Tony’s Italian Kitchen: Good Pizza, Unique Business Hours

Tonys Italian KitchenIt’s been a while since I wrote about pizza. Whenever I commute to work, I pass by a place called Tony’s Italian Kitchen in Midland Park, New Jersey. It always strikes me curious since the sign for the company is on the ground due to renovations to the strip mall.

Finally, after months of it seeming not to be open during the renovation, I decided to say “what the hell” at 3 in the afternoon and get a slice of pizza as a snack.

When I walked in, the buffalo chicken pizza instantly drew my eye. And it also drew my taste buds, as it was one of the best slices of buffalo chicken I ever had since it had just the right thinness, grilled chicken and no blue cheese.

Pizza Midland Park NJThe experience was unique for a couple of reasons. First were the business hours that I saw laminated on the counter, which I thought was hilarious. It explained why sometimes the place didn’t look open and made it seem like they were real people working there.

Speaking of employees, the 4 guys there seemed to just be as relaxed as can be. When I asked for their business card to write this blog post, one guy said: “you aren’t going to sell my phone number, are you? People do that type of thing.”

I was so tempted to tell him: “no, but I’m going to write a blog post about it reviewing my experience here.” I didn’t want to freak him out and get banned for life or something. Especially since I enjoyed the buffalo chicken pizza.

Business Card Count: 35,016

Patria Latin Bistro: Why You Should Only Go For Drinks

Patria Latin Bistro Rahway NJI’ve been enjoying more Latin food since I met Jess. And one of the places that I tried and really enjoyed was Patria Latin Bistro in Rahway, New Jersey. And we went there a couple of times.

And the experiences were very different even though we got food and drinks both times because of one key thing: a renovation/revamp at the restaurant. It had the restaurant closed for a couple of weeks, but I didn’t know what an impact it would have on the food.

I will say that the drinks were amazing both times, specifically the Buen Amor (champagne and hibiscus liqueur with an edible flower inside the glass) and the Patria in Paris (Grey Goose melon vodka, Chambord, pineapple juice & lime juice).

The First Time

When we went pre-renovation, we ate:

  • Chorizo: paprika spiced sausage sautéed with garlic & sherry
  • Guacamole served with plantain chips
  • Pernil Asado: slow-cooked oven-roasted suckling pig served with yuca con mojo, sweet plantains & black bean sauce
  • Salmon a la Plancha: sautéed salmon with shitaki mushrooms, zucchini & fingerling potatoes in a chili pasilla malta sauce

Everything was so delicious and well-flavored. We went to go back again for a fun night and that’s when we found out Patria was closed for renovation. We eventually did.

The Second Time

Post-renovation Patria Latin Bistro was a much different experience, especially since all of the food we enjoyed was off the menu. We ate:

  • Bay scallops with olives in a romesco sauce
  • Croquettas: confit pork, dijonaise & pickled shallot conserva
  • Pork tacos
  • Yuca chorizo hash

This food this time around was very underwhelming outside of the hash side dish. We couldn’t put our finger on it at first, but then we realized what the issue in every dish was: a lack of seasoning. The main parts on each dish (scallops, croquetta, pork) tasted so bland and relied on other ingredients & sauces to make them tasty. The food was well cooked (i.e. not raw), but the taste left a lot to be desired.

Upon doing research for this blog, including digging around their Facebook page for some menu items since their website has the much more appetizing old menu, I read that they hired a new chef. I guess that explains things.

I’d go back for drinks, but make sure I have a full stomach. Or some snacks in my pockets.

Business Card Count: 34,893

The Le Malt Experience: Classy Ambiance, Delicious Food

Le Malt Colonia NJ

One thing I love doing is going out to eat at different places. And Le Malt in Colonia, New Jersey has to be one of the more fancier places I’ve ever eaten at.

I was told by my partner that Le Malt was an experience I had to try. And so we did one night.

It looks so innocent in a strip mall, unexpectedly hiding a classy treasure inside. It looked like an old-school lounge with comfortable leather seating. I would find out later that it’s a James Beard House Featured Restaurant Lounge.

James Beard is a name I recognize from cooking shows like Top Chef, Chopped and [INSERT FOOD SHOW HERE]. So I knew I was in for a treat.

Ferrari Martini

MorimotoLe Malt Drinks

The first thing we ordered were drinks. I chose to get the above drink known as the Ferrari Martini and apparently, Le Malt partners with Ferrari in some capacity. This somehow inspired the martini I drank with mango rum, 100% pomegranate puree and an edible flower. It was smooth and delicious in every way, even the flower… though it didn’t remind me of a sports car.

My partner opted for The Morimoto. This Japanese-sounding drink contains Milagro silver tequila, agave nectar, lime, pineapple & yuzu juices and a shiso leaf. It was also pretty good (not as good as mine, but I’m not a huge tequila guy), but the highlight was the HUGE ice sphere used to cool the beverage.

Gourmet Cheese Plate

Kobe Beef SlidersLe Malt Food

As good as alcohol is, I enjoy food more. And one of my favorites is cheese, hence why ordering the Gourmet Cheese Plate was necessary. The manchego, gorgonzola, mango ginger & brie cheeses were all very tasty.

Another delight for the palate were the Kobe beef sliders. Even though there were just 2 of them, the 100% ground wagyu Japanese kobe with caramelized onion & brioche literally melted in my mouth. And the presentation on a slice of tree trunk made for a unique experience.

Last and least (not for a bad reason) were the fries that were tossed in a unique blend of the spices. Disappointingly, they ran out of truffle oil that day… otherwise, truffle fries or truffle popcorn would have been the side dish of choice.

There’s always next time… and there will definitely be one at Le Malt because of its atmosphere that inspires good conversation, romance and overall joy.

Business Card Count: 34,872

Some Quality Brother Time and Mexican Food in Poughkeepsie

Mexican Restaurant Poughkeepsie NYIt’s always good to spend time with family, but it’s usually for a family gathering so it’s a lot of moving parts in a very finite window of time. This time around, I got some 1-on-1 time with my brother since his wife was away on business.

I arrived to his house in Poughkeepsie, New York Friday night and we talked a lot about life over some good BBQ (they didn’t have a business card, so no free plug though I thoroughly enjoyed the Billy Cheesesteak and New England clam chowder) & played video games.

The next day is when some more fun started after sleeping for a while and also watching some TV. I went to school at Marist College up in Poughkeepsie and I actually saw the updates made to my campus, including the destruction of my sophomore housing where a famed message was left by me on my friend Jon’s voicemail falsely implicating my other friend Jerry causing the fire alarm to get pulled.

That was not the only place I went.

El Azteca Mexican Deli

El Azteca Mexican DeliWe went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant called El Azteca, which triples as a grocery store and a DVD market. It was a bit confusing at first since we weren’t sure whether to order at the counter or sit & get served.

I ultimately decided on a taco salad with chipotle chicken, cheese, lettuce, black beans, queso fresco, pico de gallo and guacamole inside of a taco shell. It’s one of the better Mexican salads I’ve ever had and I’ve enjoyed so much Mexican food over the years. I’d definitely go to El Azteca again.

Locust Grove

Locust GroveA real highlight of the trip was going to Locust Grove. For those who don’t know, it’s the house that Samuel Morse is most known for living in and it’s turned into something of a tourist attraction.

The private organization that owns the land kept it as historical accurate to when the Young family moved there in the early 1900s as possible and the posh lifestyle in that time was quite interesting from the rooms in the house to some of the “advanced technology” used during the time period.

We also hiked the trails to get some nice nature views including a great one of the Hudson River. Not to mention seeing some of Samuel Morse’s inventions, art (he painted before he invented the telegraph) and products inspired by him like 2 antique board games I’d be curious to play.

All in all, it was quite the fun experience. I hope to spend some more frequent quality family time together in the future… though the stack of business cards I’d get would be smaller… womp womp womp.

Business Card Count: 33,885

My 1st Time Trying Arepas at the Edison Fall Family Spectacular

Over the weekend, I went to the Edison Fall Family Spectacular and enjoyed myself. It’s a street fair with a lot of vendors and some rides/activities. I did two of my favorite things: collected business cards and ate food.

Edison Fall Family SpectacularThe business cards were mostly from banks and other obscure places I’d never shop at. That’s where I turned to food and saw several offerings including The Guac Spot who I mentioned in my NJ Taco Festival blog post.

However, the only food place who brought a business card is an arepa stand. I had no idea until that day that arepas are a sweet cornbread fried up with mozzarella cheese in the center. I decided to get hot Italian sausage inside as well for an added treat.

That experiment was not the best thing. That’s because the sweetness of the cornbread conflicted with the spiciness of the sausage. Not to mention that the mozzarella was not very detectable at all. Then again, mozzarella doesn’t have too distinct of a flavor.

I’m not saying that they were improperly cooked by any means since I got a crisp outside with a fluffy inside. I’m just saying the arepas are not my cup of tea. I do enjoy corn bread with some butter. I do enjoy mozzarella with some meatballs or chicken parm. I do enjoy some hot Italian sausage. The combination of the 3 just did not work for me.

You live, you learn, you eat different foods to see if you like them.

Business Card Count: 33,694

What I Sampled at the Second Annual NJ Taco Festival

I went to the 2nd Annual NJ Taco Festival this past weekend and got to try a lot more than I did last year. To clarify, the place where I wrestle primarily had matches at the festival and it rained last year (making it hard to try anything).

This year, I wanted to sample a lot. The way the festival is set up is that there are booths and food trucks set up at the Sussex County Fairgrounds (aka a bunch of dirt) with vendors selling their wares (tacos, hot sauces, liquor & other food).

With that being said, let’s dive into my sampling.

Jersey Barnfire Hot Sauce

Jersey Barnfire Hot Sauce

The first place I went was Jersey Barnfire. I sampled their Black Garlic hot sauce since I’m a huge fan of garlic and it was delicious.

I even tried it with a chicken taco and it still tasted good. I might buy the Black Garlic sauce in the future if I remember to.

Sam and OliverSam & Oliver

Next up is Sam and Oliver, who apparently offers a promo code for a 10% discount… smart move. They offer a variety of sauces, but the one I tried was the Stoke Chipotle pepper sauce.

It was described to me as medium heat. It was fine, but nothing really stood out.

Whitehouse Station Sauce CompanyWhitehouse Station Sauce Company

What really piqued my interest was the Whitehouse Station Sauce Company and that’s because of their Carolina Reaper sauce. The Carolina Reaper is the hottest pepper in the world and there was even a pepper eating contest with these.

I tried the sauce on a chip and I walked away thinking it was pretty good and a little hot. Ten steps later, I felt the burn and started to sweat. Wow, that’s powerful.

Voodoo Chile Sauces

Voodoo Chile Sauces and Salsas

The one booth where I actually bought an item was Voodoo Chile Sauces and Salsas. That’s because they had a Bacon Taco sauce that packed a good amount of punch while tasting like bacon. I’ve already used it on egg white omelettes and it was pretty spectacular.

I also tried food from the following places that did not have business cards:

  • Empenada Mania’s bacon burger empenada
  • Taqueria Autentica’s pollo con pipian rojo
  • The Guac Spot’s vegan black bean taco
  • Mexi-Flip Taco Truck’s 3 amigos (1 chicken, pork and chicken mango taco each)

And to cap off the night is exactly what you expected of course…

Clydes Homemade Italian Ices Ice CreamClyde’s Homemade Ice Cream

No NJ Taco Festival is complete without ice cream, apparently. I opted to get a cup of the mint chocolate chip and boy did it feel good! I was sweaty at the end of the day, as it was 90 degrees out, and nothing makes a hot sweaty man feel cool better than good ice cream.

Business Card Count: 33641

How Lyndon Diner Took Care of Business With Their BTO Omelette

Lyndon Diner York PAOver Labor Day Weekend, I visited my friends Jon and Alison in the middle of Pennsylvania. Before driving back to New Jersey, we got breakfast-ish at the Lyndon Diner in York PA.

As a lover of diners, I always peruse the menu to see all of the different options. But I’m usually a fiend for an egg white omelette when it’s breakfast time or lunch time… sometimes at dinner as well.

Lyndon Finer DinersOn this day, I decided to get the BTO Omelette. I guess that named it that because it’s what Bachman-Turner Overdrive ate when they were on tour. I’m just kidding, that was a bad joke.

If you think that joke was bad, well… You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. Okay, I’ll stop now.

It’s called BTO because of the ingredients: basil, tomato and onion. Oh, and there’s also goat cheese on the omelette… but I guess BTOG didn’t sound right.

What is right is the taste of this omelette since the goat cheese dominated my palette, which is what I wanted. I tasted the other elements as well and the hash browns were just right with a little salt added. Surprisingly, the wheat toast (which I skip half the time) was quite toasted and enjoyable especially if you add some more butter.

Lyndon is one of The Finer Diners according to the business card. I had a finer experience and would love to be Takin’ Care of Business (satisfying appetites) there in the future. Okay, that’s all the Bachman-Turner Overdrive jokes I’ve got since I can’t name another song off their discography.

Business Card Count: 33,552

Throwback to Malletti Pizzeria: The Best Pizza in London

Malletti PizzeriaThe year was 2005 when I studied abroad in London. I traveled around Europe, saw all the sites and ate the food of the culture.

I also interned while there and always had to find spots for lunch. One spot that intrigued me was Malletti Pizzeria since I saw a line out the door and down the block. It intrigued me because most pizza in London was horrendous since it was way too doughy with a sliver of cheese and sauce.

Pizza LondonI knew I had to try it and arrive at an off time where the line wasn’t down the block. And the first time I did was so worth it. The pizza was thin and square… I guess like a Grandma slice here in the states. What they did was give you 2 small pieces and then flipped one on top of the other into some sort of amazing pizza sandwich.

I could not believe the feeling of pure jubilation when I took my first bite. It redefined what I thought what pizza could be. It was hard to handle, but amazing after letting it cool for a couple of minutes.

I wound up standing on that queue multiple times a week for the almost half year I interned in what is my favorite city.

What Malletti is Up to Now

I found out that the location I enjoyed so much closed in 2009 to the sadness of many. However, there is still have a Malletti Pizzeria location in London at 174-176 Clerkenwell Road that I encourage people to go to if they ever visit the city. I’ll note it if I ever go back.

Business Card Count: 33,486

Happy Birthday to Me: Restaurant Hopping in Little Italy

Well, this might be a first for me: writing a business card blog without the main business card of the story. That’s because my mother still has it and will be giving it to me the next time I see her.

However, I wanted to write this while it was relevant… only a little time after my birthday dinner on July 31. I met up with my family at a restaurant called Puglia, located in the midst of Little Italy.

Puglia Restaurant NYC

I anticipated this meal since I wanted to see my family. Plus, my mom raved about Puglia and I will say the food was pretty delightful. They made their own in-house wine, which was smooth (I had the white).

It went well with my water and all the food I ate. We started off with appetizers, comprised of really good garlic bread (crispy on the outside & garlicky on the inside), fried calamari (always a favorite), a rice ball (yummy although I had to avoid the ricotta cheese) and an artichoke (also pretty good, but not my favorite).

Then came my salad, which was comprised of arugula, grilled pears and Gorgonzola cheese (an enjoyable menage-a-trois that all played off of each other). My main meal was the Chicken Travolta that wasn’t Staying Alive (okay, poor Saturday Night Fever reference) for long on my plate, as the combination of chicken, sauteed spinach, mozzarella and tomato in a white wine sauce was good as well.

I was really craving seafood, but the only seafood they really had was shrimp, which I wasn’t in the mood for since I wanted an actual fish. Since it was my birthday (and 2 other people’s at the table), we each got a birthday treat: a piece of cheesecake (that I did not eat since cheesecake is yucky), a pretty good cannoli and a straw-shaped pastry that was also appetizing when dipped in the whipped cream on the plate.

Restaurants Little ItalyRoaming Little Italy

Since I had never been to Little Italy, I decided to look at each restaurant’s menu that was posted outside. A lot of the places had people standing outside whose sole job was to lure people into the restaurant. I decided to ask them all for a business card of their respective restaurants, so I added them all to my collection.

The only disappointment is that I arrived 5 minutes too late to snag the one for America’s oldest cheese shop Alleva. I was crushed, especially since I wanted to browse their cheese selection. Oh well, I got gelato and some Asian business cards just outside of Little Italy as a consolation prize.

Business Card Count: 33,437

I Went to Primanti Bros and Got One of Their Famous Sandwiches

Primanti Bros York PAI recently went to visit my friends Jon & Alison to see their new house and hang out for the weekend. They live 2 1/2 hours west in Manchester, Pennsylvania and they insisted that we have lunch at a restaurant called Primanti Bros.

Primanti Bros (the location we went to was in York PA) is known in the area for their sandwiches. They started in Pittsburgh and you can now order online according to the business card I picked up.

The Primanti Sandwich Experience

Primanti Bros Corned Beef SandwichI’m not going to lie: I was hesitant to order a sandwich because I was told that the sandwich contained coleslaw. However, I found out it was a vinegar-based sweet and sour slaw… so I decided to give it a shot and boy did it pay off.

Besides the slaw, the sandwich contains a meat of my choice hot off the grille (I picked corned beef), provolone, french fries and tomato on Italian bread. I must say that this sandwich was quite good.

After unhinging my jaw, everything meshed together well. The slaw and corned beef dominated my taste buds, while the tomato and fries gave some extra texture. The only flaw in my opinion is the bread, as it’s really too thick for my taste.

Then again, I don’t like eating an excessive amount of fluffy bread like those slices clearly have. Perhaps if the bread was toasted, then the sandwich would have been that much better. Either way, it was a lot of sandwich and I wound up eating less than half the bread.

Primanti Bros offers more than just sandwiches, like the loaded nachos that we had & tasted like good-quality nachos you’d get at other restaurants. Also, they have “almost famous” chicken wings, pizza and other American restaurant fare. I’d definitely go again for a sandwich, especially since the service was also top notch.

Business Card Count: 33,057