You Say Tomatoes

HotTomtoesSlices

Two years ago, when leading up to The Fell’s Point Fun Festival, I did a series of posts featuring pizza from restaurants, pizzerias, and the like from the neighborhood.   I didn’t do them all, I didn’t avoid any on purpose, but I wanted to discuss some that may be off the radar or not within anyone’s crosshairs on a regular basis.

HotTomatoes

Then there’s Hot Tomatoes.  It’s one of those things where if you live or hang out in the area, you know what you’re getting.  I was thinking myself that it was too obvious and almost unnecessary to write about this establishment.  This is not a knock on them or their food.   It’s just that it’s always been there and it’s not going anywhere.  And imagine any late night, especially on the weekends, where slices are coming and going at a rapid-fire place.  The place isn’t going anywhere as long as people had a good night (or even a bad night) out and need something to finish the night off and feed their bellies.

But with the Festival starting this weekend, I felt like if I’m not going to write about Hot Tomatoes now, I may never.

For me, I don’t know if I have any sentimental attachment to Hot Tomatoes.   I’ve been and many of us have been too many times to count.  But after a while we look for other sources for greasy food to keep us satisfied.   And while a couple of places have closed nearby (Little Italy Pizzeria and Italian Graffiti come to mind), this neighborhood staple has stood the test of time.  Having a prominent location on Broadway helps.   Location….

HotTomatoesCheese

So how’s the pizza?  Its’s pizza.  It’s food.  There’s some folks prepping the pies, putting sauce, putting cheese, toppings, and throwing it in the oven.  Then when it’s ready they’ll slice it up and put it in a box or you to go.  See where I’m going with this?  It’s pizza that looks rough, is not going to win any world title belts, but it serves its purpose.  And that’s just the way they want it.  And it’s just pizza.  Many of us at later hours don’t care about artisanal quality and world renowned craftsmanship.

HotTomatoesGreek2

But something happened recently.  They’ve changed their slices up quite a bit.  I had a Greek slice with olives, onions, feta, and a whole slew of awesomeness.  It was a white based and it was surprisingly good.  I mean that with all sincerity.  Because of Hot Tomatoes presents itself, you expect what you expect.  But when they throw a good slice that is, your taste buds are feeling good and it’s a welcome change from the standard cheese and pepperoni.   If this slice is on display this weekend I’ll gladly get another.

 

Their slices are in the $4-$5 range but their big, and prices at the late night hour are really not what folks are worrying about.

What is their true stand out if their deep fried cheese steak.  They don’t always make it, but when it’s there, jump on it.  It’s the most unhealthy and glorious of all guilty pleasures.  I’ve always had to split mine with a pal.  It’s incredibly bad for you, yet incredibly delish all at once.

And now their other venture, at the same location, Diablo Doughnuts is really wowing people. I had my first opportunity to try their sweet treats and a wedding last weekend.  I believe I had one with fruity pebbles.  So good.

UPDATE :

This has been updated with my actual first purchase of donuts from said Diablo, during the festival, which was rather mellow on Sunday.

I grabbed an iced coffee, along with a Samoa (yes the Girl Scout kind), and a Blackberry Lime.  I thought they were both fine, but in what ways do I compare this to other doughnuts?  I like the creativity of flavors, but not sure if this is anything amazing in my eyes.  They were tasty though.  That’ all that matters.

I’m assuming they will still have a stand outside of their shoppe.  Per neighborhood and logistical changes the festival will be condensed this year, to try to make it even a heavier focus on local business and give it a more cozy and welcoming feel.  I’ve always felt was it inviting and approachable to people from all walks of life.  I’m hoping this change is a good one.  We shall see.

BroadwaySquare

Broadway Square, with the exception of the pretzel dog and lemonade stand, has opened back up in time for this weekend.  All signs pointing to a positive experience and a great time.

FellsPointFestival

I’ve been attending this festival every year, except for 2003, since 2000.  It’s become a part of me, a part of many of us, and it’s that first weekend in October that many of us look forward too.  For me, it hasn’t always been the most amazing of times, mainly because I think the festival got carried away with trying to be too big and getting carried away with outside food, drink, and traveling carnival like vendors.

But the last few years have been fantastic, with being able to drink on the streets, and keep it more local, has been a welcome addition.  And an addition by subtraction.

FellsPointFestivalSchedule

For those attending this weekend, here is the link to the maps and parking at the festival, the band list, purchasing drink packages (it’s $20 for 3 drinks versus $5 for just the cup in previous years), and contact information.

With so many many changes going on in the city and one of the great neighborhoods in the country, I’m hoping the integrity and heart will always be there.

We’ll be seeing ya this weekend.

Take good care,

Ideen

 

 

The Best Stories Come From…

BellaItalia1

I often equate a pizza or pizzeria as something bigger than just that.  If there’s a personal attachment or immediately nostalgia, the posts will be easier to right.  Otherwise, it’s an even more intent of focus on the actual pizza itself, and nothing else.  It makes the story all to simplistic and lacking much character.   I do my best not to do that but some experiences can’t be helped.  Not everything is going to be a winner.  And even if the pie is good, that might be all a place or myself had to offer.

BellaItaliaDoor

I’m grateful to say that my experience at Bella Italia of Arnold, MD was one I’ll remember, for the simplest of things.

I was the only one in there.

Well that’s the short story.  After I get to the slices I’ll resume why this truly stands out.

And it’s not like the slices don’t stand out.  In fact they do, and it’s because of the mood and the place I was in.

Summer is winding down and I always have mixed feelings about it.  The weather is still stellar but there’s days where the warmth is not as profound.  And we notice the the shortening the days with the sun setting a minute earlier (give or take) each day.  The hints of fall tend to make me embrace the more folksy and community places.   In actuality, I want local all the time, and during any season. I can’t articulate why.  It’s what I’m drawn to.  Local is my heart, and I would safely assume many would feel the same.

Over the past several days I found myself in the Annapolis area, which includes Edgewater, Pasadena, and Arnold, among many other charming towns.   And while I had a list of pizzas and places I could talk about, nothing felt right for this week.  The universe was giving me another sign.  And like a magnet I was drawn to Bella.

BellaItaliaFront

Nestled and snuggled in a the cozy Arnold Station Shopping Center, that has a more authentic and old time feeling area than the newness of a lot of these strip malls, Bella Italia sits in the corner, unassuming, approachable, and inviting.

Ok so about these slices.

I got the cheese, white with spinach and mushroom, and the Mariposa which is a white pizza with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and the freshest of mozzarella.  And it tasted fresh alright.

BellaItaliaCheese

There’s a lot of good to focus on.  The cheese was fantastic.  I often think how we can compare the plain slice, or any slice for that matter, against all the pizza joints in the world.  You can’t.  Our tastes are unique, and all over the place.   Some people may not care for this cheese.  But this had a distinct taste that I can’t put my finger on.  And for now, I don’t want to know.  This is great but not the best slice I’ve ever had.  And again, it’s all subjective.  It was wonderful and in the upper crust (hehe) of the great plain slices I’ve enjoyed.  The crust on all three of these was consistently awesome.

BellaItaliaWhite

The white with spinach and mushroom is a step above the white slices I’ve had recently. It’s been a struggle to find a great one lately, and this is closer to what I prefer.  It wasn’t as oily, greasy, or overly cheesy was other whites I’ve been down about.  I’d put it in the decent category.  It’s a little more than just there.

BellaItaliaMariposo

Which leads me to the Mariposo.  This was a slice.  Now I’ve had eggplants on pizza before and it’s been a disaster.  This was great.   I definitely enjoyed my veggies individually as I plucked away, and noticed so much layered below.  The greens, the tomatoes, and the eggplants tasted just as fresh against other pizzerias that I’ve had something similar.   And after a while, I forgot it was just a white at its base.

But the difference was the greens and olive oil flavor really merged to make this white pizza that much better.  The lighter yet salad like taste made this a winner.  This place is a winner.

And the people behind it are what make it a winner.

When I got there the entire staff was relaxing against the wall like they didn’t have a care in the world.  It was after lunch and before dinner, so I felt like I was the only person on Earth (not true in the slightest but its fun to embellish) and the crew had some down time.  And after I got my slices, they went back to their place of peace.  The gentleman who served up my slices could not have been nicer.

I hope I don’t get anyone in trouble by giving that visual.

It’s this little detail that’s a big one.  It’ll make me want to come back, and not only say thank you.  But to try some other stand out pies.   I’m not sure when that’ll be but the universe will give me another sign.

BellaItalia5

These are the places that make this blog worth doing.   I’ll get to more of the Baltimore, DC, and major city stuff.  But this felt a little more real and a little more necessary.

I look forward to more authentic, organic, and beautiful experiences such as this one.

BellaItaliaTrios

Oh and did you notice that some of the toppings from the Mariposo spilled onto the other two?  Just a cool little detail, that’s not so little.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

Mostly Sunny With A Chance Of…

PizzaBoxSlice3

I don’t remember.  And I also don’t remember everything that was on Deb’s Veggie from Pizza Box of St. Petersburg, FL.

PizzaBoxFront

That’s because it didn’t quite meet my hopeless romantically like expectations.   I really wanted to like this, to the point that I was genuinely despondent that I didn’t.   And per the recommendation of the cook I went with it.

PizzaBoxPie1

You see Deb’s Veggie changes monthly with fresh peak season veggies.  I was here in mid-June and assumed that this would be a perfect time as any to try some magnificent vegetables on a thin crust.

PizzaBoxSlice

The crust was really good but maybe just bit overcooked and then undercooked in parts.  I hope that makes sense.  Aside from that I don’t know what happened exactly.

PizzaBoxPie2

The vegetables included corn, peppers, tomatoes, and topped with parsley.  I think.  If I’m wrong I’ll stand corrected.   On paper and visually this is art.  Look at that pizza.  This is masterfully created.  And topped with that aioli usually means a winner.  This is one the most gorgeous looking pies I’ve seen in sometime, I just wish it translated the same when eaten.   Individually the toppings were great, but as a whole it didn’t register as anything but a pie that I tried to eat and then I forgot about it.  But I didn’t forget about it enough not to write about it.

PizzaBoxSlice2

That’s because this pizzeria was introduced to me by a dear friend.  I appreciate when friends send me links and videos of pizza suggestions and reasons to get excited.  And believe me St. Pete has given me many reasons to be excited.  I was was nostalgic before I even arrived, and even more so as nearly a month now as passed.

 

Yet there’s so much to love about this place, and the space.  The space is small.  There’s a few tables for dining in but this place encourages carry out and dining outside behavior. Whether that’s just an assumption or presumption by me is what it is.  But the weather here always seems to be gorgeous and there’s so much to do outside.  Being indoors for too long just seems to defeat the purpose of all this.  Again, it’s just an observation but it’s what I well, observed.

PizzaBoxMenu

In addition, all they serve is pizza.  I find that so endearing,  It’s a true pizza joint.  And I’ll stand corrected on this one, technically they do serve a few side items, but you’ll notice those items all go on their signature pizzas.  

PizzaBoxMenu2

And a signature pizza is what I will try again next time.  There’s so many beautiful options that I may just chalk this one up to a misstep and nothing else.   I just liked the idea of not knowing what was going on my pie.  It’s the joys of being on vacation, on holiday, and on an adventure.   And even though the pizza wasn’t up to par this time, I’m confident that the next time (and there will be a next time) will be a success.

The vibe of the pizzeria, the staff behind it, and the folks outside doing all kinds of fun things, make me want to come back.  It makes me want to come back to a lot of places, and that makes me want to come back to St. Pete.  I love this town and there’s so much more to try.  And I’ll potentially have a couple more pizza places in this lovely town to review.

As much as I felt like a tourist (not really) I did feel at home too.  I got used to this real quick.  The laid back approach of everything surrounding this place and this town makes me so happy.

Moral of the story, I will be visiting again soon and a return to Pizza Box  is on the agenda.  Even though the best vacations are with no itinerary and no agenda, this’ll still be near the top of the list, that doesn’t exist.

PizzaBoxBoard

Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

Goody’s Is Exactly That

GoodysSlices

I promised after last week, that I would venture across the street.  And I did just that.

GoodysFront

Goody’s Pizza in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington has a strange, eerie, and yet familiar feeling about it.  And when I say eerie, I only mean it in a good way.  There’s just something going on here that reminds me of another place, another time, and maybe a past life.

This past life could be in this life, but it feels so homey, so approachable, and so inviting that it reminds me of places I used to go to in my childhood and I swear something beyond my existence on this planet.  I may be going on a limb but it felt like another dimension.

And once again, I say this all with love and the most sincerest of feelings.

And for all the times I’ve hung out in the neighborhood,  I never ate here. I’ve walked by how many number of times after a night or day out, and never set walked in.  Why?  I don’t know.  A place that looks so cozy from the outside is exactly what I want in my life.  I want more establishments, not just pizzerias, this genuine in my life.  They still exist.

I’m glad in this instance I didn’t have to look so hard.   Like I’ve said before, my first time was meant to be this time.   If not just for this blog, but for something I want to explain, but I can’t.  Maybe it will make sense later.

What does make sense is how tremendous these slices are.  I’m serious.  I’ve had New York Style in that said city, and even though we’re in Virginia, this is close to that.   I almost think they used the water from New York to make these pies.  It’s that great.  No these are not the best slices I’ve ever had nor did I expect them to be.   But just something hit me in a special place.

GoodysTable2

The interior is so quaint  that I just wanted to sit there and appreciate the moment.  I did for a little bit.  And I did the same outside.

GoodysPie

My decision on what to order was made simple.  The slices on display were cheese and pepperoni.   I got one of each and was more than excited to try them.

GoodysSlices2

The amount of cheese on each may look like a lot to some, but it was just perfect. It was chewy, gooey, and everything else that makes a cheese slice magnificent and breathtaking.  Yes I said breathtaking.   The pepperoni’s made me feel like a kid again. Whether they were the freshest or most hearty pepperoni’s I don’t care.  Both slices made me so happy.

GoodysCheese

But what made these pizzas so endearing was the dough.  It’s the epitome of comfort food.  And I got comfortable, full, and full of happiness.   That word artisanal gets thrown around too much to where it means nothing.  This to me is what you would call that overblown word I said two sentences ago.  If you had to call it something then you could also call it awesome.  The dough was soft in spots, crunch in others, and it made me so happy.

GoodysPepperoni2

This is my kind of style of pizza.  And sometimes it doesn’t need a city or a label to describe that style.  It’s just marvelous eating day or night.

I say day or night because they’re open for the late night crowd on the weekends as well. But I would put this pizza up against any of the greats in the area for a great daytime slice or pie.  I mean that.

It was so affordable too.   And for this area, affordable is always welcome.  I think I barely spent $6 on both.

Most important of all, the owners behind the counter could not have been nicer.  It wasn’t just what they said but it was how they carried themselves and how they said things.  They just seemed so sincere, so genuine, and so happy to be running a great business that looks like is doing well and is a bright spot in a sea of chain restaurants and bars that all start to look the same after a while.

Local business is what it’s always about and I’m honored to have supported this one.

GoodysTable

If you’re in the area I cannot talk about how great this place is.  Here is their menu,  here is more on the pizzeria itself, and contact information.

GoodysUSA

Everything about this was beautiful.  I can’t wait to see where the pizza journey takes me next.

Thank you so much.

Ideen

 

 

Four Corners of Fun

JetsPizzaSlices

Yeah that title is cheesy (ha!) I know.   I just think it’s appropriate considering the pizza, the location, and the all around mood I was in.

JetsPizzaShoppe

Jet’s Pizza is somewhere I should have heard of.   Maybe I have and knew or the time it was not quite within driving distance and slightly out of reach.

A trip to sunny and glorious Florida included a visit to Ft. Myers, which has its own sense of beauty that my words won’t do it justice.  But how happy I am that my first visit to a Jet’s location takes place here.

JetsPizzaGuy

There wasn’t anything out of this world about the store, and that’s just how I liked it.  I don’t recall any tables or chairs to sit in, but that could just me being overly excited about trying some pizza that was quick and easy.  And would be easy to write about.   This will be one of the easier ones.

Just envision that life is going good, you’re on vacation, time is standing still, and you spent it with some fantastic people.  That’s going to make most foods, most experiences, and most anything taste better and feel that much more invigorating.

JetsPizza1

It helps that this pizza was spectacular.

When I walked in the door I had no idea what I was expecting.   The joy comes initially comes from knowing I’m trying a pizza out of the way, and might not be on my radar anytime soon.

JetsPizza2

Time wasn’t necessarily of the essence, but I did want something for the road.   I was hoping for a cheese and a pepperoni (you know keep it simple), but all they had was the latter.  Considering the store had just opened (yes I was more excited than usual, but pizza is exciting…) the only thing available pepperoni.    And as I’ve said before,  I could easily pick the pepperoni slices if necessary.

JetsPizza3

In this instance it wasn’t necessary.  The deep dish and greasy goodness is the stuff of vacation, it’s the stuff of marvel, and it’s the quintessential and affordable comfort food is just what the travel Gods ordered.

JetsPizzaPlate2

And when I mean greasy, I mean greasy.  And this is a compliment.  I wanted something like this to capture what I don’t know.  Maybe just some happiness.  I was happy and honestly one slice was enough that I saved the other for later.   Deep Dish squared pizza just has this approachable look about it.   It takes me back to my youth and my childhood, and from where I can’t quite picture it.  But it brings back joyful memories and sentimental feelings that only be described as fun.

As their synopsis says, pizza should be fun.  And ‘Life is Short. Eat Better Pizza’, is their mantra and I agree on both.    And I recall my two slices and a soda was $6 or so, at the most.  A tremendous deal.

JetsPizzaPlate

This isn’t meant to be the world class, overly analyzed artisan pizza that many places tout themselves as, and throw that word ‘artisan’ around to the point it means nothing. Their pizza means something.  The crust was heated to perfection, the cheese was great, the pepperoni was great, everything was great.  I have no complaints.  I only have good things to say.

I imagine if I came across a Jet’s Pizza in not so romantic circumstances I would still be heaping praise where praise is deserved.  I absolutely love the lack of pretension and I adore the genuine vibe I get from their pizza and this pizzeria.

An awesome vacation visiting some awesome people helps.  But that’s for another time. I’m so happy right now!

JetsPizzaPlate3

For more on Jet’s Pizza, here is their menu, their locations, and their charming story.

JetsPizzaBox

I can’t wait to go back, when can I go back?  There’s so many pizza options that calling this the beginning is an understatement.

Where do I go from here?  Hopefully a return engagement can match the joy attained fro this visit and my visit to Ft. Myers overall.

This makes me feel so good.

Ideen

 

Burnin’ In My Soul

FiresidePizzaWine3

I like to write about things.  Last year I wrote about a mobile pizza food truck at a wine festival.  Now I like wine too, but if I feel compelled to write about the tastings and various festivities at well, this festival, then I will get around to it.   If you sense my enthusiasm is lacking then you’re spot on.

FiresideTruck

But every cloud has a silver lining or something.  And this one goes by the name of Fireside Pizza of Hagerstown, MD.   This years’ pizza truck kept it simple but then it didn’t.

FiresideMenu

You could purchase two slices of cheese or pepperoni for $5.00 total.  Noticed I said cheese or pepperoni.  Their explanation was that they were cooking the pies separately and couldn’t give you one slice of each.  I understand the rationale.  Whether that’s the explanation given to everyone is not something to question.  Wait I think I just questioned.

But based on the grande scale of the event and the clientele being a bit demanding when it came to wine samples, food samples, and who knows what else, food trucks, food stands, stations of all kinds have to protect themselves.

I respect the $10 credit card minimum for that reason among others.

A whole cheese with one topping was $20.00.  I didn’t have enough people in my party of a big enough appetite to justify that a the time.  And the specialty pies at $22.00 may be a stretch for many people.

FiresideSlices

I sound like I’m being hard but I’m really not.  I didn’t see a lot of people ordering full pies, but this was earlier on the day.  As more people have had their samples, their sips, and then their bottles, they will get hungry.  And they’ll be willing to spend a little more to eat, and eat right away.

FiresidePizzaWine

Myself, I was one of the folks who ordered two slice of pepperoni but made one of them a cheese.  Simple I know.

FiresideCheese

This was good pizza.  And when I mean good, I mean good.  I bet at a more controlled and less raucous event the pizza would taste that much better and made under more ideal conditions.  I hope I’m making sense.

These were solid thin slices, that even though were on the small side had a great charred taste to them.  And the cheese and pepperoni did their job and did it well.  I think I enjoyed my pepperoni and my faux cheese slice equally.

If I was in a more laid back atmosphere I think the pizza would taste that much better.

Local business is one of the most beautiful things out there, so I hope they succeed, wish them all the best, and hope to catch them at another event down the line.  And maybe try one of their specialty pies.  I’m curious now.

FiresidePizzaWine3

For more on Fireside, here is their website and their other page with more information.

Summer means more outdoor events, more parties, and hopefully more chances to write about brick oven and wood fired pizza served outside, served with some soul, and served with the best of intentions.

I look forward to it.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

 

 

…Your Favorite Pizza Shop

LittleItalyPizzas

How many different ways can you articulate your fondness and affinity for a town, for it’s spectacular views, small town vibe, and yes the inspirational pizza?

Annapolis has my heart.  Whether I have theirs is a topic for another lifetime, but even the missteps tend to be charming.  And the charm tends to be all that more charming. Yes I’m romantic.   I just love this place so much.  And part of this reason is I have no reason. It doesn’t necessarily get me and I don’t necessarily get it.  Everything about it just feels right.  I feel one with so much when I’m here.  It’s those proverbial goosebumps.

We’ve arrived at Memorial Day Weekend.  How’d that happen?

As I did two years ago, this kind of a homage and congratulations to the Naval Academy and all the commencement activities that will be taking place this weekend.

Here is my pizza history with my favorite state capital.

LittleItalyAnnapolis

A little bit away from the commotion and situations in downtown is a little hole in the wall, Little Italy Famous Pizza & Pasta.

If I hadn’t done a little research after the fact I would think this place would have been here for decades and honoring the authenticity of Italian Style, New York Style, and any other old world style pizza and restaurant for that matter.

I was asking around to friend who do live, have lived or spent frequent time in the area to see if anyone has eaten there.  I either got no response or pals saying they’d never heard of it.

Then I find out this place has been open less than a year.   I was all set to get excited and talk about how this is a diamond or a gem within many others.  My preconceived notions and presumptions are not going to sway me towards the negative.  Not yet at least.

If the pizza’s good then we’re onto something.

It was once a Peruvian Chicken restaurant that converted into this current restaurant. Maybe it’s new owners and maybe it’s some of the same folks that felt like a rebranding was necessary.  And there’s nothing right or wrong about that.  Local business is what I root for, is what many of us are rooting for to succeed because they’re still the heart and soul of so many things.    And there can never be soul.

With that said, the pizza was not exactly what I expected.  Maybe I was going to strike gold and find something not many others have.   Not quite.  It was good but it wasn’t life changing.  But the pleasant surprise was they had slices.  I was going in assuming I would get a small pie to go, but they have their pizza trays with a few choices and that made me happy.

LittleItalyPizzas4

I got three and because we feasted heavily on meat last week I figure I would dial it back and go with the cheese, the white, and the veggie.  And did they put on a lot of veggies.

LittleItalyPizzas3

Again, nothing wrong with them.  I just wanted more.  And I’m one of those people that doesn’t ask for a whole lot except in this instance I want my pizza to taste good.

LittleItalyVeggie

The crust was fine on all of them.  Since I don’t have much to say about the cheese or the sauce, I will say the vegetable slice with all of its overloaded vegetables was slightly charming and entertaining in a way.  Maybe I was just (and am) entertaining myself, but it was my favorite of the three.

I do wish I took a picture of the interior.  They had those red and white vinyl tablecloths you might have seen at a restaurant when you were a kid and might still see today.

That’s what made me think this place has been around for a while. I love the attention to detail.  It may not mean to much but I found it endearing in a way.  For that reason a lot it will make me come back.

The pizza may not have been great this time around but I’m all for giving it another chance.  I think this place has some great food to offer including their pizzas.

LittleItalyaPizzas5

Their menu, location, contact information, and story is all available on the main page.

If this works out I will be doing another Annapolis location next week or soon.  And one that’s close to Little Italy Famous Pizza & Pasta.

No this wasn’t my favorite pizza place as the title says but I got a kick of the to-go box. And I thought I saw them all…

LittleItalyPizzaBox

Have a blessed and safe holiday weekend,

Ideen