring.  Is this the season for it?  I said the heck with it.  I want some hot apple cider.  It was presented to me with a cinnamon stick and all around good vibes.  It was delicious.  I already liked where this was going.

LenasCider

Now Francesca had to steer me right when it comes to a pie.  I was presented the option of getting a half and half as long as the sauces were the same.

LenasMenu

LenasPizza2

She recommended the Diavola and the Meatball.  The latter is made in-house and thinly sliced to look appropriate on the pizza.  The former is somewhat of an anomaly for me.  First of all, I love kale and it’s one of those en vogue vegetables that we’re going to hear about till the end times.   I’ve had it on pizza before and it just didn’t work for me.  This time it did.  But first…

The meatball was just kind of standard.  It was just kind of there.  It wasn’t that it was bad.  It was just a lot less than what I was expecting.    The ricotta cheese was fine but I really didn’t get a lot of flavor from this pizza at all.   But with the both, the pizza crust was cooked perfectly.   I like a good wood-fired dough.

LenasSlice2

The Diavola was tremendous.   Like last week, honey on a pizza is a tricky thing.  But when it works it really works.  And that salami was absolutely terrific.  I had to sneak a couple of pieces of it on its lonesome just to see how good it truly tasted.  And it was wonderful.   Yet with all that goodness, the kale really was the stand-out.  And they really piled it on to perfection.

I’m a big fan of kale and now an even bigger fan of kale on pizza.  Delicious.

And just when I thought it was over, I was convinced to order their house made donuts to go. By the way, this pizza lasted me 2 1/2 meals.  It was an individual pizza but quite filling.

LenasDonuts

I was told the donuts would be good for a day or two, so I savored them.  I did sneak in a couple of bites before and they tasted like the holidays.  Just like that cider.  This entire meal was all over the place.  Kind of like this experience.   I’m getting a kick out of this by the way.

I’ll be back.  I just don’t know when.  This was an even more endearing experience than I remember.  And to be all nostalgic just a few days post-meal is the point of all this.  It’s corny, overly sentimental, and happy-go-lucky but that’s the point of all this.

LenasBar

For more about Lena’s, read this.  This is interesting.   And here is their contact information.

LenasToGo

I love Alexandria and I really enjoyed this visit.  This makes it two for two.

This is what I hope most of my visits during this Spring and beyond will be like.  I like the unpredictability of the locations, pizzas, other foods, drinks, service, and all the other details. They’re all significant.

I can’t wait to see where I end up next.

 

Ideen