Monday, June 29, 2009
Checker Flag, Dewey Ave.
Checker Flag Pizza is at the corner of Dewey Ave. and Ridgeway in NW Rochester. Given the name, the black and white checkered logo, and the "Slice of Heaven" sign in the window, you might be forgiven for thinking it's connected with Chester Cab pizza on Park Ave., but the two places are miles apart, literally and figuratively.
One tip-off that Checker Flag is a little different is the sign in the window warning that "this is not a hangout." More inviting is the 99-cent price emblazoned on that "Slice of Heaven" sign in the front window. 99 cents?! For a slice of pizza? Really?
Well, almost. Turns out it's about $1.25 plus tax. That's still dirt cheap though. Must be a tiny slice, right?
In fact, no it's not, at least not in surface area. The slices are impressively long and wide, about the same size as your average "huge slice."
Thickness and weight are another matter entirely. These had to be the thinnest pizza slices I've ever seen. In a way this was more like a giant flour tortilla than a pizza.
The underside was a pale yellow-white and was dusted with corn meal. The only crispness came from its being somewhat dried out. It also had a doughy flavor, not raw dough exactly, but like dough that had been "baked," if you want to call it that, at a very low temperature, so that it dried more than cooked.
The toppings were correspondingly lightweight, which was fortunate because this crust could not have handled the weight of even moderately heavy toppings - I would've had to roll it up and eaten it like a burrito.
The sauce looked as if it had been painted on with a brush. Surprisingly, the sparsely applied cheese was somewhat browned, certainly browner than the dough.
As an aside, while I was waiting for my slices, I saw one patron walk away with two slices, the cheese on one of which was well-browned, and barely melted on the other. I had to wonder, did he ask for them that way, or was this just wild inconsistency on the part of the person doing the cooking?
As you might guess, you almost have to fold these slices to eat them, and that turns out to be a good thing, because it essentially doubles the amount of toppings you're getting with each bite. Biting into a folded slice, I could actually taste the sauce a bit. It was pretty basic tomatoey pizza sauce, but it helped add a bit of flavor and moisture.
The minute or two I spent waiting gave me a chance to peruse the menu on the wall. It wasn't extensive, but included wings, subs, burgers and a few fried sides.
In case you haven't guessed, I wasn't crazy about this pizza. I did finish most of it (I was pretty hungry, which helped), and for a buck-25 a slice I can't complain too much, but this was not good. I didn't eat the outer edge of the crust at all, which, with a good pizza, is often my favorite part because it's where the bready qualities of the dough are most noticeable and well developed.
But that was exactly the problem here. This pizza may have been made from perfectly good dough, but its preparation gave it no chance to develop any real character. A longer rise time - a rise time, period - and a hotter oven, and you might have something here. But the entire point of this pizza seemed to be not to make a pizza that tastes good, but to make it look as if you're getting a lot of pizza for your buck and a quarter.
I don't think I'm a pizza snob, and if there's a market for this kind of pizza, OK. I may even be way off base here. Maybe this is just a style of pizza that I've never had before and I'm just missing whatever it is about it that appeals to some people. But it's not for me. I'll give Checker Flag a D-.
Checker Flag Pizza, 1481 Dewey Ave. 458-0070
P.S. Next door to Checker Flag is what appears to be a pretty recently opened, nice-looking place called the Caribbean Mexican Grill. Might be worth a visit if you're into Latin American food.
Pizza Guy note, 4/22/10: for a later (and much more favorable) review of Checker Flag, go here.