Wednesday, August 23, 2028

Why Should You Read My Reviews And Subscribe To My Blog?

I served my country in the United States Air Force for over 20 years and have visited 41 countries over the last 35 years, most without spending over $75 per night for a nice hotel room and dining in excellent restaurants for well under $25 per person. How do I do it? Through diligent research, exploration, trial and error, and local knowledge.
Would you like to stay in a central, 3-star hotel in a major city for under $20 per night? How about a room with a balcony and view of the Himalayas while attending teachings with the Dalai Lama for just $5 per night? Or a beachfront hotel for $13 per night? Maybe a meal prepared by a 5-star chef for less than $20? Well, you have come to the right place ...

Having several popular travel blogs and received numerous accolades from several of the top travel and restaurant websites/apps (Yelp, TripAvisor, Zomato, Tabelog,, you can trust my opinions. 

Unlike many reviewers who are either afraid to tell the truth or have personal relationship with businesses and biased views, I reserve 5-stars (10 Bombs on my blog) for only the most flawless restaurants, accommodations, businesses, attractions and destinations, those where you absolutely and without a doubt get the most “bang-for-the-buck”.

I try to remain as objective as possible in all of my reviews, providing the pros and cons as I see them and a rating based on the overall “value” as compared to similar entities in similar locations. I accept no "freebies" and only identify myself as a critic after having been a customer and paid the bill, so you can trust my reviews.

Here is a breakdown of my ratings both on my blogs (where I use a ten point scale) and on travel and dining websites (that all use 5 point Likert-type scales) ...

If I hate a place, they get 1-2 Bombs (1-star)

If so-so with numerous”issues", they get 3-4 Bombs (2-stars)

If average (the vast majority of businesses fall into this category if you look at the distribution of my ratings), they get 5-6 Bombs (3-stars)

If above average, they get 7-8 Bombs (4-stars)

If they are one of the very rare “best of the best” values in my experience, they get 9-10 Bombs (5-stars – I always round up from bombs to stars because I use a 10 point Likert-type scale in order to be more discernible). 

A recent Portland resident, I am extremely excited by the prospects of my new hometown's culinary delights and endless things to do. I hope you find my new blog, TravelValue: Portland, Oregon, helpful and inspiring in your quest for the Best of Portland.

Now that you understand my philosophy and ratings, on to my reviews …


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Title: Why Should You Read My Reviews And Subscribe To My Blog?

Key Words: combatcritic, travelvalue, travel, value, combat, critic, review, reviews, objective, restaurant, hotel, attraction, destination, Italy, USA, India, Asia, Europe

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Vancouver, WA: Great, True Wood-Fired Neapolitan Pizza In SW Vancouver ... HOOAH!

Pizzeria La Sorrentina
3000 SE 164th Avenue, Suite 107
Vancouver, WA 98683
(360) 314-4447
Prices $$$$

Amy and Daisuke Matsumoto ran Pizzeria Las Sorrentina out of a trailer in NW Vancouver, but decided it was time to expand across town to the southwest part of town and am I glad they did!
We had a bad experience last year, having driven 20 miles to try their famous pizza Napoletana (Naples, Italy style), but were turned away just 2 minutes after closing. I was unhappy, but Daisuke and I messaged back and forth, got to know each other, and I promised I would give them another try. We were there last Sunday on just their second night of dine-in service.

I never knew many of these businesses existed because their backs are on 164th, so it took some time to find the place, even with Google Maps.  The pizzeria is in a large, new space with a big dining room, huge kitchen, and massive patio out back on 164th (that will be open soon). With COVID-19 social distancing protocols in place, less than half the tables were available and the counter/bar was closed altogether. They are still in the process of decorating and expanding the menu, but the place is attractive and they have a nice selection of appetizers (antipasti), salads (insalate), pizzas (pizze), pastas (tipi di pasta), and desserts (dolci) although I do not recall seeing a drink menu.

We were warmly greeted by a young lady in a mask and seated by the exit to the patio. Menus are a no-no during the crisis, so you have to scan a barcode upon entry in order to view their offerings. I decided on the Pizza Diavola ($16 - in the devils way), my tomato-hating wife ordered the Pizza Quattro Formaggi ($15 - four cheeses), my son got the traditional Pizza Margherita ($12 - named after Queen Margherita of Italy and is red, white, and green in honor of the Italian flag), and his fiancè the Pizza Marinara with veggies ($12 - vegan).

Diavola - $16

Quattro Formaggi - $15

Margherita -$12

Marinara (Vegan) - $12
All of the pizzas were Neapolitan size, bigger than most individual 'wood-fired' pizzas you get in the US, and looked just like the hundreds I have eaten in Napoli (Naples - I was stationed there for 3 years, having met my wife, a Sicilian, in 2000). I tried my wife's pizza and it was quite tasty, a fact we both agreed on, and a thumbs-up from someone who grew up in Naples, the birthplace of pizza, is high praise indeed. My son's and his fiancès pizzas were perfectly cooked as well and they both raved about them. Daisuke was trained as a pizzaiuolo (pizza maker) in Naples where the ingredients and baking methods for Neapolitan pizza are strictly regulated.

I consider myself a bit of an aficionado when it comes to pizza Napoletana, having been trained as a chef (in my spare time) during my three years living there and attended a Vera Pizza Napoletana (true Neapolitan pizza) course in 2019. Therefore, I am a certified pizzaiuolo in my own right.

Pizza diavola is one of my favorites, along with pizza con salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and sautéed broccoli rabe, a Neapolitan specialty), so I am used to having it prepared in a certain way because pizzaiuoli (plural) in Naples DO NOT experiment with recipes. You will not get pineapple, chicken, or BBQ sauce on your pizza in Naples, no matter how much you whine. Diavola (the devil's way) refers to the olio piccante (EVO mixed with hot peppers and left to soak for months) sprinkled liberally over a Margherita pizza topped with sliced salami. Daisuke's diavola comes with 'mama lil’ peppers', which I thought were hot, spicy peppers like those in olio piccante, but they were not. Instead, I got diced red bell peppers in a very slightly spicy agrodolce (sweet and sour) sauce on top of mine, not quite what I was expecting. It was good, but I am not a huge sweet and sour kinda guy and mama lil' peppers overwhelmed the pizza so that I could barely detect the wonderful mozzarella and salami. I had to ask for some olio piccante and was a tad disappointed because it was not what I was expecting.

The pizzas are moderately priced by West Coast standards, so I will not ding them there, but a top-notch pizza diavola in Naples goes for around $5.65 and a Margherita is just $4.50 most places, a little less than one-third of La Sorrentina's prices. We did not have any appetizers, drinks (except water), or dessert (even though Daisuke was kind enough to offer) and the total for four came to $51 and change (not including tip), a reasonably priced Father's Day meal in the Portland area.
Daisuke and CombatCritic
I am looking forward to returning to try new and different things, and I hope that Daisuke and Amy are hugely successful in their brand new location. The COVID crisis has decimated many restaurants and businesses, an extremely difficult industry in any case, but I believe La Sorrentina will flourish in their new location. 
Salsiccia e Friarielli (Naples - $5.65)
I have just two recommendations: 1) Lose the 'mama lil' peppers' and drizzle olio piccante on your salami pizza to make it a true 'diavola'; and 2) add a Pizza con Salsiccia e Friarielli to the menu. In bocca al lupo Daisuke (literally, 'in the mouth of the wolf' - an Italian phrase for good luck, to which you should always respond 'crepe', not with a 'thank you' because that would reverse your luck).

CombatCritic Gives Pizzeria La Sorrentina 9 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Nine Bombs Equates To:

Translation for Civilians: "U.S. Marine Response To A Verbal Greeting Or As An Expression Of Enthusiasm"

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Title: Vancouver, WA: Great, True Wood-Fired Neapolitan Pizza In SW Vancouver ... HOOAH!

Key Words: Vancouver, WA, Pizzeria La Sorrentina, pizzeria, Sorrentina, wood-fired Neapolitan, pizza, pasta, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, Facebook

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Dallas, TX: Southwest

I have flown Southwest for many years and have always been impressed with their efficiency, professionalism, and friendliness of the airline and its crews. Having been an Air Force Transporter, working with military aircraft and passengers for many years, I know how difficult a job they have and the constraints they must work under, so it is about time that I wrote this review.

Flying from Kansas City to Portland on Flight 518 (1/31/17), my Las Vegas based crew were Captain Criswell, First Officer Diamantopoulos, Flight Attendant Lisa, Flight Attendant Rob, and Flight Attendant Armando. 

Southwest's boarding system is second to none. Lufthansa, being German and typically anal, also has very efficient boarding procedures and crews, but they are cold and aloof as most Germans are perceived to be (I am half German by the way, so don't go all PC on me you flaming liberals). We lined up in two rows, everybody respecting their numbered place in line. There is no need for the massive gaggle of passengers wanting to be the first ones on the plane as is the case with most airlines. The TV monitors tell you when to board and you effortlessly hand the agent your boarding pass and pick your seat. That is correct, no pre-assigned seats.

I was first warmly greeted by Lisa, then Rob came, as friendly as can be, to take my drink order. By the way, booze is just $5 on Southwest with room for a profit margin, but not gouging passengers like the major airlines do ($8-$9 for a drink). Then Armando graciously insisted that I pass on the way to the loo (that's toilet for you Yanks), even though he had a tray full of drinks in his hand.

Unlike United Express, which we normally fly out of KC (because we normally travel overseas), Southwest's aircraft was modern and spotless, even the loos. United Express planes are gross and held together with duct tape. I kiss the ground and thank the Lord every time I arrive safely on United Express and I am very far what you would call a bible thumper. Half of the plane was full, so we even had our choice of seats with just one person to a row if we wanted.

Southwest is always an easy ride and the crews are routinely friendly if not downright hilarious. I have flown there US-only competitors and there is no competition in my mind. Compared to the stuffy, I hate passengers, attitudes on United, Delta and other major airlines, Southwest is a breath of fresh air and the crew of Flight 518 was a delight!

Thank you Southwest and thank you Captain Cris, First Officer I can't pronounce you Greek last name, Lisa, Rob and Armando ... it was a pleasure flying with you ... WELL DONE!

CombatCritic Gives Southwest Airlines And The Crew Of Flight 518 10 Bombs Out Of 10 And, An Airline First Ever, Spot On My "WALL OF FAME" ... More Bombs Are Better!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Calabasas, CA: NBA Superstar and LA Lakers Great Kobe Bryant Dead At The Age Of 41 (January 26th, 2020)

Title: Calabasas, CA: NBA Superstar and LA Lakers Great Kobe Bryant Dead At The Age Of 41 (January 26th, 2020)

Key Words: basketball, bryant, CA, Calabasa, crash, dead, death, hall of fame, helicopter, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, killed, kobe, kobe bryant, la, LA LAkers, Lakers, national, NBA, superstar, tribute,