Monday, March 30, 2009
The Gate House, Rochester
The Gate House is in Village Gate on Goodman Street in Rochester. It's in the space formerly occupied by Salena's, which has moved to a different location in Village Gate. The Gate House is a full-service restaurant that, according to its website, prides itself on fresh ingredients. Much of its menu is taken up by its burgers and its pizzas. Here's what they say about their pizzas:
"[O]ur pizza dough and sauce [are] made daily. We pay homage to traditional Neopolitan pizza making techniques by using Tipo OO Italian flour, tomatoes from the San Marzano Valley, fresh mozzarella and a wood burning pizza oven."
I tried their "Strong Margherita" (most of their entrees are named after local landmarks or celebrities, usually with no apparent rhyme or reason, although I guess margherita, which was named for Queen Margherita in the 19th century, kind of fits with Margaret Woodbury Strong), which the menu describes as topped with "tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmigiano, olive oil and basil."
Upon arrival at the table, it looked pretty good - very thin crust, bright red tomato sauce, nicely melted cheese, a few "islands" of fresh mozzarella, and wilted shreds of basil. The edge, though, was just a bit browned, without the telltale blackened spots you might expect from a high-temp, wood-fired oven. The underside was a surprise, too, with some dark brown spots here and there, but mostly a uniform, pale hue.
The slices were very easy to fold, and biting into them, I found that they had no crispness at all, again a surprise, since pizzas cooked in a woodburning oven are often so crisp they're almost crackerlike. These were quite chewy, and not at all bready; although the edges seemed to have some small air holes, I really wasn't sure that any yeast had been used in the dough, which didn't seem to have risen at all.
The dough also seemed to have a fair amount of shortening in it. It wasn't really flaky, but it had a slightly greasy feel that seemed to come from the dough itself rather than from the surface on which it had been cooked. And despite the charred spots, it didn't seem to have been cooked all that much. It reminded me, a little, of one of those flatbreads you can get at Indian restaurants that has been cooked in a tandoor oven, only this was not cooked to quite the same degree of doneness.
The toppings were good, with a thick tomato sauce that seemed to have bits of garlic in it, a nice contrast between the two cheeses, and a subtle basil flavor. But it was hard for me to get past the crust. It was such an attractive pizza I almost hate to say it but the best short description I can give would be slightly undercooked (for a pizza) pastry dough.
I might go back to The Gate House sometime, but only to try their burgers and fries, both of which looked pretty good. As for the pizza, well, I've never been to Naples (the one in Italy I mean, not the one with the Grape Festival), but it was not what I think of as Neapolitan pizza. I won't presume to offer advice, but I wonder if their oven is not as hot as it could be. I'm sure the pizza at The Gate House has its fans, but for me, it rates only a C.