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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Little Italy, Hornell

Another hiking trip, another pizzeria.
Using this book by William Ehling, I went on a hike last weekend near Hornell, mostly along the Finger Lakes Trail. If you're a hiker, and you'd like to find some places around here for day hikes, Bill Ehling (who died earlier this year at age 93) should  be your first go-to guy, and you should pick up his books. I also can't say enough about CNY Hiking and the Finger Lakes Trail Conference.
At any rate, while I was down that way, I stopped by Little Italy in Hornell. I liked the name, the building looked good, and so did the pizza.
Forttunately, the pizza proved to be as good as it looked. I got one cheese and one pepperoni slice. Underneath, there were some faint screen marks - which in my experience too often means a soft, oily crust - but the underside was dry to the touch, with some surface crackling. As you can see in one of the photos, when the cheese slice was folded, it cracked but didn't break.That's what I mean by "crackling."
If I may digress for a moment, let me explain that in general, I like that sort of crackling, but I don't view it as essential. I've tremendously enjoyed Neapolitan-style pizzas that are wet in the middle and need to be eaten with a knife and fork. I generally don't like crusts that are crunchy but soaked through with oil and essentially pan fried.
But I do appreciate a crust that strikes a balance between a chewy interior and a crackly bottom. It's very similar to a good loaf of bread with a crisp crust. A pizza crust needs to be just a little thick to make that work, and this crust did just that.
The crust also had a pleasant, breadlike aroma. Thickness-wise, it was thin to medium, aside from the outer edge, which was thick and chewy.
The slices were topped with a tomatoey sauce, which had a thick consistency, and some subtle herbal notes. The layer of processed mozzarella cheese was thin and pretty uniform, and rather well browned on the cheese slice - a tad too well browned for me. The pepperoni was thin-sliced and OK but not exceptional.
Little Italy offers pizza in five sizes, with 13 toppings to choose from. They also do four specialty pizzas:  white garlic, chicken wing, "meat craze," and veggie.
The menu is available here, so I won't go through it completely, but I'm intrigued by the "pizza crust sandwich," which is described as "An individual dough baked with butter garlic sauce, loaded with chipotle mayonnaise, your choice of steak (with sweet & tangy), chicken (with Little Italy sauce), or cheeseburger with bacon. Topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion." Next time I'm down that way I think I'll check that out.
I liked Little Italy, and I liked their pizza. It strikes me as a fine hometown pizzeria. These slices were very good, if basic pizza, a cut above average, so I'll give them a B.

Little Italy Pizzeria, 7498 Seneca Rd., Hornell
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Country Kitchen & Pizzeria, Perry

I've done several posts now on pizza in Perry, NY, which for its size has a surprising number of places to choose from.
On a recent drive down that way, I stopped for lunch with my wife and daughter at Country Kitchen & Pizzeria.
A "Country Kitchen" sounds like exactly the kind of place you'd find on Main Street in a place like Perry, and I mean that in a good way. I love a good small-town restaurant. But "Country Kitchen & Pizzeria"? I was intrigued. Not necessarily hopeful, but intrigued. At the very least, I knew I had to try the pizza.
So we stopped for lunch. I ordered a slice of pizza and five wings. And all in all it was, well, OK.
The wings were pretty good, a little on the small side, but crisp and nicely coated with hot sauce.
The pizza slice was not quite as enjoyable, but it was acceptable. It was thick and somewhat chewy - not dense, but dotted with myriad small air holes, with a medium-soft texture.
The underside was pancake-like, with some oil-induced browning and a few bubbly spots. The edge was thick and chewy, brown on top and pale underneath.
The sauce was a bit dry, and the cheese, which had migrated toward the center of the pie, was chewy.
I would stop at CK&P again, but not for the pizza. My wife and daughter were happy with their food, and the service was good. It seemed to be a gathering place for locals, and I enjoyed my visit.
But the pizza was below par, in my opinion. It was reminiscent of convenience store pizza. I'm going to decline to give it a searchable label, because I don't want readers to jump to the conclusion that I didn't like this place overall. But I can't recommend the pizza.

Country Kitchen & Pizzeria, 34 S. Main St., Perry, NY
585 - 237 - 5640

6 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily

Monday, September 8, 2014

Eddie O'Brien's, Farmington

The wood-fired pizza trend continues. From my perspective, it’s been hit and miss - I've had some world-class wood-fired pizza, and some clunkers - but if nothing else, it's given me a steady stream of new places to try.
One of which is Eddie O’Brien’s in Farmington, near the racetrack/casino. This is the third Eddie O'Brien'’s location - the others are in Canandaigua and Geneva - but the only one that offers pizza. My wife and I stopped here recently for dinner.
My first instinct was to go for the Margherita, but I ended up ordering “The Bronx,” partly because its NY Yankees connotations caught my eye, but also because it just plain sounded good.
And it proved to be a good choice. Topped with sausage, pepperoni, red onions, roasted garlic, San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh basil and mozzarella, it was a very tasty pizza.
The crust was thin, with a crisp, blistered edge that was blackened in spots, and dusted with powdery Parmesan cheese, which frankly didn't do much for me. The interior was chewy and pleasantly breadlike, but a bit unevenly done. Some parts of the underside were well blackened and others were relatively pale, as you can see in the photos. The pie was also a tad floury underneath.
But it was certainly a flavorful pizza. The toppings were about as heavy as this thin crust could withstand, but it wasn't overloaded. There was also enough meat to satisfy the carnivore in me, but not so much as to overwhelm the other toppings. The tomato sauce was rich and slightly sweet, there was plenty of aromatic roasted garlic (can you ever have too much roasted garlic?), and an even distribution of shredded basil. The mozzarella cheese was well melted and smooth. I could easily have finished the whole thing in one sitting, but I exercised enough self-restraint to take some of it home for the next day. (It did not survive the next day.)
In addition to The Bronx and Margherita pizzas, Eddie O'Brien's offers a veggie pizza with a basil pesto base, a "Bostonian" (which I took to be a "Bronx" alternative, much to my displeasure) topped with prosciutto, sherry mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, tomato sauce and mozzarella, and a BBQ chicken pizza. If you prefer to design your own pie, they also have a lineup of 20 toppings to choose from. 
If pizza's not your thing, well, what's wrong with you? But if so, Eddie's also has a full menu of burgers, chicken, pasta and more.
The physical setting was comfortable, although the place has a somewhat chain-like feel. The latter is to be expected, I guess, given its location and newness. The ceiling is high, and a partition separates the dining and bar areas. The interior is done in dark wood, but the room was well lit at dinnertime thanks to the large plate glass windows. Sports fans will appreciate the numerous televisions (our booth had its own B&W TV, although I couldn't change the channel directly), but the place wasn't overly sports-crazy, at least on this NFL preseason Sunday.
Before leaving, I spoke briefly with the pizzaiolo, who told me that they use a mix of hardwoods for their wall-mounted oven. They can crank it up to 900 degrees, but it's typically maintained at a temp well below that.
I liked this pizza, and I liked Eddie O'Brien's. The pizza wasn't flawless. It was a little unevenly done, a little floury underneath, and I would've liked it a bit more crisp. But it had its virtues. The crust had good bread flavor, and the pizza was tasty.
This is a pretty new operation, so I'm declining to give it a grade at this point. I found a lot here to like, and I want to go back. For now, I'd say it's worth a stop, for pizza or otherwise. And I'm intrigued see how the pizza evolves. 

Eddie O'Brien's
5975 Route 96, Farmington NY 14425

Serving Food:
Weeknights until 11:00 pm & Weekends until 12:00 am

Bar Hours:
All week until 1 am
Saturday until 2 am

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