All The Colors, See The Colors, Feel The Colors…

OCGodfather

I was all set, like I usually do, to link the website to the specific restaurant or pizzeria that I would be writing about this week.  I’m surprised that I can’t find anything for the OC Brewing Company.  I’ve linked a review page, among other links for your information.

Nevertheless,  I was invited by a friend to meet up here earlier this week, at their Abingdon, MD location (not far from where I live) just to catch up and have some foods, and drinks.  You know because that’s what goes on at a restaurant.  Even though I’ve found myself being indecisive and just sticking with water.  That has happened more than once.

Little did I know, this place serves pizzas, and flatbread kinds to boot.  That made me happy.  But even all the while, it still didn’t sink in that this is an easy thing to write about since it literally found me and fell in my lap.  Sometimes life works out that way and you don’t have to do much searching.

Now I do have a backlog of restaurants, pizzerias, and pizza parlors (mutually exclusive much? hmm..) that I will or may never get to.  But as the weather continues to be cold, and I prepare myself for more of the heavy hitters to come along the way, it’s nice to find a few gems and unexpected turns in the road.

OCMenu

I can’t link a menu, but thankfully I did get a snapshot of their pizza selections.

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My friend got the cheese, and after seconds of agonizing I ordered the Godfather.  I knew I wanted it but I had to be coerced into saying yes.  It’s just food.  Maybe I get kick out of being indecisive, maybe it’s the Gemini in me, or maybe I relaxed and let the pizza come to me.

And after a few minutes, our pizzas arrived.

Now if you like flatbreads, square & rectangular shaped pieces (which may remind you of this place), then you’re going to feel satisfied.

OCCheese

When thinking about how to review a pizza like this, I shouldn’t think so much.  I shouldn’t think so much on this to begin with.  But I will be less critical than I would be if the pizza carried a certain weight or aura about it.

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There’s lots to like.  The dough is simple, that means that the crust was heated and came out just right.  There’s a lot more cheese (per what my friend said) than you might expect, per the cheese pie.

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For me, the Godfather was a solid choice.  Our server told us it’s one of the more popular ones.  I can understand that.  The name has a familiarity about it, though I have no idea from where.   Yes, that would be sarcasm.

But it’s essentially a supreme with a little more kick to it.    Some seasoning was needed to add even a little more flare to our pizzas.

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So while this is not going to be award winning pizza, it’s going to make you happy, make you feel good, and bring joy into your life.  And that’s all you want from your pizza, and from all the simple pleasures we seek.

I’m grateful for the afternoon and time spend catching up, in a different yet close by setting, which I hope will happen again.  Which means another pizza story might be forthcoming.

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What’s also funny as I write this, is how often do we not go to places that are so close to us, because of the proximity, because it’s literally right there, and it’s easy to take for granted.   I don’t want to take things for granted.  I want to appreciate what is good and what is all around me, right in front of me, and right beside me, whatever that may be.

More to come…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

After All, It’s Just Pizza

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I mean it really is.  You, me, or anybody else can rant and rave about a place, rip it to shreds, and/or seek all the good and bad in the details of any pizzeria or restaurant.  It’s the experience, the ambiance, the hopefully good company you were with, and those hidden gems of information that only you might notice, and either keep to yourself or want to share with the world.  Which I like to do sometimes.

But at the end of the day, sometimes it’s just pizza.

JustPizzaFront

After not doing a single post from the beaches last year, I’m already getting it in going in March, with the appropriately titled, Just Pizza, of Bethany Beach, DE.

If you’ve been to Bethany Beach you know how quite and cozy this town is.   It’s the antithesis of the chaotic nature of the nearby beaches in Maryland and Delaware.

Bethany is sentimental to me.  Many beaches might mean something to you too.  I have fond memories of a kid taking family trips here.  It was a superb getaway for our family go to away, if even just for a few days, from the familiarity of home.  I mean that’s why we take vacations right?  But I don’t remember a pizzeria being so close by.

Where my family usually stayed was right across the street in one of the condominiums or hotels.  But I remember the charming and approachable shopping center where Just Pizza currently stands.  In a town like this, the more things change, nothing changes.  And in a way I love that so much.

So this pizza is not amazing.   I wouldn’t even call it great.  But they’re not a place that claims to be world class and a five star restaurant.  If they did, I would judge them differently.

Literally, it’s a carry-out place that’s one of the more smaller spaces you’re going to come across.  With just a few chairs in the waiting area, it resembles an doctor’s office more than a place to grab some eats, if you will.

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In the honor of how simplistic this place is, I went simple  I got half cheese and half pepperoni for the road.  I was the only one waiting and I felt my pie took quite a while.  It felt about 20-25 minutes when I was promised 15.  It’s a minor detail but it’s worth noting. Perhaps it adds to the easy-going nature of the town, or maybe it really took that long.

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I’m not going to say it was worth the wait. The pizza was ok but like I said, it’s not going to win any awards.  But I will say, it did remind me of the beach.  That might not make sense initially, but something about it just tasted like it’s from the beach.   I can’t put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s a thing where my mind is telling me what to sense and what to taste, and predictably (or not) it’s evoking feelings of the beach and sand, and who knows what else I remember from growing up, and maybe now.

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The crust is a bit rougher than usual but it had a buttery taste to it that I liked.   The cheese and pepperoni were just what I thought it would be, good and greasy.  But it may be too greasy for some.

Nevertheless, I’ve talked to a couple of friends that know what they’re getting when they order and it gets the job done.  And for most of us, when it comes to pizza, that’s all we need.  All the other details don’t always matter.

Folks for are at the beach looking for a quick (well I hope so, order ahead of time of course) pie or other standard fare to go, this is going to make most people happy.  If and when I’m staying or visiting here again, I will likely eat here again if it was an option presented to myself or from a friend, or family member.

Speaking of which, it’s so funny that I used to not appreciate the peace and quiet of this town like I do now.   It’s the top reason where I feel partial to small towns and small businesses like this.  They’re depend on support from locals and tourists in season a like. And I’m always happy to support any local business, because they’re still the soul and conscience of small towns likes this and even bigger cities.

JustPizzaMenu

Next time I’m back  I will absolutely give them another try.   For my friends who want somewhere quiet and would like to avoid the commotion of the bookending resort towns of Ocean City and Dewey Beach then this is perfection. They don’t have a website but more information can be found here and here.  At the time I was there, it was perfection.   But as the weather gets nicer this is a place that’s a safe house and an ally when one isn’t always around.

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I’m not sure if this mean the beach posts will resume.  I did many back in the Summer of 2015 (those posts can be found here), and that feels so long ago.  We shall see.

But for now I will enjoy St. Patrick’s Day and wish you a happy and safe one as well.

Ideen

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

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And I mean that.  Ceriello Fine Foods of Brewers Hill and Belvedere Square has that cozy Italian Market feel that resembles a throwback to markets you might have gone to when stores like this were more prevalent, and a lovely meeting place in your neighborhood to talk about anything.   Or if you’re lucky there’s one close to you that still keeps all the traditions and goodness of why you came in the first place.

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I can’t place my finger on why places like this draw me and so many others exactly.  At least for it’s the hope I’m supporting local businesses and that my support is going to a place with good intentions that mirrors the customers intentions.  I hope that makes sense.  I also think my overly sentimental nature wants to believe that these business come more from the heart than more larger and national chains that are strictly business and don’t always bring the personable aspect to how they run their operations, versus say a local one.

And Ceriello is a growing company.  They’re originally in New York and now have added a few more in the state, as well as expanding into New Jersey, and now Maryland. The local flavor is still there.

The feeling I’ve been getting from Ceriello is that they do things the right way.  And they’re making it effortless.

I’ve always had a good feeling and food service every time I’ve visited.  Whether it’s ordering a sandwich, wine (click here to read about the wines pictured throughout this blog) prepared foods, pasta, other various groceries, and of course pizza.

And in the less than one year they’ve been open, they seem to have made a positive impact on the local community in Southeast Baltimore.

This is the first time I’ve tried their pizza.  Luckily, in Baltimore they do have a strong sandwich and pizza menu that seems to have expanded greatly from the link here.

I’m glad I took a picture of their choices here that were in front of the oven.  Oh wait, I got a picture of this beautiful oven too!   So after debating on which pie to get and agonizing over a couple, I went with both.  Yes, when all things are undecided, go with both.  And I’m so glad I did.

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First up is the one I originally wanted and almost hedged on, the Quattro Stagioni aka The Four Seasons.  For our pals in Maryland this is for us.  We’ve experienced all four season the past few weeks weather wise, this made perfect sense.  Little did I know that the pie would actually be divided by the four toppings on separate parts of the pizza.  This looks genius, crafty, creative, and most of all beautiful.   What I did notice that even though peppers were on the menu, I’m guessing onions were the substitute.  And believe me, whether or not that was a honest mistake or meant to be in place of the peppers, I’m happy with that.

ceriellofourseasons

The toppings tasted fresh and I mean fresh.  Maybe even farm fresh.  But I’m no expert on what’s farmed or not.  But the mushrooms, caramelized onions, and zucchini tasted like they were from another universe. Maybe that’s how they’re truly supposed taste, just plain natural. And in my usual true-to-form I took plenty of liberties into picking piece of off my pie and enjoying them on their own.   The prosciutto, or cotta, was also really tasty, and a nice dichotomy to all the vegetables that dominated the pie.

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The mozzarella cheese worked perfectly as a backdrop but was not lost in the shuffle. Cheese is always the heart and soul of any pizza. Without good cheese everything else goes down the tubes.

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I did want to mention the crust.  The way this was heated made the dough soft and chewy which in many instances works perfectly.  Some people aren’t going to like that.  It’s not your New York or crunchy thin crust style.  But it’s a style that is the perfect comfort food for any time of comfort.  And it’s still cold, but by the time you read this it could feel like close to Summer in the Maryland area, but the point is still there.  This is a pizza you can fold in half, or appreciate it for what it is, with the perfect charring and tasty crust.

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It paired with an interesting white wine (more on the wine will be updated this Wednesday here).  As you can see above I got all four seasons in these two slices.  So exciting I know!

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Next up was the pizza maker’s suggestion and favorite, the Pizza Polpetta, which was the Meatball.  And man they did meatballs much differently than I expected.  I’ve had meatballs on top of pies which can sometimes cause a mess, fall off, and be too much to eat in one bite.  Not that it wasn’t tasty or created in their vision, but sometimes less is more.  This was more.  The meatballs were baked into the cheese. and they were sliced in the most precisely cut small pieces.  I did not expect that but was pleasantly surprised.   The caramelized onions which seemed to be familiar, oh wait haha, and the provolone really made this pie.  The red sauce and mozzarella once again played second fiddle but in a good way.

I wanted to show you the inside of one of these slices, so without sounding gross, this literally is a dissection of the sliced meatballs and onions with slices of provlone baked under the mozzarella.   I know, so cool right?

This paired with a standard Chianti.  And pizza with meat and red sauce screams an Italian red.

For more on the wines, go here.

The list of their pies is boundless so if I get the opportunity, like I’ve said about many places before, I would love to come back again.  But regardless of that, this place has so much to offer.

And you don’t have to live in the area to get all the  good products and good energy they have to offer.

Here are some links to help you in that direction.

Here’s their list of stores and contact info.

To order by phone, click here.   And here’s where you can order gift baskets and their catering info.

And for our friends in Baltimore, here is their food menu, that I know has grown immensely.

What a treat this was. Seriously, this was two fantastic pizzas.  And I look forward to having more again, in times of comfort or any season I care to celebrate, or all four!

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Oh by the way, they do a pizza and wine night.  For our friends in Baltimore you have may experienced this.  I have yet to have the pleasure.   I hope I get the opportunity.  Oh and…

Happy Early Spring,

Ideen

There Was A Reason For This

pizzaovenfullpie

As of this writing National Pizza Day will be yesterday, February 8th.   I would be lying if I said I knew this ahead of time.  And I would also be lying if I knew what about what pizza or pizzeria I would be writing about.   The biggest lie would be that I had something big planned all along.

I didn’t have to plan anything.  I’m sure I would have written about a great place, or what I would hope to be great, and celebrate National Pizza Day, and move on to the next week. But no, the universe always has a way of rearranging itself and working itself out for me. Anything is possible and usually is.   We tend to say these things but they don’t always have any meaning.

I want to believe that this has meaning. Either there was a reason for this, or the reason was presented to me and I still need to figure it out, or there’s nothing more.  And there’s closure.

The way I write about pizza makes it seem like it’s some cosmic and metaphysical experience.  To some it is just pizza.  But I tend to think when it comes to things your passionate about, there’s something bigger than us.  It’s a spiritual celebration of food, of feeling, and fascination.    And maybe some alliteration too, ha.

This encounter had such significance that I don’t know if words will be enough to convey how special this was.  I will do my best.

A very unusual set of circumstances brought me the town of Prince Frederick, MD.  Never heard of it?  Well I imagine many folks in Maryland haven’t either nor have the faintest idea where to find it on the map.  A few years ago I would have been one of those folks. This was only my second ever visit, and the first unplanned.

When I find myself in unique towns, like anyone, I like to drive or walk around, and do a little sightseeing.  The grass tends to be greener and everything looks larger-than-life. Perhaps many times it is.  What I do look for, without trying too hard, is a nice place to grab a bite, some coffee, maybe a museum, maybe a charming shoppe, and of course the joyous slice of pizza.

You know every town has a pizza parlor.  And hopefully it’s a locally owned one.  That’s one of the major points of all this, to support local and all the happiness it brings to peoples lives, to go somewhere comforting, where yes someone knows your name and you know the friendly folks behind the counter.

And it becomes a a tradition.

At first your just a customer, then an acquaintance, then a friend, then maybe even a good friend, and then essentially family.

That’s the true heart, soul, and backbone of this thing called life.   So with that I’m grateful to say I may have hopefully started a new, semi-regular tradition with a place I forgot, from my childhood, Pizza Oven Inn.

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And I mean it’s a truly forgotten place to me.  As it hasn’t been on my record for at least a decade. Funny the things we forget and with all the information we have, there’s so many pieces of information that become buried in our subconscious, never to return again.

Thankfully this one was revived and now retained.

It was a nice change of pace to be in Southern Maryland.  As I’m starting to heard home I do have a yearning to get some foods, you know, because eating is one of the joys of life and is fun.   I did some scoping around and located some pizzerias close to me, and I know one of them was going to become a part of this everlasting story I’m telling.  Luckily I bypassed one to get to this old-time looking strip mall.  I can’t explain how it looks, but it just has a feeling of a small-town shopping center that’s been around for a long time.  And the sentimentalist in me likes that.

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So I see this Pizza Oven Inn, and from the window noticed they didn’t do slices.  So I felt like I was in a rush.  But a rush from what?  I was 90 minutes from my house, and anyways, I needed to enjoy my time in a place I’m rarely in.   But as I’m parking I almost drove away. You know how sometimes you’re indecisive when it comes to food, or just about anything? This was the dilemma.  And I’ve done this a bunch of times with a bunch of places I never ended up eating at.  I didn’t want this to be another what could have been moment.

pizzaovenintro

Before I walk in to a place, I may take a picture of the outside of a building to incorporate into my stories.   However, when I walked in, a gentleman who turned out to be a regular called me out on that.  And I wouldn’t say in a bad way.  But I did feel like I was made.  That happens from time-to-time. It was a pleasant exchange nonetheless.  But what this did lead to was…

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I got to meet the owner, Stacy, on her day off of all days.  This led me to explaining what I do and what I write about.  If it wasn’t for being figured out by one of their own, I’m not sure this conversation even takes place.   Lots of weird energy (in a good way) going around during this entire exchange.

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My first inclination is to get a small pie to go, as I still feel that I’m in a rush.  Stacy suggested a large to go.  And maybe even a square shaped pie.  At this point I feel like I’m at everyone’s mercy (haha not even close but for for dramatic purposes, sure why not) that she pegged me for a vegetable pizza man.  I took that as a compliment.

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So I went with the vegetable pie and resumed this fascinating conversation.

After a few minutes it came up how Pizza Oven Inn was a massive local chain going back decades.  And there were several near where I grew up, one being in Rockville, MD.  I started reflecting back on the past and realized there was one within walking distance from where my dad works (still does after all this time), and where my family still lives.

At this point I started getting goose bumps, and remembering how the outside of the building looked and the image of an even older looking shopping center (which still exists today in almost its original form), and another location where the community gathers and meets regularly.

While my pizza was heating, she made a call looking for verification the old Rockville, MD location and all was confirmed. It was a pleasant and surreal feeling all at once.  I got those warm and fuzzies.

I believe she spoke to her business partner, but I want to believe that phone call was made and received from a much higher place.

Their business has gone through many changes.  What was once a local chain with pizza shops all over the Maryland and DC area, is now down to two.  It has been taken over by a couple incarnations of larger chains, but for me, I’ll stick with the support of local.

So, after all that, how was the pizza?

It made me happy.  It made me feel like a kid,  The square pieces are always a welcome change from the standard pizza shape.  And many of us love that pizza .  They serve that kind of pie as well.

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The crispier pieces were from the end slices, and sometimes you found perfect charring on random slices throughout the pizza.   The vegetables tasted fresh.  And those tomato slices made that pie.

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I love olives, onions, peppers, and I adore mushrooms. This was all around happiness.

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For the first time in a while, I threw on oregano and parmesan cheese to enhance the flavors. It didn’t need much enhancement but for so many reasons this felt like a special occasion.

The pizza lasted me a few days, and I feel it tasted just as good, if not better, than when originally heated.   At some point I did finally take those pizza savers, (or as Stacy called them, Barbie Tables) off of the pie.  With all the excitement of energy of this day, I never thought to remove them.  I never thought to do a lot of things.  I just went with the flow.

And the flow is what makes experiences like this so amazing.

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I mentioned that two locations still exist.  I’m not sure when I’ll be back and if their own shoppe will be a part of that.  I certainly hope so.  This is an experience I’m going to be thinking about for a long time.  While it may seem too dramatic for some reading this, there’s a spiritual component of many of these visits, that I don’t always write about.  This one will resonate for some time.

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Pizza Oven Inn doesn’t have an official website, which I think adds to the charm.  But you can find them on Facebook.   I posted a picture of their chalkboard menu above, but you can also find it here.

I’m so fortunate to have been a part of something so special and something big.  I can only hope the next time I’m back in Prince Frederick, and I’m back at Pizza Oven, that the next story can be just as or even bigger than the next one.  I welcome it with open arms.

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On the other hand, if this was to be a one-time only deal, I will cherish this memory forever.

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Happy National Pizza Day!

Ideen

 

 

By Request

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These tend to be my favorites.   I love the obscure, I love the gems, and I love local business.

As this blog continues to grow, and I gain more followers (which I’m so grateful for), I do get requests to review pizza places and certain types of pizza; whether it’s at a restaurant, a bar, a pizzeria, or in the frozen section of our friendly local supermarket.

Sometimes my blog comes up naturally in conversations and one with a complete stranger led to a fascinating request.   I had promised to honor this request in time.  Little did I know that it would be in the same week.

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So with that I’m excited to write about Charle’s Bar & Grille, in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore.

With a name like that you might expect the most straight-forward, no bells and whistles, and no ambiance.  And that’s exactly what I expected and what I wanted.  The pizza eating experience can be glamorous but for many of us it’s also just food.  It’s just simple eating. We order a pie, we order a slice, and we go about our business.  Sometimes that’s all we want and it becomes a part of our daily routine.

But even before this blog, I’ve always been very observant of how fun pizza can be.  I love the preparation, the choices, all the slices displayed on their respective trays at yours and my local pizzerias, and just overall eating that slice that makes you feel something.  And I just don’t mean feeling full.

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So of all places, why was I suggested to eat here?  It’s one of those restaurants that’s near a college campus, and serves multiples types of food, which includes Italian, American, and Indian.  Yes this is a phenomenon that is sweeping the whole country.  Maybe it’s been going on forever and that part of the my observations went over my head.

Let me get on with it.  My new acquaintance told me to order the Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza.  And give a genuine opinion of it.   I was already intrigued.  And I was also surprised I’d never thought to order it or eat anything similar to it anywhere.  Maybe the opportunity never presented itself.  But with all the combinations of pizza, how can that be?

That’s also one of my favorite parts of a pizza pie.  You can experiment with a wide array of crusts, meats, vegetables, cheeses, sauces, and everything in between.  This would qualify as experimenting and thinking outside the (pizza) box.  Even if my to go order came in one of those generic ‘fresh pizza mmm goood’ to go boxes.  I’m not knocking it.  It suits the place.

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I ordered two individual pies.  I’ll get to the Tikka Masala shotrly.

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First, the standard cheese.  Yes this is standard.  But with a place like this you shouldn’t expect anything better or worse.  For how this establishment presents itself, the cheese pie is mediocre at best.  I didn’t think it would be anything life changing so I’m not disappointed.   I simply ordered this as a comparison for what was to come.  And for only $5.50, I can’t complain too much.

tikkamasalapie

Now the Tikka… This is something.  It’s literally pieces of grilled chicken and the tikka masala sauce placed on top of a cheese pizza.   You might be thing the tomato sauce may clash with the Tikka Masala sauce.  Not the case.

I honestly don’t know what to compare this too.   I read reviews on sites saying this pizza was earth shattering.  And for a first time trying something so unique, it resonated with them, and they keep coming back.

I didn’t love it that much.  And again I’m saying this with the understanding of where I ordered my pies, and knowing this is not meant to be world class pizza.   I just thought it was fine, and maybe a bit sweeter for my taste than the usual Tikka sauce I’ve grown accustomed too.

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There has to be some accountability.  I’ve had better Tikka Masala at various Indian restaurants and buffets, so I do have that to go on.

The dough was fine.  If this were on actual Naan Bread, this would be so much better.  But I didn’t expect that either.

If I were to return, I will give this pie another go.  It’s worth another try.  And I’m intrigued by a few of their other pies;  the Veggie Korma, the Palak Paneer, and the Chana Masala. Including the aforementioned pie I reviewed, these are traditional Indian dishes that many of us have become huge fans of.   I must try these.   And a price of individual pie starts at $10.50, so the investment isn’t too big.

I don’t know when I’ll be back.  This is one of those rare occurrences that needs to happen organically.  I literally found myself blocks away from this restaurant today, so fate and destiny told me to come here this week.

I suspect a similar experience will lead me back here.

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Maybe I’ll even walk into the bar that’s within the restaurant.  But for now I looked it at from afar (or maybe a few feet away), and wonder what was going on inside.  It seemed sketchy, it seemed real Baltimore, and it seemed like a place I should only romanticize about.  Because if I ever walk in, that mystery will go away and I’ll be left disappointed.

But I think people will be enamored with the Chicken Tikka Masala pizza.  I didn’t love it but I sense that many will, just for the fact that it’s so different.

If you’re in the area, give it a shot.  It’s right in the heart of what separates the older part of Baltimore that has a little more character, and what is further South which is busy, like most major cities are, and/or continue to grow into.

Here’s their menu.

And here’s to creativity.

Ideen