Happy Feta Fridee!

BuonAppetitoSlices2

Any time I go a bit out of the area, I’m going to seek out a pizzeria.  No matter how fancy or simple it might be, it’s good to leave home (that’s a relative term) and get to trying new pizzas and having new experiences somewhere else, even if it’s only an hour or so away.

So last Sunday I had the opportunity to be in Chantilly, VA.  I’ve mentioned before that I have ties to the area, so any opportunity to be in or around the vicinity makes me happy and feels like home (see) and feels so real to me.

Chantilly like most of Fairfax County, like most of Northern Virginia, and like many flourishing suburbs in the Mid-Atlantic, and then around the country, is loaded with neighborhoods with fancy houses, pricey houses, lots of trees, a good mixture of people, and lots of peace.  Well hopefully lots of peace.

With that also comes lots of chain restaurants, stores you see everywhere else, and entities that might be deemed too safe the the rest of the world.  Sometimes that’s just what people want, and I don’t see a right or wrong to that.

As I leave one of the these gorgeous neighborhoods, I do a quick search for pizza in the area.  There’s always pizza nearby, you have to believe and trust the universe on this one.

BuonAppetito

And thankfully Buon Appetito’s was minutes up the road waiting for me, and waiting for my patronage.  Well I’d like to believe that.

There’s a lot of offices nearby so I had an idea of how the whole vicinity would look, and it was what I was expected.  And that’s not the most complimentary of well, compliments.

The shopping complex I entered is as bland and generic as it gets.  It’s loaded with stores I’d never want to set foot in, unless I’d really have to, and even that is a stretch.  I as hoping the pizzeria would be an oasis of hope within all the box stores that bookend (and elsewhere) dominate the place.

Fortunately, that would be a yes.

The owner is originally from Naples, so that lends to credibility and authenticity that you’re not going to get everywhere.

The inside is massive, it’s spacious, yet it’s so welcoming.

And I had this idea in my head that I was going to discover a different kind of slice.  I asked politely, and I received.

BuonAppetitoCheese

The cheese slice was reasonably good, but nowhere near the best I’ve ever had.  It’s a solid slice with good cheese and the sauce is what didn’t wow me as I’ve grown accustomed to.  The thin crust was fantastic.  If it’s a simple cheese pizza you’re seeking this will do the job and then some.   Many will love it, and do.

BuonAppetitoFeta

But here comes the slice that’ll keep me coming back.  The white pizza with spinach, and feta cheese cubes planted on top, is what pizza is all about.  Lately I’ve had some white slices that have disappointed.  As simple as it is to make it can also be botched and lose the taste, or either become too cheesy and too oily, or both.  This succeeds on all levels, the cheese, the crust, the spinach, and that feta oh my goodness. I write this in the morning and I’m craving one right now.  It’s absolutely off the charts stunning.

BuonAppetitoSlices

The bonus is that both slices came to under $5.  Yes you read that right.   For that and the feta, and likely so much other goodness, I highly recommend a visit to one of their two locations (Chantilly and Dulles), and I believe you’ll be dazzled as well.

For those who are local, you can order online.  For Chantilly click here, and for Dulles, here you go pal.

BuonAppetitoMenu

Here’s their menu and catering info, and their awesome story.

If I’m back (and I will be), I’d like to to this again.   This was fun.

Thank you so much.

Ideen

 

Lovely Lena

LenasPizza3

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

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

LenasSign

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

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

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

LenasPatio

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

LenasFront

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

LenasPizza

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

 

LenasCider2

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

LenasCider

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

LenasMenu

LenasPizza2

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

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

LenasSlice2

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

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

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

LenasDonuts

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

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

LenasBar

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

LenasToGo

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

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

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

 

Ideen

 

Paradise By The…

paradisopie2

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.

paradisosign

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.

paradisocorner

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.

paradisoboard

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?

paradisopie4

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.

paradisopie5

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

 

 

Hagerstown Is Happytown

NorthsideBoth

It’s been years since I drove into Hagerstown.  I haven’t avoided the town for any reason in particular.  It just hasn’t given me a reason to visit.  Maybe nothing has been presented to me.  And I grew up not far from there so I shouldn’t take where I come from for granted. But I’m not exactly from there, so I should’t be so dramatic.

Well a reason was presented to me, and sometimes it’s a chance encounter or a reunion with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.  Well it was neither of those things.   Sometimes the drive just leads you through small towns and random locales that don’t need any further explanation.  The views are usually awesome.

A lot has changed since I was here last.  The sad truth is many of these places are losing its charm, its community feel, and turning into everywhere else, with box stores, chain restaurants, and cookie-cutter entities we sadly cross paths with all too often.

The historic parts remain because either people fight to keep them, or they’re just too beautiful and authentic to replace.  We need that charm or the soul is eradicated.

I’ve pontificated far too long and no mention of pizza.

NorthsideFront

This brings me to Northside Pizzeria, which actually isn’t in the historic part.  But it’s in a shopping center (something about the term ‘strip mall’ feels generic as well, per my points earlier) that has that communal feel.  Yet we’re a few minutes away from the historic downtown.   At least I want to believe that.  Hey I’m in a new town, I’m gonna try some new pies.

When I read that it was family owned and operated, that was music to my ears.  I imagine the same goes for many of you.

Being at a pizzeria during lunch hour is a different beast than dinner time.  For me, the menu goes out the window.  I want slices or else there’s no meaning to this.   Ha, I can’t believe I just said that.

The interior has simple seating and a simple counter top for ordering.  It felt like old times or maybe it just felt genuine.  I can’t articulate this exactly the way I want it but the vibe felt familiar, going back to when I was a kid.  It’s one of those things for me and the universe to figure out exactly.

NothsideBoth2

I went with the cheese and the Hawaiian in honor of Summer.

NorthsideCheese

These were standard pizza fare.  I finished both but honestly can’t say either was amazing. Now I did brick oven and was hoping for that taste.  It didn’t shine through. My plain slice looked pretty plain. I understand that it was busy, slices were going like hotcakes, and not all slices are meant to be glorious.  The Hawaiian had some tasty ham and pineapple chunks, so I picked off the pieces, and enjoyed them on their own.  Nothing about the crust stood out to me, good or bad.

NorthsideHawaiian

Partially because I romanticize that feels like a road trip or vacation.  I want memories that are sentimental as cheesy as that sounds.   Did someone say cheesy?  See what I did?

NorthsideThePies

If and when I’m back, (and I will be back), I will give this another go.  And who knows, it might be dinner time.  The choices on the board look fantastic.

If you’re in the area or plan on driving through, I would absolutely stop in.   The service was top notch and no thrills.  In this setting, it worked perfectly.  More to come.

Happy First Week of Summer!

Best,

Ideen