Sentimental in Swedesboro

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It’s my intent to keep all these posts as simple as possible.  Sometimes things happen and there’s a boatload of photos and the verbiage has gone off the rails.  For this one I truly intend to keep in concise and to the point if at all possible.  I mean it’s just pizza right?  Ah well everything has significance.  And the location has just as much importance as the subject at hand.

But when it comes to pizza I just can’t talk about the pizza.  A drive through one of the most charming towns I’ve ever seen, Swedesboro, New Jersey (previous Jersey posts can be found here and over yonder), means the pizza and everything else I’ll experience while here is going be larger than life.  At this point I don’t care how good or bad the pizza is.  Actually yes I do, it better be good enough to come up with another in my long tradition of melodramatic openings.

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Mama Francesca Pizzeria doesn’t have a website,  I can barely find a menu, but more importantly what it does have is soul.  It has character, it was charm, and it has a welcoming aura that can’t be measured my clicks, searches, or any other technical term that wasn’t even on our radars in what feels like as short lifetime ago.

What if I never walked in and only imagined the pizza as the greatest thing ever.  It would be more romantic to have just driven by and thought what could have been.   But this isn’t how things work or how you eat pizza.  You actually have to eat the pizza.

The exterior took me back to places I went with my family when I was a kid.  And I remember all the pizza being the best, no matter how good or bad it may actually have been.   I loved my cheese, I loved my bread, I loved my sauce.   But then I also loved everything else that went with the package, company, location, and that moment in time.

The inside had small counter with a few places to sit facing the window.  The main seating area was led by a set of stairs and that’s the part that truly to me back to my childhood.  I remember seeing places like that but can’t recall exactly where. And that might be the best form of Deja Vu imaginable.

I’m not a kid anymore.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t get that same vibe of feeling happy, harmonious, and just grateful to grab a couple of slices and enjoy myself.

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I came at an odd time so the only slices available were cheese and a white vegetable. That made my decision easier.

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This is nowhere near the best pizza I’ve ever had.  But I didn’t expect it.  What I did get was slices that reminded me of my childhood.  That cheese was your standard cheese with a thick and crooked looking crust, looking like it’s been through a war.  But I didn’t care.  It was perfect for this moment.    I’m cherishing it even more now as I write it versus when I was actually here back in August.

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And just to clarify, the white chicken veggie is not something I frequently had as a kid. I can’t say any stood out. If it did I would actually think something was seriously wrong.  I guess I was mostly a cheese and pepperoni kind of guy.  This slice was stacked with vegetables, and it was exactly what it was supposed to be, and nothing more.  It was a slice good enough to eat and enjoy but it’s not going win and awards.  And it doesn’t matter.

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I loved this town.  I would write about other experiences I’ve had here but that means I would have to create other blogs. It would water down some of my own memories .  Some are best kept internal, for you, for me, and for the universe.

If I could write about small towns every week I could.  I don’t seek them out.  I let them find me.  It’s fun to dream and envision living in a place like this but with the understanding that maybe I’m heaping praise on somewhere I’ve never been with no expectations, no hang ups, or any other biases.  And maybe the second and subsequent visits would lose its luster.

As we approach the holidays I hope to discover more places that feel like just that, the holidays.   It’s important to see the good in everything and it’s easy said and done.  But that just sounds like kids stuff.

Exactly!

Ideen

Hi Cousin!

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New Jersey is an untapped resource for me.  I’ve done one previous pizzeria (click here) nearly a year ago to positive results.  I don’t come here enough.  After this encounter, this will hopefully change.

My friend and  I were on a small road trip and the amount of pizza places up and down this stretch of road were plentiful.  Keep in mind, we originally saw all these places driving up and I was given the green light to choose one on the way back.

To pick one felt much more agonizing than it needed to be. But this tends to be my personality.  For a while I made this more difficult and less fun. Pizza is supposed to be fun!    Whether I was being too trigger happy or a bit instinctive, I literally went with the first spot we saw upon our return.  And Cousin Mario’s was it.  At the time I felt like I choked, but relief set in and in hindsight I’m grateful with this decision.

Cousin Mario’s of Mays Landing had this welcoming aura that I assumed would set the tone for the meal itself.  Indeed I was right and the heavy breathing and panic subsided.

The restaurant is quaint and cozy.  A lot of families and couples represented the majority of the venue, and people seemed to be in good spirits.

We were starving so an appetizer and full pie were in order.  More could have been gobbled but no need to get carried away. There’s a lot to digest (ha) from this menu.  And they have entrees from one spectrum to the other.  That may raise a red flag in some places, but I suspect these guys know what they’re doing.   It was Taco Tuesday.  No tacos this time. I’d like a large pizza please!

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The mozzarella sticks were solid but that vodka sauce was the real winner here.  It was a different take on a standard appetizer.  This was refreshingly different.  If we had standard marinara sauce I would think this was any other fried cheese experience.  But this was welcome.

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We split our pizza right down the middle.  And I don’t mean the tab.  Half pepperoni and half meatball was the call.  And the latter was brilliant.

I was starving so my review may not be as formal as per usual.  It’s never been that serious anyways.  The crust was standard but sometimes that’s all you want.  I’ve had and we’ve all had crusts that would keep us coming back for more to the point of no return, but this is not that I was looking for here.  This takes me back to simpler forms of pie and for this day, this was perfection.

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I’ll get the pepperoni out of the way.  It was standard.  I wasn’t blown away by it.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it.  It was a decent slice and not one to write home about.

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Now onto the meatball.   This was done with a lot of care and precision.  I’ve had meatball before where literally it was full or half pieces of meat thrown onto a pie.  There’s nothing wrong with that but it can be daunting trying to eat.  These were cut down and had a visual that made this a winner.  And most importantly it was tasty.  It made the cheese better. And I liked the cheese to begin with.  It was one I wish I ate a little slower and got more of a chance to appreciate what was going on here.   I’ll gladly have it again.   It suggests that the more informal toppings might be the way to go at this ristorante.

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I wish I was in the area more.  I would gladly give this place another go.  It’s not hard to find.  This stretch of road connects us from NJ to the main interstates that lead us to Maryland. Taking the dramatics out it’s a little over an hour away.

I’m also alluding to the fact that there’s more pizza just an hour away.  More is coming. Cousin Mario’s is a hit. If you’re in the area, I recommend them highly.  And supporting local business is always paramount. The staff is friendly, parking seems to be abundant, and so are the great eats.

Happy First Day of the Olympics!

Best,

Ideen