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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Fresh Market Pizza Party

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And that party was for one, me.  As in most of my posts, my dining experience has mostly been done in solitude.  If there were group outings or with a friend or two, then I most likely made it clear that I had some good company.  And how that might change dynamic of the experience and pizza itself.

This is a different kind of experience than what I’ve usually written about.   When making a frozen pizza in the comfort of your own home, it takes on a whole new life.  Even though we most likely didn’t make the pizza ourselves from scratch, there is something personal about heating it in the oven and enjoying a pie by yourself or with close family and friends.

It’s the whole ritual of looking for a pizza, seeing which toppings would make you and your serving company happy to eat without anyone feeling left out.  But when it’s just you, like it was in that case, the options become unlimited and no need to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings except maybe your own.

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Per a recommendation from a close friend, I was told to visit The Fresh Market to grab one of their personal frozen selections and give it a shot.

But first I’ll give you my own personal experience of this grocery shoppe.

A little over eight years ago I was on a drive just like any others and stumbled across a new shopping district a little bit of a ways from the Baltimore area.   When I see a new arrary of stores and places to explore I’m naturally curious and love to discover something fun.   What I was grateful to notice was my first visions of this Fresh Market.

You know anything from the first time you walk in is going to feel wholesome, genuine, and simpatico.   Well not necessarily always but I would like that to be the case more times often than not.  But this is what I felt here.

It felt like a market.  You had your standard grocery aisles and in the middle you had fresh made sandwiches to order (and pre-made to go), your fresh meats, prepared foods, baked goods, and so many other fun things.

But aside from that nut you have a great selection of natural foods (nuts, raisins, dried fruits, sweet treats etc.), coffee, tea, and so many other amazing things.

Now what I just listed reads like any old grocery store, and that might be true, but something about the aura and energy in here just feels right. Maybe it’s the dimmed lights.  Maybe I’m just seeing things.  But something just feels awe inspiring in here at times.

But I had yet to ever try their pizza.  If I did, I forgot.  And that’s on me.

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So after a little poking around earlier this week, in the freezer section and refrigerated aisle, I went with the Margherita.  I wanted to keep it light, simple, and a little more down-to-earth, so this felt correct in theory.

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I’m immediately charmed by the packing.  It just looks so cool.  That’s a technical term by the way.  Any personal touch, even in the most simplest form, leaves a lasting impression and goes a long way.

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When I got ready to prep this at home a feeling of excitement came over me.  I don’t use my oven enough to begin with, so this was going to be a real treat.

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Upon opening my pie looked ready to be heated and served to a party of one.  Hey, that’s me!

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Details of all this are not necessary.  I just wanted to convey my enthusiasm over something so simple and heating a frozen pizza.

What was even more inspiring were the aromas I was getting through the oven while my pie was cooking.  Those Italian spices were just permeating my kitchen. It w as only a 10-12 minute heating process, so I was patient but I was getting eager to eat.

It wasn’t at the point of staring at the timer, but I just felt like a kid waiting to eat my pizza and periodically checking the oven to see if it was ready.  I’m sure many have been in these shoes before; as a kid, as a parent, or both.

freshmarketpizzaheated

How gorgeous does this look?  Those sights and smells were giving me goose bumps.  And that golden brown crust makes it look almost too good to eat.  But forget that.

But to my mild disappointment, the spices, cheese, and tomatoes didn’t translate from in the oven to actual meal time.

It felt like whatever I was enjoying with my nose never clicked when actually eating a slice.

When talking about a frozen pizza, it’s a different criterion versus your local pizzeria.  I’m not looking for world class and pizza of the year caliber pie.  But I do want it to taste good.

The crust was flaky , crusty, and falling apart, just how I like my frozen gems.  But as a whole, the pizza just tasted average.  I wanted more flavor and I didn’t get it.  I’m surprised but not deterred.

And it’s not to say I didn’t finish.  I ate the whole thing, because even though it wasn’t anywhere close to what I expected, it was good enough to eat.

I did get two meals out of it.  The second meal was a late night snack.  I knew it was at home waiting for me, wrapped in foil.  That’s a good feeling knowing a pizza you heated is ready for a second around.

And yes, I was secretly hoping the seasonings and tomatoes would come alive on a second try.  It didn’t happen but doesn’t mean I won’t try another one of their pizzas.  They have a vast selection to choose from, and  I’m willing to bet will lead to better results.  And just because I wasn’t floored by it doesn’t mean you won’t.  Give it a try.  For $5.99, it’s a great investment into trying something new.

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I don’t talk about frozen pizza much, but I would like this to be a regular thing.  I’ve had some amazing ones in my lifetime, and hope to cross paths with some of them, and share them with you.   Whether I continue this next week remains to be seen.  Maybe.

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To find the nearest Fresh Market in your area, click here.

In regards to that picture at the beginning of this post, my animal friends wanted to share in my personal experience, but no I didn’t give them any.  You don’t see me eating any of their pizza.  Oh wait…

For my previous foray into frozen pizza click here.

We also made pizzas once, to read more about that click here!

We’ll see what next week brings us.

Ideen

 

Happy Birthday Too loulou!

toolouloupie4I could have just said Happy Anniversary Tooloulou, but then I wouldn’t have such a witty (or nerdy depending on your take) title.

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Yes, Tooloulou, one of the staples of the Belvedere Square Market, in North Baltimore, just had a major milestone last week.  They celebrated their 5th Anniversary!  Congratulations.

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And that’s it for me, thank you everybody!

No, not quite.   I would be lying if I said Tooloulou was in my regular rotation of pizza places.  I wish it was.   But for the duration the intent from me is there.  But what has been a more-than-regular thing is a visit to Belvedere Square.

It’s history is also something I can’t pretend to say I’ve been a part of.  However, I was just finishing college in 2003, when it re-opened, so I have some sentimentality to the newer version.

My love for markets goes back forever.  It’s the local feel, the sense of community, the local businesses, and all around good energy that draws so many people in.  It’s one of those ‘just like the good old days’ feelings that shouldn’t just feel like the old days, but right now.   But it’s good to be sentimental.  When it comes to supporting local, you can never have enough of that love for local and can you really be that overly sentimental.  In my humble opinion, the answer is a resounding no.  Wait, resounding doesn’t sound so humble.  But I think you know what I’m trying to say.

Now back to Tooloulou.  They haven’t always been at the market.  A location change, brought this local creation to Belvedere Market.  And what a welcome and inspiring addition this has been.  Still in nearly three years market, why did my first visit only happen two weeks ago?   I have no explanation other than it hasn’t been meant to be until now.  Well I changed some history and went back for a second time.

So does that mean two pies?  You bet.  The first one was a dine-in experience and the second was carry-out.  Yes these are the riveting details I present to you.

Have I teased you enough?  I obviously love the pizza or I would be misleading you with the tidbits of it being a welcome addition, etc.   Ok onto the za!

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First up is the Tooloulou Pizza.  For my first ever visit, it only made sense to go with this one.  And this is where I sat down at their cozy booth and helped myself to this pizza pie.

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I loved it.  I was hesitant at first, since it seemed on the surface to be a bit too rich.  But all my man-made fears were alleviated after a few bites.  The combination of crab, Andouille sausage, and banana peppers is a trifecta of wonders.  Who came up with this?  It’s the perfect complement and complement to one another, and then the other.   The flavors came alive when I first thought something would get lost in the shuffle.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And they put a lot of  crab meat and sausage.  No skimming I promise you.

Add to the fact that the base is white sauce with mozzarella makes this all the more extraordinary.  I think a less inspired effort elsewhere would be a disappointment.  But this was tremendous.  And a little old bay was thrown in for good measure.  You have a winner.  And that crust was cooked to perfection.  I’m salivating as I write this.  It was filling though as I got seconds and thirds out of this.  A 12″ pie at $14.50, with what you’re getting it a deal at this price.

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Not to be outdone was the Shrimp Pesto.  I couldn’t do a celebratory post without doing a second pie.  If I hadn’t found myself back in the area, then this part would never have come to fruition.  So I’m excited.

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In the two plus years of doing this blog, whenever I found pesto as the base, or as an ingredient, I mention how much it’s one of my favorite things period.  Pesto is something of a work of art to me.  If I could do a Pesto Pals blog I would.  Hmm..  But when I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to try this one.  I was actually debating between this and another.  If you look at the menu order, I am following it sequentially.  Whether that mean there’s more to come is quite possible.    Let me get back to this pie before I go on a complete tangent.

I’m not sure which I loved more.  I loved this one for different reasons.  And then reasons that surprised me.  That pesto was authentic.  It tasted homemade or market made, ha!  And not out of a can.  And those pieces of shrimp were pure a joy.   I took a few off the pizza and had myself a good old time.  I re dipped some in the pesto sauce just for kicks.

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But knowing me I would think those were my favorite parts.  No, this pizza was so good that the actual highlights for me were the sundried tomatoes and the mozzarella.  When I found pieces of tomato and shrimp covered in that mozzarella, I appreciated every bite. The taste is just too good to describe.  And this is saying something because the pesto was that good.   What have I done to myself?  I’m craving this pie too.  This was the same price as the previous pizza, and worth every bit of it and more.

This crust may have even been charred better than the first.  How is that even possible?

The bonus was the staff both times were overwhelmingly friendly.   The Shrimp Pesto was a recommendation over another pie, which shall remain nameless and be reviewed at a later date.

For our friends in the area or might be travelling to the area, here’s their location and hours.

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I know Tooloulou is also widely known for their po’ boys.  And if I get a chance again, the next time I come back, I may incorporate one of these sandwiches with another predicted awesome pizza.

I look forward to it, but for now, I will appreciate these two fantastic pies.  And wish Tooloulou a Happy Fifth Anniversary!

And to many more!

Ideen