Delicious lunch at Bluestone Bistro! Pan seared salmon was to die for as was the Crown Maple pot de creme dessert. Check them out in Poughkeepsie!
Restaurant: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – 59 Federal Road, Danbury, Connecticut and Multiple Locations
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana has quite a history and is easily one of the best-known pizzerias in Connecticut. Known locally as Pepe’s, it still stands in its original location in the Wooster Square neighborhood of New Haven, CT, as well as restaurants in various cities across the state.
The Danbury location has a simple, green and white interior with an open kitchen. The centerpiece of the bustling kitchen is an enormous coal-fired oven.
Pies are placed table-side on an oversized tin baking sheet. From there, it’s help yourself as you dig in.
I chowed down on a pizza topped with sausage and mushrooms. While Pepe’s has a rich history, I was unfortunately unimpressed by their pizza. I found the crust to be floppy and the whole pie to be tasteless.
Other detractors are the silverware and plates. Pepe’s skips out on providing anything more than the basics – forks, knives and plastic plates. My biggest complaint is that the plastic plates are so tiny that a slice of pizza falls off the sides. Can’t you invest in some bigger plates?
I was excited to give Pepe’s a try, but unfortunately I left slightly disappointed. The pizza was pretty bland and the tiny plastic plates and lack of anything more than the basics had me thinking Pepe’s is trying to do whatever it can to save money and rein in the profits. Suggestion: buy some plates that at the very least fit a slice of pizza and invest in some silverware other than forks and knives. Maybe a serving utensil for the pizza?
Restaurant: Coals Grilled Pizza – 35 North Main Street, Port Chester, New York
Pizza can come in a bunch of varieties – from the famous Chicago deep dish to thin crust. Coals Grilled Pizza, with its original location in the Bronx and latest in Portchester, NY, serves up a unique variety of pizza, with a hand-stretched crust seemingly made of pita bread. I recently checked out the Portchester location.
The interior of Coals is fairly plain, with a quirkiness to it. A bar lines one side of the long and narrow restaurant, opposite a solid red-painted wall. The restaurant is definitely bright. Ample sunlight is let in through skylights dotting the high ceilings. Aside from a few random paintings strewn across the wall, a chalkboard menu and Presidential placemats, there isn’t much to the place. From what I’ve been told, the interior is fairly similar to that of the previous tenants.
On a Sunday afternoon, Coals was empty. I’ve heard this place is packed at night – mainly because of its “no reservations” policy – leaving diners to show up early in hopes of snagging a table.
For a pizza place, Coals has an extensive beer list, with beers on tap from across the country as well as from local breweries. I quickly ordered the sampler – a tasting a four beers of my choosing. This came out on a chalkboard-coated plank, allowing the bartender to transcribe the name of each beer. Nice presentation.
Up next was a pile of addictive Brussels sprouts, fried and tossed with some delicious sweet sauce (I wish I remembered what this was) as well as walnuts and raisins. These were delicious. They were very sweet, not too salty and had a nice crunch to them. For anyone that refuses to eat Brussels sprouts, I challenge them to try this dish and tell me they don’t like it. I need to figure out how to make this at home.
A plate of fresh house-made mozzarella, arugula and roasted red peppers added a touch of color to our table. This was all equally delicious. Whenever someone puts a huge ball of fresh mozzarella in front of me I’m not going to complain. I was very impressed with the portion size. I’d order this to start off the meal every time.
The pizza is where Coals really differentiates itself. We ordered two pizzas – margherita and smokey joe. The first thing I noticed was the crust. Coals uses hand-shaped grilled pita bread (if it wasn’t pita bread it sure looked and tasted like it) as its crust. This dough is rolled until it’s very thin and grilled over a coal fire so you can see the grill marks.
The pizzas seem to glow as they arrive at the table. The dough is clearly brushed with olive oil and this, along with the melted cheese, helps to give off this inviting sheen. They’re cut into long rectangular slices and are so thin I quickly over-indulged. So much so that I lost count as to how many slices I ate!
The pizza was incredible. My mouth is watering just thinking about it now. I can’t begin to tell you how good this crust was – the grilling gave it a nice charcoal flavor. The pizza is extremely light but packed with flavor. Loved it!
Our waitress, Samantha, never left our glasses empty and was at the ready to make sure everything was up to par. Since the place was empty we had the opportunity to really take our time, hang out and relax. There was never any pressure to wrap- up and leave.
Appetizers average around $10 and pizzas range from $11 to $15. The value is staring you right in the face. I would have expected the prices to be at least a solid $5 higher all around. Great value with extremely reasonable prices. Keep it up.
Coals takes pizza and gives it a twist with a unique version of your typical pizza crust. As I’m sure you can tell, I loved their version and thought it really helped allow you to taste all the ingredients of the pizza without having to chew on lots of dough. Kudos to Coals. I definitely will be back and recommend checking them out. I may just have to experiment in the kitchen and try to cook up some of this type of pizza myself.
This weekend I was up at Syracuse University to congratulate my brother, Stephen, as he graduated with a triple major in international relations, economics and Russian language, literature and culture. If a triple major wasn’t enough, he also was selected to deliver the undergraduate commencement speech, representing the more than 6,000 graduates.
Allow me to continue to brag for a moment. Over the course of his four years at Syracuse, Stephen has been presented with numerous awards, recognitions and honors, culminating in this weekend’s commencement speech. And it won’t stop after graduation. Come September, he will be headed to Kazan, Russia on a Fulbright Scholarship. (Who says a $1,300 plane ticket will stop me from visiting?)
Ok, enough about him. Onto the Syracuse food scene! With my parents at graduation as well, meals were paid for this weekend (thank you Mom and Dad) and we took full advantage.
A true gem in Syracuse’s Armory Square with 69 beers on tap. The interior is your typical nicer bar scene but the food is what separates it from your bar next door. I ordered:
The soup was delicious and I could clearly taste the red peppers, giving the chowder a slight kick. The sandwich was equally as good (and spicy). The pulled pork had a great flavor. My one suggestion, ease up on the hot sauce next time. It overpowered a lot of the ingredients in the sandwich.
After a 20 minute drive into the woods of Camillus, NY, we arrived at a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant. One of the owners, chef Lupe Bryan, is originally from Mexico and heads south of the border every year. Based on this, I had high hopes. Food here is served cafeteria style and it reminded me a lot of Chipotle. Unfortunately, the food reminded me of Chipotle as well. I wasn’t impressed with any of the dishes we ordered, ranging from tacos to nachos to various meats to quesadillas. The plus was the dirt cheap prices and BYOB policy. If you’re in the area, stop on by. If not, don’t go out of your way.
This restaurant is your hole in the wall, local dive seafood joint. Prices are extremely inexpensive for what you get (around $15 for any piece of fish) and while not incredible, the food is good. I ordered the Blue Crab Stuffed Sole with Salt Potatoes. The fish was much thinner than I expected and the crab meat stuffing had way too many chunks of vegetables for my liking. The taste of this dish didn’t stand out to me. However, for the price, it was good and the potatoes were delicious.
What I think makes this place is the atmosphere. You can tell that inside everyone is having a good time. Whether it be at the bar or at one of the tightly packed tables, the customers are smiling and drinking, and the waiters/waitresses are having fun serving and joking around with the customers.
Extremely disappointed with this restaurant. Asti’s managers and hostesses don’t seem to know how to run a business. In fact, I never even got a chance to sample any of the food. We had 7:45 p.m. reservations here on Saturday and when we arrived, the people that had our table before us were just being served their food. The restaurant had no solution for us and we were told that we couldn’t take tables that were wide open because they were being held for people that had later reservations. Huh? Why don’t you bump them back as well? Next time, you have our number so at least give us a call next time to let us know the situation so we can come up with alternative plan. I won’t be coming back to this place next time I’m in Syracuse or recommending it.
Luckily, Asti Caffe’s screw up was a blessing in disguise. We ended up at Francesca’s Cucina, a quick five minute walk down the street and a must try if you’re in Syracuse. We sat in the outdoor back patio area which had a fire pit lined with extra large comfy padded seats and about 10 tables underneath semi-dimmed outdoor lighting.
This was an incredible meal with seemingly endless amounts of food being served to our table. Additionally, each dish was a work of art and the presentation was extremely well done. Below is just a sample of what was ordered:
I ordered short ribs which were delicious, but I couldn’t get enough of the Utica Style Greens. The bread crumbs gave it a nice crunch and the prosciutto enhanced the flavor of each bite. (I’m sure all the butter it was cooked in didn’t hurt either.)
Definitely go here if you’re in the area.
A La Mode is your basic sandwich shop kicked up a notch. Its sandwiches are enormous to say the least and very tasty. The picture on the left is the Albakurkey Turkey, consisting of hot roasted turkey, bacon, avocado, melted cheddar cheese and homemade green chile mayo. I was glad to see a departure from your typical deli sandwiches and some unique combinations that had my taste buds happy.
We all had some great food over the weekend, with the highlight being Francesca’s Cucina. Go to this restaurant. I’d recommend Blue Tusk if you’re in the mood for a bar scene with a seeming infinite amount of beers on tap and some tasty and unique bar food. The Clam Bar makes my recommendation list if you’re looking for a fun atmosphere, just don’t expect too much with the food. A La Mode is also worth visiting if you’re looking for a quick sandwich that is going to fill you up big time. You can skip Asti Caffe and Boom Boom Mex Mex.
All food aside, congratulations to Stephen, Steve, Scuba (whatever you call him) and the entire graduating class of 2012.