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Posts Tagged ‘Pizza’

Vito and Nicks Pizza Review, Chicago, IL

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Vito and Nicks Pizza ReviewArguably the oldest pizzeria in Chicago, Vito and Nicks started as a tavern only in the 30s, before adding pizza a few years later.

While most people in America associate “deep dish” pizza with Chicago, it didn’t really come along til a decade or more later. Til then, and even today, what we all “tavern style” pizza is the city’s favorite.

It’s a very thin “cracker” style crust, some would say “overcooked”, sliced into squares. If you’re lucky, you’ve landed at a place that is going to dot the top with fresh, mouth watering Italian sausage, like Vito and Nick’s does. It is really superb sausage. I wouldn’t mind bigger chunks, but it’s not a complaint.

I waited a long time to get there, and I planned an entire day in the city around the visit. Arrived at about 1:30P on a Saturday afternoon, and it was moderately busy, but there were still a few empty tables.

Not so by the time we left when the place was rocking and a crowd was crammed into a tiny space by the bar, waiting — overheard the waitress say it was an hour at the point – maybe 3 or 3:30.

Speaking of servers, we drew the lucky straw and get “Mary,” a veteran who greets you like you’re an old-timer, makes you feel like you’re the only customer even while she’s juggling a dozen tables. Noticing there was a set-up for a large group coming in, she suggested we get our order in pronto. Appreciated that.

Vito and Nicks Pizza Review


Large Sausage and Green Olive

I ordered a sausage and green olive, large pie, and it was perfect. I was delighted that the green olives were the kind I prefer on pizzas, I’ve heard proprietors refer to them as “Sicilian Style”, they are small, sliced, greens that have been marinating in a brine chock-a-block full of Italian style herbs. Some of them end up on the pie, of course, an additional layer of flavor.

Couldn’t finish it, of course. Ate some for dinner at night, and the rest was calling me at 3AM, and I polished it off while binging House of Cards on Netflix.

Vito and Nick’s is close to Midway Airport, a hike from downtown.  If you’re driving Route 66, it’s just a few miles south of Ogden, which is Route 66 out of the city, and it’s worth a detour.  PBR and Old Style on tap.

I shall return.

P.S. There are frozen Vito and Nick’s pizzas in area groceries. One of the best in the frozen segment.

Vito & Nick's Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Vito and Nicks Pizza Review
Vito and Nicks Pizza Review

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Sal and Mookies Pizza Review – Biloxi, MS

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Sal and Mookies Pizza Review“John and Mitchy were getting kind of itchy…”   wait….. “Sal and Mookie were feeling kinda ooky..”  Sorry. Really obscure and I’m dating myself.

So apparently these two guys were in the restaurant business in Jackson, MS (a hotbed of dining lately, really) and they decided they wanted to go into the NY style pizza biz.

According to their own information, they worked on different recipes til they felt they had it down and THEN went to NY to see how their pies compared.  They were satisfied.

Restaurant opens. Success. Pizza, ice cream parlor, sports bar, adult area, all in one.

Met people who wanted to take the concept to the Gulf Coast. Made a deal. Opened. Successful.  Just off the coast highway, across from the Hard Rock in Biloxi.  Spitting distance from the Gulf.

So I wandered in about 7:30 or so on a weeknight, and there were perhaps six couples dining and a gaggle of uncleared tables, must have been kinda busy earlier.

Hostess is awol.  Chef in kitchen behind big glass window overlooking the hostess stand. Nada. Blank stares.

Seems like finally a light bulb goes off and he goes to look for someone.  In the meantime, I’ve located the bartender and he shows me to one of the few “clean” tables.  Cleaned as in “cleared,” when the server did show up, she felt compelled to give it a wipe down.

Drinks ordered, delivered after a little delay. (Was there an employee poker game going on in the back or something?)

Pizza ordered, 14″ “Classic New York” with sausage, mozzarella, and provolone.

Pizza delivered fairly quickly. (By this time, I was the only customer).  Sal and Mookie’s brochure states that they use the finest ingredients:  King Arthur Flour,  Kosher Salt, Filtered Water, Fleishman’s Yeast, EVOO, whole milk mozzarella and imported Italian plum tomatoes.  Admirable, but I doubt the average pizza eater can tell the difference. I mean, hell, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars,  and Dominos are the largest chains in the world, and people seem to be satisfied with the crap they put out.

So do I tell you my opinion about this as a pizza in general, or as a “New York style” pizza?

If I lived here, it wouldn’t be my ‘go to’ pizza, tho this isn’t a part of the country that lends itself to great pizza.  I lived in New Orleans for eight years and pizza there was mostly meh.  I understand they’re working on it.

On Sal and Mookie’s desire to make a New York style.  Crust is too thick, puffy doughy edges, reminiscent of one of the grocery store self-rising things. Sausage is sliced pieces of links, that’s very New York-ish. But the sausage selection isn’t very flavorful.  (There’s a small producer down the road in Chalmette, Marciante, you should go sample theirs).  I didn’t look close, but there was a lot of garlic on the pie, so I can’t say whether it’s in the sauce or was diced bits on top.  I’m ok with that, some people might now be.

I’d personally prefer more cheese, but then real NY pizza tends to be skimpy on cheese. Distribution was a little lop-sided for some reason.

If you’re an occasional reader, you know the true test (for me) is how tasty the pie is the following morning, after sitting out all night. This one passes that test.

Would I go again?  Don’t think so.  In addition to the reasons above, it’s a little spendy, but then it’s sitting right in tourism central.  Total time invested, 75 minutes, surrounding tables still weren’t cleared or cleaned.

I think it’d be a fun place if you’ve dragged your entire family and in-laws to the beach, and wanted a pizza and ice-cream party, with lots of room to spread out.  They also have salads and sandwiches, a few pasta dishes and a kid’s menu.  Full menu is right over here. Non-smoking.  They cater.

Sal and Mookies Pizza Review

Sal & Mookie's New York Style Pizza & Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sal and Mookies Pizza Review
Sal and Mookies Pizza Review

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Pizza Knot Recipe, Tailgating Favorite

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PIZZA KNOTS FOR TAILGATING PARTIES

I got a crazy itch this past weekend to try and make garlic knots for the first time. But I didn’t really feel like spending all weekend at it – when I usually make scratch bread or pizza dough, it’s a two day process.

So I went with the old reliable frozen bread dough. Which isn’t all that impromptu either, as you need a day to thaw it.

Ingredients

1 loaf frozen bread dough or pizza crust

6 cloves garlic, diced

1 T fresh parsley diced

1 T basil

4 oz pepperoni diced

3 oz your preferred “Italian” cheese

2 T butter

2 T olive oil

Method

Frozen bread  loaf, thawed

Frozen bread loaf, thawed

Using a roller, or a 2 liter bottle of soda if you don’t have a rolling pin, make a couple of 8” circles of dough.

Slice lengthwise into ½ inch wide strips. Tie into a loose knot. Set aside.

Roll dough, slice

Roll dough, slice

Place the butter and oil in a cast iron skillet. Saute the garlic, herbs and pepperoni until it has a little crisp going on.

Saute meat and veggies

Saute meat and veggies

Spoon out the garlic, parsley and pepperoni, and leave as much oil/butter in the skillet as you can. Place in a bowl and toss knots in the mixture.

Toss knots with vegs, meats, oil and butter

Toss knots with vegs, meats, oil and butter

Put the knots in the skillet in a single layer, drizzle with more oil and cover tightly, allow to double in size. Probably 3-4 hours.

Knots in the pan

Knots in the pan

Preheat over to 425, put skillet in oven on center rack for 25-30 minutes. Brush with more olive oil when you remove from oven and dust with your Italian cheese. Serve immediately. Or “knot.”

Pizza Knot Recipe

Out of the Oven!

 

You can serve some marinara on the side for dipping if you like.

 

 

pizza knot recipe

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Cheap Kid Meals

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The personal pizza for about a buck. Inexpensive kid’s  lunch of snack, or add a salad, and you have about a six dollar dinner for a family of four.

Here’s the key. Shop at Dollar Tree. I bought four ingredients, crusts, sauce, cheese and pepperoni, for a total of $4.00.

I used one crust (they come in two packs)      .50 (cents)
1/4 of the cheese                                                        .25
4 slices of pepperoni                                                 .20
1/10 of the sauce                                                        .10

Yes, I put the pepp on top of the cheese this time, in case the spouse wanted to try a slice, she has a thing against cooked pepperoni. (Yeah, I don’t get it either).

The instructions call for 7 minutes at 450, and that worked out perfect.  More good news?  No clean up!  The crusts are sturdy enough to go right on the oven shelf.

Cheap kid recipes

Cheap kid recipe

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Minneapolis, MN – Patriot Cafe at the VA Center

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The head of the Minnesota Burger Posse, Kawika, hit the Patriot Café at the VA center in Minneapolis today, in hot pursuit of their made to order pizzas.

From their own description: “We serve a 16” pizza made fresh daily, whole or by the slice. We use the highest quality sauce, meats, cheeses and toppings. Daily offerings include cheese, pepperoni, sausage, combination and vegetarian on wheat crust.”

Kawika went with the personal sized pepperoni, and he said that the pie was loaded with pepperoni, but it was hiding under the cheese. At $3.69, he was happy with the product.

Canteen services are apparently part of the group that operates retail shops, emergency mobile food units for disaster relief, and a wide range of other services in VA centers, from barbershops to dry cleaners to florists.

Map of where the VA is located in Minneapolis:


View Larger Map

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Richmond Hill, GA – Gianni’s Pizza

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This was close by a motel I was camping out in, online reviews were mixed, but I’m all for the mom and pops, and gave it a shot.  It was definitely “New York Style” as advertised, that means a thin crust, but not so crispy it can’t be “rolled” or “folded” by the slice for less messy consumption.

I ordered a medium, with sausage, pepperoni, and green olives, my standard ‘salt bomb’, the sausage was definitely  in the style of New York pizzerias, every time I’ve experienced that, it was like this, link Italian sausage sliced at a thin bias.   The toppings at Gianni’s were pretty unremarkable, otherwise, and kinda skimpy.   They were using an old two deck gas oven, which may have become slightly deficient in its aging (who hasn’t?), because the pie took a fairly long time to cook.

Table toppers and other posters advised that the shop only uses Grande Cheese, a special blend from a small processor in Wisconsin.  If you’re fascinated enough with that to want to learn more, here’s the poop on them.  Gianni’s has a fairly large dining room, if you’d like to eat in.

It’s located at the end of a strip mall on US Hwy 17, between Richmond Hill and Savannah, keep your eyes peeled or you’ll miss it.

giana

 

giannis front

Gianni's on Urbanspoon

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Frozen Pie Smackdown – Home Run Inn vs Reggio’s

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Years ago, when I lived in Chicago, Home Run Inn or Reggio’s was my choice of frozen pizzas.   Which one I picked up just depended on what the store I was visiting, was carrying.  I always considered them equals, and among the best of the best in frozen pies.

The taste and appearance are similar, as are the value. (weight v price).  Usually one or the other is on sale.

Both companies started as single pizzerias in the Chicago area, with Home Run Inn predating Reggio’s by a few decades.  Both pies tout a “butter flavored crust” and both (in the classic line) would be defined as “Chicago thin crust”, which is my personal favorite.

I think they products have a similar taste, tho I prefer the sausage on Reggio’s, it is more flavorful;  Home Run Inn is more generous with their toppings.

The verdict?  For me, it’s a tie.  I’ll keep on enjoying both.

Home Run Inn Classic Sausage

 

Reggio’s Class Sausage

 

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Van Nuys, CA – Lido Pizza

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Some little known facts about Mrs. Burgerdogboy:  she was raised by gypsies in the San Fernando Valley; because her family were travelers, there was no pizza place that could deliver, and, when G’ma wasn’t baking up mounds of from scratch Neapolitan style pizzas, Lido Pizza in Van Nuys was the family’s preferred provider.

Long story short, Mrs. BDB decided to surprise me with a Lido pie recently.

It’s a crust on the thinnish side, which I always prefer, crispy around the edge, nice and chewy as you work inward.

She took it upon herself to devise a combo she thought I would like, sausage, salami, meatball, and black olive, and it was superb.

The cheese was what struck me, tho, over the top in quantity and quality, the kind that stretches a foot when you lift a slice out of the box.

Thank you Mrs. BDB, I think I’ll keep you, as long as we can return to Lido next time we are in L.A.

Lido Pizza has locations in Van Nuys, Saugus, Canyon Country, Simi Valley, and Northridge.

Van Nuys, CA Lido Pizza

 

Lido Pizza on Urbanspoon

 

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Renton, WA – Vince’s Italian Kitchen

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I’ve had awfully “good luck” ordering from d-dish.com in Portland, one of those restaurant home delivery marketing companies. Delivered Dish signs up restaurants, supplies back end ordering/menu software, and arranges delivery of restaurant menu items direct to your house for a small fee.

Most large cities have a similar service, and on a business trip to suburban Seattle recently, I checked out their version, 2 Go Services.   I don’t know if there is any relationship between the Portland and Seattle outfits, but they do use the same “back end” and your sign-on will work with either service.

In Seattle, we tried our luck with Vince’s, a 50 year-old Italian restaurant and pizzeria.

Our interaction with the delivery service went as easily as when we use the Portland company.  Quick ordering, no mistakes on the order, delivery received within a reasonable amount of time.

We ordered a pizza, the half/half pasta (ravioli/spaghetti) with a meatball, and accompanied by a side-salad, and an appetizer of cheese/potato croquettes.  I had hoped to ‘surprise’ Mrs. Burgerdogboy with the croquettes, give her a little taste memory of her favorite junk food in Amsterdam, but the similarity ended with the name.  In this instance, they are Vince’s version of fried cheese sticks, and while good, they bear no resemblance to their Dutch namesake.  No matter.

The pasta was good, and the meatball exemplary.  For the money, I personally thought the serving size could have been ramped up a bit.

The pizza, however, is one of my new favorites, and I’d order it again, given the opportunity.  I went with a medium size sausage and pepperoni, and the crust was Neapolitan style, hand-made, crispy outee, chewy innee.  The sausage was a similar recipe to the meatball, hand-pulled small chunks, and the pepperoni was small diameter thin-slices, with a nice smoky flavor.   The entire pizza experience gave me the impression of “old-timey” pizza, and I don’t imagine the recipe or prep method has changed much in Vince’s 50 years.

On the “Worstpizza.com” scale of 1 to 8 slices, this is a solid 7.

Vince's Italian Restaurant Renton Washington

Vince's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Twilight Pizza Bistro Review

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The Big Schmear

I’m not a very disciplined writer.  Well, I’m not very disciplined at anything, actually.  Point being, when I set out to have an experience, and subsequently write it up, I don’t have a structure or point in mind ahead of time.   I write about what moves me (or doesn’t) at the time of the experience.  It’s based on emotion, only, rather than fact;  I don’t take notes, and I’m a lousy photographer, so my pix never adequately describe my experience, either.

I’ve never been to Camas before, never really had a reason to head in that direction.  Though I had heard good things about Twilight Pizza Bistro, there didn’t seem to be any reason to make the trek from Southwestern Portland.   I was wrong.

Last night, owners Don and Morgan invited a friend and I to sample the “best Italian food in Clark County,” as they and hordes of their customers describe the fare.

Opened in 2007  in a historical building in downtown Camas; Camas is situated near  the north bank of the Columbia River, approximately 20 miles East of Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA.

The owners wanted to create a “family-centric’ dining establishment, with a full-service menu serving Italian style cuisine and pizza.   Appetizers include a variety of twists concocted from pizza dough, as well as steamers and wings.

The soup and salad choices are lengthy, and gluten-free choices are available as well.

Our “over the top” server Tim showed us to the table and explained the menu choices.  It was a Monday nite, dinner time, and every table was full. (They are moving to a new, expanded location in the Spring, (watch their website or follow them on Twitter for updates).

If I was writing this piece from the heart, I’d tell a tale of a young newlywed couple that created an establishment five years ago, built with equal parts of love, restaurant knowledge, family recipes, and hospitality-centric personalities.   But if I wrote it that way, I doubt I would motivate you to try Twilight, and this morning, that’s my goal – to get you in there.  If I can get you in their front door, there is no doubt in my mind that you’ll return over and over again.

Don and Morgan visited our table several times to talk about their passion, their methods, their ingredients, and their hopes and dreams for the future.  My dining companion for the night was our hottie friend Gigi Petery, former personal chef and future psychologist.

One of the things I carped to Don about, in general, is my annoyance with people that get into the “hospitality” business, but ‘aren’t.’   This can’t be said for Don and Morgan.  They DO get it.  They DO understand why people come to their restaurant, and do everything they can to make the experience a great one.

There’s an old-timey restaurant on the way to the bayous and swamps out of New Orleans, a dated Italian joint, one of my favorite places in the world; it’s called Mosca’s.  Some say the original family cooked for Al Capone, and headed out for New Orleans when that stage of their career ended.  “Insiders” walk into Mosca’s, and decline a menu, giving the waiter the simple instructions of “feed us.”

I’d be VERY comfortable doing the very same thing at Twilight.  In fact, we glanced at the menu, but told Don our personal likes and dislikes, and asked him to prepare what he thought best.

When our food was brought to the table, I had a second realization about Don.  HE CAN READ MINDS! He knew exactly what would please both of us, instructed the kitchen in those points, and delivered the goods.

We started with the crostini plate, which they call “The Big Schmear.”  A sliced toasted baguette, accompanied by a whole roasted head of garlic (which I hogged, sorry Gigi), whipped butter, and a ramekin of oil and balsamic vinegar. OMG, as you hipsters would say!  It was delicious.  The garlic was done perfectly, roasted to the point to where you can squeeze a clove onto a baguette piece, and have a “died and gone to heaven” smile on your face with every bite.  Mrs. Burgerdogboy (she was under the weather last nite, at home with chicken soup), roast a bulb a couple times a week, it’s easy, delicious, and garlic is good for you.

We both were in the mood for pizzas, and we weren’t disappointed.  Don and Morgan thought their ‘T-Rex” was the way to go for me, and the Tree Hugger was the choice of Gigi.  AGAIN WITH THE ESP!

Twilight starts with fresh made dough, a base of basic red sauce they have seasoned to perfection, and the finest quality meats and vegetables.

Pizzas come in five sizes, which range from “individual” to “BurgerDogBoy” size (16″), which their menu describes as serving 5-6 people.  Or me.  Atop the fresh crust and red sauce, the T-Rex has hand-pulled chunks of Italian Sausage, Hormel Pepperoni, Canadian Bacon, and Andouille (“on doo eh”) (a spicy French sausage popular in the Southern US).   Although not on the menu offering for the T-Rex, on my version, Don threw on a few more whole, roasted garlic cloves.  Nice touch!

Gigi’s Tree Hugger was a vegetable lovers delight.  Mushrooms, bell peppers, black olives, sweet onions, zucchini, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Server Tim suggested a few fresh sliced tomatoes as an accompaniment for Gigi and it was a great suggestion.

Cooked in a standard Baker’s Pride pizza deck, the pies do take some time, and the menu cautions you about that.   How much time do they take to bake? Exactly the right amount, judging from the results.  The pies are baked perfectly, and come out to the table with there being no doubt in your mind that this pie was prepared fresh and is ready to eat.  The crust is only very slightly browned, there’s no charring, the outer rim is slightly crispy, and the chewy factor increases as you work your way to the center of the pie.

Look at the bottom of a pie, and you will get a sneak peak into the fastidiousness of the owners, recognizable by the appearance of the bottom of the pizza.  No oven residue, no charred spots.  Perfect.

The owners of Twilight did their research when it came time to select what toppings they were going to offer.  Most of the meats are from the acclaimed Chicago purveyor Fontanini.  I have had NO BETTER Italian sausage in Portland than this.  One only need look at my waistline to know just how much Italian sausage I’ve consumed, and in fact, Twilight’s food is in the negative calorie category(1) for those of you concerned with such matters.

On my next visit, server Tim suggested I try their most interesting pie, so interesting that he ordered it seven times in a row, as a customer, before he came to work at Twilight.  The “Southern Comfort” adds a hint of bbq sauce to the red, and adds chicken to a variety of meats. Sounds wonderful.

Having no room for dessert, naturally our hosts insisted we try them, and we shared the creme brulee, and a rhubarb crisp, topped with creamy Tillamook vanilla ice cream.  They were both superb, and I hogged the crisp (sorry again, Gigi!).

The menu is chock-a-block full of things I want to try:  steamers, pastas, and a salad or soup or three I’m interested in.   While Twilight is quite a distance from my house in SW Portland, I will happily find an excuse to get back to Camas for more, and soon.

Thanks, Don, Morgan, and Tim for a superb experience. You deserve all the success and kudos you have received, and best wishes for achieving even greater heights when you move to your new location!

The T-Rex

Tree Hugger

(Ed. disclaimer as required by law):  Twilight Pizza Bistro comped out meal).

(1) I am teasing of course.  There is no such thing as “negative calorie’ food.

Twilight Pizza Bistro Review

Twilight Pizza Bistro on Urbanspoon

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