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.

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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.

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

Peace Be With You.

 

 

Lovely Lena

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Any chance I get back to Alexandria, VA, I’m all about it.   I live closer to Baltimore now.  And even though Alexandria is 90 minutes away it still feels like a road trip or vacation.

I was born here.  It’s not something I always bring up to the world or make it a focal point of conversation.   None of us have any control over where we’re born.  It’s just one of those things that happens, literally.   But even though I didn’t grow up here, it’s something I’m happy here and believe there’s a reason it happened.

LenasSign

More of those reasons will be presented to me over time and when the time is right.   One was made available to me earlier this week with a visit to Lena’s Wood-fired Pizza & Tap.

Now this isn’t in Old Town like my one previous pizza dining experience around Christmas (link can be found here), but the location, on the outskirts of Old Town, near had a charm and aura all its own.

Braddock Road may not sound glamorous but the area where this new pizza restaurant sits still feels has the older feeling of Northern Virginia houses built decades ago, and while more development is coming, the neighborhoods nearby look like they won’t be going anywhere for a while.

LenasPatio

Why do I mention this? Because on first glimpse the newness of the building that houses Lena’s may look like the sign of the times.   More things starting to look the same and a lessening of the character of what made these small towns so charming in the first place.  Lena’s is part of a bigger restaurant group called Alexandria Restaurant Partners that extends outside the state.

LenasFront

Now just because a restaurant is a part of a growing chain or restaurant conglomerate doesn’t mean I will alter my opinion.  My goal is always to support local business and give all the love to mom and pops, independents, and stand alone pizzerias, restaurants, and similar establishments.    With that being said, how was the pizza?

LenasPizza

Well there was more than pizza.  I want to first give a huge thanks to my server, Francesca, who was absolutely first class in every sense of the word.   She was helpful with all aspects of my meal.    I almost ordered a glass of wine or a similar libation, but this was not the day for that.

 

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I usually just have water with my meal.  But what a pleasant surprise to hear that they had fresh and hot apple cider on tap.  I mean, how often is this available in a restaurant?  And it’s Spring.  Is this the season for it?  I said the heck with it.  I want some hot apple cider.  It was presented to me with a cinnamon stick and all around good vibes.  It was delicious.  I already liked where this was going.

LenasCider

Now Francesca had to steer me right when it comes to a pie.  I was presented the option of getting a half and half as long as the sauces were the same.

LenasMenu

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She recommended the Diavola and the Meatball.  The latter is made in-house and thinly sliced to look appropriate on the pizza.  The former is somewhat of an anomaly for me.  First of all, I love kale and it’s one of those en vogue vegetables that we’re going to hear about till the end times.   I’ve had it on pizza before and it just didn’t work for me.  This time it did.  But first…

The meatball was just kind of standard.  It was just kind of there.  It wasn’t that it was bad.  It was just a lot less than what I was expecting.    The ricotta cheese was fine but I really didn’t get a lot of flavor from this pizza at all.   But with the both, the pizza crust was cooked perfectly.   I like a good wood-fired dough.

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The Diavola was tremendous.   Like last week, honey on a pizza is a tricky thing.  But when it works it really works.  And that salami was absolutely terrific.  I had to sneak a couple of pieces of it on its lonesome just to see how good it truly tasted.  And it was wonderful.   Yet with all that goodness, the kale really was the stand-out.  And they really piled it on to perfection.

I’m a big fan of kale and now an even bigger fan of kale on pizza.  Delicious.

And just when I thought it was over, I was convinced to order their house made donuts to go. By the way, this pizza lasted me 2 1/2 meals.  It was an individual pizza but quite filling.

LenasDonuts

I was told the donuts would be good for a day or two, so I savored them.  I did sneak in a couple of bites before and they tasted like the holidays.  Just like that cider.  This entire meal was all over the place.  Kind of like this experience.   I’m getting a kick out of this by the way.

I’ll be back.  I just don’t know when.  This was an even more endearing experience than I remember.  And to be all nostalgic just a few days post-meal is the point of all this.  It’s corny, overly sentimental, and happy-go-lucky but that’s the point of all this.

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For more about Lena’s, read this.  This is interesting.   And here is their contact information.

LenasToGo

I love Alexandria and I really enjoyed this visit.  This makes it two for two.

This is what I hope most of my visits during this Spring and beyond will be like.  I like the unpredictability of the locations, pizzas, other foods, drinks, service, and all the other details. They’re all significant.

I can’t wait to see where I end up next.

 

Ideen

 

Paradise By The…

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A lot of good pizza was had in 2016.  It seems to me that the focus has been on only finding the better slices, the better pies, and the better experiences.  If something is really horrific and worth talking about it will be talked about here.  But the emphasis will always be talking about quality za and giving you a valid reason for you to visit.  If not then this defeats the whole purpose.

Of course I’m just one person with an opinion.  Not everything I like will be agreed with and vice-versa.  And the pizzas I’m a little critical of might be one of your favorites.

For me it’s traditionally based on what I’m feeling at the time, not necessarily what I’m thinking.  It could be an idea about a place, or yes, a preconceived notion that may skew an opinion a little more towards one way or another than it otherwise wouldn’t.  This is why today’s pizza I discuss is so fascinating.

Before this past day after Christmas, my one and only ever visit to Pizzeria Paradiso was back in 2000.  Yes 16 years ago.  And this was at the Georgetown location.  Needless to say, being much younger the pizza was fine but I didn’t see what the big deal was.  I can get pizza anywhere I said.  Now whether this was my actual reaction is merely a reflection of my past self.  I can only speculate but it’s something similar to what I would have said.

It was a lifetime ago so I don’t know exactly what I ordered, but I remember the company I was with.  That’s one I’ll leave for myself.  But it wasn’t the best experience.  I remember paying a lot more for pizza than I may have ever had before.   Because of that I wonder if that’s the main reason of why I never went back.

Many times and many years over I’ve found myself walking past the Georgetown and Dupont Circle locations and not thinking much of it.  And that’s neither a good or bad statement.  There’s so many options to eat, let alone ones specific to pizza.

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But something about the Old Town Alexandria location seemed so much more welcoming and approachable.  There is a heavy bias here. I was born in this beautiful town, just minutes away from Old Town.  So I have loads of attachment and love for this place.

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Even still things would come up for the universe had other plans for me when I visited Alexandria.  I’ve been to many restaurants and many places along King Street and the surrounding areas, but never here.

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Well the wait and fate finally crossed paths.  All it took was a little Christmas Cheer and a peaceful drive to one of the great towns of America.

So how was the pizza this time?

It was busy.  Christmas was observed on a Monday this year and the town was buzzing. People had off and made the most of their post Christmas time.  Well that sounded like safe yet dramatic thing to say.  The restaurant was packed and the staff was busy. Did that affect the pizza in any way?  That I don’t know.

Even in a frenetic setting my pie turned out really good.  I ordered the Genovese which consisted of parmesan, pesto, and potato.  How about that combination?

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Now I wasn’t sure how this was going to look but I loved it.  These were real slices of potato.  If you’re thinking that I ordered this in light of a Christmas hangover and hoping for mashed potatoes, you might be right.

And that pesto tasted fresh, authentic, and from somewhere magnificent.  Where that is I don’t know.  But I like to think there was a lot of care and soul put into creating that pesto.

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That wood fired crust was tremendous as well.  I’ve heard friends say it’s the best pizza they’ve had in all of DC.  That’s a tough one to decide on.  It’s all relative.  I will say the crust was fantastic and I’m craving it now as I right about it.  It just had the perfect burnt and charred taste to it.  And that thin crust was shaped perfectly.  And a thinner crust was needed on this day.

The overall experience, ambiance, and service definitely made it even better.

For how busy the restaurant was, I was still able to get diner style seating and enjoy my meal in solitude.  I got to sample a couple of red wines before deciding on a favorite.  I was pleased with my decision.

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I was pleased with the pie.  I was only able to have half, which was fine by me.  I got to enjoy the rest later.  For a personal pizza this was a hearty sized meal.  You could easily get two meals out of this without question.  Or maybe my stomach has been feeling the effects of all the holiday eating that it was a reminder to slow down and take it easy.   And to enjoy the peace and spirit of the holidays.  They’re not technically over yet.

So I enjoyed my time in Old Town like I always do.  I took some pictures of the nearby historic streets and even one by Pizzeria Paradiso.  I hope you enjoy just like I enjoyed my pizza.

They’re one of the major players in the Washington, DC area when it comes to pizza.  And I’m glad to have ended the year with one of the more soothing and peaceful dining experiences I’ve had in a while.

I promise it won’t be another 16 years till the next visit.  How about I revisit this again in 2017.  That’s a promise.

Here is their story, their beer menu and online ordering info for those nearby.

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I look forward to what 2017 brings.  That feels weird just typing that.

Happy What’s Left of the Holidays,

Ideen