ChamPinos, Lakeland

While I adore Romeo's pizza, Ed has another place that he thinks the pizza is better-ChamPinos on Socrum Loop in Lakeland. Me? I think it is good, but Romeo's is better.

We've been a few times together, I've brought pizzas home a few times, and while it's a good basic Italian restaurant, I still love my Romeo's more. That's not to say it isn't good, the fact that I've been more than once should tell you this is at least a solid 7.5 out of 10, because I have impossibly high standards when eating Italian food out.

However, the last time I got some to-go pizzas, I saw a sign that piqued my interest, one that listed 'Beef on Wick'. Okay, that was supposed to say 'Beef on Weck', but if you're local, you are wondering what the heck I am talking about. The name comes from the Kummelweck roll, a nice, solid hard roll with kosher salt and caraway seeds on top. Purists serve it with hot roast beef, horseradish and au jus for dipping.

Behold, the Beef on Weck:

Okay, so you want to see more than the roll, right? As you wish:

The roll was spot on, and our server, Charlie, came out with a jar of horseradish with a spoon in it-Miller's, an upstate NY brand. You know, I covered that thing with the good stuff. When you're up in Buffalo or Rochester, where the sandwich is very popular, it's 50/50 whether you'll be asked how done you like your beef, so it wasn't a surprise that I wasn't asked. (ChamPinos serves theirs medium, closer to mid-well).

On the side was a perfect au jus, in that it didn't have a lot of flavor on its own, but when I dipped the sandwich into it, both were better for the addition. Slightly salty, very beefy and just the right complement to the sandwich. The fries were average frozen from a bag, so I passed them over.

Sitting across from me was a very happy Ed. He got two slices of pizza that cracked when he folded the crust. If you get it for take out, it will NOT do this, which is probably why I've been saying Romeo's is the better pie. (Plus Romeo's has a thinner crust, which is my preference). However, I could not deny the sound of a crispy crust coming from the opposite side of the table. Ed puts in on a par with his favorite LI pizza parlors, and I will say they've got a great sauce.

A word about the service. When I call in, the server that always seems to be working when I pick up our order seems to want to be anywhere but there. In fact, the last time I got a pie, I asked about the 'Beef on Wick' sign and I was told, "I don't know what comes on it." No effort to check with the cook who was maybe 20 feet away (and couldn't hear me). The time before that, I had asked another question and again, I was given the impression that I was interrupting her not busy evening at work.
However, the server we had today (Charlie), has served us before and both times, she's been cheerful and upbeat. Not sure what the deal is with the brunette that works weeknights, though. All in all, ChamPinos definitely falls into the column of 'let's go', because there's something that will make each of us happy. Champino's on Urbanspoon


Beef on a weck? In florida? Yum!

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