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.

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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.

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

Happy What’s Left of the Holidays,

Ideen

 

 

With All The Trimmings

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Happy Early Thanksgiving,

Ideen

Viva La Rosa

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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,

Ideen