Thursday, May 7, 2009
Ralph & Rosie's Deli, Bergen
Ralph & Rosie's Deli in Bergen, Genesee County, is a little farther away than I would ordinarily travel for a pizza, but I'd run across more than one online review saying how good their pizza was and I had to give it a try.
When I ordered, the guy asked if I wanted "regular" or "sweet" sauce. I wasn't expecting this question, so I asked what was more popular, and he said the sweet. Although the idea of a sweet pizza sauce wouldn't typically appeal to me, I figured if that's what the locals like, let's check it out.
I went to pick it up in Bergen, which is one of those sleepy-looking, Mayberryesque villages that makes you feels as if you've stumbled into a John Cougar Mellencamp video. It's the kind of place that has one of each "hometown" business: one bakery, one bar, one antique shop, and, of course, one pizzeria, Ralph & Rosie's. R&R's sits next to an American Legion post in the middle of the two-block long business district, which consists of a row of well-preserved brick buildings along the main drag, Lake Ave. (the lake in this case being Lake Ontario, about 20 miles north).
Well, you get the picture. Let's move on to the pizza. On first look, it wasn't too visually impressive. It had a puffy thickness, and the golden brown bottom showed that it had been cooked on a screen. The cheese was lightly browned here and there.
Taking a bite, one of the first things I noticed was the sweet sauce. Now admittedly I was paying extra attention to the sauce, but I think I would've noticed it right away even if I hadn't been. It wasn't super, sugary sweet, but it lacked the acidic tang of a typical pizza sauce. I guess "sweet" here is a relative term, then, as I would only call this sweet in comparison to most other sauces.
The sauce was a major player here, as was the crust. It was soft and doughy, with a dinner-roll-like texture, and a slightly oily crunchiness along the edges.
The cheese was applied moderately, and definitely took a back seat to both the sauce and the crust. The pepperoni was the wide-and-thin variety.
The verdict? Well, I wouldn't call this world-class pizza by any means, as I was not too crazy about the crust. Too soft, doughy and bland for my tastes.
But more important than that, this pizza was distinctive. I didn't drive half an hour just to get a generic pizza, and that's not what I got. In this era of homogenization and retail chains, it's important to hold onto some things that are unique, and to my mind pizza is one of the most important parts of everyday life that needs to stay that way. I can still remember vividly the pizzas I had from a number of pizzerias in my home town when I was growing up, most of which are now gone forever. And I can see why for Bergenites (Bergenians? Bergeners?), Ralph & Rosie's sweet pizza will always be their hometown pizza, like no other.
Trying to stay objective, I'll give this a C+, though I can understand why locals might consider it an A+.