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Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Review: 365 Things to Do in Ithaca, NY

My wife and I just spent a weekend in Ithaca, for no particular reason other than to get away for a couple of days, so this gives me a good opportunity to review a book that I received recently from Schiffer Publishing365 Things to Do in Ithaca, New York.
Author Laurel Guy, who has lived in Ithaca since January 1981, has assembled a fun guide to things to do in and around Ithaca. To get to 365, she had to do a bit of stretching, geographically. For example, she includes the Erie Canal, Skaneateles, and Letchworth, all of which are quite some distance from Ithaca. So think of this more as a guide to the Finger Lakes, centered on Ithaca, or things to do in and within a reasonable drive around Ithaca.
But that's more than forgiveable, considering the wealth of information here. This is about as comprehensive a guide to Ithaca as you can get, in terms of places to see and things to do. Local parks, restaurants, events, artists' studios, historical sites ... pretty much everything Ithaca and the surrounding area have to offer. It was partly thanks to this book that I knew enough to be able to enjoy visiting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and dining at Le Cafe Cent Dix.
I have a couple minor criticisms. One, the book is not organized into chapters. The 365 entries bounce from one thing to another, with no themes. But the index is well organized, so that helps.
I also would've appreciated a rough guide to the Ithaca area:  The Commons, Ithaca neighborhoods, and nearby towns. There is an area map at the end of the book, taking in most of the Finger Lakes, but a street map of downtown Ithaca would've been handy too.
Those quibbles aside, this is a keeper. During dinner at Cent Dix, our server told us that she occasionally goes to Rochester for nights out with friends. As I mentioned to my wife afterwards, it struck me funny that Ithaca residents go to Rochester to have fun, while we're going to Ithaca. But I have always enjoyed my visits there, and this book will remain a valuable resource for future trips. 

365 Things to Do in Ithaca New York
by Laurel Guy
192 pages
Schiffer Pub. (c) 2016

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Brozzetti's, Johnson City

Though I've ceased writing this blog on anything like a regular basis, I figured I'd leave myself open to doing the occasional blog post, if I felt motivated to do so.
I do, now, after finally checking off a pizzeria that had been on my to-do list for a long time:  Brozzetti's, in Binghamton.
From what I've read, this is a Binghamton pizza institution, and a love-it-or-hate-it kind of place, among locals. So when I happened to be in the area with my wife, I took advantage of the opportunity to check out Brozzetti's.
I knew, going in, that Brozzetti's doesn't sell slices. The least you can get is a 10-slice pizza, which is what I got, and shared with my wife. Plain cheese.
I was afraid it was going to take a while -- there's no seating, so we would have had to wait in the car, or just stand around -- but they keep 10-slice pizzas, boxed, in a warmer, so we got ours right away (though we did have to eat it in the car).
What apparently makes Brozzetti's pizza so divisive is the crust, which is noticeably sweet.. Not, to my taste, overly sweet, but noticeably sweet nonetheless. The recipe is apparently a closely guarded secret.
The side of the box was emblazoned with a musical jingle, with lyrics including the phrase, "The Crispy Family Dough!" Well, I can't say this was crispy. The underside was a mottled brown -- typical of pan-baked pizza -- and the interior was soft and chewy, even a bit gummy on top. I'm guessing that was largely a result of the pizza sitting in the box for some time before I got it. Having said that, it wasn't bad. We did finish the pizza. And I suspect that a pizza fresh out of the oven would've had a crisper crust.
The cheese was another interesting feature of this pizza. Brozzetti's uses a blend of cheeses, which I assume is another one of their secrets. It seemed to me to be a combination of shredded mozzarella, crumbled ricotta, and a meltey processed cheese (possibly American cheese). I could easily be wrong about any or all of those, but that's my best guess.
The sauce was fairly ordinary, with a mild tomatoey flavor. All the components of the crust/sauce/cheese triad were in reasonably good balance with each other. The overall flavor was marked by the combination of the sweet crust and the cheese.
Brozzetti's offers a pretty wide variety of toppings and specialty pies, including a chicken spiedie pie. But I think I made the right choice in going for a basic cheese pie.
Love it or hate it? Honestly, most of the time when I hear that something is love it or hate it, I manage to fall in the middle. And so I do here. If I had to pick a handful of rest-of-your-life pizzas, this wouldn't be among them. But I have a special place in my heart, and my stomach, for unique, truly local pizza. I have to put Brozzetti's in that category.

Brozzetti's Pizza, 72 Baldwin St., Johnson City, NY 13790
(607) 797-9960

Mon. - Sat. 10 a.m. - midnight, Sun. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Monday, December 19, 2016

That's All, Folks ... Sort Of

Where it all started - a labor of love
Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I've been posting less frequently, of late. There's a reason for that.
After a long period of reflection, contemplation and soul-searching, I've decided to stop writing The Rochester NY Pizza Blog. Well, sort of. Allow me to explain.
When I started this blog in 2009, it seemed like a fun way to document something I wanted to do anyway, which was to try every pizzeria in the Rochester area. And it's been that, for sure.
It's also been far more successful, in terms of readership, than I ever expected. When I started, I wanted to attract readers, certainly, but I was amazed by how many I eventually got. I was especially gratified to receive thanks from readers for helping them find good pizza around here. Even more than trying new pizzerias, communicating with my readers has been the most rewarding aspect of writing this blog.
But over time, the blog took on a life of its own. It was no longer simply a log of my pizza-related activities, that I did for fun, but an entity that needed to be maintained on a regular basis.
I've never lost my love of pizza. I love it as much as ever. But if writing the blog was always a labor of love, lately it's become more labor and less love.
Even as my enthusiasm for the blog itself dimmed, I remained determined not to let the blog slide into dormancy. I've seen too many blogs that started with a flurry of posts, and then petered out. So I always strived to keep posting regularly.
Eventually, I'd covered probably over 90% of the pizzerias in the Rochester area. But the beast I'd created had to be fed. So I started revisiting places. Searching out new pizzerias, always. Trying different types of pizza (Buffalo chicken, white, etc.). Traveling farther.
And I tried to go to restaurants that serve pizza. Weekday lunch dates with friends, and family dinner outings, began to be driven by whether the restaurant offered pizza.
I created a to-do list of places to go to. A new pizzeria opened in Webster? OK, have to go there. Haven't been to this place in three years? Add it to the list. It got to the point where I wasn't going to the places I loved anymore, because I felt as if I needed to get to places to write about.
So, for a while, it was fun. But the fun's diminished over the years, and I've reached the point -- in fact I reached it some time ago, I've just not acted on it until now -- where I've been putting more into the blog than I get out of it. And so I think it's time to call it quits.
Now let me be clear, I am not complaining, I'm not whining, and I'm not saying that this has been tough on me, or anything like that. It's been fun, I have no regrets, and I've been glad to write this blog. I'm just explaining why I'm ending it, now.
But, back to that "sort of" that I mentioned earlier.
The post you're reading right now is not the last blog post I will ever do. I still have one more review in mind, and I think you'll want to read it. I'd also like to do, if not a farewell address, an essay encapsulating some of my thoughts on what I've learned over the past seven-plus years. And there may be a few loose-ends kind of stuff. To name one example, I owe a book review to a publisher that sent me a free review copy of a book. And if the mood strikes me, I'm not ruling out an occasional review or other post in the future. I'm just not going to make any particular effort to keep posting on a regular basis, or to keep searching out and reviewing new places.
I do plan to keep the Facebook page going, at least to report on local and national pizza news. Openings and closings, interesting news items, that sort of thing. I intend to keep up with the pizza scene, for my own benefit, so if I see something of interest, I'll pass it along.
So I'm not going to get all weepy here and say goodbye. I'm not going away. I'll still have a web presence. But to be honest, it already feels like a weight off my shoulders not to feel as if I have to keep writing blog posts or reviewing every new pizzeria that comes along. I look forward to maintaining contact with my readers, and I urge you to send me any pizza news you have, recommendations, inquiries, and so on.

Buon appetito!

The Rochester Pizza Guy