Second Annual Pristine Awards

 

Awards

Welcome to the Second Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2016. As opposed to last year I will be changing up the format a bit to help keep this short and sweet. If a category is underrepresented in my reviews this year (Eg. if I ate a food item/category last year and not this year, or there were no new options), then they will not be mentioned here (for last year’s winners, click this link).

Best Burger Winner: Pretzel Burger (WBC) 

Runner Up: The 5 Napkin, 14 Spice Stuffed Burger (The Cobblestone)

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The Pretzel Burger takes it for the second year in a row, the Cobblestone’s offering put up a great fight, but Westchester Burger Co. has seriously perfected this amazing burger.

Best Specialty Pizza Winner: French Fry Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Runner Up: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Former Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella)

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I mention former winner and runner up because of the immense respect I have for the now closed down Luca Bella and their Vodka Sauce pizza, that being said this was hands down the best specialty pizza I had this year, nothing else comes close. The combination of french fries, bacon, ranch, chives, and two kinds of cheese is fantastic, and is a whole lot better than should be allowed.

Best BBQ Winner: Cider Spiced Ribs (Whetstone Station)

Runner Up: The Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke)

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What else can I say about these ribs that I haven’t already said? As I wrote in my review, “Smothered in sauce, these ribs are near perfection. The BBQ sauce is sweet, with a semi hot (but not overpowering) cider spice.” Can’t beat it.

Best Bird Winner: Duck Confit (Le Provencal)

Runner Up: Fried Chicken (Birdsall House)

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Our second two-time winner, this Duck Confit remains the best bird I have ever had, and the most steak like bird I’ve seen.

Best Desert Winner: Cheesecake (Westchester Burger Co.)

Runner Up: Maple Bacon Ice Cream (Birdsall House)

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Believe it or not, the runner up race was harder to pick than the winner! There were a lot of good choices this year, but the cheese(cake) stands alone.

Best Penne Alla Vodka Winner: Sal’s (White Plains)

Runner Up: Doubleday’s.

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To be honest, if Luca Bella were still around, there would be no contest; Sal’s is great, but Luca Bella was something else. That being said, Sal’s has become the best Penne Vodka in Westchester County, and is deserving of this victory for sure.

Best Non-Beef/Bird Meat Winner: Rack of Lamb (KEE Oyster House)

Runner Up: Pork Belly with Miso and Kimchi (Communal Kitchen) 

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Truly the best lamb I’ve ever tasted; from the rich red tenderness of the meat, to the succulent bone and citrus infused panko crust, this is a meal to behold…and then devour.

Best Appetizer Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Runner Up: Charcuterie Board (Communal Kitchen)

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Still one of the most amazingly flavored appetizers out there, I’ve been longing for it ever since I first tried it. While it is not readily available on the menu (it is seasonal), it is still the top appetizer around.

Best Steak Winner:  8 oz Filet Mignon (Ruth’s Chris)

Runner Up: 8 oz Filet Mignon Au Poivre (O’Malley’s)

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You can’t go wrong with a prime cut of steak that is served on a sizzling 500 degree plate. For awhile O’Malley’s was going to take home the title, but then Ruth’s Chris came back into my life during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week; and I’m so glad she did.

Best Soup/Chowder Winner: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s)

Runner Up: Roasted Tomato Soup (Ruth’s Chris)

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I know I’ve said this a lot, but this is simply the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve tried. The roasted tomato soup was great, but the “chowdah”at O’Malley’s is simply amazing.

Best Hot Sandwich Winner: Phive All Day (Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia)

Runner Up: Ale Roasted Cheese Steak (Lazy Boy Saloon)

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Another two-time winner and with good reason, this is one of the most unique sandwiches out there. Take your traditional Philly and add bacon and secret sauce to it nd you have a Phive All Day. Wonderful.

Best Side Dish Winner: Garlic Balls (PPT’s)

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Another two time winner that is totally unique; doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. This is a great side to pizza and even a great dish to bring home by itself. Truly deserving.

Best Philly Cheesesteak Winner: Silver Lake Pizza

Runner Up: Tighe’s Tavern

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The final two-time winner, and my favorite Philly that I’ve had, this sandwich from Silver Lake Pizza is top notch, and has yet to be beat (maybe when I visit Philly?)

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That’s it for the Second Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

 

Silver Lake Pizza: French Fry Slice

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Specialty pizza is an amazing thing, and as I’ve said before, once Luca Bella shut down I needed a new home for good specialty pizza; fortunately I found it in my own home town. The interesting thing is that they created a pizza that even I’ve never heard of: the french fry slice.

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This tastes unlike anything you’ve ever had before and hits you with a flavor you just do not expect.

The crust is light and buttery, the bacon is fried perfectly and spread around the slice quite nicely, and the chives provided a good little crunch.

The ranch dressing is a nice moist topping, and the fries add a thick, starchy component that is hard to beat.

This slice is absolutely delicious and very filling. One is enough to satisfy you, and if you have two, you’ll feel like you won’t have to eat for the rest of the day.So the next time you crave pizza, try something new and order the french fry slice at Silver Lake Pizza.

Silver Lake Pizza: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

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Now that Luca Bella has shut down, I am in need of a new place to eat a Philly Cheesesteak slice, and fortunately, I found it at Silver Lake Pizza (West Harrison, NY).

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Perhaps the most important aspect of a Philly Cheesesteak pizza is the meat – if the meat is bad, it throws off the rest of the pizza. Not only was the meat on this slice delicious, it was generously plentiful. Tender, sweet, and juicy, each bite of meat was a wonderful mouthful of flavor.

The melted cheese was also sweet, and the peppers and onions provide a nice crunch to the slice. The crust is flavorful and had good texture and consistency.

But there is one thing that this slice offers you that gives it distinction – sliced jalapeno peppers. By themselves, these peppers are enough to set your mouth on fire, but mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, the inferno is muted into a sweet heat and spice that resonates well with the rest of the flavors.

This is an easy recommendation to make; go to Silver lake Pizza and get yourself a slice of Philly Cheesesteak pizza – its that good.

 

Luca Bella Closes

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We are sad to announce that Luca Bella pizzeria in White Plains has officially gone out of business.

Luca Bella was one of the best Pizza places in all of New York, making by far the best Vodka Sauce Pizza, Penne alla Vodka, Big Mac Pizza, Philly Cheesesteak Pizza, and many other delicious dishes; it is unclear exactly what caused their closure, but they should, and will be missed by food lovers everywhere.

First Annual Pristine Awards

Awards

Welcome to the First Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2015. The Categories this year are as follows:

Best Burger, Best Plain Pizza, Best Specialty Pizza, Best Sicilian Pizza, Best BBQ, Best Bird, Best Desert, Best Milk Shake, Best Mac and Cheese, Best Penne Alla Vodka, Best “Other” Pasta, Best Appetizer, Best Side Dish, Best Soup/Chowder, Best Hot Sandwich, Best Deli Sandwich and Best Philly Cheesesteak. 

Each category will be broken down into the top 3 choices, and the winner will be chosen from the finalists. Certain categories that only have one choice in them, such as Steak, Salad, Burrito, Smoothie, etc. will be forwarded to next year’s awards when they will (hopefully) have some competition. With that out of the way, on with the awards!

Best Burger: Pretzel Burger (WBC) vs. Bacon Cheeseburger (O’Malley’s) vs. Eastchester Burger (Piper’s Kilt.) 

Winner: The Pretzel Burger – Westchester Burger Co.

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While the other two choices were both amazingly delicious, the Pretzel Burger just had no downsides. With a perfect patty, delicious melted cheese, crispy maple bacon and a pretzel bun, one can’t go wrong with this choice. Besides, when a burger can make me actually enjoy an egg, that’s an extra bonus.

Best Plain Pizza: Plain Slice (Portofino’s) vs. Original Tomato Pie w/ Mozzarella (Frank Pepe)

Winner: Plain Slice – Portofino’s.

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Portofino’s combines a great flavor with an amazingly sized slice. New York makes some of the best pizza in the world, and this slice easily ranks up there with the best of them.

Best Specialty Pizza: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella) vs. Big Mac Slice (Luca Bella) vs. White Pizza (Tarantella)

Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza – Luca Bella 

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This slice beats out the other delicious specialties from Luca Bella and Tarantella, because the Vodka Sauce used on this slice is by far the best Vodka Sauce I’ve ever had. The idea to put this sauce on the pizza was inspired, and we are all better off for it.

Best Sicilian Pizza: Nicky’s vs. Sal’s vs. Portofino’s

Winner: Sal’s Sicilian Pizza.

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Nicky’s had thickness, Portofino’s had size, but Sal’s was perhaps the best Sicilian I’ve ever had, and certainly the best in Westchester. Light and airy, and yet somehow filling; with perfectly melted cheese and an amazing sauce, Sal’s Sicilian pizza earns the easy victory.

Best BBQ: Pulled Pork Sandwich (Jack’s *Ribfest NH*) vs. Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke) vs. Ribs (Texas Smokehouse *Ribfest NH*)

Winner: The Trash Rib Teasers – Holy Smoke.

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Believe it or not, the rib teasers actually beat out a full rack and pulled pork, mainly due to how meaty and flavorful a rib Holy Smoke was able to concoct. The Texas ribs were great, but Holy Smoke gets the edge.

Best Bird: Duck Confit (Le Provencal) vs. Fried Chicken (Holy Smoke)

Winner: Duck Confit – Le Provencal.

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If I’m being honest, I don’t like eating birds that much; so many places just don’t do a good job preparing them. Holy Smoke and Le Provencal are two establishments who know what they are doing. I went with the Duck because it was simply one of the best birds I’ve ever had. In my review I described it as “the steak of birds” and in the end, that is what sealed the victory for the Duck Confit.

Best Desert: Cheesecake (WBC) vs. Black Salted Caramel Donut (Gypsy Donut)

Winner: Cheesecake – Westchester Burger Co.

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This was a harder decision than you might think; the black salted caramel is one of the most unique and delicious things I’ve ever tasted, but the Cheesecake won in part due to its light, and rich texture and flavor. The plating of the desert was also an added bonus but did not play into the decision.

Best Milkshake: Chocolate Milkshake (City Limits) vs Italian Nutella Milkshake (WBC)

Winner: Italian Nutella Milkshake – Westchester Burger Co.

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The specialty milkshake carries the day. I love chocolate milkshakes, but the Italian Nutella was just too good not to win. The flavor was unique, and  it was made so well. Both were great, but WBC’s was just better.

Best Mac and Cheese: Mac and Cheese (Piper’s Kilt) vs. Deluxe Cheeseburger Mac (Mr. Mac’s) vs. Philly Cheese Steak Mac (Mr. Mac’s).

Winner: Philly Cheese Steak Mac – Mr. Mac’s.

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Man, I wish this restaurant would come to New York! The Philly-Mac was simply one of the best things I’ve ever had. The Macaroni and Cheese portion was great, and made even better by an authentic taste of the Philly Cheesesteak.  Not only that, but it also has great re-heat value; and while I love the Mac at Piper’s Kilt, Mr. Mac’s specialty is their Mac and Cheese, and this is one of the best.

Best Penne Alla Vodka: Sal’s (White Plains) vs. Luca Bella

Winner: Penne Alla Vodka – Luca Bella

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Its the sauce. In the same way that Luca Bella won best specialty pizza with their Vodka Sauce slice, they win the Penne category with the sauce being where it was always meant to be, on pasta. It was a hard choice given that Sal’s sauce included a few extra and delicious elements, but in the end, Luca Bella’s sauce was just that much better.

Best “Other” Pasta: Spinach Ricotta Pillows (Grazie) vs. Linguine and Clams (Lago)

Winner: Spinach Ricotta Pillows – Grazie

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A country club take on spinach ravioli, these pillows were not only delicious, but presented in a wonderful manner. The spinach and ricotta meld beautifully and just made for a great pasta dish.

Best Appetizer: Speck (Lago) vs. Dueling Meatballs (Grazie) vs. Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites – Prohibition River.

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Possibly the toughest choice so far; on one hand you have a a wonderful Charcuterie dish, but you also have a fantastic meatball offering. But the Chicken Fried Steak Bites get the victory because it is one of the most delicious appetizers out there. Filet Mignon steak bites, with a deliciously crispy skin and a fantastic gravy? How could it not get the win?

Best Side Dish: Garlic Balls (PPT’s) vs. Beer Battered Onion Rings (O’Malley’s) 

Winner: Garlic Balls – PPT’s.

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The ultimate side to pizza, Garlic Balls from PPT’s are doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. It is easily one of the most unique side dishes out there, and a must try for anyone who likes good food.

Best Soup/Chowder: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s) vs. New England Clam Chowder (Townhouse)

Winner: New England Clam Chowder – O’Malley’s.

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Very easily the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve had, as it is the specialty of the Chef at O’Malley’s. It is thick, creamy, and has great clams. An easy dish to return to over and over, and I do almost every time I go to O’Malley’s.

Best Hot Sandwich: Phive All Day (Philly’s) vs. Aged Beef Top Round w/ French Onion (Melt)

Winner: Phive All Day – Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia.

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One of the most unique and succulent sandwiches out there, the Phive All Day wins based on its combination of traditional Philly Cheesesteak elements, but with the fantastic additions of bacon and home-made “McNabb Sauce.” (Note: This Sandwich will not be considered for the category of Philly Cheesesteak because it has too many unique elements).

Best Deli Sandwich: Sicilian Sandwich (Roosters) vs. The Godfather (Anthony’s) vs. American Combo (Anthony’s)

Winner: American Combo – Anthony’s Deli.

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Another tough choice, especially considering that the Godfather is Anthony’s signature sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, the Godfather is a fantastic Italian Sandwich (as is Rooster’s Sicilian), but the American Combo just has the “it factor” in terms of traditional deli sandwiches. The bread, as well as every meat used is fresh, and the size is fantastic. I’ve had all three of these sandwiches on multiple occasions, but the American Combo is the one that I go back to the most.

Best Philly Cheesesteak: Silver Lake Pizza vs. Royal Scarlet Deli

Winner: Philly Cheesesteak – Silver Lake Pizza.

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Easily my favorite Philly Cheesesteak, Silver Lake Pizza knows what they are doing in regards to this sandwich. The bread is crisp, the meat is thick and flavorful, the cheese is melted perfectly, and the peppers and onions are a nice addition to this juicy sandwich.

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That’s it for the First Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

Sal’s Pizza: Sicilian Slice

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Happy Columbus Day! In the spirit of the intrepid Italian explorer, I thought what better food to review than everyone’s favorite Italian dish…pizza! Today’s venue: Sal’s Pizza in Mamaroneck.

Having been in business for over half a century, Sal’s Pizzeria and Restaurant should know a thing or two about pizza, and thankfully, they do. Sal’s claim to fame is their Sicilian, and with receiving multiple recommendations in the span of a couple weeks, I new this was a slice I needed to try.

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Did Sal’s pizza live up to the recommendations? Absolutely. In fact, it may be one of the best Sicilians I’ve had. The dough was fluffy, light, and airy; a quality that allows you to eat more than one slice and still have room for more. The cheese was perfectly melted and had a great oozing quality (yes, that is a good thing!).

The crust is crunchy, but not too hard, and the light splash of sauce was an interesting combination of sweet and slightly tangy (although not at all acidic). Its a nice compliment to the dough and the cheese.

How should you celebrate Columbus Day? By eating a slice of pizza, and what better place to eat it than at Sal’s Pizza; and if you are reading this after Columbus Day, that’s no problem, because Sal’s is still the place you need to go.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Frank Pepe: Original Tomato Pie w/ Mozzarella

20150810_132302Established in 1925, Frank Pepe as a long history of serving pizza to citizens of Yonkers and Connecticut. I walked in there not really knowing anything about the place except that the pizza was supposed to be good. I was immediately surprised to find out that instead of slices, Frank Pepe serves coal fired personal pies; and it is with a healthy curiosity that I dug into mine.

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I’m not usually a fan of coal fired pizza, but this one was very good. It was crispy and had a medium sized crust (not too thin and not too thick) as well as a medium sized body; it was covered in both stringy and thick mozzarella cheese, an absolutely perfect choice for this pie.

The sauce they used was sweet and delicious, and the pie also had a nice dousing of olive oil which was a really nice accompaniment to the cheese and the sauce.

After one visit to Frank Pepe in Yonkers, I know I’ll be back; and I’m looking forward to trying their White Clam Pizza in the near future.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Nicky’s Pizza: Sicilian Slice

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Picture courtesy of citysearch.com

A few years ago Nicky’s was one of my favorite spots to visit when I wanted good pizza; my late Uncle used to take us there for a “smorgasbord” of delicious types of pizza, and it was always a good time. But then the unthinkable happened and Nicky’s closed down due to complications from a fire; and now, a few years later, Nicky’s pizza is back in business.

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While this was a really good slice, I must admit that my first bite in years took me by surprise as I tasted what can only be described as a flavor that triggered memories of alcohol; that taste was not bad at all, nor did it make a return in any other parts of the pizza, it was just an interesting surprise that I felt needed mention.

As you can see the size of the slice (lengthwise) is that of two ordinary Sicilian slices elsewhere, which is always a good thing; the bottom crust was crisped very nicely while maintaining the soft upper bite that good Sicilians are known for. The oil content was not overpowering, adding to the flavor without making a mess, and the sweet, thick cheese mixed with the slightly savory sauce were a great combo.

Nicky’s had small additions of basil to their slices which added even more flavor to an already flavorful slice, and the back crust had the slight taste of bakery style bread (a truly great touch). Another interesting part of this pizza was what I found underneath the cheese in a corner of my slice:

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That right there is a stewed tomato, and in terms of flavor and texture, its brief appearance was both a surprise and a delight.

I am very glad Nicky’s pizza is back and I hope you will be too once you try it; in a world of NY pizza, Nicky’s truly stands out as one of the best places you can go.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Portofino: Plain Pizza

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Portofino Pizza & Pasta is everything that is right with the pizza world; not only do they make a great tasting pie, but the size of their slices is unbelievable.

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Yes, that is one slice that has been cut in half; when you have a slice of pizza that is nearly the same size of two normal ones, you automatically have something unique. But unique is not enough, you need quality and taste as well, and fortunately, Portofino does exactly that.

In contrast to its extremely thin crust, this slice has a good thick cheese that carries a nice element of sweetness to it; the sauce on the other hand was very special, with a flavor that is mildly savory. That sweet and savory combination really stands out in the world of pizza, and rightfully so, because such a duo deserves our attention. Not to be outdone, the amount of oil that is used in each serving is just the right amount for a slice of this size.

Another reason why this is a great slice of pizza is because its sheer size allows you to employ a truly proper “New York Fold”:

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Portofino Pizza & Pasta (located in Golden’s Bridge NY) is simply put, some of the best pizza you will ever have; and I highly recommend it to everyone. Rest assured though, this is not the only review that will come from this restaurant, tune in later this week as I take on their massive Sicilian slice.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Luca Bella: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

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Philly Cheesesteaks and Pizza are two of my favorite foods, so what could possibly be better than a combination of the two? One that comes from Luca Bella of course.

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I always find it amazing (and wonderful) when a “replica food” can mirror the original in taste and texture, and Luca Bella’s Philly Cheesesteak pizza does just that.

The cheese is piping hot and melted to near perfection; and just like a good Philly Cheesesteak, it can burn the roof of your mouth if you are not careful (though in this case that is not really a bad thing). The meat is thick and provides a taste-filled bite, and the peppers and onions help to bring the authentic cheesesteak taste full circle.

So what do you do when you want Philly Cheesesteak flavor but are running on pizza time? The answer is visiting Luca Bella for one of their slices; it is undoubtedly one of the best around.*

*Luca Bella’s Philly Cheesesteak pizza is usually available on weekends.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com