I Love You More Than Pizza

This is probably the highest compliment I could pay anyone, and Chuck hears it on a regular basis.

I am a self-avowed pizza junkie, it is probably my biggest addiction. It’s actually a combination of two cravings – bread and cheese. I think pizza is a convenient vehicle to bring these two delicious foods together.

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I recently started watching Ugly Delicious on Netflix. It features David Chang of Momofuku, and the first episode is about pizza. They traveled to Naples, ate a crazy pizza in Japan with all authentically Japanese local ingredients, met with Wolfgang Puck at Spago and delivered Domino’s pizza.

They also did a deep dive into iconic New York and Connecticut pizza. Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, halfway between NYC and PHL New York pizza is my life.

I am admittedly a thin crust, big honking slice, pizza purist. I am a tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese guy. If anything pepperoni and maybe (maybe) sausage and mushroom or meatball. But, they have to be homemade, light, fluffy, delicious meatballs (and sliced).

Being entirely Authentically Mark, I’m going to piss off some people here. I LOVE amazing, freshly made Philadelphia Tomato Pie, but it is not pizza. I’m not a fan of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, it has great flavors, and I love the long strings of cheese; but the texture is odd to me.

{I almost said it’s not pizza but that would be too extreme and I’d get lots of hate mail}

I’m also not really a fan of some of the odd things people put on a pizza. Pineapple, ham, and jalapenos just don’t belong on pizza.

The other thing is that I kind of like some of the random flatbreads; but, like tomato pie, they are not really pizza. The California Pizza Kitchen’s Thai Chicken; has grilled chicken breast with peanut sauce and Mozzarella, hearth-baked then topped with crisp bean sprouts, julienned carrots, slivered scallions and fresh cilantro. It’s delicious, but it’s not pizza to me.

Here’s the rationale from my culinary career and it is still a pet peeve in my life. Caesar Salad is a classic preparation; it was created in 1924 by Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico.  And, it has a particular list of ingredients and a specific, unique, tableside preparation.

If it I not made tableside it is now a ‘mock’ Caesar, a bottled dressing is ‘mock’ Caesar dressing, and God forbid that you add things like tomatoes, grilled chicken or anything else; it is no longer a Caesar Salad… call it something else.

Pizza is the same way. It is about the perfect thin crust, slightly blistered on the edges, crisp on the bottom, tomato sauce (not too sweet), mozzarella cheese, a touch of good olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano and then fresh basil or maybe a few other previously discussed Italian ingredients.

What is something you WILL NOT eat on pizza? And who makes your favorite pizza?

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I Love St Pete!

On a daily basis, I fall more and more in love with St Pete. People laugh at me when I say I only cross the bridge when I have to.

St Pete has a beautiful big city feel with a small town mentality. The culinary, arts and culture here is AMAZING. It is easy to navigate, and you have several significant hubs with new art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants; whether it be downtown, on the gulf or off Central Avenue.

Recently I was driving down Central Avenue heading downtown to do some errands, and I passed a Volkswagen van parked next to a local coffee shop, I did a double take and had to circle back around.

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This remarkable, unique blue van is the Tampa Bay Posies Flower Truck!  The business was started by two friends who had a ‘little extra time’ on their hands.  They found this van and had it retrofitted to hold flower buckets and covered it with a canopy.

The buckets are full of unique flower blooms not found in dull supermarket flowers.   Today they had beautiful pink and white peonies, heather, HUGE King Protea, puffy green dianthus, and several varieties of roses and anemones.

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They are available in the Tampa Bay Area for weddings as a great photo op as well as offering small wrapped posies of fresh flowers for your guests as a favor. They have many standing orders they deliver, but most times, you can find them at local events and pop-up venues. They keep a calendar of locations on their website and you can find them on Facebook and Instagram as well.

The concept is adorable, the flowers are beautiful, and the ladies are too, too sweet.

I found them on my way to check out Brooklyn South on Central Avenue. They are a gourmet cheese, meat and sandwich shop, tucked into a fun, funky 450 square foot space.

authentically Mark - Sain Petersburg Florida - st petersburg cheese shop - Brooklyn South- saint petersburg sandwiches- st petersburg florida restaurants

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They offer an impressive selection of imported and domestic cheeses and charcuterie; unique scratch-made sandwiches and gourmet food products from Brooklyn and around the world. The shop is packed to the gills with beer, wine, unique sodas and soft drinks as well as specialty retail items.

I popped in for a sandwich and stayed for great foodie conversation with owner Matt Bonano.

I ordered the Italian, it is a pressed sandwich on locally baked ciabatta bread, but everything on the well-crafted menu and the daily specials looked exciting and delicious as well.

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They offer after-hours cheese classes and work to promote local artisan meat and cheese producers.

This is my St Pete, and both of these businesses are exactly why we love it here!

 

There’s No Place Like Home

I’m a foodie, I fully admit it… when we travel we experience a new destination through its food; we LOVE food tours and eating where the locals eat.

Many of you know me as a Master Wedding Planner; but prior to that I worked a number of years as a chef and in food and beverage. I’m actually a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York.

When I got out of kitchens, professionally, I really started to enjoy cooking, entertaining and exploring food again. In wedding planning my love of food really helped me attract couples who were also foodies and wanted to incorporate food that reflected them in their wedding. My journey into my new blogging business, Wedding Ghost, has also attracted wedding venues, caterers and bakers as clients as well.

My wedding planning company was just a few years old when my husband and I met; we lived right at the edge of Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The market is filled with amazing butcher shops, cheese stores, fresh pasta shops, coffee roasters, bakers and produce shops. Some are new startups; others have been there several generations, but all offered AMAZING artisan foods… all within walking distance of our house.

When we moved to Orlando, nothing like this existed… Italian ingredients were few and far between. I found one location but everything was prepackaged and it smelled like a strip mall, and not of aged provolone, olives or fresh bread.

Then a friend introduced me to Mazzaro’s Market (thanks Shannon!) in St Petersburg… the skies opened and the angels sang. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and I made the pilgrimage from Clermont, about an hour and a half drive, and stocked up for the holidays.

What took up several city blocks of small store front row houses in Philadelphia’s Italian Market is condensed into two large buildings here in Florida. The first is mostly teas, coffee and kitchen wares… but the main attraction in all under one roof in the second building.

You enter the building through gardens with marble statues, classic Italian murals, fun quirky photo ops and into nirvana.

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Mazzaro's Murals

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Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - murals

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - murals

You are greeted by a small produce area with things you don’t often find in supermarkets, an olive bar with both oil and salt cured olives, an awesome selection of mushrooms, things like fresh fennel bulbs, whole fresh artichokes, fresh herbs and seasonal things like chestnuts in the shell.

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Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - Olive Bar

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Florida Chestnuts

Just beyond that is a butcher and seafood counter with homemade sausage, braccole and beautiful cuts of meat not found in your average supermarket. They have refrigerated counters filled with premade homemade meals, soups and salads.

I typically cut a path to the wine and cheese room! Wines from all over Italy fill this cavernous room, to get there you pass by counters of cheeses, pate and condiments from all over the world with a huge assortment from Italy including fresh mozzarella, aged provolone, dozens of others and on my last visit there were three kinds of fresh truffles!

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The main space of the building is almost overwhelming… premade foods to take home, fresh made sandwiches, imported oils, vinegars and specialty foods. A counter with imported meats and sausages, fresh made pasta with dozens of varieties daily, a bakery with fresh breads, pastry, cookies and gelato, a coffee bar and roaster!

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Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Fresh Baked Breads

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Italian Pastry

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Fresh Pasta

It even has a taste of home with di Bruno Brother’s cheese spreads!

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Philadelphia - Di Bruno Bros.

While nothing in St Petersburg is very far; having Marraro’s about 10 minutes away makes it feel like home. All the ingredients and food I grew up with helps me keep the feeling of family close, especially at the holidays.