Back Where I Come From

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizza

I grew up around the Rockville, MD area, and each time I come home, I get these feelings of uneasiness.  It still feels like the place I remember when I was a kid, but all that is waning.

Here are my past posts from this historic town.

My peers and I are older now.  Many of the places we used to frequent are no more.  I supposed many people say that, because things end.  Nothing lasts forever.  But that doesn’t mean that when something ends, that something worse takes it place.  That does happen, but with a congested suburb of the Washington, DC area, I still attempt to see the glass half full.

There’s restaurants, stores, hidden gems, and just those things you can’t put into words that are no more.   I still keep in touch with family and friends, because that’s important to me, and they’re also the constant.  As we grow up the reasons we became close still exist and sometimes new ones formed.

And sometimes you discover a place that is one of the new gems, the new parts of a town that easily could fit in with the past.

CSNY

CSNY Pizza (an offshoot of Pizza CS, which I will get to in time) resides in a location on Rockville Pike that has seen many tenants, and many local businesses come and go.   This understated pizza place is not going anywhere.

When I saw the signs last year for this soon to be opened spot, I was excited, and then as time went by I forgot.  And not for any malicious reasons.  I don’t live here.  I haven’t lived in here in some time, and I don’t ever see myself coming back.   Never say never, but that’s not in the cards.

This was home.  It’s still has parts of my heart, but so much has changed.  And in the past year ever more has changed.   Some things are gone and are never going to come back.  I have to make peace with that.  As I’m writing this out, I’m still trying to make that peace.

I’m grateful family and friends are still around.  Like I said, that’s still the constant.

But onto the pizza…

The spot is simple and so is the menu.  Just how I like it.

I ordered three standard slices (cheese, sausage, and mushroom) which were all great.  But the Sicilian Pepperoni was even that much greater.

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizzaSlice

If this is their version of New York Style, I want more.  I’m craving more right now.

I don’t often talk the sauce being the stand out on a pizza, but this is what happened here.  It has a a familiar taste that brings me back to my childhood.  There’s just something so divine about it.  I can’t place my finger on it and now is the not the time to. The sauce is an absolute masterpiece.

The cheese, the toppings, and that crust all complement each other so well.  So simple, so understated, yet so amazing.  This is CSNY Pizza and it’s incredible.

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizza2

Yet that Sicilian Crust is that much more memorable.  The pepperonis are some of the best I’ve tasted, and even though I saved a lot of that crust for later, I enjoyed my few bites.  And that’s all that matters.

CSNYPizzaSlicesAll

I ordered four slices because it felt like the right thing to do, and I will get a few meals out of this, and who knows when I’ll be back.

Oh I’ll be back.

This was once home.  Somewhere in all this madness is still home.  I’m grateful the simple, yet oh so memorable, still exists.

This was world class.  This was beautiful.   This was….

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

Support Local

PomodoroPizzaSlices

Which is what I always like to do.  And it’s safe to say that many of you feel the same.

We continue to see strip malls add more chains (or lose them), and along with local businesses fledgling, struggling, or choosing to close up.  We’re also seeing more national companies downsizing or closing their doors to the shock and sadness of some.  It’s an evolution and a changing of not just the guard, but of a lot of things.

This is no longer your mom and pops, mom and pop shoppe era.  Yes they do exist but you know what I mean.

However, people still need to eat and will always need to unless someone decides to change that.  I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  So people just don’t want to eat from the same places, the same chains, the same fast food chains, and sometimes we just don’t want to follow the herd.

I don’t like following the herd.

When I was in Northern Virginia last December, doing some adventurous holiday shopping, I ended up in one of these typical looking shopping centers.  Too much looked to familiar and lacked any authenticity or welcoming vibe.

PomodoroPizzeria

But in a sea of the sameness, was a magical place off in the distance.  Pomodoro Pizza of Sterling, VA.

It just stood out in a way that says everything is ok.  Places like this still do and will always exist.  Just the exterior of the place told me I was going to walk into something special.

PomodoroRestaurant

The interior had all he beautiful designs of what an Italian restaurant looks like.   And the energy in the place only felt good.  I felt like I was on vacation, even though I was a little over an hour from home.

When I venture out of the familiar confines at home, and discover a pizza place that I ordinarily wouldn’t visit, or even know existed.  But everything happens for a reason.

And then everything happens for a reason.   That was me repeating from dramatic build up, but that’s honestly where it stops.  The reason might be shown to me later, but the pizza itself was no quite as great as I hoped.

PomodoroPizzaSlices2

I ordered a cheese slice and a meat lovers, mainly because at the time most of their other slices were long gone, or there was a wait for new pizzas to come out.  Maybe I should have waited.  But I once again look at certain situations presented to me, and it felt like these were the slices I was meant to get.  Again, I honestly don’t know why, but that’s where I was.

PomodoroCheeseSlice

It’s not that the slices were bad.  It’s just that it lacked anything to be called amazing.  I can safely say the pizzas were average.  And my high expectations may have set myself up for disappointment.    I just know this place is capable of more.

PomodorMeatLovers

I don’t need to review either slice separately because they’re similar in quality.   The crust was fine, as was the cheese.   I’ve said before that I don’t love pepperoni or various red meats on my pizza, but that’s now how I judge pizzas with those toppings.  If it tastes good then everything else will fall into place.  That didn’t happen here.   And I know this place is capable of so much more.   I know I’m repeating myself, but I can feel it.  I can sense it.

PomodoroRolls

There was something funny about this day.  I ordered a couple of rolls, and I ended up with the family size.  Maybe I misspoke but I found this humorous.  There’s no way I had these all on my own.  They were distributed.  I promise you.   The rolls were solid, but again…

PomodorPizzaSlicesRolls

However, the staff was friendly and just being away gave me a feeling of rejuvenation.

I would love to get back here and get the real deal.  They have better pizza then what was presented to me that day.

PomodoroMenu

For more on Pomodoro, here is their story, their menu,  more about their pizza, and contact information.

Have a great weekend and support local!

Ideen

Time Splitters

TimesSquareKitchenPizzaSlices

This is another one of those by special request.  And I mean by request over the past couple of years.

When I get to or end up in Owings Mills, I’m not always thinking about pizza.  Then again, I’m not really thinking about anything.  I’m here, I drive, I do things, and then I keep going about my business.

It’s an area I would be sentimental to, as you see, it was where I had my first grown up job, out of college.  It lasted for a time, I left on good terms, and all the while I could see the writing on the wall.  The area was growing, new buildings were well, being built; and more land was turning into corporate and professional entities.  This is not a ran about progress or whatever you want to call it.  It’s just an observation.

TimesSquareKitchenFront

Many years later, here we are.  More is coming.  And that more of the past is Times Square Kitchen, in an area of Owings Mills where I don’t even recall what was there before, which makes believe there was lots of green, and lots of land to do what people choose to do with it.  It’s there.  I remember seeing it on the highway which feels like a different lifetime ago.

Nevertheless, there’s restaurants, a library, a branch of college, and a residential development up the street.  I’m sure I’m missing a few things.

Before I lose track, the question always is, how was the pizza?

I found it missing something.  Maybe it was the mood I was in, but it just didn’t wow me.  And I gave everything a chance.   I ordered a cheese, a white vegetable, and a buffalo chicken slice.  So I tried to cover all bases.

Here is their menu.

TimesSquareKitchenCheesePizzaSlice

The crust on all of these was again, fine.  It just tasted like decent pizza.  If you’re to rate a pizzeria by its cheese then it continues to the theme of an alright pie.  The cheese is again, decent.  It’s not that the cheese and sauce was bad (they make everything in house), it just lacked spark.  I wanted to like this.  I actually want to love everything I eat. If not, what’s the point of all this?

TimesSquareKitchenWhitePizzaSlice

The white veggie was a bit overloaded.  The crust wasn’t big enough to handle all this.  And it’s a sizeable crust, but the whole didn’t equal the sum of those things.   I’ve said it before, I think white is one of the more challenging slices to make.  I think you can rate a place based on their blanca, as much as their plain cheese.

TimesSquareKitchenBuffaloChickenPizzaSlice

The buffalo chicken was a bit of a saving grace.  I liked the shredded piece of chicken on top.  The buffalo sauce was good, and this was a slightly better piece of pizza then its predecessors, but again the feel good story wasn’t there.

TimesSquareKitchenPizzaSlices2

I haven’t been to New York in some time.  But I’ve had great slices there.  I’ve had great New York Style slices in various places, including Maryland.   This doesn’t quite reach that.

Even though I didn’t love it this time, you may think otherwise.  I’ve been told by several people that this is one of their favorites in the Baltimore area.   It’s important to agree to disagree.  We all shouldn’t like the same things.  We all shouldn’t love the same things.  That wouldn’t be fun.

TimesSquareKitchenILovePizza

There’s fun in respectfully disagreeing.  There’s fun in sharing the love of pizza (among so many other things) with the people you love as well.   It’s disappointing this one didn’t work out, but I’ll gladly give it another shot again down the line.

Many a time I’ve gone back a second or third time to many types of a restaurants (not just pizza) and was happier.   One iffy visit isn’t going to stop me from coming back, just like one amazing visit somewhere else should sometimes be met with caution, depending on the place or scenario.

That’s what makes this all so fun.    I shall revisit Times Square Kitchen down the line.  Local business will always have my heart.   I’m all about an encore.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

A Flair For The Gold

FranksTrios

I’m writing this as I watch the unofficial first day of coverage of the Winter Olympics, so please bare with me, I’m a bit excited.

I wanted on the eve (or day of depending on where you are and when you read this) of National Pizza Day, for this story to be inspiring, remarkable, heartwarming, and all those other superlatives and blessings.

FranksPizza

When talking about Frank’s Pizza & Pasta in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Hamilton, or is it Overlea?  Well it’s Baltimore and it’s an institution that’s been around for over 30 years.   That to me is worthy of a medal itself.

I had actually intended on doing a story nearly two years ago but something told me the timing wasn’t right.  If I’m recalling correctly, my pictures looked underwhelming, or maybe some universal force told me it wasn’t time.   Some things can’t be explained nor need an explanation.

All roads brought me here this week.   Actually that’s exactly what happened.  Yesterday I drove passed Frank’s later in the evening, with the thinking that I need to get back here.  And while I was on my way home, if the situation presented itself, I know I’d be back again soon.  Literally, less than 24 hours later… And the rest is well…

My expectations had been raised after hearing about their pizza, from a couple peoples’ opinions that I respect immensely.  And it’s all about your own opinion, your own beliefs, experience, and all that good stuff.  But I can’t help but admit that I had high hopes.

If we’re using Olympic terms, the technical scores may be a bit low, or the qualification times may be enough to make the next round but I don’t know.  There are some deductions and maybe some penalties.   There may need to be a redo.

What does this all mean?  I’ll get to the point.  I wanted to love it but I can’t say that.  I want to love every pizza and every experience, but it’s not always going be that way.  While it’s easy to find positives (and there are), the faults do stand out.

I got three slices, and how perfect was this selection.  I might have stopped by right after the lunch rush since a lot of slices were bunched together, and the pickings were minimal. No problem at all, I still got a cheese slice, a meat lover’s, and the Mediterranean, which looked like it just came out of the oven.

FranksMeatLovers

I’ll get my critiques out of the way first.  The cheese, and meat lover’s looked much better displayed on trays beforehand than how they looked after they were heated.  Maybe my eyes were deceiving me but the plain cheese looked like it shrank.

FranksCheese

You can also see that they reheated these slices a little too long.  You can see the burnt parts, especially in the meat lover’s, that the crust actually fell apart where it was charred.  Now there’s good charring and then there’s this.   It wouldn’t have mattered though, as neither slice did much for me.  The cheese felt flat and something just didn’t taste right.  Maybe there wasn’t enough?  Maybe it was out there too long.  I don’t know.

FranksMeatLovers2

The meat lover’s is not one I would ordinary try anyways, but I figured why not.  This one I could only take one or two bites of before I had enough.  It was burnt and it was a little too hearty for me, but that’s more of a personal opinion as well.   I like more of a….

FranksMediterranean2

And this brings me to the Mediterranean.  This was the gem, or the crown jewel if you will, of the slices.  Maybe the fact that it just came out hot and fresh had a lot to do with it.  The toppings were exquisite and the pesto was tremendous.  I think I got some magnificent olive oil too.  All the toppings complemented each other perfectly.  It’ll make me want come back.    All this on top of a white pizza, is masterful.

And I will.  I think this place is capable of so much.  It wouldn’t be around so long if it hadn’t, even with changing times and tastes.

FranksMediterranean

That’s the most in depth I’ve been about pizza in some time.  I usually look for all the positives and situations related to everything outside of the food itself, as well.   And I still did here.  The staff is great, it’s very old school and very authentic in terms of service and appealing to a loyal clientele that serves a part of Baltimore you don’t always hear about, or think to go to.

All I know is that it won’t be another few years until I’m back.  If time allows, we shall do this again soon.  I know I say that a lot, but we shall do this again soon.

For more on Frank’s, here is their menu, and their storied history.

Enjoy the Olympics, the opening ceremonies, and all the good that comes from that.  I know I will.

And Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Everything Is Energy

PieInTheSkyPizza

This one of those stories that reminds us why this life is an amazing ride.  It’s a roller coaster alright. There’s lots of twists, turns, and all those other events that remind me us that everything is right with the world, and it can a magical place, if you let it.  If you let yourself go and let things come to you. you will attract certain people, events, and situations in your life, and it will become second nature.

I want to believe this is what happened here.

After what seemed like any other day of hanging out in the Fells Point neighborhood (my Fells Point pizza history can be found here) of Baltimore, a dear friend noticed new signage, for a new business that literally opened up a few days ago.   If I hadn’t seen this, I would have walked by and not thought anything of it. Not yet at least.  In time I would have gotten to Pie in the Sky, but timing is everything.

PieInTheSkyFront

The time is now.  The moment is now.  These windows of opportunity come and go, without us even realizing it most of the time.  But when you see it, it’s time to seize it.

I promise I will get to the actual pizza itself shortly.

From the outside looking in, the business itself didn’t actually look open.  I saw a gentleman on his laptop and another person hanging around the kitchen it seemed.  Now you see soft openings, friends and family openings, and in other instances you just see people preparing and setting up for when a place actually is ready to open to the public, for everyone’s enjoyment.

So yes, I almost didn’t walk in.  I’ve made so many hesitations in my life, so many times where I could have done this or that; the could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve scenarios that go on in a person’s life.  And there’s been so many instances where I didn’t walk in somewhere or take a chance because a place, or door, or opportunity seemed closed.  It’s all perception and it’s all what’s going on in my head, not with the outside world.  The outside world exists yes, but it’s not my world or your world.

See what I’m saying?  We can carve our own realities and imprints in this lifetime.  We can create memories, situations, and alter the course of our lives, with just a few simple decisions, changes, and maybe branching out of our comfort zones.

While it might just be a pizzeria or restaurant, to me this was something bigger than me, bigger than ourselves, and bigger than anything I can quantify.

So I walked in…

Something hit me, I felt compelled to explain what it is that I do.  So yes, the place was open, and all those unwarranted fears subsided.

I met Murat, the owner and he could have not been more gracious and helpful in coming up with what to write about for this blog.    It was so gratifying.

He let me take a tour of the kitchen and the ovens, where he simply explained that he makes all the sauces and pizza dough himself.  The olive oil is genuine, the toppings are the real deal, and so is the entire energy of this place.

I was flattered that Murat would give me the opportunity to explore this beauty of a restaurant and give me some insight into what he wants to do, plans to do, and where he’s been in the past.

This is where things get crazy, but in a good way.

He told me that he also runs a pizza place further up in Northern Baltimore, and while this is going on, I’m starting to sense where this is going.  That weird feeling of anticipation about what he’s about to say.  And when he mentioned Toss, I just had this freaking out moment (once again in the best way possible), because I’ve told people that Toss (review is here, and man where did three years go, and my writing style has evolved…) is one of the best pizza places in Baltimore, and one of the best pizza places in Baltimore that many don’t even know about.

It’s one of those things where Toss is a secret to many, but a secret that’s meant to be shared and shared with the universe.

And now it’s time to share how amazing Pie in the Sky truly is.

PieInTheSkyPizza2

Based on our conversation, and what I ate at Toss (the pies are similar and that’s an absolutely beautiful thing), Murat made me a half chicken pesto and half portabella mushroom pie, that is one for the ages and one for the books, or those top lists people like to make sometimes, haha.

When the vibe is going well, the pizza (or anything) is going to taste, feel, and hit you that much better.  This is what happened here.

PieInTheSkyPizza3

And I’m honored and grateful that Murat would make a half-and-half for me of this magnitude and with this precision, love, and care.   It makes me feel good writing about this and sharing this with you.

This pizza is incredible.

But it’s not just because of the organic ingredients, the dough, the crust, the sauce, the toppings, (gluten free and vegan options are also available), and everything other little detail.  It became from a place of soul, of kindness, and of heart.  And that’s just as, if not more important to the actual food or substance itself.  There’s a different kind of character, soul, and substance that can’t be measured nor should it be.

This was an experience I’ll remember forever, and one that almost didn’t happen.  Thinking about that gives me chills, goose bumps, and a feeling of relief.  I’m so happy and grateful this happened.

If you’re in the Fells Point area, I strongly recommend a visit to Pie in The Sky.  If it’s great this early, I can only imagine the incredible heights this place is headed to.

I’m grateful to Murat for his hospitality, grateful to the universe, and grateful to my dear friend for suggesting I write about it, and take the plunge.

Pie in the Sky is going to be massive.  It’s a secret and gem, that I’m honored to share with you.  And I’m honored to say, there at the beginning…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

Well This Was Different

RibaldisDisplay

Ribaldi’s of the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. has generated a lot of buzz and goodwill that it was only a matter of time I would get to writing about them.  This recap comes from a request via a few people, so thank you so much for the suggestion.

Ribaldis

While I raved about a place nearby (that can be found here), I was told that Ribaldi’s is that much better.  I was told it was run by a real Sicilian, and that their pizza was off the charts compared to its counterpart.

If the location seems familiar, you will recall this is where Angelo’s sat for years.  Home of the jumbo slice seemed like it would last forever.  I never lover their pizza but it was good enough.  And sometimes good enough is just enough.   Their was a temporary occupant that left much to be desired, and no here we are with Ribaldi’s.

I met Siro the manager, and he is straight up the real deal.  The staff read me like a book, and not the fact that I’m a blogger (Not sure they’ll see this), but that it was my first visit.  My energy field was in a weird place, and when no matter how your energy level is, you’re going to attract a similar wavelength.  Whether that’s good or bad is up to interpretation.

This was unique.

The guy behind the counter was strange, peculiar, but never made me feel uncomfortable.  But the fact that I’m even implying the latter means something was off.  He was cracking some jokes that were funny at first, but then went off in directions that I won’t even begin to explain.  Words won’t do it justice and there’s no puns here whatsoever.

It did make the impression of this, the food I ordered, the food I ate, and the aftermath long lasting.  And yes it’s been altered.

RibaldisSicilian

I forgot they do slices, so it made my decision that much easier.   I literally ordered everything in plain view, which includes a Sicilian Cheese, Sicilian Pepperoni, a small calzone, and then Siro just broke out a New York Style cheese pie right out of their gas oven.

RibaldisCheese

They called the calzone the Ribaldi and that’s the same guy (who may or may not have been Siro’s second) cracking jokes and maybe losing the plot a little.

As a bonus I got a can of soda and this guy gave me a dessert, which was a sweet croissant on the house.  This whole gag seemed to be lost on me, or maybe there was no gag.  It’s ridiculous to speculate and over-analyze what this visit meant.   It happened for a reason.  Maybe they saw something was up.  I was in a goofy frame of mind.  The whole visit was goofy.  But goofy doesn’t mean bad.

There’s not much to the interior.  There’s a few seats inside and outside, and that’s the way I like it sometimes.  There’s a a place for lavish, and today was not the time or place.

Most importantly of all, how was my food?  This wasn’t all for me, that would be crazy.  But I’m going to base this on my own opinion and nobody else’s.

I didn’t love this.  And I’m not going to base my opinion on anything other than my eating experience.  Something just didn’t stand out, and I really wanted it too.

RibaldisCheeseSlice

The cheese slice was lacking in some cheese and tomato sauce.  That’s the issue for me.  The crust is fine and that’s all I can really say about that.

RibaldisSicilian2

The Sicilian is a bit rough.  I know some people are going to love this and I wouldn’t dispute this, but this was nothing special.  Yet the pepperoni slices tasted great.

The calzone was fine and I’m glad it was a tinier piece, because you can only eat so much of this.  And this dessert?  Man I don’t know.

RibaldisDessert

I don’t know about any of this.  My mind is all over the map here.  I feel like this visit needed to happen.  I’m projecting a lot but something was really off center, and I put a lot of this on myself.  I attracted an experience that might make sense later.

But for now I’m trying to make sense of all this.

RibaldisMenu

Here’s their menu, and that’s all I got for you.  For some sense of closure, I’m going to have to come back.

Ideen

 

 

Pizza I Feel Good About

WegmansSouthwestStyleReady

I mean that with all sincerity.

Ever since I set foot into my first Wegmans many years ago (that feels weird to say), the love affair has remained and grown infinitely.   What’s not to love?

If you’ve ever visited one (a location hopefully near you can be found here) you know the possibilities of happiness are endless.  You know it’s more than just a grocery store.  It’s a source of joy, peace, harmony, and more food than you know what to do with.

Within each Wegmans is a pizza shop (which I wrote about once, you can find that here), a sub shop, hot bar, bakery, deli, and all the other good stuff you’d find at many a grocery store.  But like I said there’s something cosmic going on in a place like this.  When you walk in to a Wegmans, be prepared to walk out inspired.  I’m not kidding you.

And speaking of such inspiration, while I was at my local Wegmans recently, I felt like the time was right to try a couple of their frozen pizzas.

I’m not that highly critical of pizza.  It’s not that serious.  I like to have fun with this, and that’s truly the whole point of doing this, or hopefully most of what you and I do.  My criteria for grading frozen pizzas might be different than when I get a pie or slice from a slightly upscale or fine dining establishment.  But the constant is that as long as the pizza tastes good and comes from a place of soul and feeling, I know it was prepared with the best of intentions.

This is why I feel it’s ok to be critical when a pizza may not live up to mine or your expectations.  And that’s what we have here.  One pizza is tremendous, the other leaves much to be desired.

I’ll begin with the latter.

The Buffalo Chicken was disappointing.   For all how it appears on the box, it doesn’t translate to anything positive after the fact.

WegmansBuffaloChickenReady2

My first concern was how little chicken you actually see on the pizza itself.   But I’m not going to judge it on its cover or unwrapped before even heating.  But after the fact was really missing so much.

WegmansBuffaloChickenSlices

Whatever ranch and buffalo sauce I’m supposed to be tasting, I ain’t getting.  And while I secretly hoped some more pieces of chicken would appear, that was not the case.  The mix of mozzarella, white cheddar, and gorgonzola cheeses were non existent. It’s not that they weren’t there, it’s just that they didn’t seem to taste like any of the aforementioned cheeses.  It just seemed like mozzarella, bad sauce, and some poorly prepared white meat chicken.  The crust is really good, as is in the..

The Southwest Style is the pie you want to get.  This is the complete opposite of what I wrote above.   This mix of mozzarella and cheddar cheese is how you do it.   The pieces of chicken are light years ahead of the chicken in the previous pie.

WegmansSouthwestStyleReady2

The taco sauce layered on top of the pizza is distinct yet it’s not invasive to anything else on the pizza.  That’s an important detail when it comes to a pie like this.  The peppers and onions really add a nice charm to a pie that you might overlook or not even find to your liking.

WegmansSouthwestSlices

That’s what makes this pizza experience so fun.  If you asked me, I would’ve thought the Buffalo Chicken would be the pizza to look forward to going in.  My pleasant of all surprises is how great the Southwest Style is.  It’s fantastic.

With their frozen pies at $4 per pizza, it’s worth giving a look, and you can get a couple of meals out of it.  In a world where we’re always looking to save money, that’s a great deal.

Wegmans is always going to be a great deal, no matter how you look at it.  Not everything is going to be perfect but when it is, it makes everything that much better.

The amount of pizzas and appetizing entrees in general to try is unlimited and unpredictable.  This place makes me so happy and even if I’m not writing about it, I’m here multiple times a week.

If and when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll try a couple more pizzas.  This might call for a bonus post outside of a Friday, if I find the time.

And I will…

Happy New Year!

Ideen