Dolly’s Pizza

Chris and I have our preferred pizza joint here in Lansing. BUT, sometimes time is of the essence, take out is more convenient and DeLuca’s is closed on Sunday anyhow. Last night, we decided to stop at Dolly’s Pizza on W. Saginaw (by Outback).

First, we tried agreeing on a specialty pizza. I liked the sound of Chicken Parmesan but Chris preferred Chicken BBQ which had cheddar cheese on it. Not my taste, thank you. So, we ended up each getting our own pie. Outside of chicken pizzas, I generally prefer a vegetable pizza while Chris is really keen on having his meats. I went for a small green pepper and onion; Chris opted for a large with sausage, mushroom and onion. The usual for both of us.

I tried to order mine as the square deep-dish but the guy said they don’t make the square in a small. Its on the menu! Then he said they just don’t carry it at this location. This means one of two things: they don’t have the right size pans (acceptable) or their dough is delivered pre-rolled in to the available sizes (bad). I’ll hope for the former.

It took about 20 minutes for our pizzas to be ready so while we waited, we perused the store’s magazine selection, which consisted of a bunch of restaurant industry magazines. I love reading these things because you can figure out which restaurants are really cooking their food and which are just heating up pre-assembled stuff. Let’s just say that if you come across Indian-spiced onion rings at a chain restaurant, its not an original thought.

We got home and cracked open the boxes with anticipation. Both pies had nice even coverage of toppings with good amounts of cheese but not overboard. The cheese was bubbled and browned up near the crust. According to the company’s website, the secret is in the sauce. As it turns out, the sauce was both Chris and I’s least favorite part of the pizza! I thought it was just a little too sweet but more importantly, they were a little skimpy on the sauce. The crust was very nice though, crispy but not like a cracker.

The total with 2 20-oz pops while we waited was $26. This provided enough pizza for at least 2 meals apiece, probably 3 for Chris with the larger size.

Dolly’s locations are mostly in the metro Detroit area but there are a few scattered around the rest of the state. At some point, Dolly’s was awarded best pizza by the Michigan Restaurant Association. This was good pizza but I’m sorry, not even close to a Buddy’s Pizza.


Words Not Needed, Really

We are back in Michigan (blah) and I’ve got five or 6 posts about Florida in the pipeline.

But for now, I have a present:

View from our front yard
View from our front 'yard'

(click to make bigger)
Came home to this scene tonight. I knew it was the front of the snow that was coming our way. But still beautiful.

Cugino’s, Grand Ledge

Chris: I’m hungry, let’s go get something to eat.
Me: Okay, I was going to make…

Chris: No, I don’t want to wait, let’s just go.

We get in the car and he goes right (south) out of the complex.  Then says, where should we go.

Me: Well the only place south is the truck stop.  What are you in the mood for?

After ‘no’s to pizza, Chinese, Mexican,  and more, he turned right on St. Joseph Hwy towards Grand Ledge with still no plan.  As we were driving, I remembered that someone had mentioned Cugino’s for Italian in Grand Ledge.  The only other restaurants I knew of out there were 2 Chinese places and a Mexican grill (see beginning of this).  Driving along Saginaw, “just in case” there was something new, we spotted this Bavarian looking building with a couple neon signs hanging out front, behind the Felpausch’s grocery store.  Very excited about a possible new discovery we pulled in to discover a tanning salon. Yeesh.

So, we ended up at Cugino’s Italian Restaurant. They were pretty busy for a Tuesday night and we had to wait a few minutes for a table.  And a few more minutes for a waitress.  When she did come, she seemed a little frazzled but friendly.  They serve Pepsi here so we stuck with water.

Before I get to the food, I would like to comment on the atmosphere.  Cugino’s is very nice inside with stained glass lampshades, dark woods and a nice fireplace.  The bar area is small and cozy. The whole place is smoke-free.  I mention this now because if you go to their website to preview the menu, the pictures are taken with a red-checked tablecloth in the background.  We never saw one of these in the restaurant.

Since pizza was off the menu, I decided to turn my attention to the entrees although the thin-crust margharita was very tempting.  The entree menu was long on pasta dishes but they also have a few “dinners” such as steak, chicken tenders and fish.  They also offer a selection of “South of the Border” items, calzones and subs. I narrowed it down to two choices: Pasta Giovanni or Pasta with Pesto. Both included homemade pesto and chicken but the Pasta Giovanni won out with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes.  Chris, after a bit of waffling went for the stuffed shells and added a side meatball.  Dinners come with a choice of soup or salad. I had a salad and Chris ordered the potato soup.

My salad was nothing special- lettuce, tomato and thin red onion with a little carrot and tomato thrown in.  I did like the buttery croutons though.  Chris liked his soup, said it was “pretty good for a restaurant” whatever that means. I asked for a bite and he told me I didn’t like potato soup.  What?  I never said that!  I have said I don’t like cheese soups but I most certainly did not say a thing about not liking potato soup. In fact, I have some leeks in the fridge right now to make Potato-Leek later this week.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t mixing me up with his other girlfriend and got my sample.  It was pretty good, heavy on the ham/bacon flavor and maybe not as creamy as I’d have liked.

Not surprisingly, our entrees were enormous. I was happy as soon as she set my bowlful of pasta down. The smell of fresh basil was amazing.  I ate the whole piece of chicken and about 1/4 of the fettucine on my plate before I couldn’t handle any more.  I should have enough pasta for two or three more meals.  I think I’m going to saute a chicken breast and maybe toss some toasted pine nuts in when I reheat it.  Chris managed a little more of his shells but still had a good size portion leftover.  His side meatball was actually two meatballs and cost just 75 cents extra! All dinners come with a big fresh-baked breadstick on the side.  I thought the breadstick was a little dry but quickly remedied that by dipping it in Chris’s marinara sauce.  Their marinara is on the sweeter side so now I’m interested to see what they do for pizza sauce. Maybe next time.
When I was looking at the website, I noticed a video of Pat DeLuca making pizza at the bottom of this page.  And I thought “DeLuca? Like DeLuca’s pizza? What?”  A little internet searching later, I discovered that Pat used to work at the DeLuca’s on Willow in Lansing. In fact, he’s Chuck DeLuca’s son.  Chuck is one of the three sons who bought out their dad (also named Pat) and kept on making pizzas.  The article, originally from Great Lansing Business Monthly also reminded me of another Italian place I have yet to try: Spagnuolo’s over in Okemos.

Since we eat at DeLuca’s a lot, I can safely say that while both places are good, they are not alike.  Since I haven’t tried Cugino’s pizza, I can’t compare those two but if I wanted pasta, I’d probably go to Cugino’s.  That section of the menu is larger and more varied than at DeLuca’s.  Hopefully we’ll get back out there before too long to sample the pizza.  Cugion’s is located in downtown Grand Ledge, a cute little place with a small number of boutique shops and an old-school movie theater where the seats are just 2 bucks!  Unfortunately, this week’s movie is Beverly Hills Chihuaha.


Website: with menu

Address: 306 S. Bridge Street, Grand Ledge, MI 48837

Hours: Specifics not listed; Open for lunch & dinner Mon-Sat. Closed Sundays

Smoke free, full bar; carryout/ catering available

For my previous review of DeLuca’s, click HERE

Smoke-Free Michigan- Or not

Earlier this week, the Michigan House voted on the Senate version of the SmokeFree Workplace bill. The vote tally was 50 yeas to 49 nays.  However, at least 56 yes votes were required to pass the bill.  Eleven members of the House were absent or abstained from voting. I would like to know where those legislators were. Not so much because this bill is the biggest item on their plate but because its closing in on the end of the fiscal year and the end of this session.

The current version of the law allows for zero exemptions.  No special treatment for casinos, cigar & martini bars or bingo halls.

Both sides of the issue have large vocal proponents.

Against the smoking ban are the Michigan Restaurant Association and the Michigan License Beverage Association. These business groups argue that bar and restaurant owners should get to decide for themselves whether or not to restrict smoking in their businesses. They also state that restricting smoking in bars and restaurants will hurt revenues and we shouldn’t be doing that, considering Michigan’s economy.

On the other side are a number of citizen groups, the American Lung Association and me.

On a personal level, I don’t like to pay for food that I can’t taste properly due to poorly ventilated smoking sections. I don’t like that my clothes and hair reek of smoke after leaving a bar. I am more likely to avoid a restaurant that still has smoking and I am much more likely to frequent someplace that goes smoke-free.

I do respect that business owners should generally be able to make their own decisions about how to run their places. I recognize that conflicts with my stance on the smoking ban. I have given careful consideration to my views on this issue. Its very easy to just turn up one’s nose and declare smoking a disgusting habit that should be heavily regulated and restricted. It is disgusting but one of the freedoms we need to guarantee in this country is the freedom to pursue your own happiness.

I think its important to consider the cost to the community to continue to allow smoking in public places. The health risks associated with chronic exposure to second-hand smoke are real and serious. The increased costs of caring for bartenders and waitstaff who develop diseases due to smoke exposure passes directly to the taxpayers. Whether one of these people has health insurance our not, the cost to provide medical care to smokers is reflected in our taxes (medicare/medicaid) and in our health insurance premiums. I don’t like involuntarily helping to pay the cost for an individual who chooses to smoke as it is. It really doesn’t seem fair to make all of us pay for someone exposed to second hand smoke because of their job. I’ve heard the arguments that if the bartender doesn’t like it, they should work elsewhere. Um yeah, have you seen the unemployment rate in this state? Realistically, someone in need of a job is not going to turn it down just because its smoky.

One of the sticky points has been about exemptions, specifically for casinos, cigar bars and bingo halls. One by one:

Bingo halls – Okay, I’ve never been in one. I remember my mom and grandma going when I was younger. Seemed like most bingo halls were run by churches. What would Jesus do, I guess.

Cigar bars – This one, I totally get. You can’t have a cigar bar without cigars. I don’t like cigars so much. But I don’t like the idea that a ban would put these places out of business. I do think that for places that decide to go cigar-friendly should the ban allow the exception, more power to them. Just no money from me to them. And I suspect that in the end, their customer base would suffer. A lot of people don’t like cigar smoke, many more than are bothered by cigarette smoke in a bar.

Casinos – Been to lots of these both in Michigan and out-state plus the Indian casinos. Some are better than others in terms of smoke control. In fact, the best I’ve been in, of late, was an Indian casino up near Traverse City. It was brand new though so perhaps the haze just hadn’t settled in yet. The thing about the Detroit casinos: I don’t think the regulars there are going to drive a couple of hours to an Indian casino, just to smoke while they gamble. If you had an Indian casino next door, that might be a different story. And the stats comparing Detroit vs. Windsor don’t hold up anymore due to the almost even exchange rate these days. Pretty soon, it could be in the favor of Canadians to come here to gamble.

In the end, I’d be supremely pleased if the legislature passed the ban in any form. I am not opposed to some exemptions but I think they should be very limited in scope. Chris suggested that restaurants and bars should be required to clearly post their smoking policies in lieu of the ban. He theorizes that places will use the requirements to say “sorry, no smoking” rather than post a big sign on the front door. I don’t see it but I do think if there are exemptions, those places exempted should have to post big signs indicating what they do and don’t allow. That way I can walk away before I step inside and have to add $20 to the cost of the meal for post-nosh dry cleaning.

MSU E. coli outbreak: source identified

Just read on the Free Press website that health officials have identified large bags of iceberg lettuce as the source of the E. coli outbreak that first popped up at Michigan State University and was later seen scattered across the state:

The shredded and chopped lettuce was sold to restaurants and institutions from wholesalers, including Aunt Mid’s Produce Company of Detroit. Officials are still determining other wholesale sources of the contaminated lettuce. Bagged lettuce in grocery stores is not affected, they said.

The investigation will continue as the health department looks for the original source of the contamination. Its possible that other sellers of potentially contaminated lettuce will be identified. Retailers and institutions have been urged to remove any lettuce purchased from Aunt Mid’s from their stock.

One thing not mentioned here- I’ve seen Aunt Mid’s products in the stores. While a local grocery store may not carry these large bags, I do wonder if a bulk store would. Can’t hurt to check your fridge if you shop in those places.