Thursday, March 5, 2009
The Pizza Stop, Rochester
The closest thing I've found around Rochester to NY-style pizza is that served up by the Pizza Stop on State St. downtown. It's in an unassuming storefront location that looks as if it could be on any busy street in the Big Apple, and the pizza lives up to that appearance. The crust is thin and foldable, with a good bready flavor. Look at the underside and you'll also see a little charring from the hot, hot ovens - a rarity in this area except for restaurants with wood-fired ovens (which tend to disappoint me, but that's a post for another day). When you stop in for a slice or to pick up your pie (they don't deliver), you'll notice that the ovens are wrapped in heat-reflective insulation to keep the indoor temperature bearable. I don't know if that's because the ovens are unusually hot to begin with, but I'm guessing that the insulation also makes the temperature inside the oven even higher. In any event, the result is a nicely charred pie, which is not the same as burnt. Most pizza places around here keep their oven temps too low to get that effect; their pizzas come out brown on the bottom; if they leave them in longer, the pizzas simply get burnt, with the flavor and texture of burnt toast. A charred pizza has a crust that is pleasantly crisp on the outside but still bready and chewy on the interior. In NYC, it's commonplace, but as I said, in this area it's sadly all too rare.
Anyway, back to the Pizza Stop. The crust is the star, as it should be, but the sauce and cheese are worthy supporting players. Neither is overdone here, and they're uniformly distributed across the surface (I am not among those pizza aficionados who think that the cheese should be applied here and there, with pockets of sauce poking through - I want cheese in every bite).
The Pizza Stop does serve square slices of thick-crust, "Sicilian" pizza as well, but I don't think I've ever tried it; I figure every bite of it would be one less bite I could take of their thin-crust pizza, and I can't bring myself to do that.
As I said, Pizza Stop doesn't deliver, and it is only open on weekdays till 5:30 (7:30 on Fridays). At lunchtime it's not unusual to see a line out the door. There is some indoor seating. They don't do wings or subs. I think there is some sort of pasta and maybe one or two other things on the menu but I can't say I've ever seen anybody eating anything here but pizza, which is entirely understandable. If you love NY-style pizza, you owe it to yourself to get to the Pizza Stop. I give it a solid "A".
Pizza Stop, 123 State St. 546-7252
Mon. - Thu. 10:30 - 7:00, Fri. 10:30 - 9:00. Closed weekends.
[Pizza Guy's note: go here to read my interview with Pizza Stop owner Jim Staffieri, and here to read my review of their Sicilian and stuffed pizzas.]