With All The Trimmings


This is a Thanksgiving Special two months in the making.   And the holidays means roads trips, leaving town, going to see family, and all the other stuff that makes this overly busy holiday that much busier.  But what would the fun be if it were otherwise?

For this particular trip, I was on my own.  A visit to one of my favorite cities, Philadelphia, led me to one of the more unique and creative pizzeria experiences I’ve had in some time.

Rustica in the Northern Liberties part of town, looks very welcoming, approachable, and unassuming all at the same time.  It has a neighborhood feel to it that my pictures may not do it justice.  It feels like a corner bar or restaurant that I would frequent on a regular basis if I lived close by.  I’m heaping a lot of praise before I even walk inside.  As I always tells myself, I hope I’m not setting myself for disappointment.   This would not be the case.  Rustica is awesome.

rusticafront2As their story says, they’ve been a part of the growth of the neighborhood since its inception back in 2001.  Before I knew anything about this place, (other than the fact they served creative slices)  I got a sense when I was driving through and then walked through the neighborhood, that Northern Liberties has really developed.   It had been many years since I last set food in this part of Philly.  I did recall it was less populous and less busy than it is today.  And there’s room for more.  It still feels like a hidden gem within such a hectic and ever-growing city.

Ok now onto the pizza.

Through my limited knowledge, I did know they had some creative slices but I didn’t know how inspired they really were.  In hindsight I’m even more happy with my three slices. Yes I got three.  I would have had more if my stomach could handle it.  It could barely handle two.  Yes they were thick, rich, full of life, and inspiration.  Yes I said inspiration again. There was a lot of soul and effort to make these pies

I’ll start with the simplest and work my way to my holiday special.


Do you see that cheese slice?  I know right.  It has the look of what a thick and hearty cheese slice should look like.  This would be considered an extra cheese in most places but not here.  If you like your dairy and you like your dough than this is the equivalent of heaven on earth.  Wow this was something else.


On almost any other day I would talk about the Jambalaya last.  I feel bad putting it in the middle with the two bookends.  However, that doesn’t discount how incredibly good this was.   The andouille sausage, the fresh and smoked chicken,  red peppers and those carrots are a wondrous and mesmerizing combination.   These are the freshest toppings.  They cut no corners and spared no expense.  Oh by the way, I honestly forgot there were clams on the pizza.  Not that it wasn’t memorable.  It’s more that the other toppings stood out more.  White as the base seems a bit understated with all the other players involved.  And that’s saying a lot.  This was a visual and palatable achievement.


Now serendipitously we go to our holiday feast special  I didn’t realize at the time I was celebrating Thanksgiving early. but the Brisket with mashed potatoes, and gravy is one of those slices that may not be for the faint of heart.  It’s not quite turkey but this is the perfect protein to go with mashed taters, gravy, and thick bread.   And as rich, hearty and intimidating as it may sound, it’s a creative masterpiece.  I tend to throw that word around a lot but this was a special one.


This visit took place couple of months ago but I might as well have been celebrating Thanksgiving then.  And little did I realize I was.   I’m so relieved I waited until now to talk them up.   And they deserve all of the praise and accolades you can throw at them.

All the good that they do for their community makes me even more grateful I supported a business that represents strong support for local and national organizations.  That’s what the holidays and life is all about.

Because they do so much good, the energy levels are much higher.  The pizza is automically heightened to taste even that much better.  So if the pizza was only average it would turn into good, but because this pizza was already great,  that makes it near perfect.

If you live in Philadelphia chances are you’ve at least heard about them.  If you’re visiting or planning to, make this a part of your holiday plans or whatever plans you like.   I intend to be back and intend to try some more outside-the-box slices.   Their prices may turn some folks off and I certainly understand that, but you’re paying for quality.  I’ll gladly pay a few dollars extra for world class anything versus the norm.  We pay for what we get.  And you can always get a slice or two at around $5 per if that’s more within your budget.

I’ll gladly make it a part of my budget.

Next time I’m in town you know I’ll be stopping by here.

It’s the holidays  It’s about indulging, over-eating; and making everything bigger, larger than life, and out of this world.  These slices cover all those bullet points and then some.


Thanks Rustica for being a gem in a city full of them.

Happy Early Thanksgiving,


Hailing From New Haven


I’ve decided to go in a different direction this week.  Well not entirely.  I was all set to do another one from Philly.  That will happen at a later date.  I don’t have the entire word at my disposal yet.  But I do have significant parts of the northeast and Mid-Atlantic.


This weeks brings be back to our nation’s capital, Washington, DC.  And just when I had a place in DC lined up.  I changed my mind this week after an unplanned visit to Pete’s New Haven Style APizza.   And I was pleasantly surprised about so much.

The Village of Friendship Heights neighborhood where this Pete’s is located is right on the DC, Maryland line.  And this is one of the the more cozy parts of the city.  I like it.  In a town of transplants and what-do-you-do’s, this is one of the more folksy and approachable versions of DC you’re going to find.  Is this even real?  Maybe I’m being delusional but it’s fun to just believe.  Even if it’s a fallacy.  Well onto the pizza.

What is New Haven Style exactly?  Well I’m glad you asked.  I just put added the link two sentences ago, and right here for your edification.

If you had asked me two years ago what I  thought about this style, I would say no thanks. I would say it’s not real pizza, it’s a cheap imitation of the real thing.  How ignorant was I?


I had all the expectations of ordering a pie but when I walked in I was pleased to see a display of slices at the counter, and at affordable prices.  This is DC we’re talking about where things can be exorbitant.  I believe both slices totaled only $6.  Fantastic.


For the sake of my first visit here it was only right to go with the New Haven and the plain cheese, which didn’t have an alluring name.   Here’s the menu with all the captivating titles.


The New Haven is something that will need time to grow on me.  I love white pizza but clams is an acquired taste.  I love seafood and I love it on my pie.  And even though I’m a still a newbie to these kinds of pies, it was still a surprise when I got a double shot of crunch with from the thin crust and the clams themselves.  Again, to folks who are used to this kind of pie, this is the norm.  For folks used to traditional thicker crusts or New York Style this is an atypical apizza.  Ha I can be funny.    I was so deep into the clams that I hardly noticed the garlic, olive oil, or anything else.

Speaking of that crust, that has grown on me.  I like all kinds and for the many who want less carbs and less bloat, these slices will benefit a lot of us.


With that being said the tomato sauce on the plain is still something I can’t completely get into.  I know folks that love it and many of my friends from the metro area love this place. I see why.  There is an appeal.  It’s non traditional for what many of us are used to.  I am being careful as you can see, how I approach what might be traditional may be out of the norm for others.

The positive energy I got from the shoppe make so much sense.  Their community based efforts can be found here.  And here’s a little more.

Locations and contact info can be found here.


Speaking of locations, whether I’m back at Friendship Heights or another one will likely be at random.  There’s so many more slices and pies to try that this must be revisited.  I know I’ve said that before about other pizzerias.  I hope I can get back to this one at a reasonable time frame.

I had a good feeling before I even walked in and an even a better one after writing about it.

More to come,



Pizza All Over The World


Or maybe just in one of my favorite cities, Philadelphia.  This was going to be just like most pizza posts.   I was going to talk about the pizza, perhaps the area, the atmosphere, and maybe some awe-inspiring trivia fact about the the establishment itself.


Well Pizza Brain out of Fishtown brings the inspiration right to you.  And it’s the first pizza museum in the history of the world.  This is a big deal.   And they set have a Guinness World Record for pizza-related memorabilia.  How cool is that?  I didn’t know this until after I already left.   I’ve honored and proud to say I set foot in there.  And that concludes this weeks post.  But seriously…


How do you top that?  I did take some pictures and they’ll be spaced out over this record setting word-for-word blog post (yeah right) for your  viewing pleasure.

Most importantly, how was the pizza?  I like the fact that pizza is the only thing being served.  The menu in-house and online has an endearing and bohemian vibe to it.  At least that’s my interpretation of it.


For my estimation the prices on a full pie are a bit on the pricier side.  Yet I envision you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck on this, since all three slices were really good.  And out of that, I thought two were tremendous.


So yes I went with the three slices that we available for completist sake.  That and there was a credit card minimum.


The Jane is what it name implies.  Grana Padano is the virtually the same as parmesan cheese.  Whether or not I could taste a difference doesn’t matter.  It may be so subtle that many of us won’t notice.  I thought it was just a great pizza.  The basil was fantastic.  It tasted fresh and  the made this pie anything but a plain Jane.   They had provolone!  Now that I could taste.  It added a bitter and our taste to this pie.   This also explains why the padano may have gotten lost or forgotten in all this. But man this was good.  Many of us like our cheese simple but this is was a great take on the cheese pie.


The Henrietta Blanch is essentially the Jane but with sausage and peppers added to it. That sounds so Philly and Jersey doesn’t it?  The banana and roasted red peppers were great yet didn’t dominate this slice.  The fennel sausage was on another level.


The Felix Huppert was not quite as good as the first two.  This isn’t a knock on it, even though by me saying that would make it feel like I am.  I love gruyere but maybe after having two parmesan based slices that I didn’t get to fully appreciate this as much.  I love garlic.  The more garlic on anything the better. And that worked here.   And with that I love thyme.  There can never be enough thyme. Yes I meant that in at least two ways.  Caramelized onion complete this other Philly special.

I saved plenty to eat for later.  The thin crust made these slices too.  If the crust were more doughy and standard, the pies and flavors would suffer.  There’s a lot of thought and care going on here.   And speaking of which I wish I had asked about their community based efforts.   Their contact info is here and may be able to shed some light on this.  I love the mystery.  I dig this place.


I’m not done raving on this place.  I may be back soon.  And it looks like more is coming.

Spacing is limited inside, as the museum gallery and installations (ha I’ve been waiting to say that) justifiably take up a lot of room.  I wish I had stopped by the ice cream shoppe, which shares the space afterwards.  Summer means ice cream and ice cream means summer.  Next time.


What’s been eating at me while preparing this post, and may haunt me till Christmas. But can anyone tell me where I can find this gem?


Philadelphia brings it once again.  Here’s my growing collection of Philadelphia Pizza Posts!


This may continue next week.

Love To You My Friends,




Bake Shoppe Brilliance


Yes!  They spell, ‘shoppe’, the way I like spelling ‘shoppe.’  This makes me so happy. Kermit’s Bake Shoppe out of South Philadelphia, is a happy and cozy place.  It makes me yearn for a place like this near me in Maryland.

Where else can you find a combination of a bakery and a pizza parlor, all in a tiny, yet efficient space.

I was immediately drawn the mural outside the building.  I felt this was going to be a massive and imposing location where I would lose myself in a world of baked goods.  Most of that space is for the staff and equipment to make all their foods and toasty treats.

Literally, when I walked in, what I saw was everything.  We had your ready-to-go cookies and cakes in what area, pre-made whole pies and cakes in another, and course the pizza by the register.

In addition I saw pastries done up in funny shapes.  I’m not sure if they were straight up pasties or calzones.  I was a bit mesmerized by it all, while still having a one track mind for some hopefully yummy pizza.

I didn’t need much of a menu as the pizza display area only had a few pies at the time.  It makes the decision that much easier.  Sometimes too many choices can drive you crazy. But I’m still for many options as possible.  That wasn’t meant to be as contradictory as it came off.


The mood called for three slices.  Well that’s just my mood sometimes.  Another more sensible person may come in for one or two.  But the affordability of the slices lent itself to a little splurging.    My three slices came out to under $10.  That’s what I’m talking about.

There’s no tables, chairs, stools, or anywhere to sit.  I like that.  You get your food and you go on your merry way.  I dig this shoppe.


Happy Belated National Cheese Pizza Day. I did go with the traditional cheese as my first slice.  The pleasant person behind the counter told me this one just came out of the oven and didn’t need to be reheated.  It’s a simple cheese.  I wasn’t blown away by it nor was I disappointed.  I had no expectations either way.  The flaky crust was a definite plus and that was the theme throughout these three slices. The cheese was decent and the tomato sauce was what you would expect.  I think I’ve gotten used to either none or higher end tomato sauce that my palate has moved in a different direction.


Next up was the White Mushroom had some charm to it.  I love white pizza and this was really good.  I love mushrooms and the shrooms tasted fresh.  This was reheated in the oven but I almost think I’d enjoy it more lukewarm.    After reviewing the menu I forgot leeks and sea salt were two of the ingredients.  No wonder there was a little more to this than a usual mushroom or white pie.  And crucolo is not something I have everyday.  I may have to change that.


Finally, it’s the the Kerminator.  Yes you read that right.  I asked what it was and the team member actually opened up a binder to explain the ingredients to me.  That was going above and beyond when not necessary.  I felt bad making her go that far.  What would be even worse is if I didn’t order it.  Of course I did. Choucroute, which is fancier name for sauerkraut is the major selling point here.  This was thick and rich for me, so I took my sweet time eating this.  And across the board, I saved some of all these slices.  I can’t eat all this at once.  The caramelized onions did it for me.   Gruyere, crème fraiche, and ham seem more like something I’d like more during the cooler months or during the holidays. Well that will happen soon enough.  But for now this was enjoyable and I’m all for different.  I think I would appreciate this more after a second try.


Even though the place has only been open since 2013, I get the sense that the neighborhood loves it.  It’s a place for locals, as the surrounding area is very industrial and the food and drink options are a a bit scarce in the few block radius that I saw.


One of the friendly staff working there told me they were going through a transition. Everything seemed fine to me, but I’m sure whatever they have in mind is going to be spectacular.

When I’m back in the area I would love to try more than just their pizza.  This place has much to offer and I’ll be happy to  take them up on said offer.


And a ye old bake shoppe just tugs at my heartstrings on the premise alone.

Here are my past posts from the City of Brotherly Love and Za!

More pizza shoppe reviews to come.



Return of the Mack’s


This week I’m back in the great city of Philadelphia.  An unlikely pizzeria search leads me to Mack’s Boardwalk Pizza. I just ate here a few hours ago so this is fresh in my mind.  And speaking of fresh, this was something else.

After doing some crack research I find out that this is a spin-off of this place.  It looks like I’ll be working backwards unintentionally.  It’s like that trend in cinemas with flashback scenes and the whole nine.

The storefront is so gritty and so Philadelphia.  At least that’s my interpretation of it.

When I walked in I almost though I wasn’t supposed to enter.  The owner, who is a well-known character and local celebrity, made it clear I was ok.  I swear I thought I had to order from the outside, like any old food stand.

My visit was entertaining and I had yet to get my pizza.   The owner had a direct and no-nonsense demeanor about him.  He was cursing at things on the news and was waving his hands all over the place.  I kept a straight face the entire time.  The energy was a bit funny but also may be due to me.   I was out of my comfort zone.

For that and other reasons, I was hesitant to take some photos.  But I got a couple in.  As you can see the slices are in cake stands.   That’s pretty hilarious if you ask me.    The ovens look simple and fits the mold of this entire place.

There’s photos of celebrities adorning walls and various posters depicting Italian television programs and films.    You know, the usual fun stuff.

As for the slices, they were different.  The crust had a soft crunch to it.  It felt like I was eating saltines or a similar cracker-type dough.  I may not be exact on that, but it’s in the same vein.


How about that swirl of tomato sauce on top of the cheese?  That’s boardwalk style my friends.   The cheese was fine but not memorable.  It did it’s job and did it effectively.   The pepperoni is what you would expect, nothing amazing but adequate.


I didn’t have huge aspirations of this being the greatest pizza ever.  If you expect that you will be sorely disappointed.  Not all pizza, or food in general , can be judged on the same criteria.   This was better than I thought but this will never be the best nor is it supposed to be.  I suspect some may rank it highly.  I’ll tell you I did like it more with each passing bite.

Perhaps it’s because it was the energy of it being in South Philly and in a not-so-cosmopolitan neighborhood. It’s authentic and incredibly affordable.

My 2 cheese, 1 pepperoni, and can of soda was only $5. Yes you read that correctly.  That surely made it taste better.   And that mitigates the critiques.

The owner made my brief visit entertaining.  I almost wanted to stay and eat inside but I was on the road, and the seating was quite limited.  Limited as in I’m not sure there was any organized seating.

You can’t judge a book by its cover or the interior.  If you do either, you may be put off. But the pizza is good for what it is and that’s sometimes all you want.

If I’m ever back in the area I’ll definitely try a whole pie with some new toppings.

I don’t proclaim to be an expert on Philadelphia culture and life, but I’m happy to get more of a glimpse than what I’m accustomed to.  It was a visit I’m not going to forget anytime soon.

If you’re in the area or visiting the City of Brother Love, I highly recommend a stop, if nothing else just for the entertainment value.  I rather someone be genuine than a fake and sappy nice.

For a link to my previous posts on the city of brotherly love, go here.

Take good care and talk soon.




Viva La Rosa


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven through the streets of Philadelphia, and found myself on the gritty and more genuine feeling of Broad Street.

For the past 8 years I’ve been going to many a show, concert, and sporting event at the nearby South Philadelphia Sports Complex.   I know, what an imposing, yet inspirational name for it.  Well, maybe not inspirational, maybe just there.

My point is, I love Philadelphia, and I’m happy to now be embracing the pies that encompass this beautiful city.

Once again, I don’t know how many times I’ve gone past certain locales and thought nothing of them.  And now, over a year into this blog I actively look for pizzerias of all shapes and sizes.  One of those places is…

…a few blocks up the street from this sports and entertainment venue is La Rosa.


I wish I had come here sooner.  This is at about as palpable and authentic as it gets.

I had no idea what to expect when I walked in.  The outside may look imposing.  But here, as in life, never judge a book (or a pizzeria) by its cover.

I’m grateful that I did.  The lady behind the counter was randomly bringing slices out of the oven and placing them on trays.  It felt like cafeteria style.  And that could imply grade-school but I’m not making fun.  I found it refreshing.  There were no seats and the hallways were as narrow as a studio apartment or efficiency.  Oh I love Philadelphia.

The lady working could not have been nicer.   She was quick to explain what slices were which.  Did I mention that these were square-shaped?  I love ’em this way and it’s a pleasant deviation from the norm.

The slices looked buttery, thick, but not intimidating.  This isn’t a deep-dish or gargantuan concoction. This is a happy-medium that I think everyone, whether you’re a local or an outsider, is going to be appreciate.

There is a one source of frustration I will get to, after I go over the three slices I purchased.

I got the mushroom, the sausage, and the white spinach.  Can you guess the winner?


The mushroom was nothing spectacular.  I think they came from a can, which is alright.  But it didn’t really work here.  We know how bona fide mushrooms taste, and this wasn’t it.

The sausage was eons better than the former.  I was told that it actually comes from the city itself. I’m all for local and it shows.  It added a strong dimension to the slice.  It had the perfect blend of cheese, sauce, and the beef.


But the prize is the white spinach.   I could eat a hundred of these. Actually that’s a lot. How about just one for now?  This tasted like real spinach and the white cheese is on par with any of the best blanca slices I’ve had in some time.  May I have another?

The slight charring, mixed with the buttery and slightly crisp crust really won me over.

And the three slices didn’t even total $10.  That sounds like another win.

So why am I frustrated?   Before a planned visit to a place, I’ll do a little research. Sometimes I go in blind.  I prefer the latter but I wish this time I did a little preparation.

I found out later that their potato pie is their centerpiece and their big draw.  I wish I knew that ahead of time.   I don’t like to do repeat places too often but in this case I may make an exception.  I heard the sausage and potato pairing is what to go for.   Ah this is eating at me.  Oh wait…

I’ll have to come back.  Any excuse to return to Philadelphia is alright with me.


For my previous Philadelphia posts (alliteration is my addiction) you have your choice of here, there, and this one.  And here’s another.

Take care,



All The Love


I tend to remark about how experiences, things, and places find me.  In this instance, I’m so grateful to have found Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, in the great city of Philadelphia.

My random walks here (or in any town) lead me to restaurants and pizza parlors that I didn’t know existed.  I do some advance research, but in most instances I love to stumble upon a gem.  This is one of those diamonds that I may not come close to discovering again. I want to savor this place and this experience. I will attempt to heap all the praise I can.


What first drew me in was the $1 slices.  Who’s going to turn away upon seeing that sign?

Speaking of signs, you may notice a certain tv show the establishment was featured on. I’m intrigued and immediately think this place is noteworthy. Little did I know what an understatement that was.

Their concept is amazing, yet so simple.  The pizza and toppings include only the staples. You got pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, and that’s about it.   You won’t find any unorthodox toppings here. These are your essentials.


I will make this pizza review short, as this is not the point of this post.  The crust is thin.  I mean it’s really thin.  On a warm Philadelphia day, this was perfect.   It’s not a world-class slice nor does it need to be. For how little I paid and the soul behind it, this is masterful. We had a perfect balance of cheese and sauce. And that pork pepperoni felt inventive and original. That’s enough about the food.


Rosa’s concept is all about giving  back to the community.   For every dollar donated, a slice of pizza goes to a homeless person.  My heart warmed when I read that.  What a joy to be inside such a house of caring and love.


I still didn’t get all the post-it notes that adorned the walls, until I read the messages.   Per our donation, we get to write a note of spiritual healing and hopefulness.   A homeless visitor can trade that note in for a slice. The simplicity and sincerity of this approach gives me chills.

How other companies have not followed suit, or created a similar model is astonishing. This is a trailblazing concept that could not only sweep the city, but maybe across the country, and beyond.

It’s been my personal choice to rarely mention names in a blog.  I like the experience and the food to tell its own story.  However, the owner, Mason Wartman deserves all the support and praise in the world.   Does it get any better than this?

After my visit, I did all the research I could about this splendid and exquisite pizzeria.  I didn’t realize that Mason was the man behind the counter making those yummy pies.   It was an honor to feel that energy.  I’m shaking as I write this and looking back fondly on my experience.  He had a smile on his face and seemed happy in this endeavor.

The simple details only add to the brilliance of this place.  Neo soul was playing over the speakers, the countertops were cozy, and the young lady taking my order was approachable and pleasant.  It’s a magnificent energy that transcends any of us.

There’s plenty of sweet merchandise on-hand to purchase as well.  It all goes to the cause.


My intuition was right.  I had a warm feeling about this place before I even walked in.  But I had no idea I’d feel it ten-fold.  This is such remarkable thing to be able to support and contribute to.


I’m grateful Rosa’s is so close to me and I will know to make this a focal point of any visit to the city of brotherly love from this point forward.

If you’re a local or visiting the area, I cannot recommend this place anymore than I already have. I don’t think all the words and all the praise will do it justice.

There’s an option to order online but this is more than about the pizza.  This is a win-win for everyone involved.  The business is helping those in need, we do our part, and folks less fortunate enjoy something fresh.  What a simple model that could spearhead a movement, if it hasn’t already.

8500 slices were donated last year.  What does that tell you?  I could watch the video, featured on the main page, repeatedly.

I don’t know how to end this, other than to say go here.   When I look back at old posts of this blog, this might be the standard-bearer.  How do you top this?

This is first-class all the way.

Have A Great Holiday Weekend,