Around the Globe, Around The Corner…

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Across different universes (here and here), and this one, I’ve sung the praises of Trader Joe’s and for good reason.

I don’t recall many places that have resonated with me for so many reasons over these many years, but they have. and maybe you have a place or two that has given you those feelings, those butterflies, and everything else with the warm and fuzzies.

In the grand scheme of things, it still is just a store (to find a store near you go here), but it’s always had a a good energy.   Sometime it’s had the energy.  I can’t tell you how many locations I’ve been to, but with maybe one or two rare exceptions, I’ve always felt at peace, spiritually whole, and sometimes rejuvenated after a visit.

There’s no need to belabor this point.  Maybe I’m always in that place of abundance right before I walk in, and it manifests itself in ways that words won’t or can’t do justice.

After all this time, how I never got around to writing about their pizzas is one of those universal things.  Micro vs. macro, or what have you. It’s not that serious, let’s get to the pies.

For the summer, I hopefully found two of the better pizzas to discuss, and I’m proud to say that the Spinach Ricotta, and the Sicilian Style Red Pepper. Provolone, & Pearl Mozzarella were absolute works of art.

Maybe it was a moment of inspiration, but of all the pizzas (and they got too many, that another post is meant to happen, and soon), I grabbed these two, and they turned out perfectly.

The suggested heating time and temperature is shown to you, but I altered it a bit and placed both in the oven simultaneously.   That hasn’t always worked, but this go around just felt right.  I just knew it was going to be special before I even walked in the door, and then before I walked in the door.

Thin crust is ideal for warm weather, it’s ideal for any time, yet in July, in the heart of Summer, it’s ideal for right now.  Perfection.  And this crust, my goodness, everything about this is right.  It’s not quite comfort food, which can wait. This is a pizza to enjoy alone, or share with friends, and to appreciate with every bite.

Honestly, I did have one I liked a little more, but that’s besides the point.  They’re both tremendous.  The spinach and ricotta on top of a regular pie base had a charm and appeal that I didn’t realize until after it came out of the even.

The Sicilian Style would be fine with our without the peppers, but I wanted a cheese pizza, with just a little more.  The provolone and mozzarella definitely has a distinct taste.  Yet, within all this splendor, there was a packet of olive oil to drizzle on top.  I was only going to put on a little, but I went crazy. Looks good doesn’t it?  It’s the little things, but going crazy over olive oil is what makes me happy right now.  This pizza made me happy.

No I don’t have a favorite after all, it’s a two way tie and both are outstanding.  Did I already say that? Well let me reiterate, Trader Joe’s knows how to do pizza.  It’s more than just frozen food, it’s an experience.

And I’m grateful to have had this experience, and to share it with you.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Local, Simple, Superb…

ArostoBrisket

There’s that old cliche that if you stop looking for things, they come to you.  I’m not articulating it as properly as I could, but I think you know what I’m saying.  Watching too many cheesy (ha) Christmas movies a little earlier than maybe one should will get one overly sentimental.  Oh my…

Well where am I going with all this?

I’m so blessed to live in an area that is close enough to many busy cities and towns (Baltimore, Annapolis, DC, Philadelphia, and many places in, between, and around the area) that I get more of a pick of pizzas places and for that matter, places to go in general then if I were living in somewhere more remote.  I should not take that for granted.  It’s significant now and it’s going to mean something that much bigger later.  Oh here I go being sentimental and dopey again…

Where did I end up earlier this week, that has gotten feeling so emotional?   I mean it’s only pizza right?  But how can become so invested in something if I don’t have passion for it?

This week my travels brought me to Vienna, Virginia, which is right outside Washington, DC.

First of all, I technically have not written about a pizzeria in Vienna, so any new location is easily going to get me excited.  Second, while there’s still historic, more authentic, and older parts of Vienna that are easily accessible, it’s becoming like many other towns, and many other cities across the country, lots of chains, lots of town centers that portray themselves as something they’re not, and lots of transient people.

So when I find a local place, that’s where I’m going first.  And remember, I wasn’t looking…

ArostoSign

This brings me to Arosto Pizza in Dunn Loring.  Which is now more than a metro station, it’s a conglomerate of things that I may or may not have ever been to.  There’s chains, a grocery store, and a bunch of things that all look the same, but within all that Arosto brings a much needed local face that we can never have enough of.

ArostoOven

The stone hearth pizza oven which heats up these gems is just that, a gem.  Some people may frown upon this kind of rapid fire pizza making, and I might have been one of those people, but I got over it.  The crusts on both of my orders tasted differently in a good way.  My taste buds got a doughy, buttery, and most importantly comforting feeling at times.  And as we approach the holidays, this is the kind of pizza and food you want.

Man this was fantastic.

I’m singing the praises before I even tell you what I ordered.  Yeah it was that fun.

I was going to go with the cheese, but since I’m only here every once in a while, I went with two distinctively different pies, the District White and, the Smoked Beef Brisket.  The latter seems to be appropriate for the time of year.

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The Brisket looks like art.  The presentation is immaculate.  Upon first reading, I thought the slaw would be infused into the pie, which would be quite ambitious.  And when re-reading the menu, it would be easy to make that determination.  But they pile it on high on top of this already gorgeous array of brisket, cheddar cheese, onions, and scallions.  If I had one gripe is maybe a little more brisket would have been preferred.  There was just enough (which means not too much for me) barbecue sauce that everything is easily accessible, easy to be tasted, and nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

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And like I said, that crust is tremendous.  I like saying that word a lot, ‘tremendous’.  It’s tremendous, stellar, awesome, and anything else awesome you want to add. Ha…

But even with that being said, the simplicity of the District White was my favorite of the two.

ArostoDistrictWhite

The combination of spinach ricotta sauce (I know right, yum!), mozzarella, romano, and fontina cheeses is already a winner.  And I’ve frowned upon some of the whites I’ve had in the past for being overdone, but this was creative, yet simple, and that’s all anyone can ask for.  It’s done just right without doing too much.  I think there’s an analogy in there somewhere.

ArostoDistrictWhiteSlice

I would be happy with that, but they drizzled on some fresh basil that puts this pie over the top after it was already over.  And believe me it’s all over after this.  The pizza never had a chance.  And the visual of the spinach ricotta by itself is visually mesmerizing.

I’m craving some right now.   Thankfully I have leftovers.

The prices are listed with the menu, and while there isn’t a lot of places to compare it too, I find them reasonable for their medium vs. large pies.  But again, no need to compare it to anyone or anything.   These are charming pies that avoid all the pretentiousness that you find in the DC and Northern Virginia areas.

They heat everything in front of you.  I was in and out in 10 minutes.  But there was no rush.  I relaxed a little bit in the small park right outside of one of my new favorite pizza places.

And maybe it’ll be one of yours.

ArostoMenu

Here’s their menu, their gallery, and contact/location info.

ArostoBox

I’m so grateful I made this discovery.  I hope to be back again.

Thanks so much, happy holidays, and peace be with you.

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.

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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.

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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

 

Flatbread Fridays

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Over the course of these Summertime posts I’ve mentioned how I wanted to focus on lighter fare, as long as the focus remains on pizza.

Lets face it, the majority of us love pizza.  Nutrition value is out the window.  We want our comfort food any time of year.  It’s something that bonds us together.  There’s a multitude of ways a pie can be made.  That’s one of the many things that makes this thing so fun.   It doesn’t discriminate even if our tastes may.  And that’s another joy.  We all don’t love the same flavors.  If we did, that would be boring.

Thicker dough is not my friend.  I’m not sure whose friend it would be.  Bread is a tough one and while the weather is hot and bright, it’s easy for me to get bloated and full without hardly eating a thing.  The yummy pizza crust becomes a challenge in these months.  This isn’t a complaint.  I’d take this weather all year round.

This brings me to a surprise discovery.  And we’re back at BistroRx in the Patterson Park neighborhood of Baltimore, MD.

But is it really that much of a surprise?  Just because a place isn’t known for their pizza, or in this case flatbreads, doesn’t mean it can’t be discussed.  It just gives expanded options and I will be taking full advantage of such.

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As we were enjoying our wine (for more on this bottle click here), a small plate was necessary.   I almost decided on a salad or random finger food, but the answer was right in front of me.   We went with the Margherita and what a superb choice.  If I went in another tangent or direction, this post doesn’t happen.  There’s a little dramatics for you.

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I had no idea the shape would be just as immaculate as a regular pie.  But what is a regular pie?  It can be anything you want it to be.   Nevertheless, this crust was superb.  It was thin enough to enjoy in the heat.  And that pesto was dazzling.   It can make any pie a winner and this would win some titles if they were handing out belts, or trophies.   Hopefully this praise is on par with those rewards.

Besides the pesto and crust, the mozzarella and tomato sauce make this simple recipe on the level of some of the better za’s I’ve had recently.   This flatbread never had a chance.  If I was feeling unreasonable I’d have ordered another (and maybe another).  It was that stellar.

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I will be frequenting Bistro more.  I’ve had quite a few meals and this was on that level of pristine eats.  I’ve mentioned some of the other diamonds I’ve had, and you can read more about that here.

The energy and the vibe certainly helped.  Outdoor seating didn’t hurt either.

I’ve made friends in the neighborhood, some who just moved in and some were here temporarily, they have praised Bistro’s food above most, if not all, of Baltimore.  I can understand why.  It’s top flight and I want more.  I’m pining for another meal from there as I near the end of this post.  They’re closed now as of this writing.  Maybe some other time.

Yes I know this experience didn’t take a place on a Friday but it makes for a great, albeit cheesy title.  I’m fun and funny.

Until next time,

Ideen

 

A Safe Bet

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After last weeks hard-to-top post, it was meant to be that I take it down a couple of notches and shake things up a bit.  I mean this with all sincerity, last week is something special.  Read it if you get the chance.

I was at a crossroads on what to write for this week.   Not every post is going to be or meant to be profound.  It’s pizza we’re talking about.  It’s supposed to be fun, enjoyable, and maybe inspirational. There I go again.

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And this is no way meant to denigrate my review of Safeway’s Signature Select Spinach & Mushroom Pizza. That was a mouthful.  Speaking of which…

…But first a little intro.

I was turned away at a few places where their respective kitchens were about to close and no more orders were going to be taken.  A couple of these are some of the heavier hitters in Baltimore.  Ah well, the tease continues.  I’ll get to those when it’s meant to be.

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But instead, good old reliable, 24 hour Safeway was footsteps away.   My fellow pizza pals have suggested I write about a frozen pizza here and there.   It’s good to change it up and either by hook or a last ditch effort, this is what we’re getting this week.

Let me be honest.  For $5 it’s hard to complain about anything, unless it’s an absolute disgrace.  This was nowhere near that.   The alfredo sauce really adds some zip to an otherwise standard pie.

And even though I’ve grown up from the little kid, who loved frozen pies when I was young, I secretly hoped the spinach and mushrooms would look like how they do on the front of the box.   Once again, not this time.  Maybe one time it’ll work out for me.  Insert sad face here.

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The dough rose nicely post heating.  And that golden brown tint along the crust is always a treat.  I can’t say this stacks up to certain pizzerias creations or other frozen pies, since there’s nothing for me to compare it too.  Not yet at least.   But the dough and crust was a mix of soft and crunchy in parts.  That could be the way the oven heated it, the way the dough was made/frozen, or universal elements that are inexplicable.  I dug it though.

For a night out after the bars or on a random day where the pickings are slim, this pizza does the job.  Scratch that, this pizza works whenever you want it.

I was full after just a couple of slices, so this can last you a few meals if dining alone, or it’s perfect to share among 2-3 people.  And for only $5, you’re almost making money on this pizza!  And money is cool.

I’ve been a fan of Safeway’s Signature items, and the za only continues to reinforce my belief.

Supermarkets across the globe have frozen pizzas from all over the place.  So this may just be the beginning.  I may have opened up pandora’s pizza box, or this may not be revisited again for months.  Time will tell.

To locate the nearest Safeway by you, click here.

Back to our regularly scheduled pizzeria journey next week.

Best,

Ideen

Neo Soul

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Things do have a way of working out so serendipitously don’t they?

Shark Week starts this Sunday and I had no idea I would have the great joy in writing about a pizza relating to this massive event.

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Per a recommendation from some good pals, I took the small trip to beautiful Annapolis, MD to one of the newest restaurants and pizza place in town, Neo.

Fortunately, I find myself in this mesmerizing town quite often, so I always welcome dining at any of their wonderful establishments.   My friends were recently dined here, during of the first weeks it was opened, and had nothing but stellar things to say about it. They said the pie, the vibe, the interior, and the location were awe-inspiring and were looking forward to returning soon.

I’m going to second that sentiment.    They’ve only been open since March, at the Annapolis Town Centre and all indications are that this place is going to rock the house.   I loved it.  I felt so at peace and spent nearly a good two hours there enjoying my pie, my wine, and the energy around me.

The timing of them opening in the Spring, with all the events and concerts nearby on the square could not have been any better.

So I’ve spoken about all the peripherals and details about everything other than the pie.  So how was my pie?

While perusing their menu I was indecisive in what to pull the trigger on.   So when it was suggested by one of the bartenders, who was very friendly may I add, to try the Great White, I was in. This was timed perfectly. I knew exactly what I would be writing about for today and got to try a new pizza in a new and clean restaurant.

NeoSharkWeekSpecial

The ingredients are listed above.  You can’t throw enough superlatives on this one.   We have a pie for the ages.  The crust was toasted to perfection.  It was just the right about of crispness to it, and still soft enough to enjoy.   The balance between thick and thin was in perfect alignment.

That’s a lot of adventurous items for a whole pie.  But nothing got lost in the shuffle.  Some flavors stood out more than others.   The cheeses all complemented one another for some savory bites.  I’ve always said that I love tomatoes on a pie, or on just about anything. And it added so much here.   And the olive oil added a little flair where you didn’t think it would need anymore.

NeoSlice

What can’t be discounted is the freshness of the basil and the arugula.  As you can see, especially the arugula, looks and tastes wondrous.   You’ve got be kidding me.  I was enjoying pulling a few pieces of basil and arugula and indulging in them on their own.

I just low how pizza has hit all new levels of creativity and continues to expand.   That’s where the sun-dried tomato aioli comes in.   What a way to top the whole thing off.  I wish I could post a million pictures of this pie. It’s one of the most inspired and exceptional meals I’ve had.

I had grilled chicken added to mine, as the person seated next to me as well as a few other folks in house, had done the same.   That was a great call.

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I learned from the bartender and the friendly chef that their oven was imported from Italy.  I love how they’re going all out on this.

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Neo isn’t all about pizza.  As posted here and here, they have an expansive food and drink menu.  In traditional fashion, I reveled in my pie with a glass of red.   There was no rush in finishing this.   My sublime experience was two weeks ago. The staff didn’t know exactly when they would end the Shark Week promotion, but I’m going to assume that you have until at least next week to try this plate of joy

If you’re in the area I strongly recommend you do so.

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These are the places I really want to succeed.   I’m a staunch supporter of local restaurants and businesses, like many of us are.   I look forward to many visits in the future, and hopefully a couple more this Summer, to fully appreciate the warm weather and the towne center experience.

Thanks so much and Happy 4th!

Best,

Ideen

Bartenders Please

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I have wanted to write about Bartenders, since I began this blog.   This, among a select few other spots, were the inspiration for me to write about pizza.  And there’s so much fun that goes with pizza, besides eating some amazing pies.  It’s the joy of each others company, the drinks you have with your meal, and the memories that come with it.   If that’s a little too cheesy and overly sentimental for you, then good.

I first ate here nearly four years ago, through recommendations of regulars and good friends that have said their pies are the best in town.   And the atmosphere is one that is still incomparable.  Their are local bars and then there’s local bars.   I have found myself very comfortable eating and drinking a glass of wine their solo, on many an occasion.  The head bartenders (who are also the owners) are very personable and people I’m glad to call my friends.

Now I’ve dragged this as far as I can.   I love their pies.   I always have and always will.  The first time I ate there, I was taken for a ride on culinary excellence.  I don’t know where the dough, the cheese, the topping, and most of all the soul came from, but this is one of the best pizzas I’ve had period. And I would go here maybe once or twice a week from 2012-2013, and gained quite a bit of weight in the process.  I didn’t care.  I loved every second of it.

But if there is a down side, it’s that you get so spoiled from eating amazing creations like theirs, that other pizzas start not to taste as good.  I’ve learned to be educated about that and realize that not all pies are created equal.  And I should only judge based on taste and the energy behind it.

Here is where it gets funny.  I knew full well I was going to write about this spot, lauding and touting it to kingdom come.   But the last few times I’ve been the pizza hasn’t been up to the level I’m used to. It’s been good but the excitement and thrill I would get wasn’t there.   At first, I thought it might have been me.  But it was on three separate occasions.  It was still really good but not on the inspirational level I’ve become accustomed too.

But luckily a dear friend had been cooking the za’s there, but we rarely crossed paths at said establishment itself.  So I mentioned to her that I don’t think they’ve been as good as I remember.  She suggested I come in during one of her final shifts, and she’d make it for me personally.

And I’m glad I did. She made a masterpiece.   I’ve had The Spence before, but not like this.  Our friends who have been here repeatedly know the pie and know the man behind it.

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This is a work of art.  I think it’s worthy of multiple photos. So here’s another.

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The combination of the homemade sauce, cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, and andouille sausage alone is enough to make this grown man act like a little kid at his first pizza parlor!  Oh my goodness this was made to perfection.  I’ve had it before but not like this.   The red peppers, onions, and fresh basil complete and complement this pie perfectly.  This is up there with some of the best ever.

Now I’ve had their cheese, white, and garden (vegetarian) as well, and loved those too. But this blows them all away. The crust, the way it was cooked, and the way everything melted and blended together is genius. And I mean this with all sincerity, this was one for the ages.  It was the perfect send off for her and the perfect early birthday present to myself.  I don’t think it could have been done any better.  And I’m glad I waited this long to write about this.  Faith has been rewarded.

I love that they give you paper plates with your meal. It’s a little detail that I don’t want to go unnoticed.  I prefer it versus a regular dish.

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But maybe my last few purchases of various pies such as the Barbecue Chicken, Peyton, and Tarlek just didn’t move me like the others.  It’s meant as a compliment.  The expectations of this place are extremely high and they will continue to be.

If you’re curious as to their menu and the selections I mentioned above, click here.

As my friend moves on to bigger and better, I will always remember Bartenders for their amazing pizza and good atmosphere.  I have many great memories but this might have been one of the best.  I look forward to more momentous occasions and many more delicious pies in the near future.

BartendersSide

Rock and Roll.

Best,

Ideen