A round foil to-go container with baked ziti topped with cheese.

Nino’s Italian Ristorante of Wyomissing

For nine years, Julie and I lived in the Berkshire Heights neighborhood of Wyomissing. We loved the location – close to the highway and within walking distance of all the great restaurants in West Reading.

We also had some great restaurants closer to home. Willoughby’s on Park is one of our favorites for fine dining. Mikura always had delicious Asian-inspired meals. And I had many chai tea lattes from the Park Road Café.

But the one place we had never visited was the restaurant that had been there the longest: Nino’s Pizzeria.

A photo of a brick pizza oven with a door next to it.

Nino’s is in their 26th year of serving Wyomissing and Berks County. When we knew we were going to be moving, Julie and I made a promise that we had to have dinner from Nino’s at least once before we left.

One night after packing boxes all day, we called in an order, and I walked down the street to the little Italian restaurant in the strip mall. On many of our walks, we would see people sitting inside enjoying their meals, but the chairs were all up on the tables when I walked in, a symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic and the tight restrictions on dine-in.

A photo of a restaurant with chairs on top of tables and a picture of Italy hanging on the wall

Talking with the owners, it was easy to understand their decision to focus exclusively on takeout and delivery. With such a small space, 25% capacity would only allow them to seat about 12 people. And with the extra protocols around cleaning and sanitizing tables, it just didn’t make financial sense to offer table service.

But the phone-in orders seemed to be coming in at a steady pace. And I was anxious to get the food back to the house to finally try it.

Julie and I had both opted for one of their Italian dinners. Julie went with her personal favorite, baked ziti, while I ordered the homemade lasagna.

A round foil to-go container with a cheesey lasagna slice

Anytime I order from a restaurant that has a large menu – as Nino’s does – I am drawn to anything that says “homemade.” The connotation, at least, is that the dish takes time to make and it is one that the owners are proud to serve.

By the time I got home the lasagna was not much to look at – it shifted around in the foil packaging so it looked like a blob of cheese atop a blob of pasta and sauce – but it sure tasted good.

The menu describes the meat sauce as slightly sweet with a rich flavor, and I can’t describe it any better than that. The lasagna noodles weren’t the thinnest that I have seen, but they weren’t thick either. And there was plenty of cheese on top. It was definitely worthy of the “homemade” distinction.

A round foil to-go container with baked ziti topped with cheese.

Julie’s baked ziti was also very good (and also tasted much better than it looked in the to-go packaging). The tomato sauce was a little sweeter than the meat sauce on my lasagna, probably just because it didn’t have the extra savory element to it.

Both meals also came with a side salad and homemade bread. The side salads were pretty typical – lettuce with red onion, a slice of tomato and choice of dressing. But the bread was much more than typical.

A large loaf of Italian bread on a paper plate.

Normally when something comes with bread, I expect a slice or two. Both Julie and I got – essentially – a whole loaf of bread with our meals. We were happy to enjoy it with several more meals throughout the week.

I can say for sure that Nino’s didn’t skimp on quality or portions. And at around $35, we certainly got our money’s worth.

I’m really not sure why it took us so long to get to Nino’s – perhaps we just took for granted that it was there – but we wish we would have gone sooner.

The good news is, we didn’t move that far away so there’s nothing stopping us from going back again.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Excellent
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Italian Lunch & Dinner Uncategorized
Assorted foods in takeout containers spread on a granite countertop

Delicioso Tour

On Friday, August 14, Barrio Alegría hosted its annual Delicioso Tour, a culinary tour that highlights some of downtown Reading’s best food businesses.

Normally, the Delicioso Tour is an actual tour with guests walking from restaurant to restaurant in the City of Reading to sample the cuisine of a diverse population and learn the stories behind the food and those who make it.

Rather than canceling the 2020 event, the tour went virtual. Instead of going from site to site, the food was delivered right to your door. And because we couldn’t meet the owners face-to-face, video introductions were included from each of the five restaurateurs giving tour-goers insight into their heritage and their food.

Two chocolate milkshakes in clear plastic cups with still wrapped straws sitting on a countertop

Stop #1 – Franklyn’s Breakfast, Burgers, and Shakes

The first “stop” on the tour was Franklyn’s (1007 Penn Street), one of downtown’s newer restaurants. Franklyn’s opened at the end of 2019, Franklyn’s has a simple menu that, as the name suggests, focuses on scratch-made breakfasts and lunch.

We were treated to our choice of milkshake from the diner. I chose strawberry-banana while Julie chose the Oreo shake.

This is one time when I was more than happy to eat dessert first. The shakes were amazing. Drinking my strawberry-banana shake was like drinking a banana split.

close-up photo of two tacos in corn tortillas covered with onions and cilantro

Stop #2 – Loncheria y Panaderia Doña Tere

Doña Tere is located across from Reading High School (800 N. 13th Street), and as we found out with our second course, it is home to some of the best tacos anywhere.

Photo of two tacos, both with corn tortillas but one with shredded beef and the other with marinated pork filling.

We each had two tacos – one of our choice and one of their speciality taco, suadero. Suadero is a slow roasted or stewed beef that is then shredded similar to a pork carnitas. It had a similar flavor, too, but was just a little richer. For my other taco, I tried the adobada.

Photo of two tacos on corn tortillas. One is topped with beef and chorizo, the other is topped with shredded beef.

All of our tacos were served with a side of traditional toppings – cilantro and onion. I wouldn’t want them any other way because the meat was perfect and flavorful all on its own.

The tacos also came with a green salsa and a red salsa – both of them were a little too hot for our tastes. The flavors were great, but a little bit went a long way.

Photo of a takeout container filled with rice and beans and pork ribs

Stop #3 – El Tronco de Lily

El Tronco de Lily (101 S. 6th Street) was the “main course” of the meal. Julie had their rice and peas with ribs while I had the white rice with chicken.

Photo of takeout container with white rice and a half breast of chicken.

I was not expecting to enjoy my chicken as much as I did. It had a nice flavor, almost like a barbecue chicken but with a Latin twist. And the spices seeped in so it was good all the way to the last bite.

Photo of Spanish beans in tomato sauce.

While Julie’s yellow rice had the “peas” cooked with it, my white rice came with a dish of beans in a tomato sauce to pour over top. It was all very good, but way too much food for a five-course meal (we both saved about half of our rice for later).

The ribs were good, too. They weren’t the fall-off-the-bone ribs like you would find at a barbecue joint. They were a little tougher but still with plenty of flavor.

Photo of a plastic takeout container filled with assorted fried foods.

Stop #4 – Antojitos y Algo Mas

The dishes from Antojitos y Algo Mas (154 Walnut Street) were practically a meal of themselves. We knew were were getting chicharrón (pork rinds) and arepas (ground maize/corn, kind of like a fluffy corn tortilla) but the box also included some fried plantains, ribs and chorizo.

The latter were actually my favorites. Because of how they were fried, they almost had the texture of jerky which I enjoyed, especially as a change of pace to the other dishes we had tried.

close-up photo of a tres leche cake in a plastic takeout container topped with a cherry.

Stop #5 – Homemade Cravings

Just when we thought the meal couldn’t get any better, Homemade Cravings (50 N. 5th Street) had tres leches cake. The milky cake was so rich and sweet, but neither of us had enough room to finish it.

That was OK though, because after a couple nights in the refrigerator, the cake had soaked in even more flavor from the creamy mixture it was sitting in.

And it also helped extend the tour for a couple days, which was great because we didn’t want it to end.

The food throughout was outstanding and it was great to experience so many new places – some that I was vaguely familiar with and others that I had never heard of.

I really hope that the tour happens in person next year because the only thing better than eating the amazing food would be to dine alongside others who are discovering new dishes and new restaurants, too.

But whether the next tour is in-person or virtual, you can count us in.

Caribbean & Latin American Dessert Lunch & Dinner Uncategorized
Three-chambered Styrofoam takeout container with lamb kabobs over rice, a fattoush salad, and hummus

Berks County Eats Update

selfie of a man with glasses wearing a checkered flag mask

Three months. That’s how long it has been since my last post on Berks County Eats.

A lot has happened since the stay-at-home order was announced in March. What hasn’t happened in that time: restaurant reviews.

It’s not for a lack of caring. If you follow us on Instagram, you know that we have been continuing to support restaurants in Berks County through takeout and delivery – supporting old favorites and trying new places.

I was planning to do reviews throughout. The first weekend of the stay-at-home order, we ordered from Brewers Bar & Grill in West Reading and a couple burgers delivered to the house.

close-up photo of waffle fries and a burger in a styrofoam takeout container

They were very good, everything that you could want in a pub burger. But when I went to write about our meal, it didn’t feel right. There wasn’t enough meat on the bone, so to speak, to do a true review. Yes, the food was great, but that’s was all I could say.

I couldn’t write about the ambiance because I never stepped foot inside the restaurant.

I couldn’t write about the service because I never saw an employee from the restaurant (shout out to Delivery Dudes who has provided amazing service every time we’ve ordered delivery, though).

I couldn’t write about the presentation because there’s nothing appealing about clamshell packaging.

I couldn’t write about any of the other things I would write about either: Were they busy? What is parking like? Are they kid-friendly? What makes them unique?

The last question – what makes a restaurant unique – is really the hardest part. As a writer, I am drawn to the details. Food is always a full sensory experience, but when I’m eating my meal at the same dining room table I take every other meal, my senses aren’t being stimulated enough.

Without enough to write about, I turned to Instagram. At least I could show that I was supporting our local restaurants. And we have been supporting our local restaurants, ordering takeout or delivery at least once a week (admittedly some of the meals weren’t Instagram-worthy).

If I would have had any motivation to write a blog that first week, it was quickly lost when I spiked a fever for three days. I tested negative for the flu and strep and then had to go through the discomfort of a COVID-19 test. I tested negative for that, too, but the pandemic became very real for us during that time and we’ve proceeded with caution ever since.


On the Move

Before all of this, Julie and I were in the process of looking for a new house and selling our own. We love where we live, but there are days when it feels like our house is bursting at the seams. The real estate industry, like many others, came to a standstill during the stay-at-home order. As soon as it reopened in May, we were back on the hunt.

The housing market is crazy right now, which added quite a bit of stress to our lives. That stress increased after we lost out on a house that we loved even after making what we thought was a very generous offer.

Then we put our current house on the market, thinking it would take several weeks of showings before it would sell. Instead we had 20 showings in a weekend and had an offer at our asking price by Sunday evening.

The good news for us is that we found another house, one that we love. And the best news is we’re not going far. We’ll be staying in the Wyomissing area. Our new home will be a little bit larger with more rooms (I get my own office!).

My favorite part about the new house is that it has an incredible kitchen. Julie and I are both looking forward to having more space to be creative at mealtime. Maybe we’ll even be able to show off some of our work on the blog.

(There’s also a dishwasher, something we haven’t had in the nearly nine years that we’ve been in this house).

We settle on both houses in mid-August so we will be a little busy between now and then.


More Distractions

In the absence of Berks County Eats, I filled my time with more distractions, some productive, some not.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing more creative writing projects. I started a novel – the dream of every writer. We’ll see if I ever finish it or if it ever sees the light of day. Either way, it has felt good to broaden my horizons, and I would like to think that it has made me a better writer as a result.

During the pandemic, I have also taken full advantage of Penn State Extension’s free course offer. I completed a course in grant writing and am in the process of completing a course called Food for Profit, all about starting your own food business.

No, I’m not going to start a food business, but the course has given me a new perspective on many facets of the industry – health and safety regulations, start-up costs, pricing and more. It has been a bear of a course, but one that has been worth the time and energy.

Then there is the fact that I have a 2 1/2 year-old at home. A very active 2 1/2 year old. He spends his days with his grandmother where he is a perfect angel. Then he comes home and is a (sometimes uncontrollable) ball of energy for mommy and daddy. By the time we get him to bed around 8-8:30, neither of us have the energy to focus on much else.


Berks County Eats Moving Forward

Through the beginning of March, I was so excited about Berks County Eats.

Launching the new website last year gave me a renewed enthusiasm about the blog. Then we started this year with some really great meals at places like Judy’s on Cherry and Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant, the Greenhouse Cafe, and even a cooking class at the Culinary Kitchen.

2020 was going to be the best year ever for Berks County Eats. And then it all stopped. When the blogs stopped, I kept up with the news for another week or two, but then I stopped that as well. That’s my biggest regret throughout this – not keeping up with the industry like I had done for the last six years.

We lost some great restaurant as a result of the pandemic, including Winedown Cafe, but I know of only three such closures that can be attributed to the pandemic. Of course there are many more temporary closures, and the fallout is likely not over. But Berks County is resiliant. New restaurants opened before (and even during the pandemic).

Unfortunately I wasn’t there to share their stories. I had disconnected totally and while I can’t say I’m fully reconnected, I’m well on the way. Our news pages have been updated. Our directory now features tags on every post based on their current status: open for takeout, delivery available, outdoor dining, or temporarily closed (for those where the information can be confirmed).

I’m not going to promise weekly blogs anytime soon, but I will promise that Berks County Eats will once again be the resource I have promised it will be. We will once again be on top of all the news in the Berks County restaurant scene with updates on Facebook as we hear about them.

With outdoor dining already an option now and indoor dining (with restrictions) returning with the green phase, you will start seeing some blogs pop up here and there, but it won’t be weekly. Not yet, anyway.

We’ll definitely still be supporting our local restaurants, and we hope you will be, too. Takeout. Delivery. In-person dining. However you can support our restaurateurs, we hope you do.

And we promise to do the same.

Uncategorized

Take the Berks County Eats Survey

Help shape the future of Berks County Eats, and you could win a gift card to the restaurant of your choosing!

Two lucky winners will each receive a $25 gift card to a restaurant of their choosing, just for filling out our five-minute survey. (See the Official Rules for the boring details).

But the real winners are our readers who have the opportunity to influence the future direction of Berks County Eats.

Uncategorized
Photo of two milkshakes in styrofoam cups

Lori’s Candy Station

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“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” All Dorothy Gale had to do was repeat those words and click her heels to be rescued from Oz and returned to her aunt and uncle’s farm.

For me, it means a 20-minute drive along Route 422 from Wyomissing to Robesonia.

And no trip home is complete without a stop at Lori’s Candy Station and a specialty shake.

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It’s a true taste of home for me. You see, Lori is my mom, and I invented the secret milkshake menu.

It started a few years ago when she started with a new ice cream wholesaler, JAS (Just About Sinful), who also own Ice Cream World in Allentown). The new supplier meant new flavors and new flavor combinations.

My go-to is a mango shake. It’s a scoop of mango water ice with vanilla ice cream, blended up for a thick, brain freeze-inducing treat.

The mango ice is naturally sweet and the vanilla helps tone it down just enough. It works with just about any flavor of Italian ice (except vanilla, that would just be weird), but give me the mango every time.

lori-s-candy-station-milkshakes

Julie also has her own milkshake creation that she likes to call the chocolate covered strawberry – dips of strawberry and death by chocolate ice cream.

Death by chocolate ice cream is a monster of itself. It consists of chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips and brownie chunks. Blended with the strawberry ice cream, it really does give the flavor of a chocolate covered strawberry, only more refreshing and less messy.

If you order it, make sure you get a straw and a spoon. With death by chocolate ice cream, there is always a few bits of brownie waiting at the bottom of the cup.

lori-s-candy-station-selfie

But you don’t have to mix and match to get a great milkshake. Salty caramel, mint chocolate chip, cookie dough and teaberry are all delectable on their own.

We had mediums — in my younger day, I would take down the 32 oz. large, but not anymore — and they were more than enough, and just $7 for the pair.

Other treats at the little shop include waffle cones dipped in chocolate, floats, chocolate-covered bananas, and some of the most decadent ice cream cakes you will find anywhere.

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And we can’t forget about the famous homemade chocolates.

Made from soft ice cream and the best mix-ins, the ice cream cakes from JAS are available for special order with at least a week’s advance notice.

Yes, I’m biased. But I will always love going to Lori’s Candy Station for a milkshake. They’re just like mom used to make.

Dessert Uncategorized

Where to Eat this Weekend: July 31-August 2

Saint Marco Italian Food Festival

lasagna-saint-marco

Celebrate the flavors of the Old World at the Saint Marco Italian Food Festival. Taste Italian favorites like porchetta sandwiches, fresh dough pizza, pasta with meatballs, crispelle, and Saint Marco’s famous lasagna. There is also live entertainment and a weekend-long bocce tournament. The festival is open Friday 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 12 noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 12 noon to 9 p.m. at the Saint Marco clubhouse in Temple.

Read the Berks County Eats review here.

Reading Fair

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The 161st annual Reading Fair kicks off its 7-day run on Sunday. The fair is the county’s largest, attracting thousands of visitors to the fairgrounds for a week of music, entertainment, races, and most importantly, food. Be sure to stop by the Grange tent for a delicious burger, sandwich or fries.

Read the Berks County Eats review here.

Dinner on Main, Kutztown

Enjoy a night on the town this Friday night in Kutztown. Part of the town’s bicentennial celebration, many of the town’s best restaurants will be serving special menus for the occasion. Participating food vendors include:

  • The K’Town Pub
  • Pop’s Malt Shoppe
  • Camillo’s Italian Restaurant
  • La Cocina Mexicana
  • Betty’s
  • Spuds
  • The Fraternal Order of Eagles
  • The Kutztown Fire Company

Live music and local artists will be setup starting at 6 p.m. with dinner served from 7 to 11 p.m. Also, the open container law will be rescinded for the night, allowing beer and wine to be enjoyed along the street.

Uncategorized

Food & Festivals: Greek Food Bazaar

greek-food-festival-program

It’s not uncommon to see a Berks County church hosting a food festival.

Throughout the year, you can find peach festivals, strawberry festivals, blueberry festivals, and more.

At the very least, just about every church will host a public dinner at some point throughout the year.

At Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, they just do things on a much larger scale.

Now in it’s 44th year, the Greek Food Bazaar is not your typical church function. Thousands of patrons walk through the doors of the three-day event, which is why  some of the area’s largest corporations and businesses—including Redner’s Warehouse Markets, the Reading Fightin’ Phils and 69 News Berks Edition—are advertising in the 50-page program book.

Musician-Greek-Food-Festival

And this year’s festival is larger than ever with the addition of an outdoor market and “Opa Tent” with plenty of space for dining and dancing.

Great food can be found throughout the church grounds, every room offering something different than the previous.

There is the Taverna, probably the most in-demand room in the building, where patrons enjoy traditional Greek tavern food, served with ouzo and wine. A gyro window serves a variety of sandwiches. Gyros and other appetizers were also available inside the Opa Tent. The kafeneio serves as an on-site coffee shop.

For hungry food bloggers, light fare and appetizers are just not enough. That’s why you will find me in the Estiatorio.

The church’s social hall is transformed into a sit-down restaurant where they are serving full dinner plates, like their Athenian chicken.

athenian-chicken-greek-food-festival

Served with rice pilaf (or pastitsio), salad cup, and green beans cooked in tomatoes, the half chicken is more barbecued than baked. The lightly salted skin is reminiscent of the chicken I had at Kauffman’s, but a little crispier and not quite as spicy. And the spices are more than skin deep (pun intended), giving the meat a nice flavor of its own.

The pilaf and green beans are the perfect compliments to the meat. The beans are swimming in a sweet tomato sauce that’s much thinner and sweeter than an Italian marinara, while the pilaf was the necessary starch that balanced it out.

spanakopita-greek-food-festival

I took my dinner into the Opa Tent where Julie was waiting with her spanakopita. The spinach and feta were mixed in bite size filo dough pockets and served atop a full pita. Even with the lightness of filo, it was heavy enough that the pita was unnecessary, and we ended up bringing most of it home with us.

Of course wherever there is a church festival, there are always desserts, and Sts. Constantine and Helen does not disappoint. A classroom is converted into the zaxaroplasteio, or Greek bakery.

baked-goods-board-greek-food-festival

On the whiteboard is a tally of all the baking done for this year’s bazaar: 3,840 baklava, 1,539 loaves of bread, and 7,080 twist cookies. At $2 each, we picked out five of their most appealing options: two floyeris, one baklava, one finikia, and one kataifa.

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Greek pastries generally revolve around two ingredients: filo dough and honey. All but the finikia, which is a honey dipped cookie sprinkled with nuts, were made with the thin dough, while all were sweetened with the honey syrup.

The most unique of the four had to be the kataifi, a honey and walnut filled pastry that is made with shredded filo. Having only bought one, we had to cut it in half, at which point the honey began oozing out, leaving us with what looked like piles of angel hair pasta that was doused in gooey sweetness.

In all, we spent about $30 on food. The only thing we missed out on this year was the loukoumades, the church’s famous Greek honey balls. Every year, the deep fried, honey flavored dough balls are a big hit with the crowds. This year was no exception, and by the time we got to the window on Friday night, the day’s batch was already sold out.

That sounds like a good reason to return next year.

Uncategorized

Food & Festivals: Oktoberfest at Reading Liederkranz

Polka-Oktoberfest

Germany is my blood.

Like so many Berks Countians, I can trace my family history back to the Fatherland. Before we were Pennsylvania Germans, we were just Germans.

One night every year, I take the time to celebrate my family heritage with a visit to the Oktoberfest celebration at the Reading Liederkranz.

Though it is a private club, the Liederkranz welcomes the public for special events throughout the year, but none are bigger than Oktoberfest.

And Oktoberfest is a big deal. An article on BusinessInsider.com rates it among the nine best places in the world to celebrate the annual event. So many people attend the event each year that the Liederkranz has to sell reserved parking spaces at their Mt. Penn headquarters.

For the rest of us, that means a 10-minute ride on a school bus from the Antietam Valley Recreation & Community Center. With the twisty turns on the mountainside, the trip feels a lot longer than it actually is (the 1.5-mile trip feels like it takes 10 minutes).

reading-liederkranz-oktoberfest

Stepping off at the top, a large banner hangs above the entrance to the grove and beer garden. Record crowds walked beneath that sign this year, according to the Liederkranz website. Even on our trip Thursday, day two of the five-day festival, the lines for food and beer were lengthy.

When it comes to the food options, there is no wrong choice, but if you are looking for something different, this event is the one place I have found for a delicious bowl of goulash.

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Even in a disposable bowl, it’s easy to see why the goulash is such an appealing dish. The beef cubes are slow cooked in a slightly spicy sauce, served over a bed of egg noodles, which sop up the sauce so well.

With separate lines for each food option, Julie and I had to divide and conquer to get our food. While I was feasting on goulash, she picked up a roast pork meal with German potato salad and sauerkraut.

reading-liederkranz-pork-kraut

The pork was juicy and tender, but for me, the best part are the sides. The potato salad, with large chunks of spuds and plenty of herbs is the best that I have tried. And the sauerkraut is just as good with a sourness that’s noticeable, but not too overpowering.

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Patrons must buy tickets for all food and drink purchases, and if you do the math wrong (like food bloggers tend to do), you either end up with too few or too many tickets. In this case, we had enough extra tickets for an order of potato pancakes. Three large pancakes are served with cups of applesauce and sour cream for dipping.

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As we sat and enjoyed our dinner, we were serenaded by the polka sounds of The Continentals, and in between sets, the accordion stylings of Kermit Ohlinger, who wandered through the crowd playing polka versions of “Margaritaville” and “Hot Dog Man.”

After dinner, we took a brief walk through the German market, a collection of vendors selling German-made and -inspired products.

Really, this short walk was just a way to kill time before my favorite part of the evening: dessert.

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The Liederkranz offers an assortment of goodies to choose from, including a decadent chocolate cake with rich, creamy chocolate ice cream.

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But for me, no trip to Oktoberfest is complete without their famous apple strudel.

Served atop a bed of warm custard and (optionally) topped with vanilla ice cream, the strudel is a culinary masterpiece. The ice cream melts quickly, mixing with the custard to create a sweet, soupy pool for the light, flaky pastry. The strudel is so popular that there is often a line waiting for the next batch to emerge from the clubhouse.

Of course, there is also the beer (and wine) and lots of it. It is Oktoberfest, after all.

But for me, Oktoberfest is a celebration of my heritage and a celebration of delicious food.

And it’s why I will continue to return each year.

Uncategorized

Island Pizza

island-pizza

No one would ever confuse Berks County for the Caribbean.

Reading is a long way from Aruba. Birdsboro is very different from Barbados.

But there is a place in eastern Berks County that at least tries to make it feel a little more like the islands.

Island Pizza sits along Route 422, about 10 minutes east of the city. The building sits on an “island,” its neon palm tree shining bright atop a hill high above the highway.

With the divided highway, the only way to reach it from the west is through one of those jug handle turns that are a rarity in Berks County.

But there is more different about this place than turning right to go left.

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Inside, every square inch of the walls are covered in bright murals depicting parrots, flowers and iguanas. An underwater scene adorns the short wall at the kitchen counter, with crabs and clownfish and others brought to life in vivid color.

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The menu is a lot larger than I would have thought. In addition to more than 20 specialty pizza options— most of them featuring island names like the Martinique (chicken, red onion, tomatoes, bell peppers and mozzarella) and the Bermuda (white pizza with fresh garlic, broccoli and spinach)—the restaurant features burgers, steak sandwiches and hoagies.

Island Pizza is also “crazy about fries” with 18 styles that range from Cajun and seasoned fries to ranch bacon cheese and pulled pork BBQ. We decided to go with something a little more Italian in nature with the Parmesan garlic fries.

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Too hungry to wait for our pizza, we asked to have our fries first. The crispy fries were dusted with in powdery Parmesan; a small pool of oil had gathered at the bottom of the basket. The fries at the bottom were too soggy to pick up without a fork, but using a fork was only a minor inconvenience.

The fries were greasy and good, and the garlicky sauce was doubly good, serving as a convenient dipping sauce for the pizza yet to come.

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For our pizza, we decided to go all-out with a gourmet stuffed pizza, the Aruba.

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Peeling back the doughy lid revealed a meat-lovers dream, filled with meatballs, sausage, pepperoni, ham, bacon and mozzarella.

Everything about it was excellent. All of the meats worked well together with the pepperoni adding just a hint of spice to the pie. The sauce, served in a bowl on the side, was thick marinara that added just a little sweetness. in the end though, I dipped more into the garlic sauce from the fries than I did in the marinara.

The pizza, which cost about $20, was enough to easily feed a family of four. After we each finished two of the oversized slices (mine were bigger than Julie’s, of course), we still had two slices left for lunch later in the week.

It may not be the Caribbean,  but Island Pizza is an oasis of sorts, a relaxing place friendly service.

And some darn good pizza.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Island Pizza
3060 Limekiln Rd
Birdsboro, PA 19508

Island Pizza Incorporated on Urbanspoon

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews Uncategorized

West Lawn Wednesdays

west-lawn-united-methodist-church

Church dinners are a tradition in Berks County, just as they are across the country.

On any given weekend, you will find area churches serving up freshly prepared comfort foods like chicken pot pie, ham and beans, and pot roast.

Some church dinners have a loyal following, bringing in people from far and wide to enjoy a meal. Whether it’s once a year, or every month, the dinners become a true community event.

But the West Lawn United Methodist Church takes church dinners to a whole new level with West Lawn Wednesdays.

I first found out about West Lawn Wednesdays during the Wilson Iron Chef event in April. The church was set up in the expo space, handing out samples of their shepherd’s pie, which was one of the best items I tasted throughout the day.

Shepherd's Pie - West Lawn Methodist

The ladies running the stand handed us a brochure and two free meal vouchers, and after seeing that the meals only run September through May, I knew I only had a few weeks to  experience a West Lawn Wednesday.

And so it was that we found ourselves in the Community Center on the last Wednesday before the summer break.

According to the brochure, West Lawn Wednesdays began in 2001 with a dinner for about 40 congregation members. The event has clearly grown.

Inside, rows of tables were filled with patrons, with many more having already passed through the doors on this night.

The menu changes weekly with two entree options, starter salad, two sides and dessert. After being shown to our seats, a group of regulars sitting with us were more than happy to point us in the direction of the buffet line.

salad-west-lawn-wednesday

Our first stop was the salad bar, which was better than some restaurants I have a seen, with plenty of add-ins and not a speck of brown lettuce to be seen.

meatloaf-west-lawn-wednesday

Next we took our trays and headed to the hot bar where the night’s entrees were meatloaf and hot dogs with mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli on the side.

I politely declined the hot dog, but was happy to have them fill up my plate with the rest of the options. Like any good church dinner, the food tasted like it came right out of a grandmother’s kitchen. The meatloaf, topped in brown gravy, had a nice flavor with just enough onions and spices mixed in. The potatoes were light and fluffy and the vegetables also came out beautifully.

The only disappointment was the announcement that the Rita’s Water Ice had not arrived as planned and there would be no dessert.

We all paused mid-meal as the pastor said a short prayer and invited everyone to the group study classes that would begin after the meal was finished at 7:30.

And though we received invitations from some of our neighboring diners, we never felt pressured to stay for anything beyond the meal.

While our coupons we picked up from the Iron Chef competition provided us with two free meals, we would have gladly paid the $7.50 per person that was being charged (for families of four or more, a $25 flat rate makes it even more reasonable).

Entering last year, the West Lawn Wednesday program had earned more than $60,000, all of which went to benefit the church’s various mission trips (from as close as New Jersey to as far as Tanzania) and to provide food for other outreach programs in Reading and Berks County.

And judging from the full dining area and delicious food, I suspect that number will continue to grow as a year of meals begins.

The first West Lawn Wednesday of 2014-15 is September 3. The meals will continue weekly through late May.

Lunch & Dinner Uncategorized