Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year and Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who has visited our blog this year, made comments and suggestions, or just read it and enjoyed.  Thank you, too, to Google for offering Blogger for free - that's awesome!  Not much is free these days and I appreciate it.

We started our Pizza Pizzazz blog earlier this year on a whim.  It had been a tough year and we wanted something fun to do, and pizza - since it is one of our favorite things - seemed like a good subject for us.  We thought it would be fun, but didn't realize how much fun it actually would be - we've had a blast!  Our pizza research has taken us in many directions, some very unexpected.  For example, we knew would like Fiori's, Danny's and DiSalla's pizza - people raved about them to us.  What we didn't expect was to find such an excellent pizza at Spartan Pizza in Brentwood, or at Foli's in Braddock Hills.  We had more fun than we ever expected tasting the pizza at the Grandview Buffet at the Rivers Casino, Heinz Field, and also at Kennywood - although we forgot to take photos and write the review.  It will just give us an excuse to go back and try it again when the park opens in the Spring!  We also were delighted to discover the Pizza Cone at Pino Gelato in Hilton Head Island, SC on our fall vacation - we expected it to be a gimmick, but it was amazing and delicious.

We have been researching Pittsburgh pizzas to try in 2010, and have been gathering recipes to test.   We'd love to hear from you and find out where you think the best pizzas are in Pittsburgh.

And once again, thank you, and best wishes for 2010!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pizza Flavored Pretzel Nuggets Snack Recipe

3/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon pizza seasoning, prepared or your own homemade mixture
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups small pretzels or pretzel nuggets

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Pour olive oil into a large Tupperware type container with a tight fitting lid.  Add pizza seasoning and garlic powder, and stir.  Add pretzels and tighten container lid firmly.  Shake container until pieces are completely and evenly coated. 

Empty coated pretzels onto large baking sheets (rimmed types work best because of the oil), spreading out on the sheet so that there is a minimum of touching.  Bake for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven and let cool.  When cool, store in a large zip lock bag or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.   I like to drain the pretzels on paper towels or parchment paper before storing, so that they are less oily.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Italian Meatballs in Pizza Sauce Recipe

1 lb. lean ground beef (we use ground round)
1 egg
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp. powdered lemon peel
1 pint pizza sauce (we used Mids)

Combine ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs and powdered lemon peel in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix and shape into golfball sized meatballs - we usually get 12 meatballs to a pound. Place meatballs in microwave safe grill pan or pie pan and microwave for 2 minutes. While the meatballs are being microwaved, empty jar of pizza sauce into large saucepot and bring to simmer. Drain meatballs and gently place into simmerin pizza sauce. Cook for a minimum of 30 minutes or until meatballs are thoroughly cooked.

Note: We precook the meatballs in the microwave to allow some of the fat from the meat to drain. It is not necessary, and you can either precook them by sauteing in a little olive oil and then adding to the sauce, or by simply placing the uncooked meatballs into the simmering sauce. 

Serving suggestion:  Either serve the meatballs over cooked pasta, and sprinkle with a mixture of pizza cheese (mozzarella, provolone and parmesan) or serve 2 or 3 meatballs on crusty hoagie rolls, topped with cheese.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ephesus Pizza - Downtown Pittsburgh

Ephesus Pizza
322 4th Avenue
Pittsburgh (Downtown)

We recently saw a television ad for Ephesus Pizza and it looked so good, we thought we would try it.  So I guess their advertising works!

Ephesus sells four sizes of pizza:  Personal (6"), Small (10"), Large (14") and X-Large (16').  We ordered a small and wished we had gone up a size to the large - it just wasn't big enough for us!

The crust and sauce are made fresh daily and the dough is hand tossed.  The crust was thick, with a nice chewiness.  The sauce was deep red, and think, with a good tomato flavor and occasional chunks of tomato.  The cheese was perfectly melted with a slight crust and was very flavorful.

We're not sure that Ephesus will be one of our new "top favorites", but it was very tasty and we did enjoy it.  Since they are a combination of pizzaria and Mediterranean restaurant, they have some very unusual menu items that we plan to go back and try another time.  The Turkish Pizza, or "Pide", sounds especially good.  Pide come in ten varieties and according to the menu are served with a spring mix, fresh onions and lemons.

Ephesus Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Foli's Place - Braddock Hills, PA

Foli's Place
1050 Brinton Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15221
(412) 241-8840

Foli's is a popular local favorite, tucked away in a tiny strip mall near where Braddock Hills, Forest Hills, Edgewood and Wilkinsburg meet. It had been way too long since we'd eaten there, so decided to head over the hill and pick up a pizza!

We weren't disappointed. We ordered a small, which was a 12" 6-cut traditional Pittsburgh-style pizza. The crust was very good, with a light and airy interior and nice chewiness, and a crisp exterior. The chunky tomato sauce had a freshly made flavor, and it had a good proportion of sauce to cheese.

We also ordered a side of cheese sticks - they were perfectly fried, and had just the right amount of spice for our taste. The accompanying sauce was delicious.

Everyone we talked to in Foli's was very friendly and welcoming, from the nice woman who answered the phone, to the restaurant staff and the fellow customers. I have to admit I forgot to pick up a take out menu and am not sure what else Foli's has to offer. The pizza was so tasty, that I would expect nothing but good things from their other menu items!

Foli's Place on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pepperoni Pizza Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced or chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 can Italian style stewed tomatoes, with liquid
1 small can (8 oz.) no-salt tomato sauce
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup pepperoni (sliced, then cut into quarters)
1 cup grated pizza cheese mixture

Heat olive oil in large sauce pot. Saute onion, mushrooms and green pepper on low heat until tender (about 3 minutes). Add stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce and beef broth, stir well. Simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes.

Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and serve. It's fun to use breadsticks as "dippers"!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Donte's Pizzaria - South Park, PA

We found a comment the other day on our Fiori's Pizza review suggesting we try Donte's Pizzaria and thought, "why not"! We often take our dog to South Park and have passed Donte's a zillion times. To be honest, we never even noticed it, and were happy for the suggestion. We found Donte's in a little strip mall near the Brownsville Road entrance to the park.

Our first impression was that Donte's smells great! The wonderful aroma coming from the little restaurant was inviting, and the atmosphere was clean, bright and welcoming. The staff was very friendly, too, both on the phone when we ordered and in person. There are about 10-15 tables inside and two video games to keep you or the kids occupied while you wait.

We ordered a traditional, Pittsburgh style, pizza and enjoyed it very much. The dough is made fresh daily, as is the sauce, and the pizza crust is hand tossed to order. The result was a charmingly uneven crust with a light, airy interior and crisp edges. The bright, fresh red sauce was slightly sweet and dusted with Italian spices.

We like that Donte's offers slices for those days when we are hungry from a hike in the park and need something good in a hurry!

Would we go back again? Yes, we would. We think that it's not in our top favorites, but it was good ... and it's the perfect spot for an after park snack and we're happy to have found it.

Donte's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey and Ricotta Cheese Pizza Recipe

1 pre-baked pizza crust (such as a Boboli)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup cooked turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato pieces (we cut each tomato into halves or quarters)
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion (like a Vidalia or Mayan Sweet)
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, crushed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread ricotta cheese evenly over crust. Arrange remaining cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, turkey, onion and spinach over ricotta. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until mozzarella cheese is melted.

Cool slightly, cut and enjoy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

BLT Ranch Pizza Recipe

1 pre-baked pizza crust, such as a Boboli
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice (we used a combination that included smoked Cheddar)
1 large tomato, diced (we used a meaty Roma tomato)
or 1/4 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1-1/2 cups shredded or diced iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup prepared ranch dressing, or more to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread pizza crust with olive oil. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly on top. Top with diced tomatoes and crumbled bacon. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

While pizza is baking, toss the shredded or chopped lettuce (we used chopped lettuce) with ranch dressing.

Remove pizza from the oven and top with lettuce mixture. Slice into wedges and serve.

Note: We found it a little easier to slice the pizza and then top the individual slices with lettuce mixture.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pasta Too Family Italian Restaurant - Bethel Park, PA

5260 Library Road
Bethel Park, PA

Last Christmas, Sharon and John gave us a gift certificate for dinner at Pasta Too. We really appreciated it, but the time was just never right to use it - either we were in the area, but didn't have the coupon with us, or we had the coupon, but it was a weird time for dinner ... you know what I mean.

Last night all the stars aligned and it was perfect timing to use our Christmas gift. We called in for take out and ordered a feast to eat while watching Monday Night Football - pizza, wedding soup, Italian salad and provolone sticks.

The Pasta Too offers two styles of pizza - Napolitano (thin crust) or Siciliano (thick crust). We ordered the Napolitano with extra sauce and light cheese. The sauce was deep red and loaded with Italian herbs and spices, and we liked the thin, foldable crust.

The "provolone stick expert" said they were very good, and my "small" salad was HUGE and included lots of goodies, including my favorite - artichoke hearts. We enjoyed the wedding soup, which was full of veggies and shredded chicken along with the tiny meatballs.

The restaurant has a full Italian style menu, serves generous portions, and is very popular - the restaurant was full on a Monday night! On another visit I think we'll try the Chicken or Eggplant Parmigiana - they both looked wonderful.

Thank you, Sharon and John!!!!

Pasta Too on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fiori's - Brookline, Pittsburgh, PA

103 Capital Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15226-1241
(412) 343-7788

Some people crave ice cream or mashed potatoes when they are in need of comfort food, but for us it's pizza. During a very sad time this past week, Judy - who is beautiful inside and out - suggested a little pizza therapy and we gratefully accepted. Judy raced her Mustang to Fiori's in Brookline and Nathan ran the steaming pizza from her car to our door.

The first thing we noticed about Fiori's pizza was the aroma - it smelled wonderful and the kitchen came alive with the rich scent. When we pulled the pieces apart, the thick layer of deliciously gooey cheese stretched beautifully and dripped from our hands. The crust was interesting (in a good way). Our impression of the first slice was that it was doughy and bread like. Once the pizza settled, though, the crust changed character and was firm and pleasantly chewy . The sauce was excellent, also, with a deep tomato flavor and a hint of sweetness. We like a lot of sauce and usually order extra sauce on our pizza, which I think we will do next time - just because it was so tasty we'd like more of it.

Thank you, Judy! We love you!

Fiori's Pizzaria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grand View Buffet at the Rivers Casino - November Update - Champagne Brunch!

Wow! The Rivers Casino has added a Sunday Champagne Brunch to their Grand View Buffet - and it sounds fantastic!

  • Complimentary Mimosas, Bloody Marys and Champagne
  • Beef Strip Loin, Turkey Breast and Ham at the carving station
  • an Omelet station
  • Flambe station
  • and Cherries Jubilee and Bananas Foster for dessert!

The Champagne Brunch is available Sundays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. And here's the best part - it's only $19.95 per person.

Grand View Buffet (Rivers Casino) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Monte Cello's Italian Restaurant - Cranberry, PA

30325 Perry Highway
Cranberry Twp, PA 16066

We have often enjoyed Monte Cello's Sicilian pizza, but had never tried their traditional round thin pizza. We were in the area yesterday and decided the time was right - and it was fantastic!

The traditional round crust was firm and chewy; crunchy on the outside, with a light and breadlike interior. The rich sauce - which is different from the sauce used on their Sicilian pizza - has a deep, spicy tomato flavor and a gorgeous color.

Monte Cello's traditional round thin pizza is available in four sizes, with toppings an additional charge:

  • Mini 9" 4 cut - $4.50

  • Small 9" 6 cut - $6.50

  • Medium 14" 8 cut - $7.50

  • Large 16" 10 cut - $8.95

We're glad we went back!

Monte Cello's-Cranberry on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 2, 2009

Giuseppi's Pizza - Hilton Head Island, SC

Shelter Cove Plaza
Highway 278
Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island

When we heard that Giuseppi's Pizza in Hilton Head was founded by a Pittsburgher, we knew we had to try it.

When in Hilton Head, we always make a stop or two at New York City Pizza and recently fell in love with the innovative Pizza Cone at Pino Gelato ... but Giuseppi's pizza tastes like home. Actually, it tastes like a really, really good version of pizza from home!

First of all, Giuseppi's sauce rocks. It is thick and rich with a hint of sweetness, slightly chunky, and fragrant with Italian herbs and spices. (We ordered our pizza with extra sauce and light on the cheese.) The crust is medium thickness; it has the perfect chewiness, with crisp, cheesy edges. The menu describes the pizza: "We start with our homemade hand tossed dough, ladle on our special recipe tomato sauce, add a generous portion of specially blended provolone and mozzarella cheese, then bake it in our stone hearth oven."

Nine varieties of pizzas are on the menu - the Big Cheese, Giuseppi's Special Pizza, Giuseppi's Veggie Pizza, Giuseppi's Mega Meaty, Chicken Alfredo, Jimmy the Greek, Giuseppi';s White Pizza, Shrimp Scampi, and Giuseppi's Ultimate White Pizza. Individual slices of the Big Cheese, Special, Veggie, Mega Meaty and White Pizza are available if you can't manage an entire 12" or 16" pizza. Or, for $2 more, they will make it a stuffed pizza by adding a top crust layer, baste with olive oil and Parmesan cheese, and baking.

If you'd like something other than pizza, Giuseppi's has a huge menu including seven pastas and four baked pastas, eight varieties of hoagies, seven types of wraps, five flavors of Philly Cheesesteaks and four different Parmesan Hoagies. Two Giuseppi's specialties are Weggies(r) and Boli's. Weggies basically folded and stuffed pizza dough, topped with lettuce and tomato, onion and ranch dressing - they are available in 11 flavors, including the Original (ham and pepperoni), Weggiedilla (marinated chicken, cheddar & jack cheese, bacon, onion and BBQ sauce) and a Greek Weggie (chicken, feta, kalamata olives, banana peppers, romaine, tomato and Greek vinaigrette).

The Boli is similar to a calzone - pizza dough filled with toppings along with ricotta and cheeses, then folded and baked, and served with a side of their wonderful marinara sauce. Giuseppi's Boli's are available in Carboli (pepperoni, sausage and ham), Macaboli (mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives), Cheeseburgerboli (ground beef, American cheese, bacon, mustard and ketchup) and the Create-a-Boli (you choose!).

Nine salads are on the menu, as well as another Pittsburgh staple - Italian Wedding Soup, available by the cup or bowl. In addition, you can choose from 14 appetizers and extras - Spinach Dip, Stuffed Chili Peppers, Shrimp Basket, Buffalo Shrimp, Onion Rings, Mozzarella Cheese Stix, Chicken Fingers, Buffalo Chicken Fingers, Garlic Toast, Cheese Garlic Toast, Garlic Tomato Cheese Toast, Fries, side of Marinara Sauce, and Meatball Sliders.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Italian Pot Roast with Pizza Gravy

Italian Pot Roast

1 2-3 lb. beef roast (we used a rump roast)
1 tsp. pizza seasoning
1 tsp. garlic pepper seasoning (we used a McCormick's "grinder")
1 tsp. paprika
1 cup low sodium beef broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together pizza seasoning, garlic pepper seasoning and paprika. Rub seasoning mixture on roast. Place roast in an oven proof pan or roaster with lid. Pour beef broth over roast. Add water as necessary to bring the level of liquid so that it covers 3/4 of the roast. Cover and cook for approximately 3 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove from oven and let rest for several minutes. Remove to platter and slice. Serve with Pizza Gravy.

Pizza Gravy

1/2 cup prepared beef gravy (freshly prepared gravy from pan juices or bottled gravy)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. pizza seasoning

Mix gravy, tomato sauce and pizza seasoning in a small saucepan. Bring to simmer and stir. Serve hot with slices of roast.

Note: We used our own salt free pizza seasoning mixture to season the roast, but used Penzey's pizza seasoning for the gravy as it is a ground seasoning and blends into the sauce.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pino Gelato Pizza Cone - Hilton Head Island, SC & Cranberry/Butler, PA

Pino Gelato
The Village at Wexford
Hilton Head Island, SC

We loved Pino Gelato's Pizza Cone!

We were intrigued when we read about the Pizza Cone on Hilton Head Island's Blog a la Carte blog - when we saw that it is going to be featured on an upcoming episode of the Food Network's Unwrapped, we knew we had to try it while we were there last week.

I thought it would be a gimmick - I never expected it to be as tasty as it was!

A Pizza Cone is basically pizza in a cone shaped crust, which makes it easy to hold - perfect for a lunch on the go. It is baked to order in a special pizza cone oven and served piping hot. The crust is exceptional - very flaky, almost like a pastry, and just downright delicious. The sauce, which is made on the premises, is also very good - slightly spicy with a rich flavor. There is cheese throughout, and a layer of cheese at the bottom of the cone, which helps seal in the sauce and tastes like a bite of cheese bread.

The pizza cone is $3.25 for a Margherita, $3.50 for Pepperoni or Sausage, or $3.50 for an Italian Hot Dog. They also have daily Pizza Cone specials, as well as two combos - a Pizza Cone and gelato for $5.95 or Pizza Cone and soda for $4.50.

We were happy to hear that Pino Gelato is opening a location in the Butler/Cranberry area - that's not very close to us, but it will be worth the trip.

P.S. The gelato at Pino Gelato is amazing also!

Pino Gelato on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 23, 2009

New York City Pizza - Hilton Head, SC

81 Pope Avenue
Heritage Plaza
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

I think we came back to Hilton Head this year just because we were craving New York City Pizza. And it was every bit as good as we remembered!

The crust is outstanding - it is thin, yet crunchy with a nice chewiness, and great flavor. New York Pizza makes the dough fresh daily, hand tossed to order, and stone baked. We ordered a New York style cheese pizza. It was spread with a thin layer of a tasty red sauce, fragrant with Italian herbs and spices, and artfully topped with Mozzarella. It was pretty close to perfect.

We also tried an order of New York City's mozzarella sticks. They were wonderful, with a nice coating, and bursting with flavor with each bite. The cheese sticks came with a very good garlicky marinara sauce. The sauce was different from the pizza sauce, but just as flavorful.

New York City Pizza offers three styles of pizza - New York, Pan Pizza or Sicilian - and sells pizza by the slice also. They make calzones and strombolis, which are available in either small or large. They have 14 specialty pizzas, including a Margherita, Greek, and White Pizzas. Some of the more unusual pizzas are a double crust Stuffed Cheesesteak Pizza, Chicken Parm Pizza, and Mario's Mexican Mayhem - with refried beans, steak and other Mexican style toppings. I wonder how many people order their Baked Ziti Pizza - ziti and tomato sauce, tossed with mozzarella and ricotta and spread over a pizza crust.

New York City Pizza's extensive menu includes six cold subs and nine hot subs, and nine reasonably priced salads, from a small side salad to a fresh Insalata Caprese and a heartier Chef or Grilled Chicken or Chef and my favorite - the Greek Salad. Available appetizers are soup of the day, mozzarella sticks, fried calamari with marinara sauce, garlic sticks with marinara sauce, and buffalo chicken wings with your choice of six sauces.

They have many pasta and dinner choices with 31 options available - from lasagna and eggplant parm to Penne Rivazza, Linguine Calamari Marinara, Veal Picatta, and Chicken Francese to name just a few, with extra meatballs, sausage, and chicken available as sides.

If you're still hungry, you can opt for dessert - Tiramisu, New York Style plain or raspberry cheesecake, or cannoli.

New York City Pizza is a full service restaurant with a fairly large restaurant area, and a bar where you can choose from eight beers on draft, nine domestic beers, eight imports, and fourteen specialty beers, with a wine list available.

New York City Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Super Easy Hot & Creamy Pizza Dip Recipe

8 ounces cream cheese, softened (we used low fat cream cheese)
1 cup prepared pizza sauce
red pepper flakes (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Fold pizza sauce into softened cream cheese. Pour mixture into a microwave safe bowl and heat for approximately 2 minutes, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds.

Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese if desired.

Serve with warm bread sticks, pita chips, crackers, or strips of fresh green pepper.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Di Salla's Pizza by the Slice - Homestead

948 E 8th Ave
Homestead, PA 15120
(412) 462-5070

We have a new addition to our Top 5 List!

We had been wanting to try Di Salla's pizza for a long time - whenever we ask for pizza recommendations, Di Salla's in Homestead (or I guess it's Munhall) has been the name that is mentioned to us most frequently. Last Sunday after the Steeler game, we decided the time was right!

We called and ordered a half tray, which was 8 square pieces of pie. You don't have to order in advance - Di Salla's sells pizza by the slice and is happy to add the topping you'd like and prepare it while you wait. Also - a word to the wise - we wished we had ordered the full 16 slice tray. It was so good, that we were fighting over the last slice.

The pizza shop was crowded, and we were the only newcomers. One woman waiting at the counter said she had been going to Di Salla's for 30 years - that once you taste it, it's the pizza you crave above all others. We parked next to a man who was eating in his pick up truck, and saw another man lift the lid and pull out a steaming slice as he was walking to his car - neither could wait, and once we caught a whiff, we understood why.

Di Salla's pizza sauce is one of the best we have ever tasted - it is a deep red; thick and rich, and loaded with garlic. I was expecting a traditional round pizza, so was surprised to see the square cuts. But that's not a bad thing - the crust was also excellent. Carol remarked that the crust was crisp and crunchy, yet it melts in your mouth, and that was very true.

Di Salla's is take out only and pizza only (no sides). That's enough, when your pizza is as near perfection as Di Salla's pizza.

Di Sallas' Pizza Parlor on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 16, 2009

Grand View Buffet @ the Rivers Casino - October Update

You know from our previous posts that we love the Grand View Buffet at the new Rivers Casino!

The Grand View Buffet special for October is a Thursday night Seafood Buffet for $26.95 per person - I wonder if they have a seafood pizza at the pizza station? That would be inspired! I'll have to go and find out.

Grand View Buffet (Rivers Casino) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

McGinnis Sisters Take & Bake Pizza

We like McGinnis Sisters for their fresh local produce and antibiotic-free meat and poultry - not to mention their friendly staff and outstanding customer service. They also have a large selection of take & bake foods, and we have often relied on their pizza for a quick meal.

At the Brentwood McGinnis Sisters, pizzas come in a small (7") or large (12") and either pepperoni or cheese. We chose the family-friendly 12" cheese pizza.

The Pittsburgh-style crust was thick, but had crisp edges. It was spread with a thick red tomato sauce with a hint of spice, and was loaded with fresh grated cheese. If you don't like a lot of cheese, you can take some off before cooking and save it for topping subs or your own fresh pizza.

McGinnis Sisters has three locations in the Pittsburgh area: Monroeville, Brentwood, and Adams Township. The menu for the new Adams Township location lists three pizzas in their Adams Cafe menu - Margarita (which includes pesto and balsamic in the toppings), Five Cheese (one of the five cheeses is their delicious smoked Gouda) and BBQ Chicken.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Spartan Pizza - Brentwood

3600 Brownsville Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15227

Spartan Pizza makes an outstanding crust. It was thin and almost cracker like; it held its shape, yet could be easily folded and the flavor was near perfection. We decided that it was the best crust that we have tasted to date on our Pizza Tour de Pittsburgh. The crust was topped with a thin layer of a tasty red tomato sauce, and a bubbling mixture of freshly grated cheese - half Provolone and half Mozzarella.

It was a chilly day, so we also ordered a cup of Spartan's Italian Wedding Soup to help warm us up. The soups at Spartan Pizza are homemade by a retired chef. The Wedding Soup was very good and also unusual in that it was made with beef broth rather than chicken broth, which gave it a very rich flavor. It was loaded with thick chunks of fresh carrot and dotted with spinach and acini de pepi, as well as tiny and tasty meatballs. The Wedding Soup is available seasonally - and I'm glad it is Wedding Soup season, because I'd like to go back soon for a larger container!

Spartan's pizzas are available in four sizes ranging from Small (12" 6 cut $7) to Xtra Large (18" 16 cuts $11). They also offer small or large Pizza Boats and I was happy to see that their pizza is available by the slice, at $1.25 per slice. They also offer four specialty pizzas: White Pizza, Spinach & Feta (the Spartan's Special), Grilled Chicken Pizza (with a white pizza base) and BBQ Chicken, which uses BBQ sauce instead of a red pizza sauce.

They also serve Wedgies, which are fresh dough stuffed with meats, cheese and veggies and garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion and dressing. You can choose Italian, Deli, Philly Cheese, Turkey Bacon, or Vegetarian. Their Calzones also sound very good and are available in Italian, Philly Cheese Steak, Meatball, Spinach, Mushroom, Pepperoni or Chicken.

Spartan says that their best seller is their Steak Sub - the Steak Sub is available in either half or whole, with the lowest priced Steak Sub the regular ($4.75 half/$8.75 whole) and the most expensive the Philly Cheese Steak ($5.75 half/$10.25 whole). Other varieties include Cheese Steak, Mushroom Cheese Steak, Steak & Egg, Steak & Peppers, Italian Steak, and Bacon Cheese Steak. The Steak Subs are served on a fresh Italian roll from Mancini's Bakery.

They also serve six types of burgers, the most unusual of which are a Cajun Burger and an Italian burger, which includes Pepperoni. Their sandwiches are also served on a fresh Mancini's Italian Roll, or Kaiser Roll. You have 17 sandwich choices, a comforting BLT or Grilled Cheese, or a hearty Hot Sauce or Chicken Parmesan sandwich. Spartan also makes wraps, croissant sandwiches and pita sandwiches, including gyros.

Some of the 13 sides on the menu are fried provolone, mushrooms or zucchini, Cheddar Cheese poppers, and Hot Buffalo Chicken Fingers. They also make buckets and baskets of Buffalo Party Wings, and four pasta dinners (sauce with meatball, meat sauce, hot sausage casserole, chicken parmigiana), served with a salad and garlic toast - available for a dinner special from 4-8 pm for $6 plus tax. If you're in the mood for something lighter, there are seven salads on the menu.

Spartan Pizza is located near Brentwood High School, on the opposite side of the street. It is, in fact, named after the Brentwood High School mascot, the Spartan! We were there on a weekend, but I am willing to bet that Spartan Pizza is very popular with the students after school - and they are lucky to have such a wonderful pizza parlor so close to their school.

Spartan Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 9, 2009

Penzey's Italian Pizza Seasoning

We like to make our own salt free Italian pizza seasoning mix, but also love the flavor and convenience of prepared spice and seasonings mixes, such as Penzey's Pizza Seasoning.

Penzey's Pizza Seasoning is a mixture of fennel seed, oregano, sugar, salt, garlic, black pepper, basil, onion and red pepper. It is a ground mixture, so it adds lots of flavor, but not the flakes of herb that look so attractive in pizza sauce.
Penzey's recommends mixing 1 tablespoon of their pizza seasoning to 1-2 cups of tomato sauce, then brushing on pita bread or a pizza crust. Because of the fennel in the mixture, it gives a nice Italian sausage flavor to foods - they suggest mixing it with ground turkey for sausage flavor without the fat.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Heinz Field - Pittsburgh

It was a beautiful fall night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh - and the Steelers were winning by ... a lot. What could make the night even better?

Food, of course! We were happy to find a kiosk close to our section selling personal pan pizzas.

Heinz Field offers a choice of a pepperoni or cheese pizza for $5.75. The cheese pizzas were sold out, so by default, we chose pepperoni. We were surprised to find out that the pizzas are Freschetta brand frozen pizzas with self rising crust. The pizza comes in a Freschetta branded box and is cut into 4 slices. The kiosk vendor said that the pizzas are a fan favorite and one of their biggest sellers.

It had been a long time since we tried Freschetta and liked the mild spiciness and the chewy, flavorful crust.

But even more than that, we liked the Steeler victory!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sunseri's Pizza Calzones - Baldwin

2805 Custer Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15227
(412) 885-8833

The old Girl Scout song "make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold ..." doesn't only apply to people - it can apply to pizzas as well!

We enjoy trying pizzas and restaurants that are new to us, but sometimes we just want a long time favorite - Sunseri's Pizza on the Baldwin/Carrick border. Tonight we decided to try Sunseri's pizza calzones and they were as good as we remembered. The dough for the calzones is flavorful and nicely chewy, and the calzones are nearly bursting with fillings. Sunseri's calzones come in two sizes, each with your choice of two toppings. The small is $5.35 and the large is $10.20. Sizewise, the small would be equivalent to a small pizza - shareable if you'd like, but suited as an individual serving if you are hungry.

I chose mushrooms and hot banana peppers as the two fillings for my calzone - it was juicy and absolutely delicious!

Sunseri Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chicken and Hot Banana Pepper Pizza Recipe

This is a quick and easy recipe that utilizes leftovers and items you might already have in your pantry.

1 prepared pizza shell (we used a thin crust Boboli)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup cooked chicken cubes or chunks
12 banana pepper rings or more if desired (we used Vlasic)
1 slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup shredded pizza cheese (mixture of Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place pizza crust on oven proof nonstick cookie sheet or pizza pan. Spread olive oil over top of crust and sprinkle with pizza seasoning. Arrange chicken cubes, bacon crumbles and hot pepper rings evenly over crust and top with pizza cheese.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Cool slightly, then slice and serve.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mm! Mm! Pizza - Brentwood

5208 Clairton Blvd.
Baldwin, PA

We must have passed Mm! Mm! Pizza hundreds of times and never noticed it. We found a 50% off coupon in the new Enjoy coupon book and thought we'd give it a try.

We ordered just before half time in the Steelers/Bengals game, which was a very busy time for the pizza shop. Despite that, they were up to the challenge and had our pizza ready to pick up within 25 minutes and pleasantly answered our questions.

The shop is take-out only, but there's enough room to watch them stretch and hand toss the pizza dough to order. The sauces are made fresh daily, and the toppings and cheese are also prepared fresh every morning.

We ordered a large traditional pizza with homemade red pizza sauce. The sauce was very good - it was thick and robust, pureed style, with a hint of sweetness. The crust was thick and breadlike, with a mild flavor. My first thought was that it was a little too thick for my personal taste, but in thinking about it, it was the perfect crust for the sauce - a thinner crust would not have stood up to the thick, rich delicious sauce. The ratio of sauce to crust to cheese was just about perfect. Our guest pizza taster, Carol, gave the pizza a B+ rating, and we all agreed.

Mm! Mm! Pizza has an enormous menu - they offer 24 pizza toppings, 13 specialty pizzas, 12 appetizers, 10 types of salad, and also make lamb or chicken breast gyros, wings, calzones, subs, fish sandwiches, and sweet or savory bread sticks. Some of the Specialty Pizzas are very unusual, such as the Flyin' Hawaiian (chicken breast, peppadew, and pineapple) and the Hawaiian (pizza sauce topped with ham, bacon, pineapple, mozzarella and provolone) and even the Seafood Pizza (white garlic butter, shrimp and crab meat, onions, and cheeses). I might be tempted to try two others that sound good to me - their Taco Pizza, or Chicken and Spinach.

We tasted an order of Mm! Mm! Pizza's provolone sticks, and they were very good, helped by the accompanying container of their delicious pizza dipping sauce. Instead of fried baby mushrooms, they offer breaded Portabella slices, and I plan to order some on another visit.

If you don't have an Enjoy or Entertainment book don't worry - Mm! Mm! Pizza offers lots of discounts. They have 2 Pizza Specials every day (2 Medium for $12.99, 2 Large for $14.99) and have daily specials. Their Tuesday special is a large Cheese Pizza for $6.99 or an X-Large Cheese Pizza for $8.99. On Fridays, you can choose your own special from any of the other six daily specials.

Mm! Mm! Pizza on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Salt Free Italian Pizza Seasoning Mix Recipe

2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried lemon peel
pinch thyme

Mix all ingredients together and sprinkle over pizza sauce, or use to give pizza flavor to other dishes.

Store in a zip lock bag or glass jar. If you use the dried lemon peel, store in refrigerator.

Friday, September 25, 2009

California Pizza Kitchen - Frozen Margherita Pizza for One

We have so many wonderful take-out pizza options available, that we don't normally make frozen pizza. Sometimes, though, it's handy to have a frozen pizza on hand, and we were lucky enough to have a California Pizza Kitchen's Pizza Margherita Pizza for One waiting in the freezer. As a bonus, it turned out to be very good!

The box had directions to cook the pizza by either microwave or in the oven. We chose the oven, but the lined box does fold over to double as a pizza pan if you'd like to use your microwave.

The crust was light and crispy, and much tastier than we expected. The pizza had a light sauce with small chunks of tomato and flavorful pieces of basil on top. It was topped with a mixture of four cheeses - Parmesan, Asiago, Romano and Mozzarella.

The California Pizza Kitchen website suggests pairing the Pizza Margherita with a Chardonnay. They have a fun "Wine Pairings" gadget on their website that allows you to select a crust and pizza, and they will give you wine suggestions. The website also suggests cooking a Pizza Margherita, cutting it into strips and serving with a trio of dipping sauces - pesto mayo, marinara and olive oil - for a quick appetizer.

All in all, it was a very tasty pizza that we would definitely buy again.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Michael's Pizza Bar and Restaurant - South Side

2612 Sarah Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15203
(412) 381-6102

Michael's Pizza Bar is a bar and restaurant on Sarah Street, one block removed from the traffic of East Carson Street, on a corner between S. 26th and S. 27th Streets.

The pizza we ordered was a large traditional Pittsburgh style with extra sauce and light cheese. The traditional crust was chewy and bread like. We enjoyed the sauce, which was thick, flavorful, and slightly spicy with small flecks of oregano. Michael's was very generous with the cheese, even after we had asked for light cheese - so if you like lots of cheese on your pizza, you will love Michael's!

We also tried an order of Provolone Sticks with a small container of their excellent sauce for dipping - the cheese sticks were cooked perfectly and had a nice flavor.

Unfortunately, we forgot to pick up a menu and to ask pertinent questions about sauce, crust and preparation. It was half time and we were hurrying to get back before the 3rd quarter started and simply forgot.

This week's celebrity pizza taster, Dave, posed several interesting questions that we all considered while we ate: If we changed the amount of amount of cheese on the pizza, would the texture of the crust also change since the required cooking time might be different? What type of oven do they use to cook the pizza? What type of cheese do they use? Why did Jeff Reid miss not one, but two, field goals in Chicago? All good questions.

We will have to go back to Michael's and see what we can find out. I think next time we will sit down in the very pleasant restaurant area and enjoy the pizza, fresh from the oven.

P.S. The 50% off coupon in the Enjoy book made this pizza a real bargain, too!

Michael's Pizza Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mancini's Bread Company Pizza Dough - Strip

Now it's easy to perfect your pizza hand-tossing method ... without having to make the dough yourself!

Mancini's Bread Company in Pittsburgh's Strip District offers their fantastic pizza dough to go - you can purchase a 1-1/4 lb. ball of plain pizza dough ($2.75), or try the Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Dough ($3.70), or European Multi-Grain dough ($3.15). Mancini's also offers two pizza kits: one with dough, sauce and cheese ($7.95), and another that also includes pepperoni ($10.35).

We've tried the regular pizza dough, and intend to try both the Mancini's Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Pizza Dough and the healthy sounding European Multi-Grain.

I have to admit I rolled instead of tossed - next time, I'll have to buy extra and practice!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

West End Cafe at the Rivers Casino - Pittsburgh

On our second visit to the Rivers Casino, we couldn't even get close to the very popular Grand View Buffet! The line went way beyond the ropes, and the wait was rumored to be close to an hour. Wow! We decided to instead try another one of the five restaurants at the Rivers Casino.

This time we chose the West End Cafe, a very casual restaurant that lured us in with the enticing aroma of freshly cooked wings. The West End Cafe is a fast food style restaurant, with a walk up counter for ordering surrounded by booths and tables.

The West End Cafe offers six varieties of 10" Personal Pizzas - Pepperoni, Sausage, Quattro Formaggio, Supreme (mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni, black olives, mushrooms, peppers and onions), Great White (olive oil, garlic, mozzarella, black pepper, oregano, broccoli), and Farmers Market (tomato, olive oil, grilled vegetables, mozzarella). They also have "Uncle Ed's Stromboli", which is stuffed with mozzarella, provolone, mortadella, salami, capicola, roasted red peppers and fresh basil. The pizzas were all generously topped and had lots of cheese.

We split a "Mighty Monongahela", which is a meatball hoagie, with marinara sauce and mozzarella. The meatballs were fresh and juicy, and the overall, the sandwich pretty darn good. The West End Cafe offers 4 other varieties of grinders - Duquesne (basically an Italian hoagie), West Ender (sausage), Steel City Steak & Cheese, and a Foundry Dog (available with chili, cheese or sauerkraut).

We also had their very good Wedding Soup and an order of fresh sliced fruit for dessert - and it was very fresh and delicious.

They make six types of Grilled Tostinos Sandwiches, served on Italian bread, and they sound very good. The Milanese sounded particularly good to me - buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and a balsamic glaze - as did the Sicilian, which is stacked with oven dried Roma tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and pepperoni. The West End Cafe Wraps will also be worth a try on another trip. There are three types - Chipotle Chicken, BBQ Chicken BLT and Boursin Roast Beef.

In addition to the sandwiches and pizza, the West End Cafe has soup and chili, salads, wings and chicken, onion rings and french fries, Italian sausage lasagna and macaroni with cheese. You can also order your favorite beverages, including beer and wine. The desserts also sound pretty good and delightfully decadent, such as the Double Chocolate Fantasy Cake and the Wild Berries and Cream Napoleon.

Although we haven't (yet) been big winners at the new Rivers Casino, we have not been disappointed with the food!

West End Cafe @ the Rivers Casino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Anthony's Pizza - Carrick

1820 Brownsville Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15210
(closed Sundays)

Anthony's is famous for two things - their very good pizza bagels and their excellent homemade iced tea. We used to get Anthony's pizza bagels often and recently realized that we had never tried their pizza!

Anthony's has been in business at the same location since 1969. The small restaurant is like a fun trip to the past, with comfortable booths that are equipped with jukebox music selectors.

Their pizza is made the old-fashioned way, too - they make the dough and sauce fresh daily, and hand toss the pizza dough to order. The sauce is made fresh on site each morning. They also freshly grate the cheese for the topping and even the ground sausage is fresh. The traditional style pizza we tried had a thin, chewy and easily foldable crust that had a good flavor. The sauce was mild - suitable for those who don't enjoy tangy foods - and the cheese was plentiful.

In addition to the traditional crust that we tried, Anthony's also offers a thick crust for an extra charge. They have plenty of toppings available: pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, anchovies, meatballs, bacon, green peppers, extra cheese (not necessary!!!), black olives, onions, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, and ham capicolla. They also make ten varieties of hoagies, including a very tasty Italian hoagie, roast beef and cheese, vegetarian, and hot sausage, among others. Anthony's makes three varieties of calzones, and four types of salad (and have their own special house dressing that is very good). Appetizers include soup, homemade chili, garlic toast, soft pretzels, nachos, french fries and pizza boats.

A nice touch are the old fashioned desserts - pie, ice cream, Italian ice and Klondikes.

The next time we try Anthony's pizza, we plan to eat in the restaurant. Although we enjoyed our pizza, it did not travel well - mostly our fault, since we took longer than expected to pick it up after ordering. And besides, eating in the restaurant means we can play some tunes and split a Klondike for dessert!

P.S. The 50% off coupon in the Enjoy book made this pizza a real bargain!

Anthony's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 7, 2009

Steelers Kick-Off Black & Gold Pizza Recipe

(Otherwise known as Black Bean and Cheddar Cheese pizza)

1 12" prepared pizza crust (we used a whole wheat Boboli crust)
1 can black beans
1 tsp. taco seasoning, or more if desired
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Place pizza crust on a baking sheet.

Drain black beans and put in a mixing bowl. Use a potato masher and mash beans - leave slightly chunky. Add desired amount of taco seasoning (we used Penzey's taco seasoning).

Spoon bean mixture onto pizza crust. Sprinkle Cheddar cheese over top.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes, or until beans are thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.

Optional Toppings:

guacamole or sliced avocados
chopped onion
salsa or hot sauce
chopped tomato
chopped olives

Serve at half time!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fast & Easy Pizza Bagel Recipe

Serves 1 or 2

1 bagel - your choice of flavor
4 Tbsp. pizza sauce
4 Tbsp. grated pizza cheese mix (combination of mozzarella, provolone and Parmesan)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice bagel in half and lightly toast. Place toasted bagel halves on oven proof pan or baking sheet. Top each bagel half with 2 tablespoons each of prepared pizza sauce. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of grated cheese on top of each half.

Put pan in preheated oven and bake for approximately 7 minutes, or until sauce is heated through and cheese is melted.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Grand View Buffet at the Rivers Casino - Pittsburgh

777 Casino Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

We made our first visit to Pittsburgh's new Rivers Casino last night ... and had a blast!

Our first stop was the Players Club, where we quickly joined and headed out into the casino with our new red Players Club cards and complimentary $10 of free play. We wandered over to one of the bar areas and played a quick round of Joker Poker (Jacks or Better).

We soon decided that we had better fuel up before settling down for some serious game playing, so we headed up to the Grand View Buffet. Happily we found that the Casino has a 2 for 1 September dinner special at the Grand View Buffet for Players Club members (Monday through Thursday, 4 to 9 pm). What an incredible bargain!

The buffet was nothing short of amazing! There were seven stations, including BBQ, American, Italian, Asian, and Mongolian, with an enormous salad bar and an incredible dessert bar. We briefly debated whether to head right for dessert, but couldn't resist the wealth of other goodies, and we tried small tastes of just about everything offered. The variety, freshness and quality of food was wonderful - we liked everything we tried. Sharon headed right for the Asian and Mongolian bars and headed back with a plate heaped with egg rolls, Chinese spare ribs, fried rice and more. I went a more traditional route and had salad first (and again - a huge selection at the salad bar), then tasted a very juicy roasted turkey, and tidbits from all of the stations.

We were delighted to find that the Italian station had a pizza bar, which offered three varieties of pizza - cheese, pepperoni and a Chef's Special. The Chef's Special had an Alfredo-like creamy sauce, and was topped with halved cherry tomatoes, thin slices of red onion and cheese. The traditional cheese pizza had a hearty red sauce with chunks of tomato and a generous layer of cheese. The chef at the pizza station told us that the sauce and dough are fresh daily, and that the pizzas are baked in a stone oven. We had a good view of the pizza station from where we were sitting, and it seemed to be very popular with the other diners, also. Although we would not have thought of going to the Rivers Casino for pizza, we all agreed that it was pretty tasty and we would definitely try it again next time.

The highlight of the buffet was the dessert bar ... especially the lemon gelato. Don't miss it!!!

Grand View Buffet (Rivers Casino) on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 28, 2009

Heirloom Tomato Pizza Sauce Recipe

We grew Brandywine tomatoes this year - they are large and luscious with a sweet, old fashioned tomato flavor. You can use any type of fresh tomatoes that you have on hand and adjust the cooking time and seasoning to suit the variety that you use. Roma tomatoes will make a thicker, meatier sauce and are perfect for pizza sauce and other Italian sauces.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped (approximately 4 large)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

To Taste: Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes

Optional: Chopped Parsley, Chopped Basil

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently so that it doesn't stick. Add tomatoes and sugar, plus the amounts of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to suit your personal taste.

(Hint: proceed slowly when adding the red pepper flakes so that you get the right amount of heat! You can always add more if you'd like the sauce a little spicier, but it's hard to tone down the heat.)

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the sauce is very thick. Stir frequently! When the sauce is almost done, stir in the chopped oregano, along with parsley and basil, if desired.
Serve on the prepared pizza crust of your choice.