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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After All, It’s Just Pizza

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I mean it really is.  You, me, or anybody else can rant and rave about a place, rip it to shreds, and/or seek all the good and bad in the details of any pizzeria or restaurant.  It’s the experience, the ambiance, the hopefully good company you were with, and those hidden gems of information that only you might notice, and either keep to yourself or want to share with the world.  Which I like to do sometimes.

But at the end of the day, sometimes it’s just pizza.

JustPizzaFront

After not doing a single post from the beaches last year, I’m already getting it in going in March, with the appropriately titled, Just Pizza, of Bethany Beach, DE.

If you’ve been to Bethany Beach you know how quite and cozy this town is.   It’s the antithesis of the chaotic nature of the nearby beaches in Maryland and Delaware.

Bethany is sentimental to me.  Many beaches might mean something to you too.  I have fond memories of a kid taking family trips here.  It was a superb getaway for our family go to away, if even just for a few days, from the familiarity of home.  I mean that’s why we take vacations right?  But I don’t remember a pizzeria being so close by.

Where my family usually stayed was right across the street in one of the condominiums or hotels.  But I remember the charming and approachable shopping center where Just Pizza currently stands.  In a town like this, the more things change, nothing changes.  And in a way I love that so much.

So this pizza is not amazing.   I wouldn’t even call it great.  But they’re not a place that claims to be world class and a five star restaurant.  If they did, I would judge them differently.

Literally, it’s a carry-out place that’s one of the more smaller spaces you’re going to come across.  With just a few chairs in the waiting area, it resembles an doctor’s office more than a place to grab some eats, if you will.

JustPizzaPie2

In the honor of how simplistic this place is, I went simple  I got half cheese and half pepperoni for the road.  I was the only one waiting and I felt my pie took quite a while.  It felt about 20-25 minutes when I was promised 15.  It’s a minor detail but it’s worth noting. Perhaps it adds to the easy-going nature of the town, or maybe it really took that long.

JustPizzaPie3

I’m not going to say it was worth the wait. The pizza was ok but like I said, it’s not going to win any awards.  But I will say, it did remind me of the beach.  That might not make sense initially, but something about it just tasted like it’s from the beach.   I can’t put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s a thing where my mind is telling me what to sense and what to taste, and predictably (or not) it’s evoking feelings of the beach and sand, and who knows what else I remember from growing up, and maybe now.

JustPizzaPie4

The crust is a bit rougher than usual but it had a buttery taste to it that I liked.   The cheese and pepperoni were just what I thought it would be, good and greasy.  But it may be too greasy for some.

Nevertheless, I’ve talked to a couple of friends that know what they’re getting when they order and it gets the job done.  And for most of us, when it comes to pizza, that’s all we need.  All the other details don’t always matter.

Folks for are at the beach looking for a quick (well I hope so, order ahead of time of course) pie or other standard fare to go, this is going to make most people happy.  If and when I’m staying or visiting here again, I will likely eat here again if it was an option presented to myself or from a friend, or family member.

Speaking of which, it’s so funny that I used to not appreciate the peace and quiet of this town like I do now.   It’s the top reason where I feel partial to small towns and small businesses like this.  They’re depend on support from locals and tourists in season a like. And I’m always happy to support any local business, because they’re still the soul and conscience of small towns likes this and even bigger cities.

JustPizzaMenu

Next time I’m back  I will absolutely give them another try.   For my friends who want somewhere quiet and would like to avoid the commotion of the bookending resort towns of Ocean City and Dewey Beach then this is perfection. They don’t have a website but more information can be found here and here.  At the time I was there, it was perfection.   But as the weather gets nicer this is a place that’s a safe house and an ally when one isn’t always around.

JustPizzaPie1

I’m not sure if this mean the beach posts will resume.  I did many back in the Summer of 2015 (those posts can be found here), and that feels so long ago.  We shall see.

But for now I will enjoy St. Patrick’s Day and wish you a happy and safe one as well.

Ideen

 

Johnny’s On The Spot

After last week I may just do beach related pizza posts into September.  I shall see where the wind takes me.

Johnny's

Johnny’s is a pizzeria that is one of the newer pizza parlors to surface. When one pizza place opened up, it seems so many followed.  If it wasn’t for the to go box pictured below, I wouldn’t have known they set up shop in 2010.  But 5-10 years would have been my hypothesis.  Now I’m willing to bet the amount of places in OC to get a slice or a pie are in at least in the 100+ range.

Like many of these other comfort food locations, they’re open into the wee hours of the morning.  So if a quick slice or two to go is what you’re looking for, they will oblige and with pleasure.

I’ve had slices from here in the past and did not care for them.   They were adequate.  For after a night of going out they were purposeful but I didn’t like the feeling in the morning.  I guess that’s the point.

They have quite the expansive menu and many specialty pies to choose from.  For purposes of this visit, I ordered a pie for friends and I to try.   I got really adventurous here.

Johnny'sThaiChicken

The Thai Chicken Pizza was something else.  I had no expectations.  It turned out better than I thought.   If it seems like it’s just a bunch of items thrown together, then you would be correct.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be good.  The peanut and ginger sauce was a bit aggressive that it was a bit hard to eat in spots.  It was spread randomly all over.

Aside from that I was pleasantly surprised.  The mix of mozzarella and cheddar really came together well. And I love onions.  They threw a lot of whole pieces on there as you can see.    But not only white onions (which are not listed as part of the pie but were included anyways) but the green ones as well.  Which are always great.  If there were carrots I barely noticed them.  Maybe the white onions were the substitute. The peanuts were a nice touch too.  It really tasted like a Thai dish or salad.

Johnny'sThaiChicken2

What really makes this pie however, is the chicken. It tasted a lot fresher than I thought it would.   Kudos to that.  The crust was a nice mix of crispy and soft that it didn’t detract in any way from the pie.

So in hindsight this was a better pie than I realized. It wasn’t the greatest.  But this was a solid indluging that will make me want to come back and try something else.

Johnny'sToGoB

The bar and restaurant, along with the carry out area, is usually always packed in the peak months.  This means getting there at the right time can be a challenge.

Till the next visit to the beach.

Best,

Ideen

Tugo, or not Tugo

Ocean City, MD has always brought me found memories, from when I was a kid.   A lot has changed but a lot has remained the same.

There’s a lot more to do as an adult, in terms of bars, clubs, and restaurants.  But, this resort town prides itself on being a family destination, first and foremost.

I remember eating Pizzas Tugos when I was a kid and thinking it was the greatest pizza on earth.  Actually every pizzeria I ate at felt like the greatest thing in the world!

Either my taste buds have expanded or I just grew up.  Because these two slices I got were anything but the greatest.

TugosSlices

How great and greasy does that appear?  Well it may look appealing to the late night delivery and pick-up crowd, but that still doesn’t make it any better.

I understand this is a small sample size, but it was still disappointing.   It was way too loaded with grease and fat.  Now or a night after the bars, that might be just fine.  But I can only imagine what you’d be feeling the next morning.

It was also very salty.  I do like how there was loads of cheese bleeding into the to go (tugo? hehe) box.   But the cheese was a big mound of salt and other problems.

The sauce tasted a bit funny too.   It just didn’t go with the cheese or the crust.  And the latter was a bit soggy.  I tried to eat what I could, but I had to give up.

TugosBanner

Some of the other problems included the service.  There was no line in front of me, and I waited a good 15 minutes for my order.   You would think with all that time passing, that my pizza would be either heated up just right or a bit lukewarm, or maybe a little of both.   No, this was scolding hot and not in a good way.   My tongue burned but fortunately I survived and didn’t need a fire extinguisher to save me.

In keeping up with trying to find positives, I do like that they have their own design paper for carry out, which you can see in the first picture above.  Other than that I don’t know.    Well, the pepperoni was ok.  I picked those off and ate those on its own.

Now when many of us are at the beach, or away on vacation, our goal is not necessarily to look for amazing, knock your socks off pizza.  But it should at least taste good.   This wasn’t the worst but I found it mediocre and boring.   I don’t see the point in coming back to visit anytime soon.

TugosInLightsTugoSign

This shouldn’t sway you from not wanting to try them out.  You may love it.  I know a few who do. Here’s their menu.

Summer is in full swing, so more OC and Eastern Shore reviews will be forthcoming.    For a prior review from Memorial Day Weekend, click here.

All The Best,

Ideen