Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Pontillo's, Spencerport Road
Pontillo's is one of the biggest local chains around, with around 25 locations. It started in Batavia in 1947, and sadly, the original location is now closed, but that has no effect on the other locations, because apparently it's not a chain in the traditional sense.
According to the Rochester Wiki entry for Pontillo's, its various locations are independently owned, and do not follow the usual franchise model of sticking to a uniform menu, recipe, etc., so the success or failure of one has no effect on the others. Assuming that's correct, it also means what you get at one location may or may not be indicative of what you get elsewhere.
I tried the Spencerport Road location in Gates around lunchtime. Apparently they have no formal association with the rest of the Pontillo's chain - they even have their own website - but they do share the name and the heritage, claiming to be "the same pizza your grandparents enjoyed in 1947!"
Since it is, loosely, part of a chain, traditional or otherwise, and since the sign out front advertised giant slices, I wasn't expecting much. Pontillo's has won some City Newspaper awards for best local pizzeria, but I don't put much stock in those things. A chain will always have an advantage in the sense that it's better known throughout the area than a little hole-in-the-wall with only one location.
Having said all that, I was pleasantly surprised by my pepperoni slice. It had a medium-thick crust, with a nice outer crunch (it was reheated in the oven) and some inner bready chewiness. The bottom was what I would call nearly charred, with dark brown areas that were done almost, but not quite, to the point of charring. It was not baked on a screen, which is a good thing. (I have to do a post about pizza screens sometime.)
The sauce, which was laid on fairly heavily, had a distinct herbal flavor, and the cheese layer was fairly thick too. Still, everything was pretty well balanced; this didn't seem like an especially heavy slice, and I mean that as a compliment. A thicker crust calls for a little more sauce and a little more cheese, but not so much as to overwhelm the crust. This slice pulled off that balancing act pretty well.
The pepperoni was nicely charred along the edges, but was applied somewhat more sparingly, and stayed mostly in the background. It was more of an accent than a dominating player.
I asked for a to-go menu, but was told that they wouldn't be in until later that day. I did get a look at a menu, though, and it seemed to be the usual pizza/wings/subs type of stuff. The Gates location also has a lunch buffet - unlike many Pontillo's, this one has plenty of seating, being located in a spot that's housed several restaurants over the past few years. I didn't see the buffet, though, so I can't comment on it. The service was friendly; the middle-aged guy making the pizzas greeted me when I came in, as did the two women behind the counter.
I am still philosophically opposed to the idea of a chain pizzeria, but all in all this was pretty good. That may have something to do with its being independently owned and operated, so that it's run and staffed by people with a real stake in its success, and not just by some teenager working a summer job. I guess the independent-ownership aspect also means that I can't make any sweeping generalizations about the quality of Pontillo's pizza chainwide, but the Gates location gets a B+ from me.
Pontillo's Pizzeria, 777 Spencerport Road, Gates. Sun. - Thu. 11 am - 12 m, Fri. - Sat. 11 am - 1 am. Phone: (585) 429-5050