16 January 2008

Family dinner at Coal Mine Pizza, Boca Raton, FL

At the end of our Florida vacation, we rented a car, left sunny South Beach and drove up the coast 55 miles to visit relatives in Boca Raton. Just in time, too. The weatherman said a cold front was moving across Florida. Before we reached the Miami city limits driving north on I-95, it was raining. By the time we reached Boca, it was 20 degrees cooler. And the next day, the high temp was only in the 50s.

As much fun as South Beach is, I don’t know what you’d do there if it rained or if it was too chilly to go to the beach.

We had a nice visit, but we were having trouble finding a mutually convenient time to see one cousin’s family. It finally was worked out that on the day before we left for home, after we finished shopping and before they went to a high school basketball game, we’d all meet for pizza.

The pizza place was Coal Mine Pizza. We were there a little early, and we had no trouble getting a table for eight. Our server told us that by 7 p.m., it would be packed. The menu is very appealing. They offer a selection of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. But the main appeal is pizza. They have two sizes – 12-inch “personal” and 16-inch “large.” You can select your own toppings from a creative list, or you can choose a “specialty” pizza which is priced the same as a pizza with two toppings.

We started with a couple of appetizers. The calamari was very good. The batter was tasty and fried lightly, not at all greasy. We also had Dynamite Shrimp which turned out to be medium-sized, tender shrimp also batter-fried. They both were good, but I preferred the calamari.

For our table of eight, we ordered one “personal” and two “large” pizzas, all of them from the specialty list. All of the ingredients were high quality and fresh. The crusts were thin and crisp.

My favorite was the Vidal. It was fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, and basil. It was simple and very tasty. To my own surprise, my second favorite was the Scampi Pie. It consisted of shrimp, garlic, basil, fresh spinach and tomatoes. I was kind of skeptical about the combination, but it was very tasty. The flavors blended well and complimented each other nicely. The third pizza was “Melt in your Mouth Meatball and Ricotta.” It was good, but I thought it was a little bland. The meatball was held together loosely, so it crumbled when cut. (I suppose that’s why they call it ‘melt in your mouth.’) The ricotta was not at all distinctive in the mix of flavors.

Besides the pizzas, we also had wine and beer. I thought the wine was kind of expensive for a pizza joint. But since we got there early, it was happy hour, so our wines were two-for-one. One nice touch – two of our group didn’t want to have a second glass of wine. Our server gave them tokens to use the next time they came in. All the beer was bottled. About half were imports, including three from Italy.

We mainly picked the restaurant as a casual place for family members (including two kids) to get together and talk. Coal Mine Pizza turned out to be a great choice for our last night in Florida. The service was very accommodating and the food was very good besides.

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