Here's the making of a perfect lunch. Longtime pal, Andy Caldwell was driving north from Ocala, "Out on 441 where you can hear cars roll by like waves crashing on the beach." The GLOB Master and GLOB Content Editor were heading south on 441 to pay a visit to The Organic Chef store of Al Rosas just north of Ocala to pick up some of the best chicken sausage you can find. It was Lynn Dirk who came up with the idea of meeting Andy at Blue Highway Pizza in Micanopy for some pizza and beer. Andy had never been to Blue Highway. All I could think about is the Abruzzese, one of the best meatball pizzas on earth: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, giant house made meatballs, sliced roasted garlic, parsley, Parmesan and Romano cheese on the Sicilian crust. That is worth driving a long distance to consume. In a true 'have it your way' style, Lynn asked for artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and Italian sausage on one half. The meatballs were incredibly spicy, flavorful and just like I remembered from my last Blue Highway visit. The artichoke hearts were larger than the giant meat balls! The garlic and the yeasty Sicilian crust with the marinara sauce are incomparable. Blue Highway for lunch is one of the best roadside attractions between here and Ocala, gosh, all of N. Florida.
Dueling pizzas has two winners
By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor
GLOB Correspondent Lynn Dirk contributed to this restaurant feature.
I just had the best pizza lunch I have had in a very long time. I have been thinking about a trip out to Blue Highway in West Gainesville's Tioga Town Center for several days and it was easy to convince Lynn and her friend, J, to accompany me.
This Blue Highway pizzaria off of Newberry Rd. is the younger sibling to the Blue Highway on US 441 near Micanopy. The menus are very similar, the Tioga menu being more extensive, but the quality of the pizzas are the same. The West Gainesville Blue Highway is a modern setting but more traditional with the chefs making pizzas within view of the dining area. We saw pizza crust flying in the air several times during our visit. The Micanopy BH is a cozy place where you can smell the pizza being cooked in the kitchen even if you don't see it.
Along with a choice of two types of pizza and an extensive list of pizza topping choices, Blue Highway presents an appetizer menu -- Blue Highway Small Plate entrees, sandwiches, salads, and piadines, which are flatbread sandwiches. One of those is Lamb Piadine -- roasted lamb, mint pesto aioli, mixed greens, red onion, feta, Parmesan, red wine vinaigrette. One of us is a lover of lamb and made a promise to herself that this would be her choice the next time she came. But today it was pizza for all of us.
Layla, the daughter of the owners and the Tioga BH manager, stopped by the table to see if we needed anything. Lynn mentioned she is very taken with the yeast crust BH cooks up and Layla explained the BH pizza crust process: They use semolina flour, which gives it extra oomph, and the let the dough "age," that is, it sits for 24 hours. There is yeast, so it rises, but they don't punch it down until they are ready to use it. How ever they do it, the texture of their crust is unique and almost outshines the toppings. It is crispy on the bottom but spongy on the inside. Everyone should try it at least once! There is a complete Blue Highway menu at the restaurant link below this feature.
With all the varied choices on the menu, I was feeling good about ordering my pizza, and thinking I would get to taste some other options with the orders my friends would place.
I opted to create my own custom Sicilian style pizza with meat balls, pepperoni, broccoli and roasted red peppers. My pizza served 2 - 4 people. BH is not your by-the-slice kinda place.
Lynn decided to share my pizza so we both looked at J waiting for her lunch decision. She said, "I hope I'm not going to disappoint, but the thin crust pizza special with fresh crab, bacon, and mushrooms sounds really good and I'm getting that."
"Aw right," I exclaimed. "It looks like we will have enough pizza for six people, not three," I said gleefully clapping my hands.
Lynn and J started their lunch with a cup of the Italian Wedding Soup that they enjoyed with many comments of "Oh my!" "Yum." "This is REALLY good." Lynn remarked how the meat balls included in the soup were excellent, perhaps forecasting the pleasure awaiting us on our Sicilian pizza.
I've heard of dueling banjos, on tour once famous blues man Taj Mahal played a tune he called dueling tubas. This is my first dueling pizza experience.
The BH Sicilian crust, meatball, pepperoni, broccoli, and roasted red pepper pizza presented to us contained the largest, yummiest, best tasting meat balls I have ever eaten on a pizza. These meatballs were not chopped, or diced onto the pizza, they were quartered into large bite size chunks of spicy meatball heaven with one or two pieces per slice of pie. These chunk of protein were mighty good and in combination with the other ingredients and the savory pizza sauce that included juicy pieces of tomato, created an unbelievably good pizza.
I noticed while eating my pizza, Lynn and J we reveling in their thin crust pizza special of crab meat, bacon, and mushrooms. The crab was sweet and in clumps. Perfect. Bacon is never bad. The mushrooms had that dark brown color a mushroom gets when it is perfectly sautéed; it's not soggy or chewy. It's a special treat to get mushrooms like that on a pizza. Lynn did comment that considering how special and delicate the crab flavor was, the bacon and mushroom might have been a little distracting or overpowering. But she did not let that stop her, she still considered it an exceptionally delicious pizza.
Tasting the thin crust pizza, I was surprised how good the bacon, crab and cheese mixed together without any noticeable pizza sauce. This thin crusted pizza was equally a prize winner today but in completely different flavor categories.
I've commented before that a trip to the outskirts of West Gainesville is a considerable effort for the GLOB Master. If this pizza shop was located near the GLOB corporate offices, I could eat at Blue Highway Pizza every day.
I was out in West Gainesville Jules Gollner the White Apron Catering Queen when the subject of what's for lunch came up. "I'm not up for anything new, and we had Blue Highway Pizza for dinner and it was fabulous," the W. A. Maven said. "I met Blue Highway owner Frank Ruffino the other night and I begged him to open a B.H. in the Millhopper area." "Does that mean forget about Blue Highway for lunch," I asked. "No let's go I love their pizza," Jules said with a glazed look in her eye. And that's how our extraordinary lunch of a hand tossed, thin crust Carne Combo that included tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, Genoa salami, Parmesan, Romano cheese, Sicilian thin crust pie became the best pizza I have eaten since the last time I was at Blue highway. You see they do something special to their crust. Personally I think they paint it with a melted garlic butter before they put the pie in the oven. What that means is they bring to your table a glorious brown toasted, golden glazed pizza pie with a crunchy garlic flavored crust sprinkled with cheese and a bit of salt. My heart is lucky, my cardiologist is pleased, my sister, children and friends are relieved that Blue Highway is on the other side of Gainesville so I can prevent myself from clogging my arteries daily, by the BHP slice. I could eat one of these pizzas every day. That would be 13 straight days in a row of Blue Highway Specialty pizza. Hic, burp . . .
- Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor
Blue Highway (+) indicators: Gluten pizza crust is available. Friendly environment, extraordinary pizza choices. Try the meat balls!
Blue Highway (-) indicators: I think you need a passport to get back in to Gainesville from this GLOB outpost.
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