LiMESTONE: Strange Name, Fair Neopolitan-ish Pizza … Pastrami Sandwiches?


  • LiMESTONE
  • 814 Massachusetts St
    Lawrence, KS 66044
  • Phone number(785) 856-2825
  • Business websitelimestonepkb.com

Prices: $$$$$

Having lived in Napoli (Naples, Italy), being married to an Italian, not the “American” variety, and descended from Italian immigrants, I appreciate a well made wood oven Neapolitan (Napolitana) pizza. Many have tried to duplicate pizze Napolitane, but few have succeeded and I said to myself “speriamo” (“let’s hope so”) as I entered Limestone for the first time.

I tell you up front that I am comparing, somewhat unfairly, Limestone to the pizzerias of Napoli because they claim to offer Neopolitan pizza, so I may seem harsh. However, my comments are meant to be constructive, offering Charlie (the very friendly owner who happened to be making pizzas next to me while we chatted about Italy) the opportunity to enhance his restaurant as they grow and flourish.

Arancini di Riso (Fried Rice Balls – $2)
I had heard rave reviews from fellow Yelp Elite Scott T and others during their short time in existence, so I had to give Limestone a go. The name gives zero indication of the cuisine and I would never have known that this was a pizza place had my friend Scott not told me about it. Busy for a Thursday night, as a single I was able to be seated right away at the bar where I could watch the pizzas being made and placed in the ornate wood-fired oven.

The space is modern, not my favorite as you probably know by now, with an abundance of stone, wood, glass, and steel, and bright, almost too bright for my sensitive eyes. The center attraction is the large stone-encased wood pizza oven blazing away while pizzas are being hand tossed and decorated for a quick dip inside. The staff all seemed sincerely friendly and helpful, although the tattoo clad bartender had a bit of an attitude, but not so much that it was off-putting, and service was fast and efficient.

Arancini di Riso
Offering an “arancini” (“little oranges”) appetizer (“bites”) special for just $2, the two Neopolitan style deep fried saffron infused rice balls complete with fresh mozzarella inside sat atop a small plate of tomato sauce. Aranicni di riso are a pizzeria antipasto staple in Naples along with crocchette di patate (potato croquettes) and other deep fried delights and the only way to start a night in a traditional pizzeria. Limestone’s arancini were very well done, crunchy outside and moist inside, perfectly seasoned with saffron and other seasonings and a small ball of fresh mozzarella inside. I asked Charlie if they made their own mozzarella and much to my surprise he said “yes, about 600 pounds of curd per week”.

Now for the pizza … dun-dun-dun. With only six offerings (seven if you include the special), there is not nearly the variety one would find in a pizzeria Napolitana. I ordered the sausage pizza, a simple and traditional choice and normally not something I would choose, only because it and the Margherita (fresh tomato and mozzarella with fresh basil leaves on top – named after Queen Margherita’s favorite pizza), were the only two traditional Neopolitan pizza options available. I normally order pizza capricciosa (fresh tomatoes, ham, mushrooms, artichoke, fresh mozzarella cheese – fior di latte – and basil) or my all-time favorite, the friarielli e salsiccia (broccoli rabe and sausage), so I was a bit bummed that there was so little variety. Bacon and eggs on pizza? … bacon and potatoes? … Hollandaise sauce? … Gruyere cheese … NEVER IN NAPLES!

The Spud – $9

My wife, shortly after her return from two months in Naples visiting family and enjoying the “best pizza in the world” ordered “The Spud”, with “thin sliced, crème fraiche, house­recipe bacon, and rosemary” ($9). Her first comment was that the pizza was “too dry”, needing more crème fraiche, which was lightly drizzled across the top in an attempt to look “gourmet” rather than contributing to the consistency and flavor of the pizza. It could have also been lightly brushed with olive oil to enhance the flavor and moistness. Again, the toppings were so sparse that there was more dough visible than ingredients. The flavor was decent with a nice ratio of potato to bacon, but the toppings could be more evenly distributed across the pizza in order to ensure there is at least some potato, bacon, crème fraiche, and rosemary in every bite.

The pizza was a bit small ($10 for a 12 incher), one to two inches in diameter less than pizza Napolitana (for comparison, a sausage pizza in Naples would cost around 6 Euros, a little over $8). The consistency of the dough was close, but it was a little thicker than the original, particularly around the edges. Neopolitan pizza is soft on top, a little crisp on the bottom, with a couple burnt spots and thin enough as to not overwhelm the semi-abundant toppings. The tomato sauce was a tad too spicy and excessively visible due to the lack of mozzarella and sausage atop my pizza. Italians do not overload a pizza with toppings as is customary here in the US, but there is normally enough fresh mozzarella cheese to nearly cover the baked pastry completely after it has melted. That was not the case here and twice as much cheese (and sausage) still would not have sufficed. Although not nearly as good as the worst pizza I have eaten in Naples, it was good and surely better than anything I have eaten in Lawrence thus far. If compared to an $8 Neopolitan pizza, my pizza (based on size and abundance of toppings) should have probably been priced at $6 max, so it was not a great value.

But what do I know? Limestone has quickly become a popular spot on Mass Street and from the looks of it, doing extremely well … BRAVO! In a town void of a decent Italian restaurant, – people voted 715 “BEST FINE DINING IN LAWRENCE” in this year’s Best of Lawrence competition – Limestone is a welcome addition. I will return to see if they improve and to try other dishes (including hamburgers and pastrami sandwiches for some odd reason). Charlie seems like a nice guy and I wish him well … good luck Limestone!


CombatCritic Gives Limestone A Respectable 6 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBE SONO BUONE








Limestone Pizza Kitchen Bar on Urbanspoon

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Key Words: Limestone, pizza, kitchen, bar, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, Massachusetts Street, downtown, menu, pasta, wine, arancini, rice, Naples, Napoli, Italy, Italian, restaurant, CombatCritic, TravelValue

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715 … Overrated, Underwhelming, Quasi Italian Fare


715
715 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, Kansas 66044
Menu: LINK

Prices: $$$$$

I first heard about 715 from one of their former employees and chef, Jake Dodds Sloan, a friend of my son I met at a high-end resort deep in Denali National Park a couple years back. Since then, we moved to Lawrence and I have read numerous glowing reviews on Yelp and elsewhere about this Massachusetts Street institution, so we had to give it a try.

One of the reasons I avoided 715 this long was the decor, modern with sharp edges, steel, rock, and dark wood, uninviting in my eyes as I tend to gravitate toward a more traditional, classic look based on the cuisine being experienced.


The waiter never told us his name or at least I did not hear it over the noisy patrons, another American tradition I do not cherish. The service was attentive and our food arrived in a timely manner, allowing us to savor our antipasti before the primi arrived.

We ordered the “heritage pork” meatballs (5 for $8) and half a Wheatfield’s baguette as it was apparent that no bread would be accompanying our appetizers or meal, a definite fopaux in my eyes. The meatballs were tasty, medium in size and smothered in what they call “marinara”, seemingly canned tomatoes with alarmingly little seasoning and another disappointment I would experience again when my bucatini arrived shortly thereafter.

The Bucatini all’ Amatriciana ($17) was described as “rich pork guanciale [cured pork cheeks], caramelized red onion, spicy chiles, san marzano sauce, and parmigiano reggiano”. Traditionally, amatriciana is made with pancetta (Italian bacon) and sautéed white onion, lightly basting the pasta with definite evidence of both ingredients on the palate. My bucatini, thick tubes of pasta resembling oversized spaghetti, was more than al dente, it was undercooked, chewy, and lukewarm. The pasta was smothered, not lightly tossed, with what appeared to be the same tomatoes we had on the meatballs, again overly acidic with little seasoning (garlic, olive oil, salt), chunks of tomato pulp, and no sign of either the cured pork or onions that make the dish one of my favorites. I had to ask for more cheese, but by the time the paltry little dish with a smattering of shaved parmigiano arrived the pasta was cold and even harder than when it arrived, so I decided to finish my wife’s Asian spaghetti and take the bucatini home where I could season it properly.

Shiltake Spaghetti

My wife was going to order the spinach and ricotta ravioli, but at $15 for just five (5) and $23 for ten (10), it didn’t seem like a very good value. Instead she ordered the Shiltake Spaghetti, a blend of Shitake mushrooms, spinach, carrots, olive oil, and garlic with chunks of mozzarella tossed in. Untraditional in every sense of the word, the dish actually had much more flavor than my Bucatini all’ Amatriciana, a favorite when I lived in Italy and ate real pasta. Italians love their pasta and she enjoyed hers, noting just a bit too much olive oil.

Half Baguette – $5

My ratings are based on “value”, taking into account the entire experience including the quality of the food, ambiance, service, and price … the entire culinary experience. I have had far better meals for much less (in Italy) and more (see my review of Nonna in Puerto Rico), so price is but one factor. Based on my experience at 715, prices in the range of $10 to $13 would be more appropriate for the pasta dishes, $5 to $6 for the meatballs, and NO CHARGE for the bread would earn an extra bomb or two, but for an 8 to 10 bomb experience they would need to train their chefs in proper Italian culinary techniques, including how to cook pasta, season the sauces, and NOT drown the pasta in excess sauce. I was going to give them 5 bombs, but decided to add one additional for “effort” as they apparently make the pasta in-house, a rarity these days and something which should be rewarded.

CombatCritic Gives 715 6 Bombs Out of 10 … LE BOMBE SONO BUONE!



715 on Urbanspoon

Kitchen

Key Words: 715, restaurant, Lawrence, KS, 66044, Kansas, Massachusetts Street, Massachusetts, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Italian, food, pasta, menu

Balmy Nights, Harbor Lights


On my first visit, the place was quiet being a Thursday night before 8 pm. A few folks on the back patio, a group of noisy guys at a table, and a few “locals” bellied up to the bar, including me I guess.


I ordered an O’Dells IPA, not inexpensive at $5 for an  “American” pint (16 ounces versus 19.2 in an “Imperial”, British, pint), but not outrageous, with a head so big that a Brit would seethe. It was cold and wet, not room temperature like a traditional English IPA would be, but hey … THIS IS LAWRENCE … WE ARE IN KANSAS DOROTHY … Heeee heeee heeee heeee, I’ll get you my pretty AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO!


The bartender, a 30-something woman in jeans and t-shirt named Heather, was quiet yet nice and the only person to actually acknowledge my existence.  A few neon signs, a dirty floor, a couple of pool tables and dart boards, the place is a bit divey, but isn’t that the way bars should be?


I’ll be updating this review as the summer languishes and I become more familiar with Lawrence’s public houses.

CombatCritic Gives Harbor Lights 6 Out Of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!







Key Words: Harbor Lights, harbor, lights, pub, bar, beer, drink, Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, Massachusetts, Mass, street, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, combat, critic, menu

CombatCritic Is Neither Laughing Nor Amused After A Visit ToThe "Mirth" Café


Mirth Cafe
947 New Hampshire Street
Lawrence, KS 
Living just 3 blocks from the Mirth Cafe, yet never realized it was there! The windows are dark in this ground floor space of what looks like an office building and their sign is barely visible through the tinted windows. Once inside, a modern decor of wood, tile, and dark steel has none of the hominess I enjoy in a good breakfast spot (e.g. The Roost).
Mirth’s “Big” Breakfast
We were quickly met at the door and seated, but it took 10 minutes for our server, Brittney, to arrive. A young man dropped off some water, but was off before I had a chance to ask for some much needed coffee. Once Brittney arrived, we found out that it was a “self-service” coffee bar, so we wasted 10 minutes for nothing. I scurried to the bar only to find a dirty mug on my first attempt. There was neither half-and-half in the creamer nor coffee descriptions (dark roast, etc.) on the 5-6 available carafe options, only “Columbian” or “Ramona’s”, whatever that is, “DeCaf” … blah, blah, blah. Splenda was available only in shaker form and I had difficulty locating it because packets were provided for all other sweeteners (sugar, SugarInTheRaw, Sweet&Low). Brittney appeared a bit dismayed by my request to show me where the Splenda was and even more miffed when I asked her to please fill the half-and-half carafe so I could enjoy my mystery coffee. There was no Stevia, a disappointment as I avoid sugar and recently stopped using artificial sweeteners.
The coffee was good and warm, but the coffee bar was splotched with spilled coffee, sugar wrapper ends, and sweetener granules. To my dismay, the first upside-down mug I chose from the batch sitting on counter was filthy, containing adhering coffee granules from the previous customer. I was fortunate that I noticed them just as I started to pour my coffee as I normally assume that the dinnerware in restaurants are clean, a bold assumption I know.
I had Mirth’s Big Breakfast ($8.25) with a side of country gravy ($1.75) for a total of $10, a bit pricey for not-so-big breakfast in my opinion. The “BIG” breakfast was not as big as advertised. The two “over-medium” eggs I ordered looked “large” at best, not “extra large”, and were closer to over-easy than what I ordered. The bacon was crisp, yet chewy just like I like it, but it was lukewarm and came in a clump of two or three pieces as it was difficult to tell how many ends I saw on the intertwined pieces which had obviously been sitting in a pan waiting to be dispensed to a plate. Which brings me to the potatoes. They were “home-style”, which apparently means burnt, cold chunks with little if any seasoning. The accompanying biscuit was very small and the gravy minimal for the price ($1.75), coming in a “side” size cup, maybe 3 ounces at best, and barely covering the two small biscuit halves. It was “OK, but nothing special and not nearly as tasty or abundant as The Roost’s and there was no sign, either visible or tastable, of either bacon or sausage.
My wife had the Vegetarian Biscuits and Gravy, which had much more flavor than the sausage variety and chunks of something … possibly the sausage missing from my gravy! It was much spicier than mine and I would have actually preferred it to the non-vegetarian version, a sad statement from a longtime carnivore. $5.25 seems a little high for two small biscuits and a bit of gravy, but it beats paying ten bucks for a mediocre egg dish.
Brittney was very nice for the most part and very attentive after she finally arrived, so no gripes there. We were mildly disappointed by the experience and Mirth Café will likely not become a household staple, unfortunate in that it is the closest café to our home. The décor and service was somewhat cold and impersonal, leaving me unimpressed overall.
CombatCritic Gives Mirth Café 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … MORE BOMBS ARE GOOD!




Mirth Cafe on Urbanspoon



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Key Words: Mirth Café, mirth, café, cafe, Mirth Cafe, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, Massachusetts Street, Massachusetts, street, yelp, tripavisor, urbanspoon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, breakfast, lunch, eggs, bacon