Sentimental Sicilian Style

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For months I’ve wanted to go to Joe Benny’s. 

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Circumstances have presented themselves that it wasn’t supposed to happen just yet. Either because I came after hours (I find their schedule endearing and down-to-earth), or on days they weren’t open (they’re closed Mondays).

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It just wasn’t meant to be, for that time.  I have so badly wanted to try their foccacia pies.. And in the few years they’ve been open, I’ve heard almost nothing but glowing reviews, and how inviting and approachable their establishment is.

I concur.

A dear friend of mine had asked me where I wanted to go to dinner this past Saturday.  It was a welcome invitation that mirrors the theme of this post and experience thus far. And bear in mind, I had some idea of where I wanted to go.  I had a few days to think about it.   As the day approached and my friend reminded me of that fact, I came up with a few suggestions.  But Joe Benny’s was at the forefront of my mind.   It only made sense.

My original post about Little Italy can be found here.

We love Little Italy, we love Italian food, my friend is Italian, and it’s a place that had forever alluded me.

Funny that my friend had never heard of it.

What makes this even more charming is the place is self seating, a narrow space, with a few seats at the bar, and a sizable yet ample (cozy) amount of seats.   My friend got there before be and (at the time) grabbed the last one.   I love the restaurants of Little Italy because it’s in a universe all its own in Baltimore.  Many have great food, great wine lists, and many suggest reservations.

What makes Joe Benny’s stand out is their menu.  While many restaurants in Little Italy serve similar entrees, Joe Benny’s is not only the only Foccaceria in Little Italy, but it’s the first and only in all of Baltimore.  That right there is going to attract patrons of little Italy, old and new.

And it’s going to attract me back many times over.

This was perfection.

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We started with their seasonal sangria, that had a fall like taste to it.  I swear I tasted some cinnamon sticks, but I could be wrong.  It was enjoyable, and complemented our heavy meal that was yet to come.

 

The irony is that the heaviest part of the meal might have been the Mimma’s Meatballs. The baked beef and pork mix was delightful enough but it was that tomato sauce that screams habit forming.  And the bread that came with it nearly made us full before we even got to our pies.   I can’t stress enough how amazing this sauce was.  Of course we dipped parts of pizzas into the sauce…

…And speaking of which…

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My friend went with the Angry Ginger.  I went with the Kimtucky.

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How perfect that this past Wednesday (9/20) was National Pepperoni Pizza Day.  And that we have a pie to discuss on this most important of all holidays.  Did you happen to take off work that day?  Ha.  Well you might think pizzas of this magnitude would do just that.

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But the bread was not as filling as you might think.  There was a refreshing amount of air and a light heartedness to the pizza that doesn’t bloat you or make you full to the point of being down for the count.  It was quite the opposite.

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The all around red components of this pie made this not only beautiful to eat, but beautiful to look at.    The melange of pepperoni, roasted red pepper, spicy red pepper (yes both), tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella made this approachable looking pizza an absolute gem.   It was almost too pretty to eat, but well nah, enjoy.  It was tremendous.

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The Kimtucky continues my tradition of loving pesto.  I’ve emphasized this point many times and I’ll never get sick of it.   And the asiago cheese, roasted red peppers, along with that homemade pesto and fennel sausage made this another masterpiece.  Fennel is something I’m really enjoying on pizzas.

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And I’m glad we went with two contrasting pizzas to see how two different sauces, meats, cheeses, and veggies work on the focaccia.

I think they’re going to be alright.  This is one of the better experiences you’re going to have, not just with pizza, but dining in Baltimore.   The great company helps, the great atmosphere helps, but that food and drink made this all wrapped up in those pretty little bows we might make jokes about.  But this is no joke.  This was worthy of all the superlatives you want to throw at it.

We didn’t have room for dessert, we didn’t have room for much more.  We each took a little more than half our pies home.  Because while it wasn’t that filling, there’s always room for seconds.  And my kimtucky tasted just as amazing the next day, or maybe it was later that night.  Oops!  Yes, it was so good.

And we learned from our server, that the staff have their pies on the menu as well, sometimes as specials and sometimes as mainstays.  Judging from the looks of it, we will be back and will be back soon.

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You see the prices.  $15, give or take for these pies is well worth it.

I’m hooked, I’m a fan, and I always was before I even ever walked in the door. I can only hope the next time is coming soon.

Even their website is down-to-earth.

For more on Joe Benny’s, here is their menu, contact info, and their mission, which truly matches what we experienced.

 

Yes, their mission states it might take a few minutes longer than normal for the food.  But it’s so worth being patient.  Good things come to those…

I envision the same will happen for you.

Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

 

I’m In A Philly Mood

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It’s been a while since I expounded on about a pizzeria in the city of brotherly love.    That inaugural link can be found here.

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On Christopher Columbus Boulevard (or Delaware Avenue depending on who you talk to), within the vicinity of Penn’s Landing is a not-so-vibrant strip mall with a pizza place I stop into when I need something immediate and I gotta go lighting fast.

Little Sicily 2 has no polished website and that fits the mood and ambiance of the business itself.

There is no upscale dining or pretension.  I wasn’t looking for it.  Nor do I really ever.   And whenever I’m driving back from Philadelphia to Baltimore, I more times than not find myself passing by that I almost can’t no go inside.  I mean I can but this is more for dramatic purposes.

The slices themselves have never been the greatest nor should you expect them to be.   They’re comfort food after a late night out or like most folks, you just need something in your belly.   We don’t always have the time or the residuals for a dining experience.

I may be wrong but I swore they used to be open after the bars closed.    When I was in there late last Summer on an early Friday afternoon/evening, the cut-off time was midnight.

I’ve done the slow build long enough.  How was the pizza this time?   This was exactly like I was saying.

I ordered a cheese and a buffalo chicken.  In previous incarnations I suspect the pies were sitting out a lot longer than they have any reason to be.  I sensed more of the same here.

The slices were both chewy, soggy, and felt more like monkey bread than a regular ole’ slice.  And I’m not complaining.   This is exactly how their pizza is.

For the first time I actually sat down to enjoy my foods.  And trust me, I enjoyed it.   I also did some people watching.  Most folks seemed to be in a good mood.  I mean how could you not be?  It’s pizza, it’s greasy comfort food, and likely company you enjoy.  That’s what it’s always about.

Additionally, I noticed a few Indian folks working behind the counter and as patrons.  I did some crack research and found out there is a hidden Indian menu that you can order separately.  I feel foolish for being ignorant of this fact.  My goodness.  I want to indulge in some right now.

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The fact that a familiar friend, Wawa, is right next door is charming to me.  I wrote about their pizza too. Not this exact location but a corresponding one nonetheless.

By the way, is there a Little Siciliy I?  If there is I somehow think the mystique and allure of this place would crumble.  Does that make sense?  I know Little Siciliy and facsimiles are all over the place but I just want to believe there’s this II and Part 1 is some magical place far away.

My love and sentimentality with Philadelphia is an inexplicable thing.  Maybe I do know but I can’t expound on it just yet.  But it’s always brought the strong energy to me.   There’s something else though.  It might be too good for words.

I promise you the big guns of one of the most awesome cities are coming.  There are a lot of a good pizza jawns in town and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you guys.

With Love,

Ideen