Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Off the Map: Too Much Like a Brick

Panzarotti -- Franco's Place, Haddonfield, NJ
Franco's Place
The Original Tarantini Panzarotti Company

Well, this settles it: Best Thing I Ever Ate is officially trying to get us killed.

Going to Harlem in the name of barbeque is one thing; venturing to Camden for a fried pizza is a whole other ball game.
Nothing Like Losing Your Life in the Name of Deep-Fried Pepperoni
If there is anything that is drilled into the head of any South Jersey suburban child, it is one phrase: Don't go to Camden.  This philosophy is instilled in us at such a young age that one time in high school, when Vodka and her friend, the infamous Bloody Mary, accidentally stumbled upon a "You are now entering the City of Camden" sign while driving, the sight resulted in nothing less than a piercing scream of horror from both of them.  Suffice it to say that Camden is always at the top of the Most Dangerous Cities list and is not exactly a world-renowned culinary destination.
We Hear Camden is Lovely This Time of Year...?
And since Camden, in the form of Panzarotti Pizza King, appears on the WITH MY HANDS episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, we are now convinced that the Food Network is trying to kill off its viewership.
Or At Least Its Two Most Idiotic Members
Luckily, prior to risking her life and the future of this blog in Camden, Vodka stumbled upon an important piece of knowledge: Panzarotti Pizza King does not create their own panzarotti.  They merely cook those sent to them by the main panzarotti distributor, The Original Tarantini Panzarotti, whose goods are available across the Philadelphia area.

In dozens upon dozens of places that are NOT Camden, NJ.

Thanks for choosing the most terrifying location of them all, Aaron McCargo, Jr.
Here's a Tip: Camden Doesn't Look Like This
Vodka instead heads over to Franco's Place in Haddonfield, NJ, which is about as far a cry from Camden, NJ as one can get.
In Other Words, Haddonfield = the Set of Gilmore Girls
Franco's, while not exactly a Michelin Star locale, is perfect for one reason: they serve Tarantini Panzarotti, and they feature this fact prominently in their windows.
Panzarotti Are the Main Franco's Attraction: Display #1...
...and Display #2
Vodka's mother has placed their order by phone for Vodka to pick up on her way home from her hair appointment (an important South Jersey homecoming ritual if ever there was one).  When Vodka enters Franco's, a paper bag of steaming hot panzarotti awaits her.
The Classiest Meals Get Served Via Doggie Bag
We have ordered four panzarotti total for sampling purposes: pepperoni, sweet sausage, white, and Philly cheesesteak.
And Needless to Say, We Didn't Go with the Mini Option
So imagine Vodka's surprise when she unpacks the bag on the kitchen table only to find a styrofoam container of non-panzarotti greeting her.
Aaron McCargo, Jr. Did Not Eat This!
"What is this?" she asks her mother, as if she is incapable of recognizing French fries.
Ask the Above Question in Your Most Accusatory Tone for a More Realistic Interpretation
"Oh, I ordered bacon cheese fries, too," her mom answers.  Indeed, as Vodka continues to unpack the bag, she finds the correct four panzarotti underneath said fries and begins her photographic rampage.
Must Take Photo of Each Panzarotti Separately...
...Because They All Look So Different?
Playing the role of Ginger tonight is Vodka's father, who seems hellbent on reaching a hand, arm, or panzarotti across the table at the exact moment when Vodka is about to snap the photo, distorting the background every time.
Shadows Cropped Out To Protect the Guilty
When everyone is finally allowed to dive in, we find that the average butter knife is not nearly strong enough to break through the panzarotti shell.  Eventually resorting to biting in directly, we find each panzarotti stuffed with a plethora of cheese and grease, plus, of course, their assorted toppings.
PacMan Spilling His Guts
First up, the pepperoni panzarotti features more pepperoni than could be found on a large pizza, all folded and crammed in beside the mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.  Combined with the crispy pull of the fried outer dough, the whole creation is a wonder of the senses.
And a Wonder to the Scale the Next Morning
Vibrant and red to look at and steaming on the fingers, the panzarotti manages to stay together as one form despite every obstacle, and it is much easier to eat than a runny calzone (and in some cases, pizza itself).
All Food Should Come in Pocket Form
The pepperoni and white varieties are Vodka's favorites, as the white is stuffed full of nothing but gooping layers of cheese and hearty balls of garlic.
Anything Featuring This Much Cheese Can Never Be Bad
The sausage panzarotti is overflowing with meat, which somehow appears more sliced than sausage-like, and thus packs every bite with a hit of sweet meatiness.
A Festival of Meat
Finally, the cheesesteak version has steak, fried onions, and Cheez Whiz instead of mozzarella cheese (and the Cheez Whiz tends to hide itself in the corners of the panzarotti square).
Heaven Forbid We Don't Have a Cheesesteak Version of Everything in South Jersey
Each of the panzarotti is tasty in its own way (and the bacon cheese fries which are crashing this party aren't bad either).
Not Your Typical Jimmy Dean Sausage
At least, Vodka and her mother think they're good, as they bite into a rotating cast of the four varieties long after her dad has left the table, summing up his panzarotti experience as being "too much like a brick" (and with pointed assessments like that, we believe the NY Times food critics should start fearing for their job security).
A Panzarotti Tasting Menu
The next morning, Vodka returns to the refrigerator for panzarotti leftovers, knowing that the true test of any good pizza dish is its ability to be eaten cold in one's pajamas in the early hours of the day.  Biting into the white variety, Vodka finds that it has indeed withstood the night, tasting more than ever like a pizza wrapped up in a fried eggroll (a glowing comparison by our standards).
Everything Should Taste Like an Eggroll
In sum, it is now clear to Vodka why the Tarantini Panzarotti has become a South Jersey staple; what she does not understand is why anyone would ever go to Camden in order to find one.

Franco's Place's Panzarotti: 4 stars

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