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Coal Fired Pizza comes to Perry Hall

I just saw this place this afternoon while driving by. I went in, and while they do not have the oven fired up yet, the young guy who seemed to be in charge says that it should be fired up and in use for cooking by next Friday. And yes, he said that the permit process to get a coal fired oven was very difficult, but that they thought it was worth it.

It's mostly take-out, but there are a couple small tables and a counter for eat in.

I think I may need to drive up there in a week or two, once they're up and running and have gotten the opening kinks worked out. Anybody who is willing to get a coal fired oven approved has got to be fairly serious about pizza. Whether they are also talented, time will tell.

The Phat Pug Coal Fired Pizzeria
8814A Bel Air Road
Perry Hall, MD 21236
410 256 5700

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  1. Went with a friend last night, and the pizza was quite good, with a nice smoky flavor from the wood/coal fire. They were using oak logs to "quick start" the coal fire to bring it up to temperature.

    Unfortunately, just as we arrived, a power transformer nearby blew out, so things were a bit hectic.

    We ordered my usual "test pie", sausage and onion, and I was duly impressed. After my friend and I shared that 16" pie, I also had an 8" Italian Cheesesteak. The cheesesteak was delicious, but so over stuffed that it would be nearly impossible to eat as a sandwich. I really dislike eating what's supposed to be a sandwich with knife and fork, but there really isn't an option. On the plus side, it's a huge portion for the money - almost in "Captain Harvey's" territory, but with better taste, based on this one data point.

    The only downside is that it was a mostly young staff, and I think there was only one guy there who had a good understanding of how to properly man the oven. The whole trick with a coal or wood fired oven is that the masonry of the oven comes up to temperature and holds a high heat with thermal mass. The fire is built on one side or at the back, and the pizza is cooked both by the heat stored in the floor and walls of the oven, and by the flow of hot gasses that flows up from the fire, along the ceiling of the oven and then out through the door and up the chimney (the chimney opening is just outside and above the door). A good coal or wood fired oven man learns how to move and turn pizzas in his particular oven to get exactly the results desired. I think it may take a while for the crew at this place to build up the expertise to get the maximum out of their oven, but given the quality of pie they put out last night, after only being up and running for a week or two, one can only imagine how good it might get if they can train and keep somebody with the knack for really working at the oven.

    I strongly urge Baltimore area pizza fans to give this place a try and report back. Pizza being a "personal taste" thing, not all of you will like this place, but In my opinion, they have the potential to zoom into the top tier of Baltimore area pizza. I also think that demanding and discerning customers providing feedback can help them reach their full potential.

    The only downside to the evening was that my follow-up order for the cheesesteak and a few other details were promptly forgotten by the person who took the information. It might have been the confusion and distraction of the power outage (half the circuits in the store were out for about ten or fifteen minutes), but there were enough instances of things being forgotten within seconds of me saying them that either the person was not paying attention *at all* to what I was saying in the first place (it never registered to begin with, and thus could not be recalled), or there's some serious short term memory "issues". The problem was too consistent and obvious to appear to be just an isolated "oops" moment. I'm being vague here to not embarrass the individual, but I'm hoping that if the manager reads this, he will recognize what I'm talking about and take remedial action.

    To summarize - go, try, report - this one may be a "keeper"!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Warthog

      I went again a couple nights ago. I ordered a white pizza (I think they call it a "Pugarita" for reasons unknown) with sausage.

      The good news - the pizza was excellent.

      The bad news - Once again, the order got screwed up. The person who took the order neglected to mention the "and sausage" to the person who made the pizza. When I asked "Where's the sausage?", his reply was "What sausage? Nobody told me about sausage on that order!"

      As in my first time visiting the place, they were all apologetic once the mistake became known (this time, they comped me a dessert), but I gotta say that I'd be a bit nervous phoning in a delivery order given that they are now 0 for 2 on order accuracy when I'm standing right there. They've got a good product, but they *must* get a person (the same order-taker as last time screwed up this order) or a better process in place to eliminate these order bungling errors.

      I really want to like this place, but if they keep messing up my order every time I go, there are limits to my patience and my willingness to overlook the ordering mix-ups for the sake of a good pizza.

      Hey, Pug! If you are reading this, get the ordering process FIXED!!!!

    2. By "coal", do you mean real coal (like anthracite) or charcoal? If the former, what does burning coal smell like?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Hal Laurent

        Yep, it's real coal - anthracite. The guy who appeared to be in charge seemed very pleasantly surprised when I noted the "ANTHRACITE" in big letters on the bags of coal and expressed my approval of the use of anthracite (AKA
        "hard coal") vs. the softer bituminous coal that burns both cooler and dirtier. I don't think he expected a customer to know those little details.

        As for the smell, it's pretty much like a BBQ grill, but without the identifiable wood aroma. The best way I can describe it is a more generic "smoke" smell, though not at all an unpleasant one. There is a subtle smoke flavor imparted to the food, but not as pronounced as with a wood fire or charcoal. I think the main benefit of the coal oven is the heat, with the smoky flavor being more of a "bonus'" than the main thrust.

        And yes, one can run a commercial pizza oven at similar high temperatures (700-800 degrees and up), but the coal oven gives one more control over the gradations of heat based on proximity to the fire. A good paddle man will start the pie in one location to quickly crisp the crust, then shift it to another location to continue the cooking, and spinning the pie so it cooks evenly all around.

        If you go to a one of the New Haven or Brooklyn places with the old (and *much* bigger) coal ovens, there is one guy or team making the pies, one boxing or plating the pies that come out, and one guy whose only task is to put the pies in the oven and shift them around. THAT is the guy who is the key to the whole operation - if he's good, the pie will be sublime. If he doesn't know what he's doing, the pie may literally be toast.

        1. re: Warthog

          One other note. A good charcoal or wood BBQ is often choked back to both reduce the temperature for "low and slow" cooking, and to generate the nice smoky flavor. Coal pizza ovens are just the opposite - the aim is high temps, clean burn, and very fast cooking.

          In older days, somebody with a wood or coal oven might go through several cooking stages as the fire went down, starting with pizzas at very high temperatures, then going through breads, roasts and finally stews or smoked meats as the fires burned down to embers.

          Of course a commercial baker or pizza place will run the oven continuously, or else rely on the thermal mass of the masonry to hold the heat from closing time one day to the next morning, even though the fire burns down to embers or is extiguished entirely.

          1. re: Warthog

            Warthog--that was very interesting. I once lived bear Grimadi's, a coal fired place under the Brookly Bridge--wonderful pizza--and I always wondered why the coal worked so well.

            1. re: tartuffe

              From what I've read, Patsy Grimaldi wanted to open a new place somewhere in NYC, but the city wouldn't issue any new permits for a coal fired oven, and that's true in most jurisdictions. That's why I about ran off the road a couple weeks ago when I saw the sign for Phat Pug that mentioned "coal fired".

        2. I got carryout there tonight. We had the Parmesan and Prosciutto poppers and a large Three Cheese Pizza.

          Both were very good. I'd never had coal-fired pizza before. The crust was excellent. I'm just afraid their location isn't the best and that they might not make it. I hope they're doing well business wise.

          1. We just placed our order. I'll be back to you in a couple of hours to let you know what my family thinks of their pizza.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Whitemarshjohn

              I just got done eating their pizza. We ordered a large with mushrooms and peppers and a small extra cheese. I picked it up and it cost $29. It's a thin, hard crust pizza and they do not use a lot of cheese. The crust was kind of good, but the sauce is too sweet and spicy. For now we are going to stick to Dominick's Pizza as our "go to" pizza place. They are less expensive and we like their pizza better. They have locations on Harford Road in Parkville and on Belair Road in Perry Hall.

              1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                Hey, Whitemarsh ..have you had the occasion to try either Pizza Johns in Essex? It's not that far a trek for ya .. for taking a trip have you tried Matthews Pizza in Highlandtown or Squires in Dundalk??

                1. re: Hue

                  Hello Hue. I had Pizza John's in Essex a long time ago and thought they were pretty good. I use to stop in there about 7-8 years ago when I worked down on Back River Neck Road and get subs and stuff - I liked them a lot. I haven't been back since they renovated the place. I know they have a pretty good fan following. I've had Matthews Pizza a couple of times and really loved it. I think it's among the best around, although my Fiance doesn't like their pizza as much as Dominick's.
                  We use to go to Squires as a special occasion treat back when I was having financial troubles a few years back - we would sit down in there and have dinner. I thought their prices were very reasonable and I liked the food - I don't think I've had their pizza.

            2. Thanks for this find. It's pretty good for only being open for a month. Hopefully whatever expertise they gain in the next month isn't lost when the Federal Hill location opens.

              More detail: http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?...

              2 Replies
              1. re: Lydia R

                I think Federal Hill will likely be a better location for the kind of place this is, but I share your concern. Frankly, I'm not at all convinced that they've got the kinks worked out of running one place. Additionally, it's not that easy to find anybody with experience with a coal fired oven - it's a whole additional layer of complexity beyond a "normal" pizza oven. The owner says that he's bringing in a guy from Miami to man the oven in Federal Hill.

                I was up at the Perry Hall location last night, and they "lost one". The crust of a pizza in the oven tore while being moved, causing a sticky grease/cheese spot on the floor of the oven. On a normal oven it would be no big deal, because the heat is fairly uniform, and one would just avoid that spot, and clean it during a lull. In an oven with a real fire, though, whether coal or wood, that spot in the oven corresponds to a particular temperature range, both for the surface of the floor of the oven, but also of the heat and smoke circulation. So "losing" a pie also means losing the ability to make use of that spot, and that combination of temperatures, which means that one no longer can move the pie around in the same way - starting at point A to crisp the crust at high temperature, rotating the pie so all sides get their time closest to the fire, and then shifting the pie to Point B to finish off the pie without burning either the crust or the toppings. The fact that the guy is still learning the oven also had an impact. A more experienced oven man might have been able to work around the spot, but when one is still learning the oven, it's probably hard enough to find one rotation pattern that works, let alone have alterantives to fall back on in case of an accident like this. There is no temperature control - one learns to adjust by position in the oven, and by how one tends the fire.

                In this case, presumably because the oven is fairly small as such ovens go, and because they are still learning the intracacies of what works and what doesn't as far as placement of pizzas in the oven, the problem required a stoppage of further pizza making until the spot was scraped, cleaned, and the residue burned off, which meant a backlog. The person whose pie tore said she had been waiting an hour from time of order to when she gave up and left.

                The owners were quite apologetic and willing to comp her in the future, but the bottom line is that even if one is willing to atone for mistakes, eventually the cost, both in loss of profit due to the comping and the loss in customer good will by the mix-ups or delays, will kill a place. I've been there three times now, and each time, there was some problem that led to them comping something for my incovenience. Given that, I'm not at all convinced that they've got the one place running smoothly, so I'm hoping that the complications of trying to manage two places doesn't bring both locations down.

                On a side note, I'm also really surprised that they were able to get a permit for a coal oven within Baltimore city limits. Most major municipalities have long ago banned new coal ovens, even if they allow existing ones to continue to operate. The reluctance is usually due to the open fire aspect (there's no emergency shut-off valve as there is with a gas oven), the hich temperatures, and the "air pollution" aspect ("wood fires" are generally considered "rustic" and smell nice, while coal fires bring forth images of sooty skies and acid rain).

                I remain a fan of this place, but they really need to get things running smoother, and do it soon, if they are going to make a go of it. I wish them luck. Given the rarity of good pizza in the area, I hope that Chowhounds with a lot of patience and a love of pizza will try them out - I expect that they will need the support of some regulars who are willing to ride out the glitches if they are to get to the point where they've got things fully under control. I know it sounds like I'm praising them on one hand, and slamming them on the other, but I can't in all honesty recommend the pizza (which I DO like very much) without also warning about the fact that they are still getting the kinks worked out of the operation as a whole. I figure that if one goes in knowing that there may be normal "startup" issues, one is already predisposed to be a little tolerant. If one is surprised, though, it could scare that customer away. I'm hoping that Chowhonds will cut the place some slack and support them as they try to get things worked out. I also hope they get things worked out SOON!

                1. re: Warthog

                  Had a chance to check this place out Friday night. Unfortunately, my experience was much like Warthog's. We didn't decide to head there until close to 8pm, and after placing our order (prosciutto and mushroom), we waited about 35 minutes until our pizza went in the oven... only to find that it "broke" (crust too thin), and like Warthog described, the entire operation shut down for 20 minutes. We were hungry and eager to try this pizza, so we agreed to wait. It was more like 30 minutes by the time our re-made pizza went in the oven so overall we ended up waiting about an hour and 15 minutes. They comped us dessert, but for that amount of wait, I'd rather have had a future pizza comped.

                  After that long wait -- the pizza itself was quite good. Loved the very plentiful, chunky toppings. The sauce was flavorful, but a little sweeter than I might normally like, and had a slight kick to it. Really terrific thin crust. I watched them use full slices of what looked like provolone on the pizzas, instead of shredded cheese.

                  I concur with the previous reviewers -- I can't imagine this place being a success in Canton and Federal Hill (two more locations the owner/oven operator confirmed while we were chatting during our 30 minute delay), especially to the late-night bar crowd with little patience. Even when things were running relatively smoothly at the start of our wait, we had only one order ahead of us and our pizza would have taken nearly 40 minutes to finish.

                  Plus -- their specialty pizzas run around $15 for a 12" and $18-19 for a 16". Our "create-your-own" starts at $11 for a 12" + $2 per topping... so we ended up paying $15 for a pretty great 12" pizza that we had to wait over an hour for, which feels a little on the slightly more expensive side.

                  So - while delicious, I admit I'll have some doubts before going back.

              2. Went to Phat Pug last Saturday afternoon. There was no one else in the place so service was not an issue.

                We had the large ("phatter" - hate that lingo) classic pie. The sauce was a bit sweet, but had a bit of a spicy after taste. The menu said Italian plum tomatoes were used. The mozzarella was sliced and very good. The crust could have been a bit more done, but the guy working could barely speak English so we didn't bother to ask to put it back in. Overall, a good pizza.

                On the menu, the large classic was $14.95 and the large #7 (pepperoni and cheese) was $12.95. One of the owners came in briefly and I asked him why the large cheese was $2 more than the large pepperoni. He grunted that he didn't know and he'd have to have his partner look into it (who was in Miami). He couldn't have been any less interested in speaking with us. Perhaps the #7 uses regular sauce and shredded cheese, thus the cheaper price, but I don't know.

                If I go back, I will try the #7 to see if the ingredients change (or if they raise the price). I will also ask the pizza be cooked a bit more well done.

                Thank you,


                1. I live right down the street from this place. I'm a huge pizza fan (drove to NYC just for pizza lol). I stopped by this morning at 10:55 am and was pleased to see that they open at 11am. Great. Except there was a paper sign on the door saying "open at 1:30". There was a guy inside so I waited by the door, he came out, and verified the 1:30. Since I live close, I was disappointed, but thought I'd try back at 1:30. Well I've been trying to call in my order since then and it's now 1:55. I'll keep tyring but this doesn't look so good for business.....

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: carey24

                    I'm sad, but not surprised, to hear this. They have a good product, but if they want to survive, they need to get the execution of every step of the process to the point of being a sure thing, not a "place your bets - what's gonna go wrong?" exercise. Forgotten or mistaken orders, "credit card machine is down", fluctuating hours, and worst of all "no pizzas while the oven is down for cleaning" - all add up to disgruntled customers, no matter how many apologies or "comps" are offered.

                    Given that they still haven't gotten things stabilized after two months at the original location, I really question the wisdom of the reported idea to expand to a Federal Hill or Little Italy location. They need to get one location working right before taking on the distraction and division of energy of opening another location, in my opinion.

                    All of this all the more frustrating, because they are offering something that could be very special if they get it right. If this was just another "Maryland generic carry-out pizza" place, it wouldn't matter as much to me.

                    1. re: Warthog

                      To continue.....I tried to get through until 2:30...no answer. I gave up and tried back at 5pm. When the guy answered I said that I wanted to place an order to pick up. What happened next still makes me chuckle. He said "We have one 12 inch left and we won't be making any more pizza until 9". I do not joke, this is what the guy said. I started laughing (I couldn't help it.) It's dough....and sauce...and cheese....what do you mean you have one 12 inch left?!?!?!?!?!? After reading all of these posts, perhaps the oven was down. Word to Phat Pug: Saturday at 5pm is NOT the time to shut down a pizza oven! I'll try again, only because I am such a huge pizza fanatic and love trying new pizza and I live REALLY close. However, I am also incredibly impatient, so this isn't looking good.

                      1. re: carey24

                        I tried again last night and got through. I ordered my usual, 2 large cheese with extra sauce. I even said "extra tomato sauce" (because very few places get it right, they always put on extra cheese and not extra sauce). The guy repeated the order back to me and asked how I found out about them. I told him on the internet and I live close by. He asked if it was the first time I had tried them and I told him it was, but that I had tried last Saturday. He said "yeah we were sold out", as if he were talking about concert tickets. I still wonder how you "sell out" of pizza. The only thing I can think of is that you did not order enough product to make them. But they were going to "start making pizza again at 9pm" so that couldn't have been the case. The whole philosophy confuses me.

                        The pizza itself was good, but the sauce was def too sweet. I like real tomato sauce, no sugar added. The spice was nice though. However, the pizza seemed like it had more cheese than sauce, even though I ordered extra sauce. The crust was good. All in all I probably will not order again because the sauce is my favorite part and I'm not a fan of theirs. I will continue to drive to Italian Sensations in Fallston, where they are open regular hours, use extra suace when I ask for it, and are $10 cheaper for 2 large pies.

                        My favorite pizzas are:
                        1. John's of Bleecker St, NYC
                        2. Italian Sensations, Fallston & Bel Air
                        3. Little Italy Pizza, Fells Point

                        Word to Phat Pug: Instead of staying open until 4am in Perry Hall (where you will get maybe 1-2 orders between 12am and 4am), you need to close earlier, get prepared for the next day, MAKE PIZZA the whole time you are open, and stick to your posted hours. If you insist on the late hours, only do it on Fri and Sat night, when you will actually have business.

                        1. re: carey24

                          > I still wonder how you "sell out" of pizza.

                          By running out of dough. Pizza dough can't be made from scratch in just a few minutes.

                          1. re: Hal Laurent

                            Exactly. They should get some credit for making their dough...fewer and fewer places are these days. If you have a 6 hour fermentation, and you run out at 3pm, you won't be running again until 9. Obviously the time depends on the recipe. If they do a cool fermentation the dough time could be closer to 24 hours. They might stay open until 4am to make dough for the next day, and figure why not sell a few pies while they're open.

                          2. re: carey24

                            I can't stand sweet pizza sauce, yuck!

                    2. It makes me feel bad, because I really liked the pizza and I really liked the owner, but my experience was pretty similar to everyone else's here. Showed up around noon on a weekday, was told -- despite the sign on the door -- that they weren't going to open until 1:30.

                      Came back at 1:30, and waited patiently while they made my pizza, scrapped it because they weren't happy with it, started again, scrapped it again, and finally got it going. Took about 45 minutes, and I got to chat with the owner (who was a nice guy) and was given a free dessert (which was tasty). I wasn't in a rush that day, so I didn't mind too much, and I absolutely loved the pizza, but I figured I'd mention it in light of the many similar experiences here.

                      I really hope they work it out, though -- that was really my kind of pizza, crispy and well-cooked, with a thick, slightly sweet sauce and good cheese.

                      1. Tried PPCFP two weeks ago, ordered a regular pizza and some cheese steaks, we did the "stop in and order" around 6:30 and arranged a pick up at 7:30. The guy (owner we think) was extremely nice and was very interested in how we found out about the place. The initial reason for stopping in was to obtain a menu which they were out of and were expecting more in on Monday, probably not the best way to start off your weekend.

                        Cheese steaks were huge however out of the 3 we ordered only one had cheese. Pizza was very good, the sauce is different a bit sweet, yet a spicy aftertaste. I was a fan, especially after we had warmed it up. We live five minutes from PPCFP and the pizza was not entirely cold but definitely not warm.

                        I swung by later in the week to grab a menu, which there were still none available. Drove by this past Saturday at 8:00 PM (prime time pizza time) to pick up a menu and possibly place an order, however, there was a sign on the door stating “CLOSED OUT OF PIZZA”. Anyone who has some concept of the food business knows that being closed and out of pizza at 8:00PM on a Saturday night is unacceptable. I feel bad that these folks have gone to all the trouble of obtaining the permits and installing a coal oven in this place, making potentially good food, but still operating sporadically. I think it may be one of those situations where one person really knows what they are doing and the rest do not. If that is the case that one person needs to be there all the time. It is not an easy task but this business is not an easy task. I realize this area is full of chain/corporate restaurants and it is very difficult to find people who actually care about how a pizza is (if anyhting) made. Good help is hard to find, the area is tough I know several people who have tried very hard to make things work, they have to be there 24-7 and make sure their staff is well trained if by chance they are unable to be present at the establishment. I wish them the best of luck and hope that the kinks get ironed out. And hopefully, next time I try my luck at obtaining a menu, they will be availble.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: chefgf25

                          The post I linked to upthread on Sept 27th [ http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?... ] includes a PDF of their menu, but you need to be a member of that board to download files. I tried to upload it here, but Chowhound won't accept a PDF file.

                          I agree with Warthog, there's a significant disconnect between their ambition and current ability.

                            1. re: chefgf25

                              Anyone know if they are going to open in Baltimore anytime soon. All these posts have me interested, but I can't drive to Perry Hall and find out they have run out of pizza.

                        2. Last night, in the mood for their pizza, I drove up from Linthicum to Perry Hall, only to find the place closed at 7 o'clock on a Saturday night. No explanatory signs, no "Will re-open on <date>", nothing. Do these people have death wish for their business?

                          6 Replies
                            1. re: Warthog

                              I don't understand this place at all.

                              1. re: tennisgal1206

                                Nor do I. The fact that they have a product that would be a very welcome addition to the area food scene leaves me in an awkward position. I want them to make it, and yet at the same time, I can't in good conscience not warn people about the many ways that the place just doesn't seem to have its act together. I can't help but envision the late comedian Sam Kinison screaming about this place "I want your pizza, so LEARN TO RUN YOUR BUSINESS!!!"

                                1. re: Warthog

                                  Cross-posted from the "top five meals of 2007" thread.

                                  Another poster had refernced a local food critic's blog which speculated that Phat Pug was closed, because the phone number had been disconnected.

                                  We now pick up the cross-posted reply:

                                  Actually, I was there last night, and they are still in business - for now.

                                  The phone *is* disconnected, as I discovered when a walk-in customer asked why he got that message - he apparently was driving by on the way to find something else for dinner, saw the place was open and came in. According to the person working there alone last night (not one of the owners) "The owner is having the area or something of the phone changed".

                                  Business 101 - if you're a mostly carry-out pizza place, having the phone not working is DEATH!

                                  I also noted that the area behind the counter had been seriously rearranged, and the menu cut back, and when I commented on that, I was matter-of-factly told that
                                  "The last guy who worked here went berserk, and took out the deli case. they got rid of him, but..." followed by a shrug.

                                  It was also very disconcerting to be asked at least six times some variant of "Did I make it right?" or "Is there anything wrong with the pizza?", not to mention having the pizza pulled out of the oven, and being asked for my opinion on whether it was done sufficiently. From an old hand, such a question would come across as "I can make it crispier, if you'd like?", but from a newbie, it sounds like "Maybe you know more about this than I do" - not something to inspire confidence in the clientelle.

                                  It sounded like the person working was a recent hire from another pizza establishment that I know uses the "conveyor" type ovens, so the timing and doneness questions were understandable. While she did a fine job on the pizza, it was clear that she was not yet fully confident. Again, no harm, no foul, and the pizza ("Pugarita" white pizza with sausage added) was delightful, but if you ask somebody enough times if there's a problem with the pizza, the customer may start to think there *is* something wrong, and start to wonder what it is, and why they haven't noticed the phantom problem yet.

                                  So yes, Phat Pug is still around, and I continue to monitor the saga with the same sort of sick fascination that one feels while watching reruns of the late Evel Knievel's ill-fated motorcycle jump over the fountains at Ceasar's Palace in Vegas. I find myself wanting to grab these people, shake them vigorously and scream "What the hell are you THINKING?!?!"

                                  But they say that the Lord looks after fools, drunks, children, and apparently some pizza shop owners. Stay tuned - I have this suspicion that this tale may get even more quirky before the end.

                                  And if you have any curiosity about coal-fired pizza, go now! You may not have the chance later, methinks, but if you're going to drive out there, have a Plan B in mind, just in case!

                                  1. re: Warthog

                                    Such odd occurences there. A friend and I went there back in September to check it out after reading the reports here. Drove all the way out there from Cockeysville only to arrive and find that the oven wasn't "hot enough" and that it would probably be ready in an hour. It's after 8pm on a Friday night and you don't have the oven hot enough???

                                    Turns out the person we were talking to was the owner and he placed the blame on the morning guy who "didn't put enough coal" into the oven so the temperature dipped and he was now restarting it. So much for those people who came in after placing a phone order and were told the same.

                                    We ended up chatting with this guy for awhile about the oven - of which he asked if we were from "the media." Odd. But odder still was his suspicious attitude about our conversation regarding the oven as though we were going to build a place next door. No, we're just people who enjoy reading about food and learning more about the processes.

                                    From there we digressed to a conversation that he brought up about how his business partners were helping the expansion and that they were "NFL players from Miami." I don't know about the rest of the public but "NFL players" and "restauranteur" sound like bad recipes to me, i.e. Ray Lewis' BBQ.

                                    We decided to jet and get dinner elsewhere that night and while I'm fascinated to try this coal fired pizza, the continuing thread on their lack of business basics demonstrates that it's not worth the effort driving all the way out there with such a high probability that they will be closed or somehow incapacitated to serve us.

                                    1. re: onocoffee

                                      My wife and I stopped there on a whim Friday night, and decided to try a pizza. 9pm on a Friday night, and we were the only customers to be seen. There was a guy and a girl working, well actually sitting at a table watching tv, seemed surprised they had a customer to attend to. They were kind of wierd, something out of Gummo almost. Anyway, unsure what was good, I asked them to rec a pizza/toppings. I got blank stares and a long pause, until the kid said peperoni, and the girl said mushrooms/onions. So i took both options and did half on each. To keep this short, the girl took almost twenty minutes just prepping the pie with toppings etc, before it even hit the oven. Then, the two were constantly pulling out the pie and looking at each other, as if they were debating on the status of it. Finally, they pulled it out, and boxed it up, telling me the size is actually bigger than a large, as if I should feel honored to have been gotten away with a larger pie. Anyway, pizza was alright, could have been cooked a little longer, more crispier. It was thin crusted, a little sloppy, but the sweeter sauce is sort of tasty. Overall, I prob wouldn't go back. Wasn't worth, the 45 minutes and $20 for a pizza.

                            2. So yesterday, after reading all of these posts, I became very intrigued about this joint. Enough so that I convinced my Mom and sister that we needed to eat pizza for dinner. My sister and I jumped in the car and drove to the Phat Pug and arrived at 7pm on Sunday...and drum roll...all the lights were on, tvs were on, but the door was locked and nobody could be seen on the inside. I waited fifteen minutes and no one ever appeared, not even after some solid knocking and a bit of honking of the horn. There wasn't even a sign saying "be back in ten."

                              I will say that this only increased my curiosity. The only thing I could really think of is that they are laundering money. Maybe that was because I just watched Good Fellas.

                              Also, the phone number still is not operational so the only way to get the pizza is to show up, but that is a risk in the first place because no one is there.

                              Very strange. I am even more interested!

                              1. I can't figure out why everyone wastes their time and money on this goofey place when you can go to Cousins,Dominic's, Serpico's (haven't tried them yet),De Santis and Giovanna's which are all pretty close by and actually want your busineess.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                                  Because, although the places you mentioned do have pizza which is a step up from Dominos, the crust in a coal fired oven is completely distinct. Again, when I want good pizza, I will continue to drive from Perry Hall to Harford County to get pizza from Italian Sensations.

                                  1. re: carey24

                                    Why don't you start a thread about Italian Sensations, I live near Perry Hall too and might try them if you tell us a little bit. Have you tried:
                                    Dominick's Pizza 8864 Belair Rd. (410) 248-1090 or
                                    De Santis 9638 Belair Rd (410) 256-2770

                                    Dominick's has 2 locations, has a special price for 2 large pizzas and delivers. It is more of a plain oven pizza
                                    De Santis has good pizza, but I am not sure if they deliver - you may have to pick it up. De Santis has some kind of a special oven/crust like they use at the famous Matthew's.

                                    1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                                      Desantis has the Matthew's Pizza recipe. They do not deliver. As for a plain oven pizza, Deniro's Pizza and Subs has a decent pie. They are located close to Desantis, just across Belair Road.

                                      1. re: bmore_flavor

                                        According to this old article (2000) :
                                        "The one twist are the pizzas--or, should I say, as the menu calls them, tomato pies--which DiSantis' imports from Highlandtown's famed Matthew's Pizzeria,..."

                                        Has anyone ever eaten pizzas from both DiSantis and Matthew's to see if one is better then the other or if they are the exact same?

                                        1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                                          I think they are pretty much the same. Of course I did not do a side by side comparison.

                                2. Wow, I really ran the gamut of emotions from the top of this thread to the bottom. I had never heard of "coal fired pizza" until seeing it in Food and Wine or the NYTimes at some point this week. So I was very excited in the beginning, having answered my original question of "where to eat tomorrow" with something different and, to me, exciting. By the end, I'd realized this place was just another good idea in over its head. The posts that mentioned "opening places in [the trendy] Fed Hill and Canton" long before working out the kinks, or manning up with knowledgable staff in the original location is indicative of the delusions of grandeur that newcomers to the restaurant business can fall into. Love the idea of the coal fired pizza, but to pull off something like that you need a quaterback that's married to the craft and the success of the idea, not someone immediately planning their next move. What a shame. Will check back here to see if this ever resurrects itself as a viable establishment. I wonder if the "coal fired" permit is transferrable to another owner?

                                  BTW, thanks to the posters who went into the technical details of such an operation. I'm new to these baords, and I enjoy reading "nuts and bolts" details.