Double-Decker, Double the Fun

We have some great gourmet pizza shops in this area with gourmet toppings, flatbreads, and the like.  But sometimes we just need good old-fashioned traditional take-out pizza.  We’d tried a few spots – one was too greasy, one just kind of bland.

Then we tried Angelina’s, with several locations in MA (we tried the Salisbury location for take-out).  Intrigued by something called the double-decker, I went ahead and ordered it without a question.  I was impressed when my husband brought it home and I discovered it was essentially a pizza within a pizza!  The lower crust is wrapped around the upper crust at the edges so that it all holds together beautifully.  You may think it’s just two pieces of pizza on top of one another, but there’s something about the layers of flavor and the thickness of it, all baked together – it’s like pizza lasagne – repeated layers of tasty ingredients.  Of course, eating one piece of a double-decker is like eating two standard pieces, so I filled up more quickly, but I think that at about $16 for a one-topping double-decker this also makes it a great value since it’s the equivalent of two large pizzas in one.

The traditional one-layer pizza at Angelina’s is also great.  We went with eggplant and feta.  The eggplant is lightly breaded for a bit of crunch.  Their sauce is tasty, the cheese is good…it’s comfort food at its best.  We’ll be trying the Angelina’s subs and other offerings soon, so stay tuned!


Fun Times at the Flatbread Company

I was first introduced to the Flatbread Company by my friend Mary when I was living in Maine.  I didn’t know that many people in the area when I move to Maine, and I certainly didn’t know where to go for good food on the cheap.  Mary took me to the Flatbreads in Portland and I still remember the pizza I had, even though it’s been about seven years.  It was wonderful – the crust was thin, but not cracker-like, with a bit of heft and chew to it, and everything was natural and fresh, with many organic ingredients incorporated.  My pizza had potatoes, cheese, and herbs.  It was one of the specials that night, and it was fantastic.  iI keep hoping to see a similar one on special again, but no such luck yet!)

I’ve since been to several other Flatbread locations – Portsmouth, NH, Amesbury, MA, and Bedford, MA.  They’re all great, and despite being a chain (most locales are in New England), each location has its own personality.  Part of this may be due to Flatbread’s commitment to staying involved with their communities and using local, organic ingredients whenever possible.  Each location posts a listing of several ingredients and where they are sourced from, making Flatbread a localvore’s dream restaurant.  The atmosphere is casual and family-friendly and the service is always great – I’ve never had bad service at a Flatbread location.  The servers always seem happy to be there.  Each restaurant has a brick oven that’s visible from the eating areas, so you can watch the cooks baking the pizzas (kids especially love this aspect).

The menu at Flatbreads is a bit limited – they know what they do well, and they stick to it.  You won’t find much on the menu other than flatbread pizzas and salads, but you won’t want for anything more.  They also have great drinks and beverages, though, and they change a bit with the seasons – they often have lemonade in the summer and warm cider in the fall, for example.  The list of beers on tap is also great – I had a great Peak Organic Ale on my last trip.

Flatbreads typically has a vegetable and a meat-based special flatbread every night.  I typically order the vegetable special, but we did create our own pizza on our last visit with portobella mushrooms, caramelized onions and Great Hill Blue Cheese.  It was fabulous as always – their flatbreads satisfy a pizza craving without making you feel weighed down.  You can’t beat good, affordable, healthy pizza!


Naan-Traditional Pizza

I love pizza – in restaurants, as take-out, or made at home.  However, making pizza at home poses a few challenges.  I don’t normally have time to make pizza dough from scratch (plus, it feels too much like baking, which isn’t my favorite thing).  I’ve tried refrigerated pizza dough, but it always ends up misshapen, uneven, and full of holes.  (Probably due to my lack of rolling and baking finesse).  I’ve also tried the store bought prepared pizza doughs, like Boboli, but the taste and texture don’t quite do it for me.

But, necessity is the mother of invention (and pizza is a necessity!).  In the past few months I’ve started noticing Naan bread in supermarkets – with the bread or fresh bakery items.  Naan bread, if you haven’t tried it, is a type of soft flatbread eaten in India and other countries – it’s available at most Indian restaurants and it’s delicious.  My husband and I started snatching it up and eating it as, well, bread.  As we continued to buy it, it occurred to me to vary its usage.

I started making Naan bread pizzas and my pizza-making dilemmas were solved.  Naan bread works perfectly as a pizza crust, albeit a non-traditional one!  The size we buy is perfect for a personal pizza, and there are usually 2-4 per package.  I’ve since made several with all manner of ingredients.  I started with the traditional red-sauce, cheese, and veggie combos but soon began to experiment.  One of our favorites included an egg on the top of the pizza (this may sound strange, but it’s fairly common in Italy) – the egg bakes to a lovely consistency in the oven, and the soft yolk is wonderful with the crust.  I used a whole wheat Naan bread, drizzled on olive oil,  a little chopped garlic and my other toppings.  Then, you crack the egg right onto the pizza and bake it at 375 degrees until the egg whites are just cooked through (roughly 10 minutes).

Another favorite non-traditional pizza topping is potatoes, also more common in Italy.  Add slices or chunks of roasted, baked, or boiled potatoes on top of your pizza (a great use of leftover potatoes).  I added mine to an olive oil and ricotta base and threw some leftover peas on top for color and extra veggies (I figured if I was going to be non-traditional – I might as well go all out!)  I seasoned with kosher salt, parsley, and oregano.  It was unusual, but delicious.  Next time you’re craving home-made pizza, give the naan-traditional kind a try!


Papa John’s Pleases Again!

I first became a Papa John’s convert (okay, maybe addict is a better word?) in my freshman year of college.  In a coup of brilliant marketing, their phone number was easy to memorize – 564-PAPA (see, I still remember it many years later!) and they delivered until the wee, wee hours.  Nary a weekend went by that Papa wasn’t at the door with his breadsticks.

Then, there were many sad, lonely years where Papa was not within a reasonable distance from home.  My husband grew weary of hearing about the Legend of Papa’s.  He claimed to have tried them and not liked them, but I told him that this was impossible (I’m stubborn like that).  Finally, a local branch opened, and we ordered take-out.  It was like introducing him to a long-lost friend, and it was really important to me that they get along.  To my relief, they did – we all did.  Now Papa is a regular guest in our house.  My husband particularly loves the breadsticks, which are great – they are nothing like the limp, fatty breadsticks of rival chain pizza places.  Papa’s isn’t lazy…they don’t take a bare pizza crust, butter it, and bake it.  This dough was born to be in breadsticks – they are thick and they actually taste like good bread, with no butter or fakey herb toppings.  Even better, there are myriad dipping sauces to choose from – ranging from the healthy (pizza tomato sauce) to the artery-clogging (cheese or garlic) – though dipping sauces beyond one token pizza sauce come at an additional cost.  I should mention that Papa John’s also offers flavored breadsticks, but I’m a purist – I like good, basic, doughy bread.

The pizza is nothing to sneeze at, either.  I am shocked and dismayed when people claim that other pizza chains like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, or Papa Gino’s (wrong Papa!) are better – I don’t think that they come close.  Papa’s is generous with the toppings, they taste relatively fresh for having come from a chain/delivery place, the toppings are proportionate to each other (i.e. it’s not all sauce, no cheese) and the crust is almost as delicous as the breadsticks – and equally great with the dipping sauces.  More importantly, Papa’s is consistent – I don’t worry when we order that it will be an “off night” like I do with other pizza places.

At about $18 for an order of breadsticks and a large pizza (together, enough to feed about 4 people) the price is reasonable.

On the down side – I guess there’s always a down side – but it’s relatively minor…there are no gourmet toppings to choose from – no eggplant, no fancy cheeses, just the basics – though Papa’s does have some specialty pizzas available.  Also, my husband seems to run into at least one snafu every time he places a take-out order by phone (we have yet to try their online ordering) and every time he goes to pick up the order…but it doesn’t stop him from craving and retrieving the pizza and breadsticks.  He is now a fellow convert (or addict).  So, call Papa, and enjoy!


Domino’s at My Door

I admit it.  I’ve never, ever, had Domino’s pizza before.  I consider myself a pizza aficionado, I’ve lived near Domino’s franchises several times, and yet I’ve never tried their pizza.  I’m not sure how this happened, it certainly wasn’t intentional.

So, tonight, I rectified the situation.  After a simple online order, Domino’s was at my door in less than 30 minutes with their trademark boxes.  We took advantage of a special that included three small pizzas with one topping each, for four dollars each.  We also took advanatage of ordering breadsticks, just because.  For just over $20 including tip, we have dinner for two nights.

The breadsticks weren’t actually breadsticks, although my husband tells me they used to look like true breadsticks years ago.  The breadsticks were actually a half a pizza dough, a semi-circle of baked dough that was an unappetizing yellow color.  One bite explained the yellow hue; the breadsticks were buttersticks.  They tasted like cheap pastry with a smattering of herbs on top.  The marinara dipping sauce wasn’t much better.  It was far too acidic and didn’t have a nice flavor.

The pizzas were a big improvement over the breadsticks.  We ordered a pepperoni, a mushroom, and a feta.  None of them were well endowed with toppings or cheese, and the texture was a bit oily/greasy, but overall, I enjoyed the pizzas.  The crust was thick and bready, the pepperoni was just crispy and spicy enough, and the mushrooms added a fresh flavor.  Unfortunately, I could barely discern the feta, although I could see small crumbles of it here and there on the pizza.  I haven’t tried the pizza in its day-old state yet, but I worry about the oiliness after reheating.

Domino’s satisfied my pizza craving, but there are better pizza options out there.  I can’t say Domino’s won’t be at my door again, though.