Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

Sal’s Pizza Style

Sal's Pizza Style

You may not realize it, but Berks County has a history of culinary innovation.

Most famously, funnel cake was first served at the Kutztown Folk Festival before becoming a staple of stadiums and state fairs across the country.

More recently, a Berks County restaurant gave birth to a new dish, one that can only be found at Sal’s Pizza Style in Birdsboro.

Sal’s is an assuming little restaurant on the corner of First and Water Streets in Birdsboro. From the outside, it’s not much to look at it – an unremarkable gray building in a residential part of town.

Sal's Pizza Style

Inside, guests are funneled to the order counter. To the right, a small dining area features six tables of two to six seats each. The tables are covered in red and white checkered tablecloths. The walls are adorned with everything from photos of family and friends to a large painting of Rocky Balboa.

Sal Amato, the namesake owner, is a larger-than-life personality. He knows his regular customers by name and can tell a first-timer from the moment they walk in the door.

Sal's Pizza Style

The menu, for the most part, is a typical Italian pizza shop: pizza, sandwiches, burgers and a handful of pasta dinners make up the bulk of the menu.

We were at Sal’s for one thing: the Stromboli pizza.

According to the restaurant’s website, the Stromboli pizza was born in 2015. The concept is so simple,  yet completely unique.

Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

It’s essentially a Stromboli – your choice of traditional Italian or ham and cheese – made by taking a large pizza crust and folding it over. Instead of ending there, Sal tops it with tomato sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni. The end result looks like a half pizza pie but with a second layer of flavor.

And it tastes as good as it looks.

We went with the Italian, stuffed with ham, salami, capicolla, sweet peppers, sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

Do not mistake this for a stuffed pizza. We have had many of those, but they all feature a single crust and basically have one flavor. This was two separate dishes – an Italian Stromboli and a pepperoni pizza – combined into one.

A brush of garlic butter – at least that’s what I believe it to be – added to the flavor. It reminded me of pepperoni rolls that I used to make years ago, but with an additional layer of meats and cheese.

Sure, you could get pepperoni inside your Stromboli. And it probably wouldn’t have tasted much different from the end result. But where’s the fun in that?

Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

The other advantage of having the pizza on top is there’s no need to dip the Stromboli in marinara sauce. Instead, it had a nice even marinara flavor across the entire dish.

The Stromboli came sliced in four and after Julie and I each ate one, we were stuffed. The other two slices went home with us, saving us from having to cook dinner one night during the week.

For the Stromboli and two drinks – a bottle of water and a bottle of iced tea – our total was $27. It was more than we would spend for pizza or Stromboli, but when you’re getting two full meals and no sides are needed, it felt like a fair price to us.

Sitting at our table, we could hear Sal saying “thank you” and “good night” to customers as they walked out the door. When we left, he was hard at work on another order. As we crossed the street to our car, we heard him yell,  “thank you” out the window to us.

That is a man who loves his job. And judging by how many people he knew by name, there are a lot of people who love him and his food.

Add us to that list.

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

Sal’s Pizza Style Inc.
401 E. 1st St
Birdsboro, PA 19508

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews
Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant Margherita Pizza

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant

When it comes to meals for Berks County Eats, I’ve found that some of best meals are the ones that are unplanned. They are the places we go on the spur of the moment or out of necessity.

Recently, we had to make a trip to the Berks County Recycling Center to drop off some old electronics. The Recycling Center is located near the new Reading Fairgrounds and Berks Heim. There are no restaurants in the immediate area, but there a few that are nearby on Route 183, including Plum Creek Farm (which we visited in July) and the Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant.

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant – formerly the Blue Marsh Canteen – is owned and operated by the same group as Gino’s Cafe and Gino’s Grille in Shillington.

Last year, we paid a visit to Gino’s Grille to try their new wood-fired pizza. It was a good, but slow meal. The menu at Blue Marsh had some similarities so it seemed like a good place to try, especially being just five minutes away.

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant

We arrived around 11:30 a.m. for an early lunch. When Jakob is along, we try to eat early so he doesn’t become too much of a distraction (or nuisance) to other patrons. Having the dining room to ourselves is just fine with us.

Apparently we were the earliest Saturday customers ever for our server Kailey. She told us that she has never really had anyone before 2:30.

While there are a lot of Italian dinner options, the menu does lend itself well for lunch, especially with the sandwich selections.

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant Chicken Caprese Sandwich

Julie ordered a small hot chicken Caprese sandwich. It came topped with mozzarella, tomato, chicken, basil and balsamic vinegar.

The sandwich was very good, from the toasted roll to the fresh basil leaves, it had good flavor throughout. It was exactly what she expected out of a Caprese salad-inspired sandwich.

And it was the perfect size for lunch. Served with chips, it was light but filling.

Craving a good pizza, I ordered a small (12-inch) margherita pizza, knowing that I wouldn’t finish the whole pie during lunch.

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant Margherita Pizza

Margherita pizza is a personal favorite of mine. The fresh mozzarella – not shredded – along with tomato and basil make a delicious combination. And the sparse toppings allow me to taste every ingredient for what it is.

I was very impressed. The sauce was delicious, a little on the sweet side. The mozzarella was nicely spread out on the pie. I was surprised by the sliced tomatoes. It’s not uncommon on margherita pizza, but I’ve found more crushed tomato on the pies I’ve tasted around Berks. I certainly didn’t mind it either.

I found the crust to be solid as well, crispy around the edges but not burnt. The slices did sag when picked up, though. But I have zero complaints about the flavor.

I also have no complaints about the price. For the pizza, sandwich and a glass of iced tea, it was only $20 and change. That’s not bad at all for what turned out to be a private dining experience.

And while no one else joined us in the dining room, there were plenty of takeout orders and even a few customers that made their way to the bar located on the other side of the building.

If we find ourselves in the area again, I could easily see us making another stop.

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

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant
5035 Bernville Rd
Bernville, PA 19506

Italian Pizzerias Reviews
Salute Pizza Montanara

Salute Ristorante Italiano / Dante’s 900

Salute Ristorante Italiano and Dante's 900

Last summer, Salute Ristorante Italiano in Sinking Spring began advertising Dante’s 900, a new artisan pizza shop that would open in the space next door. It was at the top of our list to visit during our annual National Pizza Month celebration in October.

Unfortunately, “soon” was a little further off in the future as Dante’s didn’t open until after the new year.

So it was back on our list – at the very top of the list – of new pizza places to check out.

Dante’s website and PDF menu both tout the hours as 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

What neither mentions is that the dining room is only open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We didn’t find that out until we walked through the front door and saw the note where a “please wait to be seated” sign would be expected. Instead, the sign pointed us next door to Salute for the wood-fired pizza.

Salute Ristorante Italiano

Salute is a very nice restaurant, a date night place that’s more upscale than most restaurants where we take Jakob. (In fact, Julie and I visited for Valentine’s Day in 2015). But we had to roll with it and after our second time asking for a high chair, we were all set in a corner booth, separated as far as possible from the rest of the dining room.

Our service wasn’t great on this night. The specials were not explained well to us (the explanation we received was different than what the table behind us received). And after Julie and I both ordered Caesar salads, we were given house salads with balsamic vinaigrette.

Salute House Salad

Not wanting to waste food, we ate them without complaining. I’m not big on balsamic, but the dressing was actually very good, much thicker than most vinaigrettes that I have tried.

But it wasn’t a Caesar salad.

Sitting down in the main dining room and looking at the full Salute menu, I couldn’t help but change my plans. The weekly specials were inspired by Tuscany (our waitress was able to explain that the chef is doing a taste of Italy, crafting menu items themed by region), and one of those specials was the tortelli alla Mugellana ­- potato filled ravioli with duck ragu.

Salute Tortelli alla Mugellana

I felt guilty for not ordering pizza, but I didn’t feel guilty after eating this. It was delicious. The filling was like a well-seasoned side of mashed potatoes. It was a perfect pairing with the duck ragu.

The dark duck meat was rich and done very well. The ragu itself was a little sweet. Together, it was beautifully cohesive dish, one that I would happily order again.

Julie stuck with the original plan and ordered one of the personal sized, wood-fired pizzas. Her choice: the pizza Montanara.

Salute Pizza Montanara

It featured mozzarella, mushrooms, sausage and white truffle Béchamel sauce.

After all the anticipation, we both had to admit that it fell a little flat. Or floppy, to be more accurate. The dough was not thick enough at the center to hold the heavy toppings. And, of course, all of the toppings slid to the center.

But the flavors were there. The Béchamel sauce was excellent, and gave it a creamier taste. It paired really well with the savory sausage. The mushrooms were just kind of there. If you absolutely love mushrooms, I suppose they were a good addition.

The pizza, and our visit, was certainly not what we expected. There were bright spots, for sure. But overall, the experience was not on the same level as our Valentine’s Day trip three years ago.

And I wouldn’t put it near the top of the list for celebrating #NationalPizzaMonth again.

BCE Rating
Food: Good to Very Good
Service: Poor
Ambiance: Very Good
Value: Reasonable

Salute Ristorante Italiano / Dante’s 900
4716 Penn Ave
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Finer Dining Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

A&M Pizza and Grill – CLOSED

 

Update: A&M Pizza in Wernersville is now closed as of October 2018. No official word was given by A&M but the restaurant went dark starting in early October.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can never go back again?”

The idea is that no matter how good things were, you can’t replicate the success years later.

Ironically, this exact thing happened twice last year with Berks County restaurants. Dino’s Wings & Things reopened a second location in Birdsboro. And A&M Pizza returned to Berks County and to its former location in Wernersville.

Dino’s is closed less than a year after it reopened.  As for A&M? The Wernersville location is still going. Again.

A&M was a staple of my adolescence in western Berks County. I remember many stops at the old freight-station-turned-restaurant just off Penn Avenue in Wernersville.

All good things must come to an end, however. A&M moved out and the old station was home to a rotation of less-than-successful restaurants including The Trolley Stop, Feliciano’s, and DiCarlo’s.

The only way to satisfy a craving for A&M’s food was to make a road trip to Lebanon. The Cumberland Street location became a go-to for me, and eventually, Julie.

A highlight of every visit was listening to the owner mumble the order numbers over the restaurant’s PA system.

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Best meatball parm around. #BerksCountyEats

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But the other highlight was always the food – especially the sandwiches. A&M has a signature roll that’s flatter and more rectangular than a standard hoagie roll. The shape of the roll means that the sandwiches are almost always overflowing.

I love their meatball parm sandwiches. The meatballs and sauce are both very good (though I wouldn’t call them the best), but mixed with the roll, it is one of my favorite sandwiches.

As loyal A&M customers, you can imagine how excited we were when the Wernersville location reopened in 2017. An old favorite, back where it belonged.

It’s hard to remember what the restaurant used to look like inside, but the new incarnation of A&M is a cute little spot with a surprising amount of seating. There’s a TV on the back wall, a few assorted pictures and wall hangings, and a Coke dispenser with a sign asking to limit refills to one per customer.

We stopped in to pick up a couple pizzas to take to my parents’ house in Robesonia. And while take-out is probably the majority of the business at A&M, it’s certainly a place where you can sit down and enjoy a meal.

One pie was an old stand-by: pepperoni. The other was a little different, the Caprese.

The pepperoni pie was standard fare for a pizza place. The cheese was nearly covered with mild pepperoni. And it was greasy. This is what childhood dreams are made of.

As an adult, however, I much prefer the Caprese pizza. It most closely resembled a margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella instead of shredded cheese and fresh basil leafs on top. The biggest difference is the use of tomato sauce instead of fresh tomatoes that would be found on margherita pies.

The basil is what really makes this pizza. Bites that had leaves of the herb were sweeter and more rich in flavor than those that didn’t. More than anything, it accented the tomato sauce, making it taste sweeter than those bites without it.

Our two medium pies cost about $25. We didn’t place the most cost-effective order, but with six of us sharing the two pies, we had exactly enough slices for everyone. And $25 split six ways isn’t bad at all.

So, is the old adage true? Can you truly never go back again?

In our case, it’s not true. There’s no question that we will be going back to A&M again.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Fair
Value: Reasonable

A&M Pizza and Grill
10 W. Penn Ave
Wernersville, PA 19565

A & M Pizza and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Sophia’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria

Sophia's Restaurant & Pizzeria is located in a former gas station just east of Reading, Pa.

Every October, Berks County Eats celebrates #NationalPizzaMonth by enjoying as many of our region’s best pizza places as possible.

I look forward to it every year, but I also dread it. Not because I expect to find bad pizza. On the contrary. I dread it because there will be at least one restaurant that impresses me so much that I wish we had enjoyed a full meal.

That’s what we found on our recent visit to Sophia’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in St. Lawerence.

Sophia’s gets great reviews online for everything, but we tempered expectations before arriving. I mean, the location is a former gas station. It’s not like there was a legacy of culinary excellence before Sophia’s arrived.

The exterior gives away the building’s history. The large glass windows are unmistakably gas station.

Inside Sophia's Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, PA.

Inside, it’s a completely different story. The left half of the building has been transformed into a take-out counter and kitchen. The right half is a surprisingly spacious seating area dotted with more tables than I would have thought could fit inside the building. (And it’s much cleaner than any gas station I have ever seen).

The owners obviously put a lot of time and effort into transforming the space. Sitting down at a booth along the wall, it didn’t feel like a converted space. It felt like a nice Italian restaurant.

It was a busy Friday night, and while the booths were mostly full, there was still plenty of seating at the tables in the center of the room. A few other couples had arrived just before us so there was a brief wait before our waitress stopped at the table. On the plus side, we had plenty of time to decide what we wanted so we could place our food and drink orders at the same time.

Guests can choose from a menu of 17 pizzas (plus Stromboli, subs, paninis, Italian dinners and more), and it was a tough choice for me as I debated in my head, finally deciding on a personal-sized grandma pizza.

Grandma Pizza from Sophia's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, Reading, PA.

Grandma pizza is one of my favorites though it’s not available at every pizza place in the county. Sophia’s version features garlic, mozzarella cheese, black pepper, dried hot pepper and a light tomato sauce. When done right, it’s everything that’s great about pizza but in better proportions.

And this was done right.

The sauce was delicious, and every bite with it was sweet and delightful. Those bites without the sauce were like eating the best garlic bread. And every now and then, the red pepper snuck up and surprised me.

I was really impressed and very happy with my decision.

The Spanako pizza from Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, Pa.

For her 10-inch pie, Julie went with the spanako, a white pizza with distinct Greek influences. It included your basic white pizza ingredients: mozzarella cheese, garlic, spinach and tomato. But what took this to another level was the last two toppings: feta cheese and Kalamata olive.

I’m used to white pizza with ricotta, but the feta was a great choice. The softer cheese gives the pie a different texture than the mozzarella.

We were both a little skeptical about the olives. Neither of us are a fan of the more familiar black olives that are used on pizza. But the Kalamata olives were on a different level. They burst with a mild vinegar flavor that brought the whole dish together. I still wouldn’t order black olives on a pizza, but we both agree that we would get this again.

Of course I can never go out for pizza and not order a side. Wanting something that worked as both an appetizer and a snack, I ordered the Old Bay fries.

Old Bay fries from Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, Pa.

They are exactly what they sound like – fresh cut (I had the option of fresh cut or “regular”) fries loaded with Old Bay. The fries arrived about 15 minutes before the pizzas so I had to restrain myself from eating the entire basket. It wasn’t easy because the fries were super addictive. They may have had little too much Old Bay, but I’d rather that than not enough.

Side salad from Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, Pa.

Julie also needed a little something to hold her over until our pizzas, but she was more health conscious than I was and ordered a side salad. It was nothing exciting – just lettuce, cucumber and tomato with a packet of Ken’s ranch dressing – but it hit the spot.

Garlic bread from Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Reading, PA.

On top of everything else, our waitress also dropped off a basket of garlic bread. I would love to talk about them, but I can’t. While they looked great, and we wanted to eat them, we decided to abstain knowing the pizza was yet to come. So we brought them home with us, but we have not, as of this writing, had a chance to eat them yet.

Can you tell it was October?

Can you tell it was October?

Along with the garlic bread, we also brought home three slices of pizza and a little less than half of the fries. So for our $26, we each got more than a couple meals.

Those meals were impressive, too. Sophia’s delivered in a way that we did not expect.

It’s not going to be hard to go back again, but it’s going to be hard to not get the same thing again next time.

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

Sophia’s Restaurant & Pizzeria
3150 St. Lawrence Ave
Reading, PA 19606

Sophia's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews

Hometown Pizza – CLOSED

Hometown Pizza in Blandon isn't much to look at from the outside.

Editor’s Note: Hometown Pizza is now closed. 

Every small town has its own hometown pizza place. In fact it’s a requirement for borough status in Pennsylvania.

(OK that’s not true, but that would be a law I could get behind).

In Blandon, the hometown pizza place is appropriately named Hometown Pizza.

The former home of Rocky’s Pizza isn’t much to look at from the outside. The building looks more like a house than a restaurant. The minimal signage doesn’t do much to draw attention to it from Route 73.

Hometown Pizza in Blandon also isn't much to look at on the inside

But there is plenty of parking, a good thing because there seemed to be a steady flow of take-out customers coming through the doors.

We were the only ones who had decided to dine in, and it seemed like dine-in customers were a rarity for the restaurant. There’s only a handful of tables and booths, but there was a big screen TV showing the NFL game of the week.

Julie took a seat while I placed our order at the counter – a small holiday pizza and an order of fries.

Holiday Pizza from Hometown Pizza in Blandon

Holiday pizza is a white pizza with broccoli, spinach, tomatoes and ricotta.

Unlike the white pizza that I described in our Paolo’s blog, this is the kind of white pizza that I love, and it’s the ricotta cheese that makes the difference.

Mozzarella is great, but in the absence of tomato sauce, a pizza requires a more flavorful topping. The sweeter ricotta cheese provides that in dollops throughout the pizza. There was also mozzarella on the pie, ensuring cheese on every slice.

Half-eaten holiday pizza from Hometown Pizza

When your pregnant wife says “I want that slice,” you give her that slice.

What Julie and I really enjoyed about this pizza was the crust. There was a hint of sweetness in it that was pleasantly unexpected. It may not have been the best overall white pizza that I have ever tried, but the crust put it close to the top of the list.

The fries actually arrived to the table first, about 10 minutes before the pizza.

Hometown Pizza's fries.

I love ordering French fries because even though it’s a simple side, everyone does it differently. So I never know exactly what I’m going to get.

Hometown’s fries were the battered type. The golden brown fries were extra crispy, similar to those we had at Esposito’s a few weeks ago.

Whether it was the oil they were fried in or the batter that they were made with, I found them just a little less flavorful than the same version at Esposito’s. They were fine, but nothing outstanding.

A book of Pennsylvania Dutch on the mantle of an Italian restaurant.

I don’t know why this was on the mantle, but there it is.

Honestly, the pizza would have been more than enough on its own. Hometown doesn’t offer small pizzas, just medium (14-inch) and large (16-inch). Fourteen inches is a lot for us so we took half the pie home.

Add on a couple drinks and our total bill was about $20 so we had absolutely no complaints there.

We left feeling pretty good about our meal overall. It’s probably not a place that we would go for a sit-down meal in the future, but I would definitely grab takeout from there again if it was convenient.

I would say that Blandon has a good hometown pizza place in Hometown Pizza.

Hometown Pizza
504 Main St
Blandon, PA 19510

Hometown Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Pepperoni Pizza from Paolo's Restaurant and Bar in Shillington

Paolo’s Restaurant & Bar

Paolo's Pizza in Shillington

As Berks County Eats continues on a #NationalPizzaMonth journey across Berks County, I am looking for the best and the biggest pizza places around.

Paolo’s Restaurant and Bar just may be the biggest.

Driving past the restaurant along Lancaster Pike, you don’t get a proper sense for the scale of the building. Entering into the take-out counter, we were led to a booth in the back corner of a spacious dining room.

The decor was a bit clichéd, just another Italian restaurant only larger. A doorway opened into the bar area, itself a spacious dining area with even more seating. And with unseasonably warm temperatures, the outdoor patio was also in full swing.

If I totaled up all of the tables in the restaurant, Paolo’s has to be among the largest capacities in the county.

The salad bar at Paolo's in Shillington.

Julie and I arrived hungry for our dinner and needed something to hold us over until our pizzas would arrive. Opting to go light for our appetizer, we both made trips to the salad bar.

We had passed the salad bar – and its the three rows of ingredients, add-ons and dressings – on the way to our table, and it looked appealing enough.

A simple salad.

I built a rather simple salad with broccoli, cucumber, red onion and ranch dressing. Skipping on the vegetables, Julie loaded her salad with cheese, pasta salad, bacon bits and ranch dressing (with a few cherry tomatoes for show).

Julie's salad from Paolo's

All of the ingredients were fresh – not always the case at salad bars – so we were pleased.

The pizza was up after about 20 minutes, good timing because we had just finished our salads. And both pies looked amazing.

Julie and I each ordered personal 12-inch pies knowing that we would be taking some home with us when our meal was finished.

Pepperoni Pizza from Paolo's Restaurant and Bar in Shillington

As much as I love trying foods that are unique and inspired, I love pepperoni pizza. And there was a lot to love with Paolo’s version.

It was a beautiful pie with a crisp, but not overcooked, crust. It was a little on the greasy side, but it should be. It’s a pepperoni pizza after all.

There was also a generous amount of pepperoni, enough that most bites were popping with that salty, savory flavor. Overall, it was a great pie, and one that I would happily order again.

White Pizza from Paolo's Restaurant and Bar in Shillington

Julie went with a “lighter” pie, a white pizza with broccoli. It was good, but not my style. I much prefer white pizza with ricotta, not mozzarella. It’s a richer, more flavorful cheese. For me, this pizza lost something in the cheese.

As predicted, several slices were leftover when we were finished. Julie enjoyed them for lunch later in the week. Despite getting multiple meals out of our food, the $40 price tag felt expensive.

Our one-time trips to the salad bar were $6 each. That’s a lot for just salad, even if it is build-your-own. We could have saved $2 each by ordered side salads, but the extra cost seemed worth it for making them to our liking.

I was impressed by my first visit to Paolo’s. And clearly many other people are impressed, too. With as many seats and as much parking as the restaurant has, it’s clear that the business has built up a loyal following.

Add two more to the list of satisfied customers after our visit.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: A Little Pricey

Paolo’s Restaurant & Bar
2480 Lancaster Pk
Reading, PA 19607

Paolo's Restaurant Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews
Pepperoni pizza from Esposito's

Esposito’s Restaurant & Pizzeria

The things I learn while scouring Berks County for great food never cease to amaze me.

I have learned about towns and communities that I otherwise would have never visited, discovered new – and rediscovered old -foods, and I have found unexpected patterns among various restaurants.

For instance, many locally owned restaurants are closed on Mondays (or Tuesdays). Because of the high volume of business on Saturdays and Sundays, this becomes their weekend.

However, there is one notable exception to this rule: pizza places. I didn’t realize until recently just how many Italian restaurants and pizza places are closed on, or open for dinner only, on Sundays.

That’s a problem when you’re looking for a slice of pizza after church. Thankfully, we found Esposito’s Restaurant & Pizzeria.

Esposito’s is located just east of the city along Friedensburg Road, right up the street from Bixler’s Lodge and not far from Bertie’s Inn, two places we have visited before.

The fact that it’s not too far away is great; the fact that it is open every day at 10:30 a.m. was even better.

We arrived on a Sunday just after 12 noon. We were led through one dining area – a darker room with old-school pizzeria booths – to the enclosed wrap-around porch. We basked in the sunlight as we watched the cars pass by outside.

There were only a few customers at first, but a steady stream of people started coming in while we sat.

Learning from previous mistakes, Julie and I decided to split a small pizza, opting for a traditional pepperoni pie. We also ordered French fries (mostly for me) and a salad for Julie to get her through until the pizza arrived.

The simple salad was out very quick. It was mostly lettuce, garnished with cucumber, tomato, red peppers and olives. The peppers were a nice addition. The olive, not so much. Julie has been eating olives more lately, but she didn’t realize until she bit in that the olives weren’t pitted. Oops.

Otherwise, the salad did the job, though she wasn’t able to finish the whole thing before the pizza arrived.

Pepperoni pizza from Esposito's

There’s nothing artisanal about Esposito’s pizza. On the contrary, this is a straightforward pie that’s a little on the greasy side.

What we really liked about it was the crust. It was a little bit thicker than average, and very light and airy around the outside. Here’s how I gauge how good a crust is: Julie never eats the crust. She ate the crust here. It made it different enough to make it stand out from other restaurants.

My fries had actually arrived just before the pizza, giving me a chance to nosh on them as an appetizer.

They were the battered kind – extra crispy with bits of batter hanging off the taters. They’re the kind of fries that are great in moderation. There was no moderation with the mound of fries they gave us in the “small” order – a whole plateful of them that I devoured way too quickly.

The tradeoff to finishing off the fries was not finishing my half of the pizza. With the pie cut into six slices, we both ate two, leaving two more that Julie reheated for lunch later in the week.

Our entire meal (which also included a glass of iced tea for myself), was less than $20. That’s the great thing about pizza and fries – they’re a sharable meal which makes them an economical option anytime.

That includes Sunday afternoons, a time when the supply of pizza seems to be cut in half. Good thing for us there are places like Esposito’s where we can get a good pizza any day of the week.

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

Esposito’s Restaurant & Pizzeria
1540 Friedenbsburg Rd
Reading, PA 19606

Esposito's Restaurant & Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Reviews
The Aime pizza was topped with gorgonzola, prosciutto, caramelized onions and figs.

Gino’s Grille Wood-Fired Pizza & Bar – CLOSED

The entrance to Gino's Grille in Shillington

Editor’s Note: Gino’s Grille underwent a makeover at the beginning of 2020. It is now known as Mike and Gino’s on the Avenue. The wood-fired pizza restaurant has been replaced by a sports bar. 

Thanks to writing this blog every week, I am always on the look-out for things that are new and exciting.

While Gino’s Grille isn’t new – the restaurant opened a year ago – they did have something new to offer: wood-fired pizza debuted on the menu in late August, and we couldn’t wait to try it.

The building along Lancaster Avenue in Shillington was most recently home to a second location for Bella’s Subs and Pizza. That closed a few years ago, and Gino’s opened in its place.

Gino's started serving wood-fired pizza in August 2017

When we arrived, the parking lot was full, but we found one of the final two spots. Upon entering, we were escorted to one of the last remaining tables in a crowded dining room.

Our waitress warned us that the kitchen was backed up, but we had our hearts set on trying Gino’s new wood-fired pizzas.

The oven was new for Gino’s, and the pizzas had only been added to the menu about a week before our visit. The menu includes 24 artisanal pies, from simple margherita to non-traditional varieties, like the Pittsburgh – topped with French fries, burger, eggs and mozzarella.

Julie and I each ordered our own pie with side salads, hoping to tame our appetites, at least temporarily.

It took 20 minutes to get the salad, and some of the lettuce had started to turn brown.

We knew it was going to be a long night when our salads took nearly 20 minutes to arrive. There wasn’t anything special about the salads, just your normal greens with tomatoes and croutons. The lettuce itself wasn’t the freshest as the tips on many pieces had begun to turn brown. It wasn’t rotten, but it’s not a good look for any restaurant.

The wait was excruciating. Thank goodness for the salads because without them, I don’t know how we would have been able to make it without going next door to the Arby’s drive-thru.

It was more than an hour from the time we arrived before our pizza was delivered to the table. Because of the high temperatures, wood-fired ovens can generally cook a pizza in less than five minutes.

Clearly the kitchen was just unprepared for a full dining room.

The Aime pizza was topped with gorgonzola, prosciutto, caramelized onions and figs.

But the pizzas did arrive, and we excitedly dug into them. For me, I opted for the Aime Special, a unique topping combination with fig, gorgonzola, prosciutto and caramelized onions.

It’s unlike any other pizza that I have tried – that’s why I ordered it – but the first bite was jarring. It was all gorgonzola. Very strong gorgonzola. On its own, it’s not the most pleasant taste.

Thankfully, it got better from there. Once I was able to get a little fig and some of the prosciutto, it made it all the difference.

The fig and prosciutto are a sweet-and-salty match made in heaven, one that cut through the pungent gorgonzola. Together, it made for an excellent flavor. But when one or both of those ingredients were missing, and the cheese was left by itself, it was way too powerful for me.

If you really like gorgonzola, I recommend the Aime special. I’ll be ordering something else next time.

Julie went with a more conventional unconventional pizza (if that makes any sense) with her chicken bacon ranch pie. While you likely won’t find this in the Old World, it’s a common site on menus around Berks.

Look at tall that ranch dressing

Chunks of chicken breast meat and large bacon crumbles were topped with a pool of ranch dressing.

That pool of dressing was not uniform across the pie – parts of it had more ranch, parts of it less. But when all three came together (with the mozzarella base), it was a very good pie. The creamy ranch mixed with the crispy, salty bacon was very enjoyable. The chicken was good, but didn’t add much in the way of flavor.

Julie's more conventional chicken bacon ranch pieOne thing that I will say about both pies is that the crust didn’t feel like the wood-fried pizza. It was fine, but lacked that distinct char on the bottom. It was also inconsistent around the edges with one side being more well-done than the other, probably because the kitchen was too overwhelmed to give it the proper attention throughout its time in the oven.

As usual, 12-inch pies sound smaller than they really are so we took home half a pie each. It also meant we paid for two meals, with a total bill that was around $30.

I have to note that our waitress was as accommodating as she could be given the circumstances. We were offered free dessert at the end of the meal for our troubles, but declined – partly because we were now very full, partly because we had already stayed longer than we had hoped.

By the time we paid the bill and were out the door, we had spent an hour-and-a-half at the restaurant. For a nice two- or three-course dinner, that’s not bad. For pizza, it felt like an eternity.

I’m not going to blacklist Gino’s based on one visit. The wood-fired pizza was still very new when we visited. But we still left feeling disappointed in our experience.

Will we go back? Sure.

But we’ll be waiting a while.

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

Gino’s Grille Wood-Fired Pizza & Bar
2233 Lancaster Pk
Shillington, PA 19607

Gino's Grille Wood-Fired Pizza & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews

Georgio’s Pizzeria

georgio-s-pizzeria

Last week, I asked my Facebook fans where to go for some great pizza to close out National Pizza Month 2016.

I got some great suggestions including Paradise by the Slice (visited in 2014) and Mama’s in Wyomissing (visited the Spring Township location last year).

And then there were some fervent supporters of Georgio’s Pizzeria in West Reading.

With an unseasonably warm weekend, a walk to West Reading sounded like a great idea.

Georgio’s sits on the corner of Fifth and Penn Avenues at the eastern end of West Reading’s busiest block.

This weekend, everyone had their outdoor seating open so after we placed our order at the counter, we grabbed a table on the sidewalk outside and waited for our lunch.

It didn’t take long for our two slices and garlic knots to be delivered.

georgio-s-capri-pizza

For my slice, I went with the Capri pizza. It’s a white pizza with one of my favorite topping combinations: ricotta and mozzarella cheeses with spinach, tomato, broccoli, red onion and basil.

I love ricotta on pizza and the cheese blend here was perfect. And I have never figured out why, but broccoli just goes perfect with white pizza. Add on some fresh tomatoes and just a hint of onion, and this was one good slice.

The crust was crispy from the second trip through the oven, but I was happy to have a cup of marinara sauce from our garlic knots to use for dipping.

georgio-s-garlic-knots

The garlic knots themselves had more garlic than any others that I have tried. The bottom of our aluminum foil was still lined with minced garlic when we were finished with our order of four.

I love garlic. If you don’t, I’d suggest finding another app or side.

georgio-s-cheeseteak-stuffed-pizza

Julie’s slice of stuffed cheesesteak pizza had a Philly flair to it with a yellow streak of Cheez Whiz across the top.

Inside, it was filled with lots of delicious steak meat and a little mozzarella.

georgio-s-cheesesteak-stuffed-pizza-2

With the stuffed pizza comes the thick, fancy crust. Unfortunately Julie left that behind.

Note: the pizza was not on our paper menu or on the website. In fact, there are no stuffed pizzas listed so this may have been a special for today.

Like all great pizzerias, Georgio’s was fast and reasonably priced. For two slices, four garlic knots and two Icy Teas, our total was just $14.

There are a lot of places to get a good pizza in West Reading, and Georgio’s is certainly near the top of the list.

And I’m definitely glad to our Facebook fans for the reminder.

A special thank-you to Facebook fans Paul Bender and Noralee Morales for the suggestion.

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

Georgio’s Pizzeria
500 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Georgios New York Style Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews