Say Hello To Everybody

SammysFourPizzaSlices2

That’s the feeling I got when I walked into Sammy’s Italian Pizza Kitchen, in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.  I’ve talked at length (history can be found here), about my fondness for our state capital.

Here’s Sammy’s menus, contact info, and more on their story can be found at the bottom of their main page.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen

I’ve been to Sammy’s many times before, initially out of curiosity, but then out of convenience.   The shopping center itself has a feel from decades ago, and once again takes me back to being a kid, and going out to lunch on a Sunday with my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and you get my drift.

It’s a feeling of comfort and familiarity that is a great reminder that restaurants don’t need to be fancy and over-the-top to produce quality food, service, a warm atmosphere, and a positive dose of energy.

Now in every town, you have your bakery, post office, general store (do those still exist?), local bank (one can only hope), florist, and many other mom-and-pops.  That does include plenty of good food, and of course pizza.

That’s the sense I got the first time I drove through this part of Eastport, and discovered this, among several other hidden gems.

What’s funny is there’s been many instances where I have not been enamored with their pizza.  I thought it was good, but nothing to necessarily write home (or write a blog/story) about.  I have an ongoing list of places I’ve been meaning to talk about, and Sammy’s among others was on that list, but I either never felt the time was right, or just wasn’t feeling it, good or bad.

You’ve got to feel it, positive or negative, or what’s the point?

But something about a recent visit felt different.  Maybe it was me, maybe it was the mood I was in, or maybe there’s just something else inexplicable, where I should just let it just be, and allow the best experience to come to me and find me.

That’s exactly what happened.

I love how you can’t see the inside of the restaurant from the outside.   There’s something mysteriously beautiful about this, that will draw many in, and I’m sure scare a few people off.  I promise you nothing about what I’m saying is to be feared or be made to feel afraid of.

The interior feels more authentic than how many more contemporary restaurants try to portray themselves as.  This just feels real.  And if and when you’re inside, I think you’ll get what I’m selling here.  Nor do I have to sell.  Everything about it sells itself.

SammysFourSlices

To go back to basics, I went with the four most simplest slices there is.   Cheese, pepperoni, white, and vegetable is about as genuine and to the core pizza as you’re going to find.  It’s as if the slices were there waiting for me.  Maybe they were.

The staff working the counter made me feel like home and made me feel good about my visit.  And to feel like a million bucks is not something you ask for or expect, but it’s great when it happens.  The next few groups of people that walked in got that same first class treatment.  It’s good to be feel important.  That feeling should come from within but it’s always gravy when it comes from external sources as well.

Before I go on any further of a tangent, this was the best pizza I’ve had by them in the multiple times I’ve been by.  And it’s not even close.  From what was once mediocre to decent, turned into fantastic.

What makes this all the more intriguing is I got these slices at dinner time.  I don’t know how long the pies were out.  Those are not the questions I should be asking, when the pizza turns out to be this good.  Maybe I answered my own question.

Maybe the reheating from the cold pies made it that much more tasty.  But good pizza is good pizza.  And these four slices really turned out well.

The pepperoni and the white were the true stand outs.   The crust and dough just had a taste about them that once again took me back to my younger days sharing pizza with family and dear friends.   That’s where a long synopsis is no longer necessary.

It’s a simple pizza, with a simple feel, from a creative source.

SammysFourPizzaSlices

What more can you ask for then what I just described?

That’s good pizza, nestled in a neighborhood in one of my favorite places.

If I could write about a place like this every week, I’d be happy.  But then it wouldn’t be so special.  Yet for now, this is to be savored, adored, and appreciated.

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I look forward to my next visit to Annapolis, and a future visit to Sammy’s.

Peace Be With You.

 

 

First Thyme For Everything

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I’m just going to go with it.  The best plans and situations, are the ones that are anything but well, planned.

How I ended up in historic Ellicott City yesterday is just one of those things that needs no explanation.  But I’ll explain a little something…

To trust in the universe is something I often take for granted or don’t think about.  Tha’s essentially the same thing.  But if you get in your car and start moving forward, you have to trust that where you end up, is where you’re supposed to be going.  Everything in between is that awesome unknown.   Well sometimes you know where you’re going, I just want to be melodramatic here.

Sometimes plans alter, directions change, and you end up in a charming town like Historic Ellicott City.  And you’re not getting any complaints from me.

I was in the mood for well, what that is I don’t know.   Coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, and everything in between, and in, out, and through the source, was on my mind.   But I sensed something different today.   The sun was finally out, and my mood was up.  All you need is a little daylight to inspire you, and get that spring (ha) in your step.

From where I parked on Main Street was a sign for a cafe that I swear I never noticed before.  But truthfully, this might have been my first time this calendar year back in one of my favorite places.   When I see a sign for tea, coffee, and other fun things I’m immediately drawn.

SyrianaFront

So with that I present to you Syriana Cafe & Gallery.

While the website is still on its way, here’s one of their pages for information.

I had no idea what to expect.  I honestly thought I was going to get some coffee to go and be on my merry way.  Instead, I noticed an endearing selection of teas (more on that in that here), and a menu that truly stood out.

Breakfast Thyme Pizza was the first thing that popped out, of course, why wouldn’t it?   I got that along with my tea, and from that point I walked around the multi level cafe and gallery while my food was being prepped.

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And all I saw was art.  It was splendid, captivating, and made feel like life is going to be ok.   And that’s not all that was ok…

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This is my first time ever writing about a breakfast pizza, and it was terrific.  I’m grateful this is the first.  And you can tell it was made with a soul and spirit that you’re only going to find at a local business.   But this had a little something else going for it.  What that is I can’t explain.  Again, sometimes it’s bigger than any of us and no words can do it the proper justice.  I’m just doing my best here.

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Heated on a magnificent naan bread and topped with thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and who knows what other amazing spices, this is not your ordinary pizza.  And why would it be?

BreakfastThymePizza

My pizza and along with much of the menu is inspired by food and drink from the owner’s native Syria.  As a bonus I got to meet Majd, and had the most spirited conversation that I’ve had in quite some time.   It could have gone on all day, but that will resume at another time.

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But I can’t recommend this place enough.  It’s been open since December, and the timing of all this is so fascinating.  I made my first ever visit yesterday.  They’re grand opening is this Saturday, April 14th (information can be found here), and there’s much to look forward to.

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Syriana Cafe is a tremendous addition to a neighborhood going through lot of changes, while still maintaining the integrity of supporting local business with hopefully the same sense of community that created such a picturesque town to begin with.

This also leads in to SpringFest on April 21st.

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I’ll have more to say on Tuesday.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

Seeing The Good…

GoodBurger&Pizza

This whole thing about neighborhoods, cities, and major metropolitan areas evolving is something that’s there.  It exists.  And we can look at it as, it is what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it; or it is what it is and we must adapt.  Can’t say either scenario is mutually exclusive if you see what I’m saying.

It is what…  Oh wait…

The Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore is going through those changes, whether it’s for the better or something else is all based on interpretation, how long one has lived or spent time there, and just making observations of what’s going on in the world.  It might be bittersweet, but hopefully can be embraced somewhat, and the historic parts can all preserved in spite of everything else.  Or in spite of, aha!

While I recently wrote about one amazing new pizza place in the area, I go in a similar, yet different direction with what I write about now.

GoodBurger&PizzaFront

Good Burger & Pizza has been around for a little while, and seems to inconspicuous in its presence and its aura.  Maybe that’s just my interpretation.   Here is their menu, and online ordering info.

If you recognize the location, then yes, it was the old Little Italy Pizzeria, which was a mainstay for so many years and a stop for folks in the neighborhood and visitors, to grab a slice, a pie, and many other standard carry out items, day or night.  Yes they stayed opened past last call.

While no longer staying that late, Good Burger & Pizza does stay open into midnight on the weekends.  It’s just one of those things that echoes a change in the neighborhood.  It may not be that big of a detail, but it’s something I sense.

GoodBurger&Pizza1

What I honestly didn’t sense is a pizza that would be so good and at such a reasonable price.

I was happy to see a large square pizza for only $11.  And what you get for that is the equivalent of 5-6 meals.  Seriously, it’s fantastic.  And I ordered a half cheese and half pepperoni to share with friends.

And shared with friends I did…

I brought this to a holiday gathering a few months ago, and it didn’t disappoint.   This is greasy goodness at its finest.   This is not going to win any championships or awards, but this is a grower and on the lines of pure comfort food.

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That crust is cooked perfectly and the amount of cheese and toppings placed from above is all most people want from a pizza.   When you’re not worried about details, or even if you are, this is a pie that’s going to sell you without having to sell anything.  It sells itself.

And I really think the square slices are a nice touch.  Yes I know that’s no an original concept, (this place may claim that title, read about it here), but it’s their take and they did a tremendous job.   I must admit, I didn’t have high expectations, and it’s not that they were low whatsoever, I went in with an open mind and I feel good about the results.

It feels like a carry out spot that belongs in the neighborhood and has the aura of a place that’s been around for a long time.  And that’s the good vibes you get from a local business.

So while many local businesses are closing its doors, changing hands, and just moving on; it’s good to see many others thriving.  This is so important to the integrity, backbone, and character of not just this neighborhood, but many.

Here is my ever growing pizza history of Fells Point.

I look forward to writing about many more small, independent, and local businesses to come.

Have a Happy Holiday Weekend!

Best,

Ideen

Elevate Me To The Sky

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I’ll be the first to say it, but I’m really not.  I don’t care for winter.  I don’t get the excitement that others do, and I don’t think I ever will.   I respect everyone’s view and feeling about it, but it’s not for me.

Maybe it’s past memories, when I was a kid and maybe even more recent than that, of feeling trapped for upwards of a week, with little resources, no food, no one really around to hang out, and nothing but my thoughts.   And that can make someone stir crazy and a bit lonely.

So we had our first significant storm of the season recently, and those fears returned.  There’s trauma from the past rearing its ugly head, and those feelings of dread that might be warranted, might be justified, but are they really justified.   Sometimes you (I) just need to get out of your head and just appreciate things for what they are, what is, and what is being.  It’s all temporary anyways.

Just as this day (and it was only a day) of having nowhere to go, which in many ways can be a good thing.  I don’t need to worry about work, doing anything, and anything is the operative word.  I did absolutely nothing except relax, have a little food, enjoy some vino, and lay in my bed with my cat.   Saying it was needed is incorrect because ‘need’ implies lack.  So I’ll just say it was welcome, calming, and refreshing.

Where is all this going?  Well I did somewhat fall prey to the chaos of having to buy a few groceries in case the weather turned worse than expected (it didn’t come close), which lends itself to the perfect excuse to buy frozen pizza, which is something I would like to do more of for this blog.

So with that I present to you two from Urban Pie Pizza Co.

I had seen Urban Pie promoting and handing out free samples of their pies (sometimes whole pizzas) back in 2015 but it didn’t register and for whatever reason I didn’t let it resonate.  Well that would make sense right?

I love how their pizzas are inspired by various neighborhoods.  That’s different and that’s a draw alright.

Because of that this will have to be revisited again sooner than later, but for now the two that were available (bear in mind the pizza aisle was somewhat decimated to the pending weather situations) were the Truffle Alfredo with Shiitake and Crimini Mushrooms (North End neighborhood, don’t ask me where that is but I should know…) and the Pesto with Fresh Mozzarella out of Little Italy (yeah I know…)

Can you guess which one I liked and actually preferred much more?

I’ll go with the Truffle Alfredo first.  Actually I’ll explain that the crust on both is fantastic and was one of the true highlights of both pies.   However, something was missing with the Truffle Alfredo.

UrbanPieTruffleAlfredoPizza

I wanted more flavor and it just didn’t seem to come through.  And I wanted to make sure I heated this thing properly, and even if the timing wasn’t perfect (I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here but you’ll see the flip side on the next pie) I still expected some tremendous flavors, but it fell short.

In a way that might be good.  Truffle can be too rich for some.  I know it’s been too powerful for me to take on certain occasions, but I didn’t get much of anything.  And same goes for the cheeses, onions, and mushrooms.  It was a bit of a disappointment.

On the contrary, the Pesto Fresh Mozzarella is an absolute winner.

UrbanPiePestoMozzarellaPizza

And you see it may looked overcooked in some parts, and maybe the tomatoes looked under cooked, but it didn’t matter.  The pesto and mozzarella are gold and golden, like the crust.  Haha that was meant to be funny.   But regardless,  I got more enjoyment out of this slice than the previous pie of course.

UrbanPiePestoMozzarellaPizzaReady

The way the mozzarella goes from pre heated to becoming one with the pizza is a joy to see.   And I’m so glad the taste matches the visual.   Terrific stuff.  This is art.

And if it wasn’t for being ‘forced’ inside during a snowstorm, who knows when I would have gotten around to trying Urban Pie.  That sounds like a slight but believe me its not.  It was meant to happen this week.  And it will be meant to happen again soon.  When it’s supposed to.

To learn more about Urban Pie, here is their storycontact info, and the link to find their pizzas near you is at the upper right hand corner of their page.

This was rejuvenating and I look forward to Spring, and what pies cross my path and what finds me, or maybe I’ll find some myself.  But for now…

Peace Be With You.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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

 

Now Open For Business

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The joy of this thing comes in finding the pizzerias outside of major cities.   And the joy also comes in when I’m not looking too hard for it, or not looking at all.

This brings me to Odenton, MD, which is a town not everyone in Maryland (or outside Maryland) has ever heard of or let alone visited.  Until a few years ago I was one of those folks.

But that’s the fun of it, different town, different experiences, and that means finding a hidden gem, pizza or otherwise.

It made me so happy as I was driving towards a nearby neighborhood in the area when I saw decorative signs for something.  I had to look closer and even closer, and to my pleasure it was for the newest pizza place in town, Angelina’s.

AngelinasSign

Just the thought out of that alone made me so happy.  I have a log of things to write about, and I’m glad to keep certain places on the back burner for now.  They didn’t fit write just yet.   While a place that has been barely opened a month certainly fits perfectly.

The space is massive.  I have no idea what was in this space (if there was another restaurant) and in this instance it doesn’t truly matter.  What matters is what was going on at the time.

But back to the space.  There’s plenty of picture frames on the wall from all walks of life. There was Italian music playing as soon as I walked in.  I think I heard an Andrea Bocelli song once or twice.  No complaints there.

And the dining room with their beautiful chandeliers on one end was gorgeous.  It’s a great setting for a dinner party with pals.

There were plenty of slices to choose from.  All averaging around $3-$4.

Because I’m hardly ever in the area, and the newness of the place, I wanted to recap more than just my standard two slices.  This time we have four.  And as I write you’ll understand that I didn’t finish everything all at once, or at a later time.

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I loved how the white and the caprese looked so bright and so inviting.  I just had to try these two first.  But neither one translated into quality slices.  The crust was fine but had a flatter kind of crunch than what I would prefer.  And the cheese seemed to be missing something.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the quality of the cheese, the crust, and the toppings on both just missed that wow factor.  It wasn’t close to that.  I would call it decent but not much else.   After picking at both slices, I didn’t finish half of either.

AngelinasCaprese

AngelinasWhite

That’s because I was saving for a couple more to go.

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For the road, I went with the cheese and buffalo chicken.  And while my expectations were lowered I didn’t discount how good either of these could be.  I love the look of breaded buffalo chicken on a pizza, or anywhere.  But unfortunately the chicken tasted dry and flat.  The celery and sauce were fine but the chicken took away from the rest of the pie.  The crust was once again decent, but it felt under cooked as the previous two slices.

AngelinasBuff

But we know the truth.  You have to judge a place by the cheese, and the cheese alone.   So after feeling a bit dismayed at my previous endeavors, the cheese was tremendous.

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Even at first glimpse it seems a little more care was put into this pie versus the others. The sauce was better, the crust was eons better than the others, but the cheese reminded me of the great slices I’ve had in a while. This isn’t the greatest cheese I’ve ever had but I’ll be thinking about this for a while.  I’m thinking about it now.

AngelinasCheese

If I’m back I will try some more.  If you’re in the area I would suggest giving them a try and finding out for yourself.   Local and family business is always the best.  And I have to say it again, their cheese was fantastic.

Here is their menu and their contact information.

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Man that was cheese was good.

Ideen

 

A Slice Special

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We took this show on the road all the way up to quaint and charming Shrewsbury, PA.

I don’t imagine many people reading this would consider this town the mecca of action, move making, let alone pizza.   This is now why my friend and I drove through necessarily.  It’s good to go on adventure, go with the flow, and discover places, gems, and inspiration on the way.

And that’s exactly what happened.

SonsFront

My buddy and I did some advanced research on pizza places in the vicinity and Sons of Sicily was on the list, and one that got a decent amount of praise.

With that the strip mall itself looked like something out of the past, which is always refreshing and welcome.

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The interior was also simple, no thrills, and may feel uneventful and lacking enthusiasm to some, but I found it once again, refreshing.

When slices are not in display there may be the moment of concern that wait times to get a personal, medium, or larger sized pie may be longer, and then you’re stuck with all this pizza that you may or may not want later.  But who are we kidding, there’s always time for more pizza.  Seconds and thirds have never been an issue to me and I can’t imagine and issue to many.

But a legitimate concern I’ve had is when a place doesn’t have slices on pizza trays, but will make slices and add any toppings you like.  That takes the fun out of it for me.  If I want a cheese and a cheese with a topping of two I’m either better off getting two cheese slice or two slices of something else and pull the toppings off to pretend that I got a cheese instead.  I’m going a bit off course but I’ve always felt asking to add toppings, while giving us a sense of control, also takes the fun out of it.

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Luckily, the special for today and this week was a Barbecue Chicken.   My friend and I got one cheese, one bbq chicken, and a fountain drink.  For the two slices and a soda the total came out to under $6.  Yes $6 for a lot.

And by a lot I mean these slices are no joke.  As you see in these pictures they got some size to them.  The argument can be made that this is the legitimate equivalent of having 2.5 to 3 slices.

SonsCheese

The cheese was fine but nothing to write home amount.  I honestly thought it could have been heated just a little longer.  I’m not sure how much of a difference that would make as the cheese wasn’t anything memorable and the sauce was sweeter than what I’m used to.  Sometimes sweeter pizza sauce will enhance a pizza.  That didn’t work here.  If anything it took something away from it.

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However, the barbecue chicken had a little more soul and effort put behind it.   The cheese looked and felt more inspired.  The shredded pieces of chicken with the barbecue sauce glaze looks as good as it tastes.  I adore how they put on the drizzle.

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You can also see the difference in how long this pizza was in the oven.  This dough was cooked to near perfection.  This is a great slice and I’m so grateful this was the special today, or else I would have never gotten a chance to write about it.  I mean it because…

I don’t know the next time we’ll be back in the area.  Summer and life is for adventures, so the change in towns, locations, pizzerias, and fun things in general will hopefully be the norm and not the exception, not only this summer but throughout the year and throughout life.

So it’s possible a return will come sooner rather than later.   And I look to find some more hidden and not so hidden gems along the way.  Speaking of which the staff was extremely friendly and asked us how we felt about our choices.  One was particularly adamant about her love for the barbecue chicken.   We concur.  I concur.

SonsMenu

If you’re ever in the area and want to try a local, welcoming, and affordable pizzeria then Sons of Sicily may be just what you’re looking for.  Here is their menu and their contact information.

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Here’s to a Summer of great adventures and hopefully equally great pizza.

Feeling great,

Ideen