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Monday, March 23, 2015

Akron, NY Part I: PizzaBella

I took advantage of my recent visit to the Perry's Ice Cream plant in Akron, NY to hit a couple of pizzerias in town.
Conveniently, they are located on the same block, on the north side of Main Street. First up was PizzaBella.
My cheese slice was a New York style, thin-crust pizza. And it was a good one.
The underside was spottily browned, but not quite blackened. It was crisp, and a little crackly along the outer edge. The crust was a little chewy, and very thin, but firm. I got some nice toasty notes from underneath, but there wasn't much interior to speak of. The narrow cornicione was crisp.
On top, the sauce and cheese likewise stuck to the NY-style profile - lightly seasoned tomato sauce, and a well-melted layer of mozzarella, with a few pockets of sauce poking through. The pizza was very well balanced, with the crust, sauce and cheese in good enough proportion to complement but not overwhelm each other.
PizzaBella offers 15 pizza toppings, and 14 gourmet pizzas. The latter range from an "Old Fashioned" with tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese, to a "Godfather" topped with tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, mushrooms, green pepper, onions, black olives and mozzarella. They also offer several white pizzas.
PizzaBella is a convenient place to stop for takeout, but it's also a full-service restaurant. Aside from pizza, you can get wings, salads, burgers, wraps, hot and cold subs, calzones and tacos. For more substantial fare, PizzaBella offers several pasta dishes, chicken or sausage cacciatore, and eggplant or chicken Parmigiana. They also serve wine and beer in the dining room.
Akron, which is about 55 miles west of Rochester, is more within the Buffalo metro area than in Rochester's. So I'll not give it a grade. Aside from its neighbor pizzeria just up the block (which I'll review soon), I simply don't have enough experience of pizza around there to say whether it's truly one of the best, or "just" above average.
But make no mistake, this was very good pizza. I could pick a few nits, I suppose - the underside was a bit more browned than charred (which affects the aroma and flavor as it hits your palate, although there you start getting into matters of personal preference), and the crust was so thin that it lacked much of an interior (though to its credit it was not floppy), but I would definitely go back, and if you're in the area, it's well worth stopping for.
Lastly, I should mention that PizzaBella is going to be moving down the street, to 66 Main Street, in a few months. Just keep that in mind.

PizzaBella's Italian Bistro, 42 Main St.
Akron, NY 14001

(716) 542-1122

Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Sun. 4 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Perry's Ice Cream

Editor's Note: I try to keep this blog pretty much only about pizza, but I'm making an exception here, as this relates to an exceptional event for me - an inside look at the place where they make my favorite ice cream. I justify this decision on three grounds: (1) I'll be following up this post shortly with a new post reviewing some pizza I tried during my journey; (2) several local pizzerias serve this ice cream; and (3) it's my blog, and I want to post this.
I don't have a huge sweet tooth - at a party, I'll always gravitate toward the chips, rather than the sweets - but I do love ice cream. And my go-to brand is Perry's. I love their flavors, it's made in WNY, it's reasonably priced, and it just plain tastes good.
It's also showing up in some local pizzerias, like 2 Ton Tony's in Irondequoit. It was thanks to 2TT owner Tony Proietti that I was able to arrange a visit to Perry's plant in Akron, about halfway between Batavia and Buffalo. Perry's doesn't generally offer tours to the public, so this was a real treat, literally.
For reasons, I suppose, of protecting trade secrets, I wasn't able to photograph much. The photo you see here is part of an exhibit on Perry's history on the second floor, where a visitor can also take a look at Perry's operation at work, through plate glass windows.
On the day I visited, they were making ice cream sandwiches, which ties in to Perry's origins as a supplier to local school districts. Ice cream sandwiches are one of the few fond memories I have of school cafeteria lunches.
Today, with the health police upon us, ice cream sandwiches, like pizza, have become demonized as the reason our kids are fat, so schools don't account for so much of Perry's business these days. But maybe that's worked to the advantage of the rest of us, as Perry's has expanded into supermarkets and ice cream parlors, where we have we now have many Perry's choices available to us in supermarkets. If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Bittersweet Sinphony - coffee flavored ice cream with bittersweet fudge swirls and fudge chunks. A few years ago, my local Wegmans stopped carrying it, and I shot off an email to them begging them to bring it back. I don't know if that played a part, but they've since seen the error of their ways, and it's back in the freezer case.
Many of Perry's flavors are only available seasonally, in ice cream shops. I was excited to learn that one of my favorites in that category, Fireball, may be available in packages at some point. If you're a fan of those little cinnamon candies, either the heart-shaped ones or the nuclear-meltdown-hot ones, you've got to try it.
Best of all, I got to sample some of Perry's new flavors for 2015, including Toasted Coconut and Deep Sea Treasure. Both were good, but I'd give a slight edge to the former, as I love the flavor of toasted coconut. The fact that the shreds of coconut are coated with fudge didn't hurt.
I tend to seek out unusual flavors (speaking of which, watch for an upcoming post, either here or on my Facebook page, on some Indian potato chips I found recently, but I digress), and so with what remaining room I had left in my stomach, I had to check out Movie Time, described as "popcorn flavored ice cream with sea salt caramel swirls and amazing caramel truffles." A huge whiff of buttery-popcorn aroma, with sweet and salty notes on the palate. This one would probably tend to divide people, but I enjoyed it.
As I look out my window, it seems hard to believe, but I know warmer weather is coming. And while there's always a container or two of Perry's in my freezer, one of the joys of our all-too-short summers is going with my family to our local ice cream shop for a cone. Check out Perry's Flavor Locator to see what's available in your area, and let me know if you have any recommendations.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tomaso's, Mount Morris

I have occasion to pass through Mt. Morris from time to time. When I travel, my eyes and brain have become attuned to spotting pizzerias, and some months ago, I spotted a new place, Tomaso's Trattoria. It wasn't open yet, but every time I'd pass through town, I'd give it a look. Not open. Not open. Not open.
Eventually, I figured it just wasn't going to happen, but one day, the lights were on, and there were people inside. Pizza!
I've never been to Italy, but I gather that there, a trattoria is a relatively informal restaurant that offers takeout. But here in the U.S., such terms tend to get thrown around rather loosely, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a clean, well-lit, but fairly typical pizza/sub shop, with some tables in front and a counter in back. So I'm not sure Tomaso's would qualify as a trattoria in Italy.
But that's just an observation. In the end, I don't really care what they call themselves, as long as the pizza's good. I got a couple of cheese slices to go.
The medium-to-thick crust was pretty evenly browned underneath, dry to the touch, with a light dusting of what I think was corn meal (it could've been semolina, but I think it was too coarsely ground for that). It was crisp, if not quite crackly. The texture and flavor were pretty average, unobjectionable but unremarkable. Some chewiness, some toasty notes, no noticeable defects.
The slices were topped with a thick tomato sauce, with a detecatable flavor of herbs - oregano and basil among them, I believe. The cheese seemed to be straight mozzarella, and was spottily browned on top. It was just a tad overdone, for my taste, and had started to pull away from the edge.
Tomaso's offers 17 pizza toppings (plus extra sauce or cheese) and eight specialty pizzas, including the "Meat Overload" (sausage, beef, pepperoni, bacon and ham) and, at the other end of the scale, a white spinach-artichoke pie. They also offer a 10-inch gluten-free pie.
Tomaso's menu includes hot and cold subs and wraps, wings, soups, and salads. Apparently they will also have ice cream, in season, and sidewalk tables as well.
You can read about Tomaso's background here. It's another entrant in the ongoing makeover of Mt. Morris, as detailed by the NY Times back in 2011, and by the RIT University News last year. Tbe whole thing is really quite an intriguing story.
To get back to the pizza, these were perfectly acceptable slices of pizza, but I can't say they were exceptionally good either. Considering the thickness of the crust, I would've liked a tad more sauce, and a chewier, less-well-done layer of cheese. Then we might be talking classic Rochester style pizza. As it was, they had some pluses and some minuses,
Since they couldn't have been open for too long when I stopped in (they apparently had their "soft" opening on Feb. 1), I'll forgo a grade here, but these slices were, on the whole, of average quality for the area.

Tomaso's Trattoria
40 Main Street
Mount Morris, NY
(585) 658-1045

Monday – Thursday 11:00am – 9:00pm

Friday & Saturday 11:00am –10:00pm

Sunday Noon – 8:00pm

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