Back To Studio…

PizzaStudioTruffledMushroom

Some time ago, a few people asked me my thoughts on the Pizza Studio (here is their menu, locationscontact info, and their story), and I wasn’t sure what to say.   I was grateful friends already assumed I had tried them out, and that my list of places to review are abundant.  They’re correct on both counts.

While I had not been so quick to embrace the over-the-counter and rapid fire pizza making type places, they all have their well, place.

In visits to stores like this one, I’ve touched on that fact, but at some point, which is now, it doesn’t matter what I or truly anyone thinks about how food preparation and presentation has evolved, or otherwise if you feel that way.  If people enjoy it, and appreciate it for what it is, then I see nothing wrong with it.  Only right.

I hadn’t been to their Charles Village location (right in the heart of Johns Hopkins University country) in a while.  It could have been months, or maybe a couple of years, and while time is flying, it doesn’t take a lot of time to get a pie from here.

Life just keeps going faster, whether we choose to acknowledge it or otherwise.  While it’s always been constant, we just keep going and keep trying to keep up.  When it comes to food, in many other parts of the world, there is a time to rest, a time to embrace what’s in front of us, and a time to say hello and appreciate one another’s company, at least for a reasonable amount of time.

With what we do here, there’s such a rush.  I know I always feel like I’m in a rush, and I see it constantly in the eyes and feet of so many people around me.

This may sound like a dig at food places (or many other entities) like this, that are assembly line style, and yet you may just feel like a number or a statistic, or you may not feel anything.   And neither may not be mutually exclusive of the other.

But I still can find a way to appreciate the work put into adding the toppings and heating the crust, even if it was only two to five minutes in its entirety.   They promote hot and fresh in two minutes.  To a pizza purist that may feel like blasphemy.  I’ve had friends tell me this isn’t pizza and it’s a slap in the face to restaurants and pizzerias all over the world.  I understand that.  But these places are here and they’re not going anywhere.

I ordered the Truffled Mushroom on rosemary herb crub, and for a second pie, the Buffalo Chicken on traditional crust. I chose to refrain from creating my own selections this time, as I wanted to present to you their signature pies for more of a unbiased opinion if you will.  I’ve created my own before, and to my own success or detriment, the results have been mixed.

PizzaStudioTruffledMushroomSlice

I won’t go into detail of every topping, but I do like the extra thin crust on both of these bad boys.  It’s been hot and the lighter, the more necessary.   The respective crusts complement both pies solidly, especially the mushroom.  Now you can also get a whole grain & flax seed, firecracker crust with jalapenos, or a gluten free crust at additional cost.  Maybe next time.

Both are fun and both are no thrills, harmless, and enjoyable pizzas.  They aren’t going to change your life, and you won’t necessarily remember this a year from now, let alone a few days.  Yet, it must mean something to be a day later after my visit, as I write about it.

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The side blue cheese dressing for the latter pie is a charming touch.

At $8.50 a piece, it’s adequately priced, and you can get a few meals out of this.  Luckily, I was able to share this with pals, and still save some for seconds.   So in a way, there’s still time to embrace company, friends, and the simplistic nature of a pizza like this.

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There could be another visit down the line, but for now, I’ll hold off on saying, back to studio…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Three Is A Magic Number

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I ate a Three Brothers restaurant many years ago, not appreciating the significance of family, or a family operation.

When I was younger, I appreciated local business, but maybe not in the same way I do now.  I’m always sentimental to stories about family, and how one business grows into many.  Bigger than that, when kids and grandkids become regular guests of the same restaurant that their parents visit, and still do, that warms my heart.  How can it not?

I take all factors into consideration when visiting a pizzeria, and trying a slice or a pie. It’s not always as serious as I’m making it out to be.  Local business, or any business, takes a lot of work.  That’s why I always look for the good and see the positives in any situation, in particular when it comes to a local establishment.

This is a review of two pizzas, over two different locations, and over two different time frames.

ThreeBrothersCheesePizza

First, the simple cheese pie out of Bowie, and it’s a winner.   Me and a dear friend got this pizza per my pals’ suggestion.

ThreeBrothersCheese

I’ve had so many pizzas recently that at times some may start tasting the same or don’t stand out.   This one does and I honestly can’t put my finger on why.  Well if you read what I said earlier, that might be why.  But I really enjoyed this crust.  It’s a little thicker, has a different kind of crunch, and complements the cheese and sauce well.  It tasted even better reheated.  You can see the difference in the pictures.   This is a really good cheese pizza.

ThreeBrothersMeatParmesanPizza

Recently, out of the Odenton location, I ordered the meatball parmesan pizza.

ThreeBrothersMeatballParmesan

Maybe I had hoped for a little more pop, and a little more wow.  This is still a good pizza, but I just felt something was missing.  But I’m going to project a little bit…

If this was a few minutes earlier, or I was in a different place in time, who knows how I would have felt about this pizza, or how the pie would have turned out.   This was lunch time, and I imagine there was a rush of orders, and not every pie is going to be made exactly the same.   I could also tell you that the mood I’m in can always make something that much better or otherwise.

While it wasn’t amazing when first eating it, it tasted great after reheating it a day later.  And I knew exactly that would happen.  The slightly crunchiness of the meatballs, the parmesan, and crust a day later tastes like home, it tastes so simple, and it tastes like a family gathering.   Man… I’m getting sentimental.

There’s so many pizzas and menu items to choose from, that there’s something there for everyone.  Along with having so many locations near Annapolis, Baltimore, and Washington, that it’s not only family friendly, but accessible, and welcoming.   I’m all for all of those.

I’m intrigued by stopping by their original and most popular location, in Greenbelt, to what I feel will even have more of that family vibe.  Because I’m visualizing it, I sense that exactly that will be the case.  I hope to do so within the next couple of months, and see for myself.

ThreeBrothersPizzaBox

I look forward to it…

Peace be with you..

Ideen

Fame and Fortunatos

FortunatoSlices

I know right.  That’s the title I came up with and I’m sticking to it.  Actually I could change it at any time but I don’t see that happening.

For as long as this blog has been going, and we’re past two years now, I always knew I would get to writing about Fortunato Brothers of Towson.

FortunatoFront

Dating back to 2000, I’ve been a semi-regular visitor of this pizzeria.  And it’s a pizzeria alright.  There’s nothing cute about the inside.  There’s pies on display for slice ordering, a standard soda machine, and a few tables for indoor dining.   First and foremost, it’s all about getting food to go.

I’ve seen it cramped at times with patrons waiting for their orders.  I haven’t seen it quite to the point of being uncomfortable, but it’s been close.

But to tell you the truth their pizza has never done it for me.  It’s not like it’s bad.  Most pizza isn’t truly bad, it’s just that for an establishment that has been around over 40 years I would hope their pizza would be on par with some of the best, if not the good ones, in the area.

I don’t think it’s ever come close.   It’s good enough that I come to get a quick slice from time-to-time, but I’ve always felt it to be averages.  It’s a decent slice and a solid price. And usually two slice with a soda will cost around $7.  No complaints with that.

The main issue to me is the quality.

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This go around I went with a chicken parmesan and a white spinach slice.

FortunatoChickenParm

First, the chicken parmesan was adequate but something was missing.  The pieces of chicken were missing that taste and texture that would complement a pizza.  It doesn’t have to be award winning but I’d like a little more flavor.  Something just felt off. The cheese and sauce were fine.  It made for a decent slice but nothing more.  I will say that the crust was fantastic.  It’s enough to eat if you’re in a pinch for a slice but nothing out-of-this-world.

FortunatoSpinach

Next up is the white spinach.  Again, the crust was good but not quite on par with the chicken parm.   I don’t know what happened but the spinach and tomatoes didn’t work here.  They didn’t taste fresh.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the cheese either.  This one surprised me even more.

It almost seemed that the veggies have gone through multiple heating and then re-freezing.  That means the pizza itself has been heated and then cooled again overnight.  I have no evidence of that other than a feeling and based on past experience of similar issues with similar pizza pies.   That doesn’t explain why the crust was still good, or maybe the crust being just a tad below the first slice might explain enough.

I’m not against saving food but for the sake of making money and reusing slices that seemed have sat out too long, that’s disappointing.

You know me.  I look for the positives in all instances of pizza.  But the negatives outweigh anything else.  And this how it’s been for me for quite some time.

I know people who love their pizza and sing the praises of how this is the original Fortunato’s and it’s the best.  I don’t see if that way. Yes this is an interesting local chain. It’s branched off with other locations but they’re not all connected, if any of them are to begin with.  This version has always been just there to me  It’ll be a place I’ll get something to eat in a rush and that’s about it.    The staff over time has always seem to be laid back.  Maybe they’re too laid back?

This is the beginning of something.  Or maybe not.  I don’t make posts with the intent of not following up or referring to later.  There is significance with all of this.   I will be exploring the  various Fortunato locations in the area to see if there is a connection even when there isn’t.    This could make for some interesting discoveries.  I still don’t know all the details so that’s where the discovering will come in.

Here is their menu and online ordering info for our friends in the Towson area, or the county/city line.

My hunch tells me I got something good for next week.

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.

paradisowithwine

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.

oldtownroad

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

Happy What’s Left of the Holidays,

Ideen

 

 

Square Biz

LedoCheese

I’ve been enjoying Ledo Pizza going back 20+ years and I am happy to report it’s just as good as I remember.

When you’re much younger and when it comes to pizza, everything is likely to taste world class.  It’s the greatest thing we’ve ever eaten.  Then maybe the next thing you eat is the best thing ever. It’s less complex to think like that.   Your horizons have yet to expand and your tastes are so simplistic.   In a way it’s so endearing and so innocent.

The simplicity comes from the square pieces.  It doesn’t get more accessible than that, literally and figuratively.

However, we grow up.  Our lives change, our interests change, and so do expectations.    But Ledo always rings true.  It has never disappointed.   Truthfully, I don’t think it ever will.

I’ve been to so many locations, with so many friends and family over the years that I feel it’s a part of me.  Sometimes we’ve dined it but usually it’s been a carry-out order.  That may lend itself to how busy me and my contemporaries are.

The holidays are a time to be busy but also a time to relax.  I should relax and just get on with the recap.

The pies ordered were from the White Marsh location.

You know the cheese is the standard bearer and it was great here as usual. One stand out for me is the sauce is a little sweeter than what you might find at other pizza hangouts.  But it’s so good.  The crust is heated perfectly.  Sometimes there’s parts that are crunchier than others, especially around the corners, but that’s all part of the fun. And it’s so quick and comforting.

We changed it up bit and also got The Cannonball which includes parmesan, meatballs, with basil thrown on top.  The meatballs may not have been what you find at an upscale Italian restaurant but that isn’t the point.  It works perfectly here.   The parmesan and basil thrown on top is a wondrous touch and makes for a superb visual.

LedoPair

You know what you’re getting and it’s perfection.  It’s a state of pizza bliss and euphoria that you don’t get everywhere.

LedoSlices

I’ve praised many a place but this is a different kind of positivity.  I can’t compare this to others, not because of the shape or because it’s a local chain.  It’s maybe something I can explain later.  Not now. Just maybe some things are better left unsaid or kept eternal.

That didn’t mean to come off as dramatic as it intended.  I just love this place.  Maybe it’s the little kid from within still feeling like one whenever I enjoy their pies.

LedoStoreFront

If you’ve never been here then I would highly recommend giving it a go.   Locations are listed here.

In traditional fashion, I love the community and fundraising pages.

Gift cards and other fun things can be found here!

I wish you all a continuously joyous and happy holiday.

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.

NeoFrontNeoSign

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.

NeoSharkWeekSpecial

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.

NeoSlice

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.

NeoToGoBox

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

Bartenders Please

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I have wanted to write about Bartenders, since I began this blog.   This, among a select few other spots, were the inspiration for me to write about pizza.  And there’s so much fun that goes with pizza, besides eating some amazing pies.  It’s the joy of each others company, the drinks you have with your meal, and the memories that come with it.   If that’s a little too cheesy and overly sentimental for you, then good.

I first ate here nearly four years ago, through recommendations of regulars and good friends that have said their pies are the best in town.   And the atmosphere is one that is still incomparable.  Their are local bars and then there’s local bars.   I have found myself very comfortable eating and drinking a glass of wine their solo, on many an occasion.  The head bartenders (who are also the owners) are very personable and people I’m glad to call my friends.

Now I’ve dragged this as far as I can.   I love their pies.   I always have and always will.  The first time I ate there, I was taken for a ride on culinary excellence.  I don’t know where the dough, the cheese, the topping, and most of all the soul came from, but this is one of the best pizzas I’ve had period. And I would go here maybe once or twice a week from 2012-2013, and gained quite a bit of weight in the process.  I didn’t care.  I loved every second of it.

But if there is a down side, it’s that you get so spoiled from eating amazing creations like theirs, that other pizzas start not to taste as good.  I’ve learned to be educated about that and realize that not all pies are created equal.  And I should only judge based on taste and the energy behind it.

Here is where it gets funny.  I knew full well I was going to write about this spot, lauding and touting it to kingdom come.   But the last few times I’ve been the pizza hasn’t been up to the level I’m used to. It’s been good but the excitement and thrill I would get wasn’t there.   At first, I thought it might have been me.  But it was on three separate occasions.  It was still really good but not on the inspirational level I’ve become accustomed too.

But luckily a dear friend had been cooking the za’s there, but we rarely crossed paths at said establishment itself.  So I mentioned to her that I don’t think they’ve been as good as I remember.  She suggested I come in during one of her final shifts, and she’d make it for me personally.

And I’m glad I did. She made a masterpiece.   I’ve had The Spence before, but not like this.  Our friends who have been here repeatedly know the pie and know the man behind it.

BartendersSpence

This is a work of art.  I think it’s worthy of multiple photos. So here’s another.

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The combination of the homemade sauce, cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, and andouille sausage alone is enough to make this grown man act like a little kid at his first pizza parlor!  Oh my goodness this was made to perfection.  I’ve had it before but not like this.   The red peppers, onions, and fresh basil complete and complement this pie perfectly.  This is up there with some of the best ever.

Now I’ve had their cheese, white, and garden (vegetarian) as well, and loved those too. But this blows them all away. The crust, the way it was cooked, and the way everything melted and blended together is genius. And I mean this with all sincerity, this was one for the ages.  It was the perfect send off for her and the perfect early birthday present to myself.  I don’t think it could have been done any better.  And I’m glad I waited this long to write about this.  Faith has been rewarded.

I love that they give you paper plates with your meal. It’s a little detail that I don’t want to go unnoticed.  I prefer it versus a regular dish.

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But maybe my last few purchases of various pies such as the Barbecue Chicken, Peyton, and Tarlek just didn’t move me like the others.  It’s meant as a compliment.  The expectations of this place are extremely high and they will continue to be.

If you’re curious as to their menu and the selections I mentioned above, click here.

As my friend moves on to bigger and better, I will always remember Bartenders for their amazing pizza and good atmosphere.  I have many great memories but this might have been one of the best.  I look forward to more momentous occasions and many more delicious pies in the near future.

BartendersSide

Rock and Roll.

Best,

Ideen