The wood-fired pizza trend in the Rochester area continues. A recent entrant is ChaCha's WoodFired Bar & Grill in Penfield. It's in the former site of Angus House & Lounge, a steakhouse that folded in 2015.
My daughter and I had dinner at ChaCha's a few weeks ago. We sat in the bar area, the better to watch the pizzaiolo prepare our pies. On our weeknight visit, things were modestly busy, and it was a pleasant setting, with red- and orange-painted walls that I'd call lurid were it not for the star of the show, the blazing pizza oven.
According to their online menu, ChaCha's pizzas are "100% wood fired" - no gas "assistance" - and the "oven cooks at 720 degrees resulting in a crisp and always delicious pizza!" Based on this visit, I won't disagree.
A number of ChaCha's specialty pizzas sounded good, but I got my usual Margherita. My daughter, as is also usual, went the carnivorous route, with a "Meat Monster."
The crust on both pies was quite good: thin, charred underneath but not burned, and still pliable. It had a chewy texture, and a fresh-bread flavor, accented by toasty notes. The edge was shaped into a well-formed cornicione, which in the photo may make the pie look a little deeper than it was.
The cornicione was only a little darkened, suggesting that the floor of the oven was quite hot, but that the pizza had not been put too close to the flame in the back. Some wood-fired devotees might like the edge a bit more charred, but I preferred this to some pies I've had that are pale underneath, and then given a quick charring along the perimeter, just to give the pizza that wood-fired look.
On top, the tomato sauce, which contained small chunks of tomato, was not heavily seasoned, but had a bright flavor. The fresh mozzarella was thinly sliced but covered most of the pie. It was just melted, neither browned nor rubbery. A leaf of fresh basil had been applied to each of the eight slices, as soon as the pie came out of the oven, from the looks of it, as they were just barely wilted.
The careful arrangement of the toppings made for an eye-pleasing pie. Food's visual appeal can enhance our enjoyment of it, and this was an attractive, as well as a tasty, pie.
I don't typically go for meat-laden pizza, but in the interest of research I did of course have a slice of my daughter's pie. The Meat Monster is topped with red sauce, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, meatball, prosciutto, ham & mozzarella. That's a lot for a thin-crust pie, in particular, but while the toppings here were far from skimpy, they were not so abundant as to overwhelm the crust. Still, this was a knife-and-fork kind of pizza.
ChaCha's offers 15 specialty pizzas, including a clams casino pie that tempted me, and "ChaCha's Favorite," with red sauce, capicola, salami, caramelized onions, cherry peppers, and fresh mozzarella, all drizzled with a balsamic glaze. Sounds good. Or make your own, from a wide list of toppings.
Aside from pizza, ChaCha's offers an interesting selection of hot sandwiches, burgers, pasta, steak, chicken and seafood. Check out the menu for yourself, as there are too many intriguing dishes for me to list. On a return visit, I'd be seriously torn between trying a different pizza and trying a different entree altogether. Either way, I think I'd try the Boursin Cheese Fries: "crispy french fried potatoes topped with a sauce made of boursin cheese, white wine & shallots topped with scallions drizzled with sriracha." There's a relatively modest but diverse wine and beer list.
With each announcement of a new wood-fired pizzeria opening around town, I fear that more and more restaurateurs are simply jumping on the bandwagon, but not always doing their homework or turning out a quality product. Not so here. These were well-prepared, flavorful pizzas.
ChaCha's Woodfired Bar & Grill, 2126 Five Mile Line Rd., Penfield
Tue. - Thu. 4:00 - 9:00, Fri. & Sat. 4:00 - 10:00, Sun. 4:00 - 9:00. Closed Mon.