Vesta Is Besta

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Sometimes the  cheesiest and dopiest of titles just come to me.  You can write this stuff ladies and gentleman.   But this pizza is up there with the best of ’em.    But don’t take my word for it.  Vesta Wood Fired Pizza & Bar out of East Rutherford (or is it in Carlstdat),  NJ was voted best pizza in the state by NJ.com.

If you look at the list, it’s written very simply, similar to my posts. I dig it. So what makes a pizza number 1? It’s really all so subjective and based on opinion.  Could be based on anything else?  Are we talking word-of-mouth, sphere of influence, or confirmation bias?  None of those three possibilities are necessarily mutually exclusive by the way.

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Nevertheless, I was in town recently for a concert and maybe some other sight seeing.  The latter never really came to fruition but I did have time for some good pizza.  Thank goodness because I almost didn’t walk in.  I drove by a couple of times before and thought the outside look a bit intimidating.  The nearby neighborhood of Carlstadt (or is it East Rutherford haha) looks more down-to-earth and has the feeling of a tight knit community.  Never judge a book by its over as Vesta for all it’s gloriousness outside, had the most endearing and approachable charm inside.

Before I go on a bizzare tangent, Vesta is snugged in between both towns, literally.  I took pictures of both since they were literally yards from each other.

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I went at a quieter time of day, which I tend to do, to get the most personable experience as possible.  Jennifer, who I promised to mention by name, was working behind the bar. She could not have been more helpful in suggesting the right pizza pie.

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I was leaning towards the Pear & Gorgonzola, when I had initially wanted a simple Margherita pie. What on earth was I originally thinking?  This is before I learned about Vesta’s high praise.  I went with the organic choice of the unique pie but not without a further suggestion.  She had recommended throwing some sausage onto my pizza to give it more of a breakfast feel.  If I had only listened to her.

The pear is the stand out here.  These pieces of fruit were custom made for the Summer season.  But you can enjoy this year round.  The gorgonzola and walnuts added some pop to an already intriguing choice.   My minor complaints in hindight were that the walnuts were not as sweet as I hoped.  Maybe that’s where the pear comes in.  Otherwise I have no issue with the walnuts. It’s always fun to see your not-so-typical food items place on top of a pizza.  And that olive oil, mmm..  The ligher and thinner crust, was heated to near perfection.  The fact that it was thin made this all that much more appetizing. This is a pie I would definitely get again.  But only if…

…If I taken Jennifer’s recommendation to heart, and added sausage, I can only envision how much better this pizza would have been.  And I’m thinking earth shattering and off-the-charts levels.   It’s only pizza but when I’m a little bit away from my area, and looking to branch into unfamiliar directions, all advice should be taken under consideration.  I’ve been known to be indecisive when picking the right pizza, but that doesn’t mean I can’t land upon the right one.

She mentioned their #1 ranking to me, way before I did any research.  I wonder if this had any influence on my pizza.  The bad guy in me would make me be deliberately contrarian. But power of suggestion aside, this is a pizza I’ll think about often.

And nothing like some vino to go with my za.

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I took the rest of my pizza to go, and it tasted just as stellar the next day.  That’s another true test of a pizza, or most foods for that matter.  If they have a sustainable shelf life after original feasting, you may have a winner on your hands.  But man, I only wonder what could have been if I added the suggested protein.

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As I’ve said before when I visit a joyous place, it only means I will want to come back.  And for being a littler over two hours away, and just outside New York City, a return is not as far away as it sounds.   This was a fun way to cap off the Summer, even though it’ technically still going for a few more weeks.

There’s a lot of soul and passion behind their pizza and the whole operation.   If I lived nearby, they would absolutely see my business once or twice a week.  What a great addition to a community I know nothing about, but I sense there’s only good.

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Here’s a link to their lunch and dinner menus, along with contact information.

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Damn this pizza was good.  I can’t wait to do it again. If you’re in the area, or planning on visiting, definitely stop by.

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Until the next one.

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.

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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.

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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

New Sensation

Italian Sensation

Happy Opening Day in Baltimore.  For many this feels like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other festive days, all rolled into one. Life is good.  Everyone is happy and feeling like a million bucks.  As we should.   Now in keeping with the tradition of today, I did go local on today’s review.

My pizza journey this week led me to Italian Sensation in Fallston.   I go through a running list of places I want to check out and listen to suggestions from my fellow pals.  But, the funny thing here is I had no idea they had a local creation, until perusing their menu.  You could call it coincidence, happenstance, or fate.    The inspiration and stories find us.  I was to go about this pizzeria like any other.  And of course with different analysis.  But serendipity finds me again.  Of all days to write about their spot, of course it had to be today.  And I’m glad.

Have I stretched this out long enough?

Baltimore

The Baltimore, pictured above, looks so beautiful doesn’t it?  With sauteed shrimp and crab meat, it’s a locals dream.   The olive oil, garlic, and mozzarella are a good complement to this pizza pie.  Now I say good.  In my opinion, it’s not amazing.  I didn’t have any expectations going on, and I wasn’t disappointed nor was I blown away.  The shrimp is incredible.   I could pick those off and eat those myself.  Actually, a few times I did.   Something about the crab meat didn’t entirely work for me. Maybe I didn’t enjoy it on my slice?  If this were just loaded with shrimp, I would be heaping for praise.   The pizza otherwise tastes pretty good.  If you take off all the toppings, it’s essentially a white pizza, without the ricotta. And it tastes alright.   The crust is magnificent though.  It’s just a little crunchy, but mainly soft and chewy that it ranks up their with the best of them.  And I love when the cheese crunches up near the end of the crust, and becomes one with the pie.  Lovely. I’d say it’s a good pizza, but not a great one overall.  It’s maybe a case of the whole not equaling the sum of it’s parts.

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I also ordered a cheese, as a nice dichotomy to the Baltimore.  And in the back of my mind, I thought it might play second fiddle.  How wrong I was.  This was stupendous.  It’s just as scrumptious and savory as it looks.  I don’t know if the cheese swirled while I was bringing it home, or it was made that way.  But this is almost too beautiful to eat!  But it was enjoyed and appreciated.   And again, the dough is a stand out here.  Magnificent.

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Paired together, they look good.  For more of the wine that’s hiding back there, click here.

I haven’t been to Italian Sensation often, but I’ve usually been happy.  I’ve had several of their slices, and always enjoyed them.

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The staff was also very friendly and welcoming.  The Fallston location has a nice aura about it.  The outside looks so charming.  I’ve also been to the Bel Air spot and got the same vibe.  A review of that place is forthcoming. And a drive up to Perry Hall is going to happen as well.

But for now, enjoy opening day, enjoy one another, and enjoy yourselves.

Take good care.

Best,

Ideen

Italian Gardens – Round 2

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I had a couple of different pizza joints all lined up to review, but I just couldn’t help myself.  I made a quick return to the iconic, Italian Gardens, yesterday.   It was on another spiritual level like the aforementioned visit.   This time I ordered two, which ended up being three, large thin crust pizzas to go.

It was an inspired idea, based on nothing but, well, inspiration.    I raved about the cheese slice last time, but this was my first ever experience with their white pizza.   And oh my goodness, this is on that same level.  Absolutely incredible.   I am used to having three cheese white, but with this one, sans parmesan, is a monumental experience.

The combination of mozzarella, ricotta, basil, garlic, tomatoes (oops more on that in a few sentences), and their homemade olive oil sauce is something special.   The latter puts it over the top.  If anyone knows what’s in it, please let me know?  Or maybe it’s best kept hidden.

I haven’t given a enough credit to the crust either.    The taste, crispiness, and crunchiness of the dough is flawless.

Now onto the tomatoes..

I initially placed a call ahead order, for one white and one cheese.  I inadvertently forgot to say no tomatoes on the former.  Now I love them, but I prefer the pie plain.   When I got there, I did check my order and saw my mistake.   I offered to pay for the order, sans fruit, but they gave it to me on the house.   As before, with giving me two cheese slices for the price of one, they didn’t have to do this.    The service here is top notch, on par with their pizza.    And it may even taste better with those pesky tomatoes.

I can’t remember  having magnificent experiences at any dining establishment, consecutively.

I am heaping some major praise, but believe me, this is warranted.    It will be a while (well maybe) before I do another recap of this legendary pizza establishment.   But, take my word for it, this is worth the drive.    Pictured above is the three orders.  Yes, folks were starving before photos could be taken.   It’s that good.

In the next calendar year, I will have other pizza places to recap and other fun pizza information.   Hopefully a little something for everyone.

Thanks so much and Happy New Year.

Oh and go to Italian Gardens.

Best,

Ideen