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Nov 16, 2018

Review - Sal's Pizza and Pasta House in Sarasota Florida

Sal's Pizza and Pasta House 
6582 Gateway Ave Sarasota, FL 34231


Pizza Chap rating..

5 out of 5 slices


Before I officially moved to Florida, I took a few scouting trips to research what part of the state I wanted to live.  On one of those last trips, I discovered a great New York style pizzeria in Sarasota called Sal's.  Being from Colorado, it was at the time, the best New York Style Pie I had eaten in years.  Here are some thoughts on their pizza.






The crust
The crust on this pie was everything a New York style crust should be. Thin and slightly crispy.. but not cracker crispy. A nice puffy and bready edge crust, but nowhere near thick or chewy. The fellow behind the counter hand stretched the dough and hand tossed it in under two minutes. The modest yet incredibly efficient deck oven had the pepperoni pie cooked in about 7 minutes, and it was absolutely cooked to perfection.

The sauce
The balance that a New York style sauce requires is a delicate one. The ingredients call for little more than tomatoes, garlic, and some oregano. Too bold of a sauce will take away from the taste of the cheese, while a weak sauce makes for a bland and uninteresting slice. Sal's sauce was spot on as well as perfectly proportioned to the pie.  It served as the perfect buffer between the rich cheese and the wonderful crust.

Toppings
The high butter fat mozzarella was absolutely amazing, and the mouth watering pepperoni was of the utmost quality.

Their pizza was incredibly and utterly delicious.  The stuff dreams are made of.  Well.. my dreams anyway.  The dining experience at Sal's to me personally was a bit surreal.  The staff, food, and general vibe, made it evident that I was sitting in an honest to goodness New York style Pizzeria. However, once you look out the storefront windows, you see that the pizzeria is juxtaposed with a beach town view complete with palm trees.  At the time, I had never experienced anything like it at a pizzeria, and it was quite fun and refreshing.


The fellow behind the counter knew his way around the kitchen, and for sure around his deck oven. He made an absolutely perfect pie in under ten minutes and didn't resort to cracking the door once.  He knew his oven like the back of his hand, and didn't open it until it was time to pull the pizza out.  I was wondering if it needed a turn or two, or even another minute or so, but the young Pizzaiolo crafted a great tasting pie cooked to perfection.

He hand rolled some bread sticks for us that were both beautiful and tasty.  He also put together a pig in a blanket with pizza dough for my son, which housed a 1/4 lb hot dog and cheese. He was quite friendly as well, asking where we were from (must've been obvious we were out of towners) and was more than happy to shoot the breeze with us, answering our questions about the local sights.


Our visit to Sal's was everything a great dining experience should be.  Rest assured that when I visit Sarasota again soon, I will definitely be popping in for more great food and exceptional service.. all set in the backdrop of a beautiful Florida beach town.



Nov 11, 2018

Review - DiGiorno Crispy Pan Pizza




Our rating..
4 out of 5 slices


I hadn't eaten a DiGiorno frozen pizza in quite some time, but heard some good things about their new Crispy Pan Pizza.  I must admit that I was never a real big fan of DiGiorno's pizza over the years.  I did however take a gamble a while back on trying their Garlic Bread Pizza and was pleasantly surprised, which in turn created a gateway for me to try this one.  I always like to keep some frozen pizza on hand for emergencies, so I figured I would pick one up so I could give it a try next time a late night craving hit.




This three meat pizza comes laden with pepperoni, sausage, beef, and loads of Mozzarella.  The pie comes with its own single use pan which I must say, did an excellent job of crisping up the pizza from edge to edge.  The cheese actually creeps over the edges and helps in creating a crispy and caramelized crust.


I was doubtful that DiGiorno could pull off a crispy pan pie, but they proved me wrong.  The edges and underside of this pizza were nice and crispy, with the interior of the 1+ inch of crust being soft, airy and tender on the inside. I wouldn't quite say it's the same as a homemade or fresh baked pie, but it most definitely tastes closer to homemade than frozen!  More pepperoni and a better sauce to bread ratio would have garnered a higher rating from me, but the pizza was by no means unenjoyable to eat.



I baked the pie at 22 minutes and really should have rotated it once, because I have a hot spot in my oven.  Totally my fault, but I could definitely see cooking these pizzas at 24 minutes plus, being too much for these pies.  Every oven is different, so I would start checking on it at around the 20 minute mark.

As for size, I'd say three to four adults could dine off of these pies (depending on their appetites).  If you're feeding a family of four or five, make sure to buy two of them.  Cutting it up into slightly smaller pieces would make it ideal to put out for party snacks.

All in all.. definitely a bargain for under seven bucks, and I can honestly say that it beats the heck out of anything Papa's, The Hut, or Domino's cranks out.  And THAT my friends, is no small feat for a frozen pizza company to pull off!  DiGiorno's made this Crispy Pan work, and I hope they keep putting the research and development into new products they release.

Visit DiGiorno online




Nov 9, 2018

Review - G's NY Pizza in Clermont Florida


G's NY Pizza - 12346 Roper Blvd. 
Clermont, Florida.

Pizza Chap rating..
5 out of 5 slices


This week, I realized that I have never officially written a review for the Pizzeria I frequent most often in Clermont Florida. I guess it's due time to remedy that! I won't get too in depth with the full blown details on aesthetics, consistencies etc.  Instead.. I'll let a few photos from my Instagram do the talking..




So as you can see from the pictures, G's is an authentic NY Style Pizzeria through and through.  Great hand tossed pies made with great ingredients.   The owner Peter Fiorino grew up in Valley Street New York, and was on the 2007 United States Pizza Team, so the guy definitely has skills.  I can count on one hand, the times he hasn't been in the pizzeria during my visits in the last year.  He makes a mean pie, and definitely takes pride in his craft.

They have a great menu as well. Whether its a salad, sandwich, calzone, stromboli, or Parmigiana dinner, I've never had a bad meal at G's.  Do you have a sweet tooth?  I IMPLORE YOU to try their Cannolis!  Always freshly filled after you order them, the shells are crisp, and not dense like other places that pre make and refrigerate them. Check them out below..



G's is my go-to Pizzeria for New York Style Pizza, and it's not because it's so close to home (that's just a blessing).  It's a nice little shop (and I do stress the word little) because I believe there are a total of three tables inside.  Two of them seat up to four people, and the other seats two, so max capacity is about ten or eleven people.  I always try to go early to miss the lunch crowd, but am always ready to not have a place to sit.  In that instance I will order it to-go, and hope for a table to open up, otherwise I eat my pizza outside, or in my car.  Still.. totally worth the minor annoyance, because their food is so incredibly good.


Visit G's NY Pizza online


Nov 2, 2018

Review - Joe's Pizza in Ocoee Florida

 2735 Old Winter Garden Road, Ocoee Florida


Pizza Chap rating..
5 out of 5 slices



Well folks, I believe I've found my new favorite New York Style Pizza spot in the Orlando area.  Joe's Pizzeria in Ocoee is hitting on all cylinders, and I've immensely enjoyed my last couple of visits there.   They opened up in New York back in 1988, and expanded to Florida shortly after opening their first restaurants.




This is quality pizza through and through, with great ingredients and a perfectly stretched & cooked crust.   While fresh ingredients are always key to making a good quality pizza, the backbone is the crust, and I could find nothing wrong with Joe's.



The crust on my slices had just the right amount of crispiness to them.  I love a big floppy slice that you can fold and eat on the go.. but the extra amount of crisping that this bottom crust had was perfect, and made the slices easier to handle.  Mind you, there's a very fine line between this crisping and an overcooked slice, but Joe's has managed to find that sweet spot of perfection that kicks this crust into the stratosphere as far as taste and consistency goes!




If you want a real treat, order up a slice of Joe's Margherita pizza which is made with Mozzarella, plum tomatoes, fresh Basil & Garlic.  It's a perfectly balanced slice, and took me to Zen after the first bite!



As if the Pizza wasn't enough of a treat already.. I also ordered some Garlic Knots that totally blew me away.  I can't stand a pre made Garlic Knot that is heavy, tough, and devoid of flavor.  These beautiful little knots of dough were light, soft, and obviously made fresh.  The butter and garlic was perfectly proportioned, which made for some of the most succulent Garlic Knots I've ever eaten.  The marinara perfectly complimented them, and didn't overpower or take anything away from the knots.  At $2.00 for an order of six.. this is one of the best deals you will find in these parts for such a high quality appetizer.

I can't say enough nice things about Joe's Pizza in Ocoee.  If you want New York Pizza done right, hit them up.  If Ocoee is a little out of the way for you, they also have another store at 1881 Fairbanks in Winter Park.  To sum up, Joe's makes an incredible tasting pie made with quality ingredients, and is a heck of a value.   Joe's will be getting more of my business and referrals for some time to come.





Oct 30, 2018

Review - Giordano's Pizza in Kissimmee

7866 W. Irlo Bronson Hwy. Kissimmee FL



Pizza Chap rating..
4.5 out of 5 slices 


I stopped in at Giordano's the other day for lunch.  If you weren't aware, they have a pretty good lunch special that's been running for awhile now.  From 11:00 to 3:00 p.m. You can get a 6 inch stuffed deep dish pizza with all cheese, pepperoni, or sausage, and a choice of a side for just $8.95.  You might scoff at the thought of a 6 inch pie, but I attest as an official card carrying "Big Guy".. you will not be disappointed with this meal.

A cute little Deep Dish Pizza Pie that will fill your belly!


Be aware that this pizza even at six inches, is going to take a half an hour to bake, so if you're in a hurry, you might want to order something else off of the lunch menu.  Personally however, if I'm taking the time to go to Giordano's, I am always going for their signature Deep Dish Pie!  I opted for a sausage Pizza, and was not disappointed.

Tons of cheese, tons of crust, tons of satisfaction


Here are my findings:

The Crust - Nice and crispy on the outer layer, and not doughy anywhere else.  Nice and bready on the end crust, but I love this!

The Cheese - Their aged Wisconsin Mozzarella tasted incredible and provided great creaminess, with a nice buttery flavor.  The stretchiness of the cheese is something you just won't believe until you see it.

The Sausage - A roundish sausage crumble that one gets accustomed to seeing in pizzerias of all sorts.  I would have liked to see a sausage in this pie with a more artisan feel and taste to it.

The Sauce - A very fresh tasting sauce that helps pull this deep dish together.  Giordano's sauce does not have any preservatives or chemicals and is made fresh daily.  Crafted from fresh tomatoes grown in Mendoncino County California, this quality sauce is definitely a star.  It would be so easy for a pizza chain to 'Phone it in' and use a mass produced sauce from a distributor, so I really respect how Giordano's keeps it real.


Some video of that famous Giordano's 'Cheese Pull'
on my Instagram account..



New York style is usually my go-to pizza of choice, but I do get a hankering for a good Deep Dish pie on occasion.  I really do dig everything about these pies, even the massive end crust that you're left with when you finish your slice.

Some people don't care for end crust to begin with, so I can see how a Chicago style crust may not excite some folks.  If that includes you.. I will share a trick with you that might help you finish off that crust a bit easier.


How to eat your Chicago Deep Dish End Crust
(for those who don't particularly care for end crust)

Step One - Stop eating the pizza when you get a couple inches away from the end crust.

Step Two - Rotate the crust so the tip of where your slice used to be, is facing straight up.

Step Three -Hold and eat the crust the way you would eat a Hot Dog.


When you utilize this technique, you will have sauce, cheese, and toppings to go with every bite of the thick end crust.  The toppings won't fall off thanks to the sheer width and flatness of the end crust.  It doesn't work on any other type of pizza!

All in all I had a wonderful dining experience at Giordano's.  One of these days I will have to visit and order one of their full blown loaded large pies that can feed 4-6 people. If I do.. rest assured you will read about it and see it here!



Oct 25, 2018

Review - Flippers Pizza Kissimmee, Florida


3216 Rolling Oaks Blvd, Kissimmee, FL 


Pizza Chap rating..

5 out of 5 slices


I have been eating a lot of New York style pizza as of late. And.. While it probably is my most favorite style of pizza, I've had the craving lately for something with a heftier crust that can accomodate A LOT of toppings.  I had eaten at Flippers a couple of months back, and decided that this might be a great Pizzeria to order a pie like this.


Flippers 'Big Pie'


As you can see.. there is a whole lot going on here, so let me break it down for you..


The Crust - Made with artisan flour and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, this is a delicious and hefty Brick Oven Crust with a beautiful char.

The Cheese - 100% Whole Milk Aged Mozzarella from Wisconsin.  Just look at that melt!

The Sauce - Tasty and delicious, made with fresh San Joaquin tomatoes, spices & Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Meats - Quality meats that are very tasty and not inferior by any means, but an artisan type sausage and thick cut pepperoni would have kicked this pie up several notches.

Veggies - The onions and Peppers were fresh and delicious.  They actually crunched in my mouth when I chewed them!  Olives were canned, but I'm totally fine with that. Veggies at Flippers are roasted in the 600 degree Brick Oven






This pizza crust efficiently held up under the strain of the toppings, and this pleased me to no end.  It very much reminded me of the Colorado Pizza I ate as a boy, with hearty crusts that could withstand a multitude of toppings.  Every quality ingredient played off of the next perfectly and made for one divine pie.  Now that I think of it, Flipper's was the very first Pizzeria that was recommended to me after I relocated top Central Florida. I can see why Flippers is a local favorite, and they are now my go-to pizzeria for heartier loaded pies.

Oh.. I can't forget to mention how wonderful, friendly and attentive the staff was at this store. Especially my server Darien.  Talk about the icing on the cake, or.. pie rather.  It was a pleasure dining in this establishment, and I will be back very soon.

Oct 22, 2018

The Original Pandhandler's Pizza in Fort Collins, Colorado


The now defunct Panhandler's Pizza
1220 W. Elizabeth  Fort Collins, Colorado


Up until 2017, I'm almost positive that Panhandler's was Fort Collins oldest operating Pizza restaurant, opening back in 1975.  When I was a kid, they had two Fort Collins stores throughout the 70s and 80s. Their original store was located in the "Campus West" area on Elizabeth Street near Colorado State University. The other was located on the east end of town in the old Scotch Pines Village shopping center.

Prior to my final visit, I believe the last time I enjoyed a slice of Panhandler's pizza was in 1987 or 1988 when I was in high school.  Panhandler's would set up in the park directly across from the old Fort Collins High School one day a week for an event called "Pizza in the Park".  They would sell their thick pan pizza for $1.00 a slice, and one slice was a meal in itself.

About a year and a half ago, I did an internet search to see if they were still in business.  I learned that their original store on Elizabeth was still open and going strong.  During a trip to Fort Collins, I decided to pop in to see if their pizza was all I remembered it to be.



Seeing the old Panhandler's wooden sign was like seeing an old friend


I was so happy to learn that Panhandler's pie was indeed every bit as good as I remembered.  I arrived for lunch at 11:00 a.m. when hot pies were coming right out of the oven.  I chose a Pepperoni slice, and Deluxe Combo slice which sported Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Mushroom, Green Pepper & Red Onion. 




The Crust
Made in house daily, the quality of Panhandler's dough was very evident.   The Panhandler's method of cooking their pan style crust took 25 minutes. This cook time resulted in the pastry-like dough being fully cooked through and through, and was by no means thick and chewy like many pan styles I had tried over the years.  Panhandler's was famous in the area for their Honey Whole Wheat pan crust.  Honey dispensers were abundant and readily available for patrons.  That way, upon finishing your slice, you could dip the honey wheat crust edges into some honey for a sweet and satisfying treat.

The sauce
Panhandler's sauce was made fresh daily right on the premises.  With the amount of crust on this type of pie, you need a sauce that brings a lot to the table, and Panhandler's sauce did not disappoint.  The sauce was snappy and hit you right up front.  It wasn't overpowering however, and jived perfectly with the slice until the very last bite.

Toppings
Panhandler's pies were made with 100% real, Wisconsin whole-milk Mozzarella cheese.  The other toppings were top notch, being of good quality and thick cut with exception of the pepperoni.  Proportions of all toppings in relation to the sizing of these slices was always spot on.

Presentation
A nice slice of pan pizza is a thing of beauty, and a slice of Panhandler's Pizza was impressive to say the least.  Caramelized edges, beautiful cheese, liberal toppings, and the sheer size of those slices made for a beautiful looking slice all the way around.




At the time of my visit, the restaurant was exactly the way I remembered it.  The pizzeria exuded a warm and rustic Colorado feel, and had a great layout for accommodating large groups of people.  Dated?  Some might've said so, but to me it looked exactly how it should.

I remember visiting this very restaurant once in the dead of a cold Colorado winter.  We looked out of the front window, only to see a wall of thick white snow blowing around like crazy.  After an initial groan from everyone, the angst faded and pretty soon the storm didn't matter to any of us.  There was a nice warm fire burning in the fireplace, hot pizza on the table, and pitchers of root beer flowing like water.  It felt safe and soothing, my own version of paradise, and I never wanted to leave.  It was one of the greatest memories of my pizza laden youth.



At the end of 2017, I learned from my peeps back in Colorado, that the restaurant closed its doors after 42 years.  This saddened me to no end, but my friends told me not to fret because they would relocate and reopen under new ownership.  They have indeed done just that, with the new digs sporting an industrial design.  Apparently there's a very microbrewery feel to it, with the centerpiece of the restaurant being a bar.

I've seen pictures of the new restaurant, and I just couldn't get excited about the new transfer of ownership and rebranding. I've seen many pizzerias transfer ownership in my time, and I can attest that they are never the same afterwards. Recipes may transfer, and the product can still be good, but they're simply not the same in many ways.  I mean how can they be?  Every pizzeria has its own soul and its own culture.  And.. with new owners and staff, comes a whole new blueprint that simply cannot be a carbon copy of the last one.  I wish the new Panhandler's nothing but the best, and I hope the pizza will have a semblance of what it used to be.  And.. If I have time, I will definitely stop in to do a review on my next visit to Fort Collins. 

Times change, and it can sometimes be bittersweet or downright sad.  I am happy however, that I had a chance to eat at the old Panhandler's one last time before it closed. If nothing else, I've got a couple decades of great memories and stories to look back on, and I will always do so fondly.