Elizabeth’s Pizza Ristorante Italiano – Hope Mills, NC

I headed down the street to Hope Mills after turning off of Raeford Road this morning. I was going over to see if I could get some coffee candy at an Asian Market. The market is called Pan’s Asian Market. The signs on the door said it would open at 9 am (Black Friday), and I had about 15 minutes to kill. I walked next door to a thrift store that had mostly women’s clothing and then came back to my car to wait. Just as I was getting into my car, I noticed a new, silver Mercedes with a man and a woman in it pulling up a couple of spaces down from me. An Oriental man and woman exited the car and went into the market. I waited a few minutes and then looked up to see that the OPEN sign was now lit. I got out and went in. I heard a female voice welcome me, but I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, or see the person. A little later I would see that two women were sitting behind the checkout counter, near the front door, watching an Oriental TV broadcast in a little browser window, and a game of Windows Solitaire open next to it.

As I walked down the first isle, the Oriental man was just coming out of a bathroom with a glass coffee pot filled with water. He disappeared into the back. I walked slowly up and down each isle stopping to look and pick up various items. I didn’t have a shopping basket, so I would hold several items until I reached the end of the isle and put them near the corner end of the isle so that I could come back for them later. I picked up some seedless Tamarind paste, a couple of types of rice wine vinegar, several sauces, and almost at the end, near the front counter, found the coffee candy and got several types of it. I also bought a large bag of black rice. I think the total came to about $32. As I was leaving, I complimented the woman on the new silver gray Mercedes.

I then drove down the road toward Hope Mills and shortly noticed two businesses, also on the left: an Indian Market, and a bakery. I noted one vehicle parked near the front of the Indian Market. I pulled up close enough to see that this store opened at 10 am. I still had about 20 minutes before it would open. I then went over to the bakery and went inside. There were a few people standing about, and a baker was talking to a gentleman there. I guessed from their conversation that the gentleman might be a restraunt owner that bought bread from there. I told the baker (he was dressed in white) that I was just looking and as he turned to go into the back (where I heard a woman’s voice) he was still talking with the gentleman about keeping a dozen rolls for him, if he wanted them. I’m not sure of the quantity or type of baked good he mentioned, but it was something to the effect that I just wrote. There were several samples of baked goods on top of the glass counters and quite a few good looking and smelling sugary smelling baked goods on the other side of the glass.

I drove away and continued down the street toward Hope Mills. A short distance away, on the right, I noticed a nice looking Italian restaurant (Elizabeth’s Pizza). It was still too early for lunch, but I made a note that I might want to eat there sometime.

I drove down past the non-existant lake of Hope Mills. After several years of the old dam being broken, the town had a new mega concrete dam built. It wasn’t in service for too long before the lake water found its way beneath the concrete dam and the whole lake drained again. I recall before this fiasco, there had been an alligator spotted in the lake and it had made its way on the other side of the dam, and I always thought that when the dam broke, the alligator might have been washed down the creek to the Cape Fear River. Not likely, but possible. Now the lake bed is just a depression with brush growing in it. The homes along the lake front must have really lost their value during this time.

A short distance from the lake there was an antiques store. I had gone in here several years ago and looked around. It was open so I pulled around back to park and walked along the side of the building and into the front doors. The owners, a 68 years old man and woman were sitting at the front. They mentioned their age during an extended conversation I had with them both.

They said they were planning to sell everything and close the antiques business because it was no longer profitable. Apparently the new FSU police chief was formerly the Town of Hope Mills Police Chief, which they mentioned.

I didn’t find anything to buy,but there were several interesting items. An old radio which was a long wooden box with knobs on the front was interesting. The top was a lid that easily opened to reveal the empty glass tube sockets and some other simple circuitry. I left, thanking the owners for their time and talk.

I made my way back past Elizabeth’s Pizza and turned into the Indian Market parking lot. As I entered the door of the market, the spice smells reached out to me. An Indian man and woman were working at the front of the store near the checkout counter.

I walked down one isle noting several veggies and items that I did not recognize. I turned and started walking up the next isle toward the front of the store. I noted several spices including some good looking coriander and fennel seeds. The coriander wasn’t quite as flavorful as some that I already had at home, but the fennel seeds were flavorful and slightly different looking from some that I already had. *Near the front of that isle, the Indian gentleman came toward me asking if he could help. I started my conversation asking about some spices and then going back around to the first isle and asking about other items there. There was some fresh white Turmeric next to some yellow. It was slightly smaller than the yellow, and looked a little like "baby" ginger. It does have a different flavor from the yellow Turmeric.

I bought some black rock salt, which ended up having a strong sulfur taste. It was actually good with some pistachios that I had bought earlier. The salt looked almost like frozen root beer. I bought a package of Dhana Dal and Ajwain seeds.

After I left the Indian Market, I headed up to Elizabeth’s Pizza. By now there were about 4 automobiles parked outside, and a gentleman with a cast or brace on his foot was getting out of his car and heading to the front door. I young black waitress/hostess opened the door to welcome us both. She asked if we were together, and then said we could site where ever we liked. I asked for the bathroom.

The restaurant was well decorated. I asked later and was told that it was a chain and that there was a location in Virginia and one elsewhere (I do not recall where, but think it was also in NC).

The young black woman, dress sharply in a black outfit, was both professional and attentive to my requests. I even asked if I could have lime instead of lemon with my unsweet tea. She said she would check, and shortly brought back my glass of tea with a slice of lime. They have a bar, so I am guessing that she might have gotten the lime from there.

I looked at the menu and decided to get the Eggplant Parmigiana, that came with a side of spaghetti (with marinara or meat sauce) and a house salad. I ordered the homemade Ranch dressing. There was also bread with the meal.

The bread was a little dry and not very flavorful. This is something that I think they could easily rectify, but I am guessing that much of the menu is probably pre-prepared and perhaps frozen. I did see the chef, which I also took to be the manager, come to the front to welcome several guests as they waited inside the front door. I thought it an oversight that the sharply dressed waiters & waitresses seemed to disappear from the front, leaving the customers to wait, in limbo. The chef had on street clothes with an apron, and although clean, I thought it would give the wrong impression to customers.

The salad was basic, with a small amount of onion and a few slices of green olives and a couple of small, halved, cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes were relatively tasteless, as are most restaurant tomatoes. I would suggest paying the extra for a tasty tomato that would make the salad memorable. The Ranch dressing was good. The salad was well prepared, but one that would become old pretty quickly (after just a couple of visits).

As I finished the salad, I heard a bell ring from the back and shortly the waitress came to my table and asked if was ready for my pasta. I said I was ready and she brought it soon to my booth. The eggplant was thinly sliced and flavorful. The meat sauce for the spaghetti was good, but neither sauce strayed far from a basic tomato sauce. I guess restaurants just don’t want to offend the masses, and that makes their sauces non-descript.

During my visit, I mentioned that the restaurant was beautiful from both the outside and inside and that it reminded me of Maggiano’s at the Streets of South Point Mall in Durham. I found the Maggiano’s web site, on my phone, and showed it to my waitress. She wrote down the name. Not sure why she was interested. I took it to be that she might want a job there, although she never gave any indication toward that end.

I left my waitress a $5 tip because she had spent what I thought was the extra time and effort to make my visit enjoyable. Getting the slice of lime went a long way toward that end.

The restaurant has a small alcove just inside the front door that appears to be a private dining area for about 12 persons, with about 3 tables and a large mirror on one wall. There is also a patio with several tables & chairs just off the front entrance, and a To Go entrance on the side of the building.

I might go back to Elizabeth’s Pizza someday, but it wouldn’t necessarily be because of the food. It was good, but not special, but the atmosphere and my waitress made it enjoyable.

I left and once again was on Raeford Road. I did notice as I came to the intersection that they are clearing a way so that there will probably be a road crossing at this point and probably linking up to the road that goes past Kohl’s and the book store and on to Independence Mall. I guess they have had to demolish or move some houses along the way.

A short distance down Raeford Road, I decided to stop into Hawley’s Bicycle Shop. This is a store that I would never, or had never gone into, up to this point. I have started to visit some businesses that I really have no interest in buying anything from them… but just "seeing how they play the game" for whatever they are selling. Another store was a billiards and darts specialty store on the other side of town.

I looked at the many bikes they had on display and a couple of young clerks came up to me and offered their attention and expertise, "If I had any questions". I looked a short time, and then left.

So, that was my Black Friday adventure. I returned home, and as I watched TV, I opened many of the items I had bought and tried a taste of each.

NOTE: I have several pictures that I took either of the products or businesses that I tried or visited. These photos, not all, are on my Flickr site (link on the navigation column).

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