Good Taste May/June 2020

EAT – Never Argue Over Dinner Again

By Griffin Nelson  |  Photo by John Antaki

When I first moved to the area seven years ago, my husband and I were broke newlyweds. We both loved to eat and cook and wanted to explore restaurants that were unique to the area. It wasn’t long before we discovered Armando’s Grill & Pizzeria. It was convenient whether we wanted to go out for a meal or grab a pizza to-go. It fit into our budget easily, and the quality of the food always made it feel like a special date. It’s an ongoing joke that couples can never agree on where they want to go for dinner but we’ve always been able to agree on Armando’s.

When I first moved to the area seven years ago, my husband and I were broke newlyweds. We both loved to eat and cook and wanted to explore restaurants that were unique to the area. It wasn’t long before we discovered Armando’s Grill & Pizzeria. It was convenient whether we wanted to go out for a meal or grab a pizza to-go. It fit into our budget easily, and the quality of the food always made it feel like a special date. It’s an ongoing joke that couples can never agree on where they want to go for dinner but we’ve always been able to agree on Armando’s.

Armando Reyes originally got into the restaurant business in 2006 when he helped his wife opened Mi Rinconcito in Grovetown. An amazing home cook with a background in Mexican food, she’d dreamed of opening her own restaurant and Armando helped her with bookkeeping, cooking and doing whatever he needed to support his wife while also balancing a full-time job in the pharmaceutical industry. Though he grew up learning how to cook from both his Puerto Rican mother and the older Sicilian women in his neighborhood in the Bronx, running a restaurant was a new challenge.

As Armando supported his wife Bella in her creation of one of the most authentic Mexican restaurants in the area, he kept noticing the space next door to Mi Rinconcito. It seemed perfect for an Italian restaurant and there was nothing like it in the area. It was an opportunity to use his expertise to fill a void using cooking skills he’d been honing since he was a child growing up in New York. The former marine’s incredible work ethic and drive allowed him to finally open Armando’s Grill & Pizzeria in the early 2010s, bringing New York style pizza, pasta and other dishes to the Augusta area.

Though pasta is his first love (and I highly recommend you try the pasta a la vodka or the made-from-scratch lasagna) and the menu is full of everything from calzones to subs to salads, there is of course, pizza! So much work goes into making each handmade pizza. The dough is made with a giant mixer to have enough for each day’s orders. He makes all of the pizza and marinara sauce in house and has an impressively organized system of toppings to make sure each pizza comes out as ordered. Two giant double-stacked ovens can hold up to 12 pizzas at once. Everything is pristine and in its place.

No matter how big your group is, there’s a size for everyone as well. There are personal size pizzas and then there’s the the Bronx Bomber. Named after Babe Ruth, this pizza pie is 2 feet across and can feed four to six people! There are originals like the Fugheddaboutit – a stuffed pizza, and creative twists on classics like the New Yorker – a bacon ranch based pizza loaded with pepperoni, salami, ham, and chicken. The Pizza de Pernil includes pulled pork, green olive and mojo marinade, reflecting Armando’s Puerto Rican influence. Whether you prefer just pepperoni or want to make your own pizza with any number of toppings, it can be done!

It’s seven years later and we’re not broke newlyweds anymore, but Armando’s is still at the top of our list for pizza and pasta. The food is so good and it makes it possible to eat a special meal without breaking the bank. One of our favorite ways to spend a Friday night as a family is with our favorite pizza from Armando’s and a movie!

Lagniappe
“A little something extra”

If you’re more in the mood for Mexican food than Italian, we definitely recommend trying Mi Rinconcito, owned by Armando’s wife Bella Reyes. Try authentic tacos made on tortillas pressed by hand and cooked on a hot griddle, filled with all sorts of yummy ingredients. Pair it with a glass of ice-cold, rich, horchata and let it transport your taste buds south of the border!

 


 

SIP – Durty Gurl Cocktails
Photo provided by Durty Gurl

When it comes to cocktails, it doesn’t get more classic than a drink made famous by a picky international spy who doesn’t follow the rules. If James Bond preferred a dirty martini, there’s no doubt he would have insisted on Durty Gurl Olive Juice. The first of a growing list of cocktail condiments and mixers, this local company’s 10-month aged olive brine is the only thing like it on the market.

When David Hopkins came across the olive brine as a byproduct of a small, family owned olive farm in California, he knew he’d found gold. The farm was only interested in growing and aging the olives themselves, with the brine being an afterthought. It wasn’t long before he’d built a great working relationship with the farm, created a unique product that reduces waste, surrounded himself with an A-plus team, and got to work. Hopkins and business partner, Raymond Carnes (owner of RecTec Grills), have brought on Erica Langsam and Amanda Collins to handle the extensive branding and marketing, and VP of Sales Catherine Jones. After numerous blind taste tests, the Durty Gurl lineup quickly expanded to also include several Blood Mary mixers, a Margarita mixer, salt rimmers, and even a seasoning mix for use in the kitchen and on RecTec Grills.

The high standard of quality was insisted upon when creating all three of the Bloody Mary Mixes – mild (classic), medium (horseradish), and hot (habanero). After identifying problems with other company’s products, they settled on a formula that’s slightly thicker, meaning that added spirits and ice don’t water it down, and smoother, with a higher blend so that it doesn’t separate. As with all of their products, every ingredient is gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, and has no high fructose corn syrup.

The quality of the ingredients and superiority of the product has helped the company  grow exponentially in a short time. After hitting shelves in 2018, it can now be found not only in Kroger stores throughout the state and parts of Alabama, but also locally at places like Walmart, Beverage Outlet, and American Journeyman.

Of course you can always order a a drink featuring Durty Gurl at tons of other local businesses like Metro Coffee House, Tbonz Steakhouse, and 2nd City Distilling Company.

So if you identify even remotely with the gadget wielding spy, “For those who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get Durty,” try a Durty Gurl Martini, Bloody Mary, or Margarita that Bond, James Bond, would certainly endorse.

Lagniappe
“A little something extra”

Durty Gurl’s website – durtygurlmixers.com – has a slew of creative and easy recipes for those who like to drink outside the box.

Twisted Tom Collins

Ingredients
2 oz 2nd City Distilling Co. Gin
Durty Gurl Margarita Mix
Squeezed Lime Juice (half)
Club Soda

Directions
Combine gin, squeezed lime juice, and 2 oz of Durty Gurl Margarita Mix. Top with Club soda, add ice, stir. Garnish with a lime.

 


 

ARTISAN – We Give A Shirt
Photo by Amy J. Owen

In the past decade or so, the small business industry in the Augusta area has grown exponentially. But as we all know, at the beginning of March, COVID-19 and the precautionary measures that had to be instituted to prevent its spread threatened to shutter many of those businesses that we have come to hold so dear.

In an impressively quick and generous response, the team behind Showpony and its sister company Wier/Stewart came up with a genius plan: Design T-shirts for as many local small businesses as they could, sell them online to minimize person-to-person contact, produce at cost using a local screen printer, and give all the proceeds to the business each T-shirt represents. At press time, the campaign has raised more than $100,000 for local businesses.

“It’s just a small way that we hope we can help them out,” says Sean Mooney, director of merchandising at Showpony. “It really is a team effort.”

While Wier/Stewart designed the stunning website for the project, titled “We Give a Shirt,” in addition to each of the unique and modern T-shirt designs, Showpony handles production, merchandising and shipping of the high-quality, ultra-soft, unisex T-shirts.

With more than 150 businesses from as far away as Atlanta requesting designs, and because they want to support as many businesses as possible, the team has to have a minimum of 50 pre-orders of each design before they can be printed.

Each shirt design is live on the website for just seven days to allow each business the opportunity to shine. New designs are added every Tuesday and Friday for pre-order, and no extra shirts are being made. That means each T-shirt is limited edition, there is zero waste and every extra penny can benefit the business associated with that design.

As a community, we can’t afford to wait to support the businesses we love so much. Whether you’re ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant, picking up items curbside from retail markets you’d normally browse, or purchasing a T-shirt online through Showpony, now is the time to show our local businesses that we support them and want to see them through this difficult time!

Find each T-shirt design at wegiveashirt.showpony.com, and check back regularly for new designs from your favorite small businesses, including Hildebrandt’s, Funk You Music and Bedford Greenhouses.

Appears in the April 2020 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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