Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Original Pizzeria

If you're looking for thin, New York-style pizza without conscience-awareness of the calorie count, the Original Pizzeria is the best place to go on this side of town. Located at 918 Chestnut Ridge Road, this small pizza shop is just a short walk from work, so a co-worker and I made the trip today for lunch.

The Original Pizzeria is located in a plaza with a Subway and a few other, less important stores. Thankfully, it is both close and delicious. The outside is nondescript, beyond a sign, and there is a large lot to park in. When you walk inside, there are only a handful of tables and booths, which aren't necessarily in the best shape. The decor is ... lacking, as is the menu, but that's okay. Their specialty, of course, is their pizzas. But they also have a couple calzones, hoagies and salads. But honestly, you shouldn't care. Get the pizza.

We put in our orders. I ordered a "small" pizza, which is 12" for $6. I also got mushrooms on it, another $1.25, as well as a coke. With tax, the total came to $9.28. Not shabby for two servings. After placing your order at the counter, you sit and wait. I grabbed my coke out of the cooler. Our pizza was done very quickly, though there was only one person working. He was taking orders and cooking. He cooks right behind the counter, so you can see your pizza in the oven and everything. Thankfully it wasn't busy in there, or I'd imagine the wait would be much longer.

Shortly after, the gentleman brought our two pizzas to us on large pans and a paper plate on the side. Typically, they call our your pizza and you walk up to get it. He was treating us, and we were sitting close. Eight large, thin pieces of pizza stared back at me. Gooey mozzarella and plump sliced mushrooms coated my pizza. The greasy, delicious pizza is second, in my book, only to Pizza Al's in Morgantown. If you like New York Style pizza that you can fold over and shovel in your mouth, you're good to go here.

Old-school without all the frills, this place just serves a good pie. You won't find delivery here. But, you haven't really experienced all the pizza offerings if you haven't gone here. I had about three slices and bagged the other 5 for later. The gentleman actually left boxes for us on the counter because he knew we weren't packing away a whole pizza. Smart man.

Grade: A 
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Princeton Edition: El Jaripeo

This small plaza restaurant packed a surprise - it's not so small. Located off of Stafford Drive in a plaza, it's much larger than the outside displays. Before I headed home for the week, we stopped here for dinner.

When you walk in, it's like a different world. The ceiling is painted blue, with clouds, to mimic the sky. The walls are bright oranges, blues and greens. Art litters the walls - suns, moons, decorations. It's a Mexican restaurant alright, but it's fun, too. When we went in, it was very quiet; I only saw one other couple. We waited a minute or so at the front before the waiter fetched us and seated us.

The table had the name "El Jaripeo" embla- zoned on it, and the decor- ations were very true to the cuisine. I wouldn't say tacky, but it didn't possess the class of Campestre, another local Mexican restaurant I've become quite font of. As soon as the waiter took our drink orders, he brought out a basket of chips and salsa, with two bowls.The salsa had some kick to it. I tried a little bit, but washed it right down with my Coke. When the waiter came back, I asked for the appetizer sampler. He left, but came right back, saying they didn't have that. Quickly, I wanted to try an appetizer, so I asked if they had queso. They did, and he brought out an individual casserole dish full of queso. It was a pretty cheesy queso sauce, but it was good. It wasn't as warm as I preferred, but it was tasty.

I ordered "Cama- rones Locos" (just like my favorite at Campestre), while Chris got a shrimp diablas dish. Which essentially translates into really hot shrimp, with a side of  rice, lettuce and sour cream. My dish's description was nearly identical to the one at Campestre - shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab in a cheesy sauce with peppers, onions and a side of rice. So I thought it'd be good to test it. When my dish came out, it certainly wasn't as pretty as Campestre's - the peppers were in long strips, instead of small chunks, so it was a little more difficult to eat without looking like an animal. The scallops were plump and melted in my mouth. The shrimp, however, weren't as fresh as they could've been, and some were very, very tiny. They also weren't de-veined ... which grosses me out. But the cheese sauce was good, and it came with tortilla shells. I was excited about these, but really, they kind of masked the flavor of the dish. I opted against them afterward.

This dish really wasn't bad at all. But comp- ared to Camp- estre, I think I'd prefer Campestre. The dish was flavorful, but the seafood wasn't quite as fresh as it could've been, and I prefer the large pieces I get at Campestre. But for that side of town, it's a good deal. It's not too busy, either, so it makes for a good afternoon away from the hustle and bustle.

Grade: B
El Jaripeo on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 27, 2011

Princeton Edition: Nonna's Italian Kitchen

What a little gem this restaurant is! Taking place of the Magnolia Room at 315 Straley Ave. in Princeton, this new restaurant features Italian dishes and delicious desserts. I never had the opportunity to dine at the Magnolia Room, and I'm sad I won't get to, but Nonna's was a pleasant treat. In a sea of fast-food restaurants and chain dining, Nonna's is home-cooked goodness. I don't even know of an Italian chain restaurant in Princeton (no Olive Gardens), so maybe Pizza Hut or Gino's is as close as it gets after Nonna's. Nonna's is really taking advantage of the market here, and I'm happy to see it fill that niche of Italian-hungry Princetonians or Morgantonians transplanted in Princeton.

Chris and I had a date night, coupled with Nonna's Italian Kitchen and "Bad Teacher." He knew I was excited for this restaurant, maybe too excited. The sign outside had been teasing me with "opening soon," until a week or so ago, it said it was taking reservations from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.. It seems the restaurant is only open Friday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. That's OK - perfect for me actually. I called up and made reservations for 5 p.m. on Saturday. I originally said 4 p.m., but the person on the other end of the phone said they'd rather do it later so they have time to prepare. Maybe their opening time should say 5 p.m. then.

On Friday, Chris and I dressed up. We weren't sure exactly what to expect, but I would rather be overdressed than underdressed, and yoga pants scream underdressed. We clean up nicely - I wore a black dress, and he had a polo and khaki shorts. We headed toward the restaurant and found a parking spot right in front. Parking lines the streets around the restaurant, so it's really not far of a walk from any area. Much different than Morgantown dining. The restaurant is in what looks like an old house. Actually, it may still be a house with the owners living there.

When we walked in, we saw a dozen circle tables with white tablecloths underneath a glass top. I'm glad we dressed up. The dining area looked very, very small, so my suspicions about the house being a home as well as a restaurant are probably true. It looks to be three stories, and the dining area occupied only half of the main floor. It's like walking into one of those small treasures - from the outside, it's plain and unsuspecting. Walking inside, seeing fancy tables, it's a treat.

Most tables had four chairs, some uncomfortably placed to conform to the tight space restrictions, and one table was placed near a large window - quite romantic. Too bad the only table occupied when we walked in was that one. The waitress told us we could sit wherever we liked. We chose the table closest and sat down. The waitress took our drink orders, though she was frazzled and didn't name all of the options (we heard her giving another table the drink options, some of which she neglected to tell us). I ordered a coke and a water. Chris ordered just a coke. He noted the drinks tasted like they were from a 2-liter, but I was happy with that. I think he would've preferred a fountain beverage. My water, however, wasn't served until halfway through the salad because the waitress forgot. She was a bit flighty.

Before that though, we were handed a thick piece of paper with their menu, which consisted of three options: spaghetti, chicken Alfredo or lasagna. Literally, three options. At the top, it said it was the early bird menu from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., so more options may be available after 6 p.m., but I'm not sure. The menu was a thick piece of paper, which really needs to be laminated. After the restaurant is open another week, I'm sure that menu will be crinkled and unappetizing. I ordered the lasagna, and Chris got the chicken Alfredo. While we waited, we were served a small basket of fresh-baked bread, with olive oil and basil. I wasn't impressed with the olive oil, but the bread was warm and moist.

Soon after, our salads arrived. Accompanied with a little salad dressing pitcher, the salad consisted of lettuce and tomato. I ordered the vinaigrette dressing, which went well. It was light and slightly tangy. Chris ordered ranch, which had a hard time coming out of the pitcher, but he was happy with it. I honestly was less than impressed with the salad. The lettuce wasn't very fresh or crisp, and the tomatoes left something to be desired. They weren't flavorful. In fact, Chris hates tomatoes so I always get his, so my salad had extra tomatoes, but it was still bland. I've done better with packaged salad from Kroger's. At this point, I was feeling let down.

That was until the chef sent out a complimentary Caprese salad because my lasagna dish takes a while. Though, it didn't seem to me like it was taking long at all. The Caprese salad was excellent! Slabs of fresh mozzarella sandwiched between large slices of fresh tomato sprinkled with herbs and olive oil garnished the plate, and bite-size pieces of bread. I quickly made a small sandwich and melted. I'm a sucker for fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes are my favorite, so I was sold. This simple dish knocked it out of the park. Chris was even impressed. I used some of the bread from our basket to use up the last of the tomato and mozzarella and was eager to see what was next.

Our dishes came out shortly after. My lasagna was served piping hot in an individual casserole dish, and Chris' came out on a plate. As soon as I could handle the temperature, I dug in. The lasagna was packed with layers of noodles and meat sauce and topped with a healthy serving of mozzarella. It was exactly what you'd expect for lasagna - heavy, garlic-y and tomato-y. I prefer my lasagna a little less on the meaty side, but I know this would appeal to most people. I also like more noodles - this is definitely heavy on the meat and tomato sauce.

Chris won this round. His dish was outstanding. I'm usually scared of Alfredo dishes because I like so few. I don't like the cheap Alfredo sauces that use a lot of flour or fake cheese. This chicken Alfredo was cheesy and thick. Topped with some pieces of chicken breast and combined with fettuccine, it was a homerun. I hinted a few times that I wanted his dish instead, but he wasn't trading. The Alfredo was so creamy, it was almost carbonara sauce. Try this.

For dessert, I ordered their Italian Cream Cake. And I am so, so glad I did. This is one of the best cakes I've EVER had. I suspect they have a bakery, not just a restaurant, because this cake was extraordinary. Moist layers with cream cheese icing and walnuts. Absolutely delicious. Very, very rich, but so very worth it.

For drinks, salad, bread, Caprese salad, entrees and dessert, we paid only $26.49. What a deal.

Grade: B
Nonna's Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 24, 2011

101 Unique Places to Dine in WV

WV Tourism put together this cool list of the greatest places to dine in West Virginia. I would love to be able to try all of these some day.

  1. 33 Country Club
    Wednesday-night specials. Enjoy mouth-watering steak sandwiches on homemade bread.
    City: Glenville
  2. Alexander's On 7th
    Enjoy the beauty of Old World Craftsmanship as you visit Moundsville’s Newest Eatery-“Alexander’s on 7th,” A National Register property. ...
    City: Moundsville
  3. Barb’s Diner
    Barb’s is proudest of its down-home atmosphere and friendly service. It is best known for its daily specials and all-day breakfast menu.
    City: Middlebourne

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Colasessano's World Famous Pizza & Pepperoni Buns

Colasessano's isn't a new name in these parts of West Virginia. However, it is a new name to Morgantown. Colasessano's is a staple in Fairmont and has been for some time, so much so that they have two locations. It's even on the list of "101 unique places to dine in WV." It wasn't until recently that Morgantown had a branch to call its own.

Located at the Pierpont Landing plaza, near Penny's Diner, Colasessano's features their "world famous" pizza and pepperoni buns. I was a little hesitant because 1) it's a little out of the way and 2) I tried their frozen variety before and wasn't a fan. When I was shopping in Kroger, I saw they sold these frozen pizzas based out of Farimont. I picked one up, but I hated it. I know frozen pizzas aren't the greatest indicator of quality, so we took a ride toward Cheat Lake to try this restaurant.

It has a large, open feel of a retro pizza parlor.Red and white speckle the interior, and '50s metal chairs and tables really give this an old-school pizza place feel. When you walk in, you walk up to a large counter. Behind the counter is a menu on the wall, but it's not any regular menu. It's on three large TVs, so it's slightly animated. We told the hostess we were dining in, and she escorted us to a booth. We put in our drink orders and perused the menu.

Colasessano's features typical pizza place food: salads, hoagies and pizza. In addition, Colasessano's offers their "pepperoni buns," which from what I could tell are basically pepperoni rolls with either sauce or other mixtures on them. Kristen and I ordered a large regular pizza, which came standard with cheese and pepperoni for $12.50. I also ordered a pasta salad.

My pasta salad came out first. I have high expectations for pasta salad, as my mother makes a killer one, and I've grown up with it. But this wasn't bad. The tri-color rotini noodles were soaked in a balsamic and Italian dressing. But they held firm, so as to have some bite to them, which I prefer. It also had tiny shopped green onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. The small chunks were almost too small, as they were hard to grab with my fork. I prefer meatier veggies (if that makes any sense). My mother also puts chunks of cheese and pepperoni in hers. I think that would've made this dish absolutely outstanding. But the dish held its own, and I was satisfied. For $4, it was a generous helping and tasted better than a Kroger deli helping.

Afterward, our pizza arrived on a wooden board with a spatula. It was slightly indented into 12 pieces. But the three on the end could hardly be called pieces. I was already a fan because it was square. My beloved DiCarlo's pizza is square, so it reminded me of home. But this pizza was quite poofy. The crust is pretty thick. It didn't lay flat, and instead reminded me of sourdough pizza. The sauce is slightly sweet tasting, and the cheese is oozing on top of the pepperonis. I actually like the concept of having the pepperoni under the cheese - it doesn't get crispy or fold up into those little grease cups. The pizza was very difficult to cut, though, considering we only had our spatula and basically had to stab at the pizza so we could remove a slice without tearing off the cheese from the rest of the pizza.

We basically had six small squares apiece, but I took half mine home in a to-go box, which our waitress so nicely boxed up for me. I am a fan of the taste - I like the sweeter sauce and the sourdough-tasting bread. And, I'm glad it's local and homemade, but it's not the best I've ever had. And it's probably not something I'd seek out. If I were over on that side of town and hungry, I wouldn't mind going there. But if I want pizza at home, I'm not going to venture to Colasessano's. As far as homestyle goes, it falls in the midrange.

For those who are crazy about it, though, it's cool they have the frozen option that you can buy in stores, at the locations, or online and have them shipped anywhere in the U.S. That's a really cool feature. They also have specials each day of the week, which look like they'd save a pretty good amount.

I asked about dessert, but apparently they only had one of their options: brownie bites. Before the waitress asked me if I'd like them, she rang up the order and handed us the receipt. Too bad, because I would've said yes. Our bill came to about $24 with tip.

Morgantown Hours:
  • Monday -10 AM - 9 PM
  • Tuesday -10 AM - 9 PM
  • Wednesday -10 AM - 9 PM
  • Thursday -10 AM - 9 PM
  • Friday -10 AM - 10 PM
  • Saturday -10 AM - 10 PM
  • Sunday -CLOSED
Grade: B
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