Say Hello To Everybody

SammysFourPizzaSlices2

That’s the feeling I got when I walked into Sammy’s Italian Pizza Kitchen, in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.  I’ve talked at length (history can be found here), about my fondness for our state capital.

Here’s Sammy’s menus, contact info, and more on their story can be found at the bottom of their main page.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen

I’ve been to Sammy’s many times before, initially out of curiosity, but then out of convenience.   The shopping center itself has a feel from decades ago, and once again takes me back to being a kid, and going out to lunch on a Sunday with my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and you get my drift.

It’s a feeling of comfort and familiarity that is a great reminder that restaurants don’t need to be fancy and over-the-top to produce quality food, service, a warm atmosphere, and a positive dose of energy.

Now in every town, you have your bakery, post office, general store (do those still exist?), local bank (one can only hope), florist, and many other mom-and-pops.  That does include plenty of good food, and of course pizza.

That’s the sense I got the first time I drove through this part of Eastport, and discovered this, among several other hidden gems.

What’s funny is there’s been many instances where I have not been enamored with their pizza.  I thought it was good, but nothing to necessarily write home (or write a blog/story) about.  I have an ongoing list of places I’ve been meaning to talk about, and Sammy’s among others was on that list, but I either never felt the time was right, or just wasn’t feeling it, good or bad.

You’ve got to feel it, positive or negative, or what’s the point?

But something about a recent visit felt different.  Maybe it was me, maybe it was the mood I was in, or maybe there’s just something else inexplicable, where I should just let it just be, and allow the best experience to come to me and find me.

That’s exactly what happened.

I love how you can’t see the inside of the restaurant from the outside.   There’s something mysteriously beautiful about this, that will draw many in, and I’m sure scare a few people off.  I promise you nothing about what I’m saying is to be feared or be made to feel afraid of.

The interior feels more authentic than how many more contemporary restaurants try to portray themselves as.  This just feels real.  And if and when you’re inside, I think you’ll get what I’m selling here.  Nor do I have to sell.  Everything about it sells itself.

SammysFourSlices

To go back to basics, I went with the four most simplest slices there is.   Cheese, pepperoni, white, and vegetable is about as genuine and to the core pizza as you’re going to find.  It’s as if the slices were there waiting for me.  Maybe they were.

The staff working the counter made me feel like home and made me feel good about my visit.  And to feel like a million bucks is not something you ask for or expect, but it’s great when it happens.  The next few groups of people that walked in got that same first class treatment.  It’s good to be feel important.  That feeling should come from within but it’s always gravy when it comes from external sources as well.

Before I go on any further of a tangent, this was the best pizza I’ve had by them in the multiple times I’ve been by.  And it’s not even close.  From what was once mediocre to decent, turned into fantastic.

What makes this all the more intriguing is I got these slices at dinner time.  I don’t know how long the pies were out.  Those are not the questions I should be asking, when the pizza turns out to be this good.  Maybe I answered my own question.

Maybe the reheating from the cold pies made it that much more tasty.  But good pizza is good pizza.  And these four slices really turned out well.

The pepperoni and the white were the true stand outs.   The crust and dough just had a taste about them that once again took me back to my younger days sharing pizza with family and dear friends.   That’s where a long synopsis is no longer necessary.

It’s a simple pizza, with a simple feel, from a creative source.

SammysFourPizzaSlices

What more can you ask for then what I just described?

That’s good pizza, nestled in a neighborhood in one of my favorite places.

If I could write about a place like this every week, I’d be happy.  But then it wouldn’t be so special.  Yet for now, this is to be savored, adored, and appreciated.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen2

I look forward to my next visit to Annapolis, and a future visit to Sammy’s.

Peace Be With You.

 

 

One Step Up and Two Steps…

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak

It’s good that I can take appreciate what’s a little bit closer to home to me.  There’s plenty of places that serve pizza anywhere, in one shape or another.  In one form or another form, pizza pies can and will be found.   And while the flavors, topping, and ingredients remain constant, everyone has their take, their soul, and sometimes just different types of pies are going to be prepared and served to you.

FranksAberdeen

Frank’s Pizza in Aberdeen, MD (all menu and no website makes this a bit easier), is not far away from home, and the nearby streets surrounding it have a small town feel, but then it kind of doesn’t.  I don’t mean to sound do obscure, but I’m really not.  Every town has its historic part with their post office, cafes, small shoppes, a few businesses that add to commerce, and a few randoms.  I love the randoms too.   And yet there’s always another constant, pizza.

Frank’s is as no thrills as it gets.  It’s got a simple counter, a massive space, and old school seating that makes it easier to write about, so the artisanal and sometimes pretentious aspect is out the window.   It’s refreshing to write mainly about the pizza itself and nothing else.  Well the staff was busy yet courteous.

The pizza trays are the first things you see when you walk in.  That’s a strategy that’s not rocket science, and I’m always been a fan of.

I’ve been here before, and the pizza is pizza.  It’s nothing life changing nor does every experience, food, or pizza need to be.   It does its job, does its job well, and you’ll likely to come back if you work, live, or are in the area.

This time I noticed a couple of stuffed pizzas on display, and for the sake of changing it up, this was necessary to purchase.   I did not eat all of this one sitting.   These four slices are the equivalent of four meals, at least.

FranksAberdeenCheese&BuffaloChicken

So along with getting your simple cheese, a buffalo chicken, a stuffed cheesesteak, and a stuffed romano (pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom… if I’m missing something, I’ll stand corrected).

The cheese and buffalo chicken are fine.  Nothing amazing, nothing that’s going to be questioned.  Unless you write about it.  The crust is fine, but nothing extraordinary.

The same can be said for the romano.   The golden brown color is always a nice sight to see, but again, it’s solid but not much more than that.

FranksAberdeenStuffedPizzas2

I gloss over these three slices for a reason…

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak

Finally, the cheesesteak is a guilty pleasure.  And as you see with the romano, they pile on the toppings.  And I don’t care how authentic this cheesesteak and the steak itself (Frank’s is less than an hour outside of Philadelphia), it’s the height of comfort food.  But again, you could get multiple meals out of this.  This is not meant to be eaten all at once.

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak2

I have all four slices, resting comfortably in my refrigerator, that may be sitting there for a while.  I don’t recommend all of this in one sitting, or even a couple.   Get a work out in before, and one sometime after.   This can’t be healthy, but this is not why you eat this stuff to be healthy.  This is not some conspiracy theory.

Sometimes you just want to eat and not worry about the consequences.   That’s what you’re going to get with Frank’s.

Maybe next week we’ll go artisanal and a little more classy?  Whatever that means.

Blessings to you…

Ideen

One Olympic Place

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese3

You know how long I’ve been wanting to use that as a title?  All of about two hours…

This came to me earlier today.  It would have made sense to write about Cunningham’s of Towson during the events of last month, yet I find myself having a bit of a laugh as I write this out.

For folks that frequent this charming restaurant, the title of this post will make sense.  I’ll leave the rest of the punchline to the audience right here.  Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as an obscure reference as I might be implying.  Just look at the bottom of the page.

We were out for a good friend’s birthday, and at the halfway point of that winter event that goes on every four years.

I’ll tell you, if I lived closer I would be here on a regular basis.  I chatted with some of the locals, and got a good sense of community from the place.  The vibe is fantastic, the bar set up is tremendous, and the location is ideal.  It’s kind of like a village, but not the village I might be alluding to.  But still pretty awesome.

This is not how I thought this post would go, but I’m just shooting from the hip now.

cunninghamsrestaurant

I’ve been to their Cafe and Bakery directly below the restaurant before, and find their food outstanding.    And more about why their food is just that, can be found here.   The majority of their results come from their own farm just a few miles away.  How can you not love local and love food fresh from the farm?  Try saying that a few times over.

Which makes me surprised that their pizzas weren’t up to par.  I was pleasantly surprise to find pizza on the menu to begin with.  Like I said, this was my first time at the bar and restaurant, and loved everything so far.

We had some appetizers during happy hour, that were tremendous, but I think they were trying a little too hard with the pizza.

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese

The two we shared were the Cunningham Farm Ham & Goat Cheese,  and then the Carne Supremo.    A lot of meat and a lot of toppings going on with both.  That might be the culprit.

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese4

With the Farm Ham & Goat Cheese, the mozzarella and goat cheese is a great combination, but it might have been too much, in terms of being in your face.   The arugula and tomatoes tasted fresh, but the ham didn’t work for me here.  I’ve said it before, it’s a case of the whole not equaling the sum of its parts. Quite the cliche, but it applies.   I think less would be more.   The crust on both of these is fantastic by the way.  It’s comfort food bread that I would enjoy all by itself.    The brick oven really work here, I just wish the toppings did the same.

CarneSupremoPie

What was even more of a challenge was the Carne Supremo.   There’s too much going on.  Lots of meat (pepperoni, sauage, and soppressata) which is balanced by the veggies (onions and peppers), along with mozzarella and asiago.  You think this would be tremendous.  But it’s just once again, overwhelming.   It’s ok if the topping are falling all over the place, and at times can make the experience more fun.   I just didn’t love all this red meat here.  This is based on personal opinion.  A few of our party shared the same sentiment on both of these pies.

CarneSupremo

I think, or actually I know, that less is more here.  This crust is fantastic and would work better with a simple base of cheese, sauce, a few vegetables, and a lighter protein.  A simple chicken pizza would work perfectly here.

CarneSupremo2

This by no means is going to stop be from coming back.  I find an endearing spirit and energy in this restaurant.  If you want quite, peaceful, cozy, and maybe a little noise, this is the place for you.  It’s my kind of place for sure.

If the situation presents itself in time, I’ll definitely try another pie or two again.

In the meantime, for more on Cunningham’s, here is their storymenu, and online ordering information.

Here is my history of pizza in this area.  It’s a town I will always be a bit partial too.

We’ll see you in 2020, oh wait, I mean next week!

Have a blessed one…

Ideen

Harvest Makes Me Happy

HarvestThymeElBlanco2

The word ‘harvest’, evokes feelings of happiness, joy, tranquility, organic experiences, and well I honestly could go on and on.  It reminds me of what’s good in life, farmer’s markets, a sense of community, giving, and kindness.  Why does a harvest do this for me?

Maybe something happened in my past, and maybe a bunch of life experiences leading up to this story give me warm feeling of a harvest, and all that entails.  I’m smiling as I think about it, and write this out to you.

What I get the most is a feeling of togetherness and helping your fellow family member, friend, or whomever it may be out, and the feelings are reciprocal, but more importantly there’s a feeling of good from within.  I could go on all day…

That feeling of friendship, love, comradery, and all those other superlatives came together last week when my friends introduced me to a new restaurant that opened near them.   And what a most magnificent place this is.   I’m honored, thankful, and grateful to be sharing our experience at Harvest Thyme in Davidsonville, MD, which is comfortably nestled outside of Annapolis.

The location may feel a bit remote, but sometimes those are the best places.   My friends told me that there isn’t much in terms of food and drink in the immediate area, so this is a blessing to the community.   And we were witness to it, as the place was packed near the tale end of happy hour, leading into dinner.

HarvestThymeWines

The exterior has a welcoming aura and energy about it, as does the inside.  I didn’t take enough pictures, but I hope you get some idea of how elegant this place is.

HarvestThymeDiningRoom

We came in with the full intent of getting some pizza to go.  And if we had any second thoughts about dining in instead, those went out of the window immediately.  It was a sea of humanity, but a lot of good humanity.  People seemed jovial, upbeat, and realizing it’s the weekend, having a little worries or cares in the world, hopefully.

CigarWine

We did share a bottle of wine while we waited.  And you can read more about that here.

But my pals and I decided on two different pizzas.  And it’s quite the dichotomy.

HarvestThymeElBlanco

The El Blanco is there White Pizza and it’s great.  When it comes to certain restaurants, you might come to have expectations of how a pizza may be presented; the size, the crust, the amount of cheese, and all those other nuances.    What I’ve looked forward to when some or all of the components of a pie are made in house.

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Their dough is made in house, and it’s terrific.  This is a good white pie, if you don’t want too much overbearing cheese and garlic, which has been known to plague similar pizzas I’ve written about it in the past.  This is a charmer, a grower, and has many endearing qualities.  Yes I’m still talking about the pizza.

However, even better is the Carnitas.

HarvestThymeCarnitas

The pulled pork, which is twice cooked (I love that), cheddar cheese, and spicy tomato sauce is a blend from beyond and on a whole other level.  My friend joked saying we wouldn’t like this.  Hoping to not have to share.  But you know what they say about sharing.   Right.

HarvestThyymeCarnitasSlice

This to me felt like a sneak preview, an appetizer, and almost a dress rehearsal if you will.  The restaurant has only been open a few months but it already looks like a hit.

HarvestThymeSlices

The dining room looks great, the bar area feels welcoming, and our waiting area felt like more than just that.  And we go to share a bottle of wine on a serendipitous night before we sat down and watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.  Yes I’ve got to throw in all the references to the Olympics I can.

This place is great, that’s all I’ve got for you right now.  If you’re in the area, or plan on visiting Harvest Thyme, here is their food menu, their drink list, their story, and of course their contact information.

 

 

More to come from this wonderful ristorante.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Another Door Opens

EatalianTrios

Eatalian Bistro of Towson sits in a location that’s all too familiar to the locals and folks who like to spend a day or afternoon or shopping nearby at one of the two local malls.

Sometime back I wrote about what was once there, and it reminds me of the many occasions I ate there, during and way after college.  I went to the University nearby. Here is my growing and storied history of pizzas I’ve had in the area.

What was once there was a solid, sometimes fantastic restaurant with great pizza, overall good food, and reasonable prices.  What it also had going for them was 25 years of history and goodwill within the neighborhood.   But times have changed.

This is not the Towson I remember from 10, even 5 years ago.  Towns and cities change, adapt, and grow, and sometimes the small businesses feel the brunt of it, and either close up, or move away.    But this is happening everywhere, not just close to home.  Well it may be happening close to your home…

EatalianFront

Life goes on, and this brings us to Eatalian Bistro, which doesn’t have a website, but info can be found here, along with their menu right here.

EatalianMenu

So this is a review of two visits as we lead into Towson’s Christmas tree lighting which will take place today, as in the day this article is posted (12/1/17) literally footsteps away.

EatalianSpecials

When a pizzeria promotes three slices for $6.00, you have to do a double take.  But that’s exactly what Eatalian Bistro is promoting.  It’s unheard of. This constitutes stealing, this constitutes too good to be true, but most importantly this constitutes expressing gratitude and thanks.  I just don’t see a deal lasting like this forever.  If it does, you’ll at least have a regular customer out of me.

And with that, a total of six slices will be reviewed, but in really simple fashion.

EatalianFirstThree

The first visit led me to order a cheese, meat lovers, and a bit of a unique slice, chicken and mushroom.  What I love about going to places with slices is you never know what you’re going to get.  Not every slice will be available every day.  And the unpredictability factor leads to making different orders at time, and keeps it from being all too familiar.

EatalianCheese

These are good slices.  They aren’t going to change your life, or make you think this is the best pizza ever.  I didn’t see it like that.  But if you’re going to judge a place on the cheese, then this place will do just fine.

The meat lovers was a bit heavy for me, but that’s also a personal thing along with a reflection on the pizza or the pizza makers themselves.  The chicken and mushroom was good, but I think it’s capable of being a great a second time.  Too bad I didn’t get that chance because on my…

EatalianTrios2

Second visit threw some changes.  Where there were no white pizzas during round one, this appearance brought about a white broccoli and white spinach, so I had to get both.  And to spice things up, I went with the Sicilian.   No chicken and mushroom on display this time.  Like I said, different and unpredictable is good.

The white slices were pleasant and I thought better than anything I had the first time, except for maybe the plain.  These are well done, if not safe in how they were prepared.  I’ll say the crust tasted better this go around.  You can see the pictures and understand why.  You see a little more golden brown that you don’t see in the previous slices.

EatalianSicilian

The Sicilian was my least favorite.  Depending on where you go, these things can be incredible or an absolute disaster.  I’ll put this in the middle.  The cheese and tomato sauce didn’t work for me, but it could easily work for you.

The colors look like Christmas.  I didn’t plan for this, so I like how this came together naturally without me thinking about it or forcing it.  That does make me happy.

However, the staff each time has been friendly, approachable, and happy to help.  This restaurant is only a few months old and deserves every opportunity to succeed if they’re putting themselves out there to provide the best food and serve it can.

In the spirit of the holidays, and all year round, I’m wishing the best for Eatalian Bistro, and hope that it becomes a staple of the neighborhood like many businesses have been able to do so.

And with those holiday spirits and wishes, the events going on in Towson are on this flyer below.

EatalianChristmas

It’s December and there’s plenty of days and weekends starting with this one to get all your Christmas in.  I plan on doing my best to get involved in as much Christmas spirit as I can.

Have a blessed one, and happy holidays!

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Pretzel Pals

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizza2

Pretzel and Pizza Creations of Downtown Frederick, MD is a refreshing change for so many reasons.  First, the location just makes me feel so warm inside.  I adore any town that has a historic and neighborly looking part.   It feels even more cozy when the temperatures start to drop a little bit and those leaves start changing color.  The symbols and images are open to your interpretation.  I interpret as feelings of community, love, and looking out for one another.

PretzelPizzaStore

With all that being said, Prezel and Pizza definitely has a feel of a small town shoppe with all kinds of treats and goodies ready at your disposal.   Not every town or community has a store like this.  You got your community bank, your bar, wine shop, bookstore, and your various food places.  This might sound like something out of program or cinema, but it’s also real life.  Mom and pop shoppes are still number one in my eyes, and always will be.

I’m grateful to have made two visits to Frederick in as many months, and my inquisitive nature made me research a place for pizza.  And a bonus was this charming place.

My first time I was mesmerized by the menu.  If you’ve never gone to a restaurant or any food place, you may find yourself perusing the menu a lot longer than wherever you might be a regular.  But that’s the fun of it.  Every place you’ve been to, there was a first time.  I like the sound of that.

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizzaPie

Back near the end of the Summer was that first time and I ordered the Olympic Games as my first pizza.  Now for those who know me personally know why I went with that.

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizza

I had no idea what to expect with how the pretzel would taste along with the mozzarella cheese, spinach, olives, and feta.  I just realized that my pie had two cheeses.  I did take notes and that taste resonated with me.

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The Bavarian Style soft pretzel crust is divine, it’s heavenly, and it’s comfort food at its finest.  As the weather gets colder, this is the kind of doughy goodness you’re going to be seeking.

PretzelPizzaOlympicSlice

As a collective I think the clash of cheeses might have been an issue for me.  I didn’t love this pizza, or pretzel if you will.  I didn’t love the flavor of the dough on this first go around.  But that was until…

Fast forward to earlier this week,  I kept it simple and then I got into the spirit of the season.

PretzelPizzaCheese

The simple cheese is just what I needed and the flavors of their mozzarella and homemade sauce worked perfectly with this crust.   And while the pictures of both look appetizing, the cheese is truly a winner.  Sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go.  Just like the simple town setup is some all anyone needs.   A standard and reliable cheese is usually going to raise your spirits and make you feel good.   This made me feel really good.

PretzelPizzaPumpkinMenu

Just when it couldn’t get any better, a nice bonus menu of pumpkin pretzels was their just glistening and waiting to be ordered.   I went for the big one and that means the stuffed pretzel with pumpkin chips, cream cheese, and loads of pumpkin spice sugar. We might be getting carried with all this pumpkin stuff, but I love it.  Tis the season, wait not that season just yet.  It’s full on pumpkin season and this pretzel is a treasure to behold.

And what a great way to celebrate National Pumpkin Day.  Yes that’s a holiday!

PretzelPizzaPumpkin

Their menu is loaded with exciting foodies, aside from the pizza and pretzels, that will be sure to please anyone visiting, and all the locals.   For a moment I felt like a local.  The staff was personable and welcoming upon each visit.

PretzelPizzaMenu

Until just now, I had no idea they had a second location in Hagerstown.

To find out more about Pretzel and Pizza Creations, here is their story, their menu, the food, and contact information.

This was so fun. I’m so fortunate and grateful to have discovered this gem in a different part of Maryland, that I don’t visit nearly enough.  If you live or are ever around the Frederick or Hagerstown areas, I would definitely pay a visit here if you haven’t already.

ILoveDowntownFrederick

I welcome the next time I’m in town and will make it a point to visit again.

Thanks so much and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

Grotto Pizza – The Revival

GrottoSlices

A dear friend of mine had asked me I had written about Grotto Pizza, and specifically about the Columbia, MD location.  I never asked him why that one specifically?  I could envision him saying, ‘well why not?’  That’s exactly right.  And this is in celebration of National Pizza Month.

GrottoFront

I never explained to my pal that back in May of 2015, I was pretty harsh on the place.  But this was the Dewey Beach location. We’re talking Memorial Day Weekend, loads of people, lines for food and drinks everywhere, and a likely rush for the way anything is prepared.   I don’t often read my old posts but I can imagine I said something similar but still being really hard on their pizza.

I’m not usually one to be critical.  I discuss a place on how it presents or how I feel it tries to present itself.  It’s all in the intention.  If a place carries some weight and gives off the aura and energy that their pizza, their ambiance, their energy, and their everything is larger than life, then I’ll look at them in a different light than a more casual pizza place.  And if it thinks it’s a little too cool for school or a bit ostentatious, then I will factor that in.

Fortunately, Grotto carries itself in a quite laid back fashion.  Even as this chain grows into a full service bar and restaurant, with locations growing from the Maryland and Delaware beaches slowly into the DC area, it still maintains a welcoming and folksy vibe that I believe they’ve been presenting for the 57 years it’s been open. Yes since 1960!  Math is fun!

While I don’t do many repeats, I feel this was necessary.  And I love thoughtful requests and I love a good redux.

I will say that the Columbia location is among the many spots where there is new development, a new era in living (which is happening in many places), and a revival of sorts.  Whether that’s good or bad is all relative and all on how you think communities should look.

But in the end it’s still always about the pizza, and then some of those other details.

I came at a quieter time, before the lunch rush.  So I had the full and undivided of the kind folks behind the counter.  Yes they were so kind.

You have an easy to use to-go board for ordering, if you don’t feel like sitting at a bar or table.  Before I departed the tables were starting to fill, but I digress.

As an homage to my first recap, everything was to go, and of course I ordered a cheese and then a pepperoni slice.  As a bonus, and just to see how another pie tastes, I went with the Buffalo Chicken.

GrottoCheese

The cheese and pepperoni were much better this time.  I love that the pepperoni is buried under the cheese. And the way the cheese is layered on top, in a charming and well thought out pattern is always a joy to see.

GrottoPepperoni

No, these are not to be the best pizzas of all time.   They’re fun.  The crust is a standard thin crust.  These are good slices for on the go and they do the job.  At around $6-$7 for two slices and a soda, that’s a solid deal.

GrottoBuffaloChicken

I can’t quite say the same about the Buffalo Chicken.  My main issue is the price.  At $18 for a medium, which presents itself more like a small, it’s a little pricier than I feel it should.

The sauce, chicken, cheese, and crust were fine but nothing special.  It’s a solid pizza, but not at the price.

You can see by the menu, that they have a plethora of pies, that you see in many pizzerias, with a few of their own creative takes thrown in…

…this is why I think another visit before the year is over is necessary.  So I’m thinking by the holidays, and I have a specific location in mind.

GrottoSlicesMenu

If you’re a fan of Grotto, my opinion is not going to sway you one way or another. People love the tradition and history behind the place.  I love tradition.  I love sentimentality.  It’s a place many of our parents and grandparents took us during Summer outings to the beach.  And now that it’s in a neighborhood or town near you, new traditions, homages, and memories can be made.

I look forward to creating another memory later this year.

For more on Grotto, here is their menu, locationscontact info, and their history.

Thank you so much.  Happy National Pizza Month.  And peace be with you…

Ideen