Friday, November 23, 2012

Papa Foti's -- Heath

It's Friday night, and we are in Heath to try Papa Foti's Pizza on 30th.  This is our first review of a Heath pie.  I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical at first of pizza in Heath.  I'm not aware of a long list of Italian immigrants settling on Hebron Road (and Fazoli's doesn't count here.).  But Papa Foti's passed the test tonight.  Mrs. Zaaaa and I ordered the obligatory pepperoni pizza that we get each week.  Mrs.  Zaaaa will provide her commentary on that pie.  I asked man who answered the phone what their specialty was.  There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. I rephrased my question to "What are you known for?"  Another long pause....c'mon Heath, come through for me here....Finally, I heard a "We sell a lot of "all the way's" here.  Sold a bunch of them today."  I said, "Do you mean the Papa Foti Pizza?".  Yep.   So we ordered a Papa Foti pizza. 

First the Foti.  This pie was a good pie.  Lots of toppings and plenty of girth here.  Toppings included pepperoni, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers, onions, mild banana peppers, ground beef, and provolone cheese.  The cheese was the star of this pie.  There was cheese-o-plenty here.  It covered the other toppings and was a wee bit reminiscentt of Godfather's Pizza's technique of burying the other toppings in a pound of queso.  I'm a cheese guy, so this was really impressive for me.  The other topping that stood out was the sausage.  And it stood out for both good and less than good reasons.  The chunks of sausage were sizable, and the sausage itself was really full of flavor.  That's the good. 

The less than good piece here was the flavor of the sausage itself.  It packed a sage wallop unlike any pizza sausage I can ever remember.  Now there is nothing wrong with sage.  It's a perfectly good spice.  It adds a great deal of zest to my breakfast sausage, but I'm struggling to understand how sage smacks of pizza Italiano.  I wanted to grab the maple syrup every time I got a taste of the sage-y pork product.  If I am eating a pie, I expect my sausage to be a bit garlic-y, maybe have some oregano or fennel seed in it, and it least bear some resemblance to Italian sausage.  Didn't get that here. 

Foti's crust was neither the star of the show, nor did it reduce my perception of this pie.  That is what you expect from a crust.  Don't make me not like the pizza because of the crust.  And Foti's accomplished that.  Overall, I liked this pie.  I'd get it again, and that is saying something for me.  I added pepper and hot sauce to my slices, and I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner.  Heath stepped up to the plate tonight and hit a solid double.  Thanks Papa Foti. 

Here are Mrs. Zaaaa's comments on the pepperoni.  She fell asleep last week and was unable to share her normally accurate assessment of the pie of choice.  She's wide awake tonight and just itching to share:

It seems that the pepperoni za has a gift that keeps giving, I've had nothing but gas since I finished it. The crust was a bit thicker than other LC pizzas we've tried, which was a welcome change. It was also cut in the traditional triangular pieces, which seem to be almost non-existent lately. The crust was doughy, soft and filling. (great for us dieters trying not to over eat) The pepperoni was small and plenty with a bit of spice and crispy around the edges. The sauce didn't seem to have any spice or flavor that really tickled my taste buds. The cheese had good coverage with a hint of parmesean. All in all it was just an ok pizza. Not bad but not great. The size of the pizza was a bit larger than a regular large so if you're feeding teenagers, you'll get  your money's worth. Not sure how the transition to cold pizza will be in the morning but it's got to be  easier than making breakfast.  Papa, I think you might be worth another try from this mama. I hear you have a great happy hour!

Our wine for the evening was from Chile.  We drank Veo Grande Cab Sav 2008.  It was fine, and it came straight from our cupboard.  Gifted to us at some point in time.  I did a google search on this vintage and learned a couple of things.  First, one review mentioned a smell of cedar and a burst of cherries...huh?  Tasted like wine to me.  Also found a comment on a wine blog that said this wine can be found at Sam's Club for under $7.  It's always great to know that friends to not need to alter their standard of living to give the Zaaaa's a gift.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Johnnie's Villa Pizza

Tonight, we head to Johnstown and Johnnie's Villa Pizza.
First, let me say the place was packed. I arrived to pick up our "to go pies" at about 7pm on a Friday and there were no parking spots available in the lot. I had to go across the street to the Subway to park the Zaaaa wagon just to pick up my pies.

 We ordered what the menu called the "House Tradition"--Villa's All the Way pizza. As a side note, it seems to me that many pizza joints have an "All the Way" pizza. We get it---lotsa toppings, incredible girth and pizza bulk, not for the health conscious. It's probably not the way to make a name for yourself in the pizza world. Too much been there, done that to differentiate here. But in the case of Villa, if it is the House Tradition, how do you not order one?
The "All the Way" was decent, not spectacular as "All the ways" go. Again, tough to stand out in the crowded "All the way" category. Villa's version had pepperoni (hidden for the most part beneath the other toppings), hamburger, mushrooms, green peppers, sausage, ham, and onions. Nice amount of most toppings. Lots of ham, and I like that. Scads and scads of green pepper, and I don't like that. Green pepper should complement a pizza's other toppings. You shouldn't try to make it it's own separate food group. Yo Villa! Tone down the green peppers! They weren't all that fresh anyway. The mushrooms were nice for someone who likes mushrooms. Nice big healthy pieces throughout the pie. If you only like mushrooms if they are microscopic and blend in completely with the other flavors, you may end up being a shroom picker and passing them on to your favorite shroom-o-phile. For me, I really liked this component of the pie. The sauce was fair and had a hint of garlic. Those of you who have read my other reviews know I'm a person who needs to know that I've eaten garlic when I'm consuming my Italian dishes. Villa's sauce is on the low end of acceptable. I'd like a little more vampire repellent in this pie.

I must mention Villa's crust. Not because it was memorable, but because it was not. Maybe it's because last week we had Joe and Mimi's pizza in Granville, (and that crust was real and spectacular!) that I am not overly impressed with this crust. For me, the perfect pizza crust is a wee bit flaky and just a hair chewy (Sorry, hair references have no place in ANY food review). Great crust should be like great Italian bread without the leavening. Villa's crust was unremarkable. It was clearly just a vessel to hold the toppings, sauce, and cheese that are the feature elements of this pizza. I apologize for not being more descriptive of this crust, but this crust was nondescript.  There isn't a better adjective to describe it.  I apologize.

Don't get me wrong here. This is not a bad pizza. I liked it. I just didn't love it. There are better options out there, but this is in no way an unpleasant pie.

Our wine for the evening was straight from our kitchen cabinet. It obviously was gifted to us a number of years ago, and we have never had the opportunity to appropriate re-gift this fine vessel. Our Domaine Sainte-Anne 2000 Bordeaux must be exceedingly rare and exceedingly exquisite. I could find no reference to this vino in my Google search. I know it is French, and I know it was wet. Now, I'm not a fan of anything French. Their food portions are too small. Their women don't shave what needs to be shaved, and the only thing their military does well is surrender. But this is not a geopolitical blog. The wine was fine.

Johnnies Villa Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Joe and Mimi's

It's a Sunday night bonus for the Zaaaa's!!!  Tonight we try a bit of a newcomer in terms of Licking County pizza.  The Mrs. and I, in our search for Licking County's best pizza, are trying Joe and Mimi's pizza in Granville.

943 River Road  Granville, OH 43023
(740) 588-3358
  Joe and Mimi's Pizzeria - Granville, OH

Joe and Mimi's has been around less than a year, but it has earned a bit of a following with the local set.  When we called we were told that they were known for their straight pepperoni pizza, so we had to get one of those.  Mrs. Zaaaa also had a hankerin' for a Margherita pizza, so she ordered a small one of those.

First the pepperoni:

The pepperoni pizza was impressive.  By far the best standard pepperoni we have sampled to date (October  14, 2012).  Of all the pizzas we've had, Joe and Mimi's crust was the best.  Their New York crust was perfect, fresh, and was so good, it was a highlight of the pizza.  Crust has to be pretty incredible to be a highlight of a pizza....just sayin'.

Joe and Mimi's pepperoni's stand out as well.  They are close to palm sized--no kidding, and are appropriately placed atop the pie.  For a standard pepp pizza, J&M's had a more than average amount of cheese.  Nothing more disappointing than wishing you had ordered extra cheese because the normal amount just doesn't cut it.  That is NOT the case with Joe and Mimi's.  Ample cheese, large peps, fresh incredible crust, and a nice amount of garlic in the sauce to let you know you are eating Italian.  Joe and Mimi's pepperoni pizza is very strong for folks who want an old standard that doesn't taste old or standard.  By the way,  Junior Zaaaa says, "I thought the pepperoni was fantastic."  Another Zaaaa impressed...

Mrs. Zaaaa has had a rough weekend, so we wanted to give her another night of pie.  Tonight, she provides the Margherita commentary:

"Not so much a rough weekend, just full of cleaning projects....not fun. The Margherita pizza was quite lovely on the eyes. I could see the fresh mozzarella and smell the fresh basil. The pizza was New York style, which meant large triangular pieces and a nice foldable crust. Finally a sauce that didn't taste like tomato straight out of the can. The sauce had a hint of garlic but the true star was the large basil leaves evenly distributed on the pizza. Along with the basil and mozzarella were slices of Roma tomatoes that held up well. (some tomatoes fall away from the skin when cooked, not these) Although it was New York style, I deferred from folding and shoveling in,  to the knife and fork method. So far, this has been one of my favorite Licking County samplings. The pizza is good, the staff is friendly and helpful and they are conveniently located.   I shall sleep well with my belly full of Joe & Mimi's za. Perfect closure for my weekend chores. (PS: the cheese and spinach calzone is delicious too!)"

As far as wine goes tonight, we took a pass.  It is Sunday, you know.  We'll be back in the discount vino saddle next week.  See ya soon.

Joe & Mimi's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 12, 2012

Christy's Pizza

Our search for the best pizza in Licking County continues.  Tonight, Mrs. Zaaaa and I try another Newark pizza joint.
Christy's Pizza
15 E Church St 
Newark, OH 43055-5512

Christys is located in downtown Newark.  Mrs. Zaaaa had tried their pies before, but I was a Christy's virgin.  I asked the very nice man who took my phone call what Christy's was most known for and what they sold the most of.  I got two recommendations.  The most popular menu pizza at Christy's is the large pep and cheese.  Christy's has a pick up or dine in special on this 16 inch pizza at $11.  Sounded good.  

The second recommendation was for their Big C specialty pizza.  

The kind fellow told us this was his personal favorite from their selection of specialty pizzas.  We ordered a medium Big C.  

I was impressed with the Big C.  I think C stands for Copius toppings.  Piles of ham, sausage, ground beef, and chunks of onion.  Definitely a stout pizza.  The right amount of cheese was combined with a fresh-made, just flaky enough crust.  I'm a fan of this pizza.  My only suggestion to Christy's would be to make sure the toppings are spread from edge to shining edge.  Our pizza was loaded in the middle of the pie but got noticeably less toppings towards the pie rim.  Not a major foible, but a foible none the less (I was determined to use foible today...mission accomplished).   

Meanwhile, the wife became enamored with her post pie snack--white chocolate, candy corn flavored m & m's.  Quote from Mrs. Zaaaa, "These are so good.....want some more.  These would make unbelievable cookies.  These are absolutely stinkin' rotten delicious"  C'mon Mrs. Zaaaa, stay on task here.  

Here is Mrs. Zaaaa's review of the pep and cheese:

" I have to say my second go at the Licking County pepp and cheese wasn't much better than my first. While the overall flavor was better, some of it's individual attributes were lacking. The crust was thin, plain (no cornmeal or seasoning) and chokingly dry around the edges. I had no desire to re-purpose my crust as a bread stick for fear i would run out of my beverage before I was able to get it down the pipes. The pepperoni coverage was consistent and very evenly spaced. There was a hint of Parmesan in the cheese topping, which i found to get cold quickly and peel right off the slice leaving me with tomato coated crust. I would have loved some good gooey, chin dripping cheese to fight with. The seasoning was minimal missing my favorite dose of garlic. Reheating the pizza helped create a more flexible crust and a better melt on the cheese. I wouldn't recommend eating this pizza cold for breakfast unless you plan on soaking it with juice or syrup. Too dry and like cardboard for a cold snack. Back to the M & M's. They make me happy!!"

Mrs. Zaaaa is a tough customer.  When she finally touts a great pep pizza, it will truly be a culinary accomplishment.  Stay tuned...

Our wine for this evening came directly from our "wine cabinet".  This is where Mr. & Mrs. Zaaaa stash their gift know what that is...the wine given as gifts by well-intended friends and casual acquaintances on holidays or as part of invited visits to our humble abode.  We currently have six bottles in our stash, so we took one down and decided it would be our wine de jour.  We selected Black Swan Merlot 2009.  Very nice.  I went online to find a fancy review of this fine vintage and found one at a website called  Very nice.  This is a website that only reviews wine costing $5 or less.  Very nice.  It's wonderful to know that our friends will only gift (or maybe regift) the finest the vineyard industry has to offer.  Now I just wish I could remember which of our generous friends gave us this fine vessel.  I enjoyed the poly-styrene cork.  Much better than the twist off cap I am used to on my Tickle Pink, and it allows me to use a cork-screw to access this nectar.  

I'm thinking this wine can double as a decent balsamic vinegar.  It was a bit on the bitter side, but I shan't complain.  The aforementioned website rated this wine as a five out of five stars.  I will never argue with   Great concept...great website...therefore, great wine.  See ya next week.   

Christy's Pizza & Subs on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dan's Family Pizza

Dan's Family Pizza  -- Newark, OH
400 West Main Street  Newark, OH 43055
(740) 349-8549

You cannot get Dan's pizza without getting a BLT pizza.  This is by far the best BLT pizza we've had in Licking County.  By the way, in case some of you don't know, BLT pizza is a bit of a Licking County specialty.  Many joints offer this artery clogger in some form.  Dan's is the best.  The right amount of bacon, nice and still crunchy lettuce, chunks of diced tomato (fresh), pizza sauce, and oodles of mayo placed between two (count them) two pizza crusts.  If you love bacon, if you love BLTs, and if you love pizza, this is a little bit of hog heaven (pun intended).  Dan's crust is homemade and delicious, amplifying the taste, texture and experience.

We also ordered a standard pepperoni pizza from Dan's. We did this to make sure there is a standard pizza from all places from which we consume.  Mrs. Zaaaa will provide her commentary.  (Mrs. Zaaaa is pure Cleveland Italian.  She knows her pie.  Listen up!)

Mrs.  Zaaaa says:
"Not the best pepp pizza I've ever had, but not the worst. The pizza had a thin crust. At first look, the pepperoni was adequate in quantity but certainly no Donato's Founder's Favorite. The cheese was thin,almost sparse and the pizza was lacking in the spice department. My wish is that this za will taste better cold in the morning."

By the way, we also tried a new wine with our pie.  We'll try to do that each week as well, but don't expect a soliloquy on the woody overtones and a finish that has a hint of nutmeg.  Not happenin' in Lickin' County.  Tonight's wine was Charles Shaw Merlot 2011......yep 2 buck Chuck.  Never had it.  Had to try it.  It was actually $3.79 at Trader Joe's.  It was red wine.  It was wet.  And it was worth every penny we paid for it.  Admittedly, that's not saying much, but I can tell you I was much happier when the bottle was gone than when we opened it.  If that isn't a true test of a wine's worth, I don't know what is.  By the way, I thought I perceived a bit of chocolate and cinnamon in the wine's finish, but Mrs. Zaaaa then informed me that the dog had just farted, so I'm thinking maybe not..... More to come next week.

Dan's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon