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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ralph & Rosie's Deli, Bergen

Ralph & Rosie Delicatessen on Urbanspoon
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+.

13 comments:

  1. If you ever find yourself south of Rochester, you should try to check out Mama Mia's on main st. in Geneseo. I'm biased because it brings back memories of college, but either way they make a pretty solid slice.

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  2. Thanks for the tip. I'm sure I'll be heading down 390 a few times this summer so I'll keep it in mind.

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  3. If you wanted good pizza you should have visited Ralph's about 4 years ago. As a Bergenite I can testify that the quality is far below what it used to be. There used to be nothing in the world better than Ralph's pizza, and its slow spin into mediocrity is disappointing to say the least.

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  4. Thanks for the comment. I'm curious to know what's changed about the pizza - does it taste different? Or is it about the way that it's baked, or is inconsistency the issue? And what do you think accounts for the change - has ownership or management changed? New employees? I'd like to hear more.

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  5. Coming home from school (which, admittedly, is just Nazareth in Pittsford), I get off of 490, go to Ralph's, and then on to Byron.

    As far as your questions - Ralph (and Rosie) have been running it for over 30 years now, the only thing that's changed is the staff.

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  6. Personally, i think Regular sauce and White Sauce is better at Ralphs. However, the Sweet appeals to just about everyone. The Sweet sauce is weird though, if you don't absolutely LOVE the sweet sauce - then you hate it. Believe me i know, i worked there for 6+ years. The pizza around lunch time on Tue, Wed, & Thurs should still have that "Old School" taste. The dough and sauce is made from scratch daily as well. The recipe hasn't changed for 30+ years, but yes there is a high turnover on staff - the night crew is generally high school and college students.

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  7. Sweet sauce seems to be a west side phenomenon. I recently got a pizza at Fullerino's in Byron (post to follow) where sweet sauce was an option, though I opted for regular.
    It's good to know about the staff hours. Though you'd like to think that it doesn't matter what time of day you order, very often it does. Thanks for the tip.

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  8. I agree with the post about the change in pizza over the past few years. Ralph's son is TRYING to take over and the consistency of the food and the management leaves something to be desired. There are still 2 or 3 people employed there who have been there for 20+ years and you can definitely tell the difference between the "originals" and the "newbies" when it comes to food preparation! The majority of the clientele does not even come from Bergen anymore because they know what originally made Ralph and Rosie's stand out above the rest!

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  9. Pizza has gone way downhill. Even in 2009 the pizza was still pretty good. Now I can't stand the pizza. The reason may be that the owner of Ralphs is now the mayor of Bergen, but who knows.

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  10. Moving to Bergen from "Little Italy" (Gates),I was eager to find a new pizza joint that was comparable to the many I frequented back home. It was overwhelmingly suggested I try R&R. After visiting this establishment,it was obvious that the residents of Bergen have had nothing to compare their "pizza" to! Bland,greasy,undercooked,and skimpy on the toppings is what I got. In addition, I had no sooner returned to my vehicle when I had succumbed to an allergy attack from the mold that envelops the buiding! Overrated and overpriced!I thanked god when Fullerino's opened! Large portions,perfectly cooked/prepared every time,and oh yea,their "sweet sauce" wins hands down!

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  11. "Anonymous" (who also left a comment on my Fullerino's review, to which I responded), made some allegations about Ralph & Rosie's that, without facts to back them up, bordered on the libelous, so, since I can't edit reader's comments directly, I have copied and pasted a redacted version of his/her comments here:

    Moving to Bergen from "Little Italy" (Gates),I was eager to find a new pizza joint that was comparable to the many I frequented back home. It was overwhelmingly suggested I try R&R. After visiting this establishment,it was obvious that the residents of Bergen have had nothing to compare their "pizza" to! Bland,greasy,undercooked,and skimpy on the toppings is what I got. *** Overrated and overpriced!I thanked god when Fullerino's opened! Large portions,perfectly cooked/prepared every time,and oh yea,their "sweet sauce" wins hands down!

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  12. I LOVE RALPH N ROSIES =D BEST PIZZA I HAVE EVER HAD BY FAR. LOL XOXO <3
    IF YOU HAVE NEVER TRIED IT I HIGHLY SUGGEST!!!!
    UR MISSIN OUT!!!!!!!!
    :-)

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  13. I HIGHLY SUGGEST LEARNING TO USE THE SHIFT KEY ON YOUR COMPUTER!!!!!!!

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