Tag Archives: NeoPapalis

The Pursuit of Pizza Perfection Continues

I still have yet to find my go-to pizza spot in Ann Arbor.  In fact, I’m getting fairly frustrated by the lack of thin, crispy-crust or wood-fired oven pizza that doesn’t make me feel totally bloated and sleepy after eating it.

Let’s recap:

1. Jet’s Pizza: I’m revising my so-so review down to “you may as well eat the cardboard box it came in.”

2. Mani: Mani was rated as one of the top 38 places to eat pizza in the US by eater.com.  The pizza was good if you are eating in and having it to share, but certainly not crave-worthy for our-weekly-pizza-night-at-home-on-the-couch routine and I’m pretty sure there are 38 better places to get pizza in NYC alone.

3. NeoPapalis: I would definitely recommend eating in over taking out and the margherita pizza over the traditional cheese for a lighter take.  I would also get one of their huge, fresh salads to fill you up with something healthy in addition to the pizza.

4. Grizzly Peak: Pretty cheesy and would try it again if eating at the restaurant but not going to be a go-to for carry out.

5. Hello Faz: What an odd name for a pizza place….or any place.  We decided to look for a restaurant that would deliver pizza to us, and this was very highly rated on Yelp.  We got a half cheese-half banana pepper pizza and pepperoni cheesy bread.  With the first bite of cheesy bread, I got the overwhelming taste of pretzel – yum!  It wasn’t until the next piece that I realized the pretzel taste came from the copious amounts of butter spread underneath the cheese.  It was reminiscent of Auntie Anne’s pretzels.  The pizza was super bready – almost more so than a Papa John’s, which is really saying something.  The banana pepper side was decent because the sourness of the peppers broke up the salty, extra-chewy crust/bread, but the cheese side was fairly overwhelming to try to chew.  It could have been the pizza, or the week-old-opened white wine I had with it, but either way I felt so sick the rest of the night, and the next morning was even worse.  I think it was really all that butter.  We had about half a pizza left over, and I didn’t even want to look at it the next day, let alone have it for lunch.  Needless to say, I will not be getting Hello Faz pizza again.

So the quest continues for Ann Arbor pizza.

On the flip side, I had a fairly standard, comfort-food style mushroom pizza at Kooper’s North near my parents’ condo in Lutherville last weekend when I was home.  I love regular white mushrooms on pizza.  They get a warm, earthy taste when heated and softened.  Portobellos are okay too because they are meaty and stand up to the cheese, but I can’t get behind a lot of other mushrooms on pizza when they are too delicate and get lost in the other pizza flavors.  And I definitely can’t do shiitakes – but mostly because they make my tummy hurt. 😦

Okay, so there are tons of pizza places in Ann Arbor (although someone did warn me that there weren’t actually any good ones) – somebody please tell me where I can find a yummy, gourmet, wood oven pizza in this place!

No Decision Necessary: Pizza? Yes please!

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Family Motto: “The only thing worse than bad pizza is no pizza.”

True.

If you know me, you know that pizza is my favorite food.  But it goes beyond just a favorite food.  I don’t know if I can fully describe my affinity for this conglomeration of bubbly bread, scorching hot marina and ooey cheese, but the question of where my next slice of pizza will come from is floating in my mind at all times.  Just out of the forefront of conscious thought, hiding in the shadowy folds of my brain, until it maneuvers its way to just the right spot, and then Wham! Pizza craving hits.  Which happens with what some might categorize as alarming frequency.

My friend Paul called me the “Pizza Ninja” because no matter what was brought in for lunch at work, I would always end up turning it into pizza, oftentimes without meaning to.  Taco day?  Chips with salsa and cheese heated in the microwave = pizza.  Sandwich day?  Tomato and mozzarella panini = pizza.  Pizza day?  Well that one’s obvious.

I’ve also been known to argue that pizza can be 100% of a balanced diet: grains (crust), fruit (tomato sauce), dairy (cheese), vegetables (mushrooms), meat (pepperoni), fats (olive oil) and salts (salt).  Look at the food pyramid.  ImageCheck, check and check.  You really don’t need to eat anything else!

Okay, I guess I have moved on from this college theory; you probably do need to eat something else once in a while 😉

Take, for instance, a few weeks ago:

Friday:  Margherita pizza for lunch

Sunday (in Traverse City):  Some pizza at That’sa Pizza.  No joke, that was the name of the restaurant.  Does this seem derogatory to anyone else?  Or just cheesy…pun intended 🙂

Tuesday back in Baltimore:  Got home late and made Triscuit pizzas.  Yes, that is when you take Triscuit crackers, put little dollops of pasta sauce on them and then sprinkle each with a smidge of shredded mozz and microwave for 30 seconds.  Deliciously salty if you use regular Triscuits (not low salt, reduced fat, cardboard bits Triscuits).  AKA “Nothing-left-in-the-house-to-eat” pizza.  AKA I should be on The Food Network along with Rachael Ray and her “Late Night Bacon”:  Read the comments at the bottom to cry with laughter

Wednesday in Baltimore:  Wanted to try the newest branch of Sofi’s Crepes in Fells Point.  Didn’t intentionally mean to get a pizza crepe, but “The Motz” (diced tomato, shredded mozzarella and fresh basil) was essentially a margherita pizza in a crepe.  Survey says: they should have used a savory crepe, not a sweet shell…I wouldn’t get this one again.

Friday:  Mark’s flight home was uber delayed and he didn’t get to the apartment until 9, so I ordered delivery from our go-to Baltimore pizza spot: Bagby.  LOVE their spicy shrimp pizza.

Sunday:  Made oven-roasted “virtual sun-dried” tomatoes in the oven Saturday.  It takes about 4 hours of cooking over low heat, but they tasted just like store bought sun-dried tomatoes, and maybe even a bit better because they aren’t like sticks of jerky when you bite into them.  Put a quarter of a tomato on a Triscuit with slices of fresh mozzarella, et voila! Le pizza!

Recipe for “Home-Dried Tomatoes” from Food & Wine Magazine:  “Cut larger tomatoes into halves or quarters and scoop out the seeds.  Trickle with olive oil, season well and scatter with chopped thyme and sliced garlic.  Slow-roast at about 250 degrees for three to four hours, until they are intense, condensed and slightly chewy – but still essentially tender.  They keep for a bit in the refrigerator, covered in olive oil.”  Time consuming but so easy and versatile!  Use them on salad, with mozzarella and basil for caprese, with grilled chicken, with a cheese and olive antipasti, or just to snack on as they are!

So as you can see, not only can pizza be eaten regularly, it’s such a blank canvas to paint – there are so many ways to take something basic and make it more interesting.

For a few of my favorite places to find mouth-watering, crave-able pizza:

1. Bagby Pizza in Harbor East.  OMG my absolute fav.  Personal gourmet pizzas with thin crispy crusts and neato toppings like chicken pesto with red onion and tomato.  Spicy shrimp with a spicy marinara sauce base.  And I hear the chicken parm sammy is addicting, but I just stick to the pizza (potentially with a salad added on the side for a few green veggies).

2. Italian Gardens in Kenilworth mall:  Awww taking me back to elementary school when we used to go here on Fridays after school.  We’d get out at 1pm and this intimately-sized mall would be overrun by kiddies eating pizza.  Still delicious, classic NY style za (because you have to call it za when you’re with my dad obvi) with pep and mush.  Somehow we really got into abbreviating when talking about pizza…I guess we were so excited we just had to find a way to get the words out faster.  And perhaps that’s how my love of abbreviating came to be also.

3. Isabella’s in Little Italy:  Fresh thin crust pizza with the perfect ratio of crust:sauce:cheese.  Everything done thinly and delicately and in proportion.

4. Pizza Connection in Hunt Valley:  Totally a greasy hole-in-the-wall, so it’s better to get delivery if you happen to fall within their very small delivery radius.  Again, piping hot NY thin crust.  Best with all the toppings (which are of course garlic powder, oregano: my all-time favorite herb which I love to put on everything, and crushed red: AKA crushed red pepper for those not abbreviating) and folded length-wise with one finger delicately positioned in the crease to keep the slice sturdy.  This technique is also good for avoiding pizza burn (sometimes) because the roof of your mouth is positioned over the bread, rather than the hot cheese and sauce.  Pizza burn is the worst pizza side-effect because then your mouth hurts, you can’t taste the rest of your pizza as well, and also the roof of your mouth peels off in skin sheets over the next day.  Gross.

Other negative pizza side-effects (which do not outweigh the positives in case you had a doubt) include weight gain, lethargy and the dreaded pizza coma.  This is when you fall asleep immediately after eating pizza due to the “carbo overload” which bloats you and makes your eyelids unusually heavy.  It is especially bad when you’re totally dehydrated and start having crazy dreams from which you can’t wake up.  You feel like you are screaming or thrashing around and you are desperate to open your eyes but you just can’t, and in real life you are sleeping perfectly still.  Then you jerk awake, loudly gasping for air.  You of course have terrible dry mouth (AKA poop mouth) and chug a glass of water and fall back asleep, potentially to have the same scene play out again 30 minutes later.  This whole scenario can be prevented by drinking lots of water with your pizza and/or avoiding Papa John’s, which I’ve decided is the saltiest, most dehydrating pizza in the world.

Such a love-hate relationship with Papa John’s.  In college I could eat a whole large PJ pizza for dinner by myself.  Then I went without Papa John’s for 6 months while living in France, and when I got home and ate it again for the first time, I felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach from the inside out.  Apparently those Papa-John-pizza-breaking-down enzymes had vacated my body.  Now I’ve built up my digestive track enough such that I  can stomach a slice or two now and then, but it’s usually a last resort (see Family Motto at top of the post).  It’s still pretty tasty, and that garlic butter sauce is quite the siren!

In Ann Arbor, I have thus far only had the pizza at NeoPapalis (the seemingly-family-owned spot mentioned in my last post), which was very tasty and I will definitely go back.  I also look forward to trying out all sorts of other pizza joints and reviewing them via the blog.  Any suggestions on where to start eating are more than welcome!!  Bon appetit!