Monday, September 28, 2009
Cobbs Hill Pizza, Park Ave.
Quick, what do the following places around Rochester have in common?
Park Avenue Bike Shop
Park Avenue Bakery
Pittsford Seafood Market
Midtown Athletic Club
Irondequoit Country Club
Bay Goodman Pizza
Cobbs Hill Pizza
Answer: none of them are in the places they're named after. I don’t know what it is around here, but if you go looking for a business in the area it’s named for, you’re apt to end up miles away from its actual location.
In the case of Cobbs Hill Pizza, the explanation lies in the fact that it started in Cobbs Hill, and at some point moved to Park Avenue, but kept the same name. It’s currently on Park Avenue, in the plaza next to the laundromat near Berkeley St., in the epicenter of the Park Ave. neighborhood.
I have a vague recollection of eating Cobbs Hill pizza when it really was in Cobbs Hill, and I remember it being kind of thick, but it’s been too long to be sure. If it was thick, then it’s changed a great deal since then, because it’s quite thin now.
I got one cheese and one pepperoni slice. I’ll get to the details in a second, but the best short way to describe them is that they were like very greasy New York style slices. I mean, your average NY slice will have some grease on top, but these were particularly greasy.
The crust was thin, as I said, and the slices were quite foldable. The underside was a uniform dark brown, though not at all charred. It was a little bit crisp, at least until the grease soaked in completely. There was a definite bready flavor in there somewhere, but it was effectively camouflaged behind the dominant flavor of grease. (I don’t want to get into the debate again over whether it’s “grease” or “oil.” Grease. Oil. Whatever.)
Likewise, I detected a slightly sweet, herbal flavor of the sauce, but it, too, was difficult to pick out. I thought I might’ve noticed a slight garlicky aftertaste, but if I did, I’m not sure where it originated.
The slices were topped with a thin, even layer of browned cheese. The pepperoni slice was very generously loaded with wide, thin slices of pepperoni, more than you would probably get at a lot of places even if you ordered extra pepperoni. The pepperoni was a little crisp, and seemed a bit spicy, although maybe that’s just because there was so much of it that the spices in the pepperoni collectively made more of an impression on my palate. The edge was thin, crunchy and toasty.
Cobbs Hill’s menu describes it as an “Italian Bistro” and “not just a pizza stop,” and it does have a pretty extensive menu. There’s a long list of hot subs, including “egg subs” (which sounds sort of like an omelet on a roll), panini sandwiches, pasta and other Italian entrees, plus more typical pizzeria-type items like wings (advertised as jumbo “roaster” wings), burgers, stromboli, wraps, salads and sides.
With a few artificial plants about, the atmosphere is a little more, well, “bistrolike,” perhaps, than your typical pizzeria, although it’s hardly what you’d call chic or hip, especially in this neighborhood. I was a little surprised to see that they’re not open very late, even on weekends. There aren’t too many bars on Park Avenue, but I imagine a lot of people in the neighborhood might want a pizza when they head home from Alexander Street or Monroe Avenue. Maybe the owner(s) figured that late-night drunk customers are more trouble than they’re worth.
This is another tough call. In some ways, I liked this pizza. As I said, it’s roughly like NY-style pizza, and that’s my favorite. And at $4 for my two slices, it was a pretty good deal.
It was just so damn greasy, and I couldn’t figure out why. If I’d just gotten the pepperoni slice - which was loaded with toppings - I would’ve said that it was from all the fat melting out of the pepperoni. But the cheese slice was greasy too, so I don’t know. The menu claims that the pizza is baked on a stone hearth, and if so, that makes it even harder to figure, since you really shouldn’t need much, if any oil; dough is not going to stick to a stone oven floor the way that it might stick to an ungreased metal pizza pan.
[10-01-09: I've since been informed by an emailer that the likely reason for the oil is the use of whole-milk mozzarella, which has a higher fat content than the part-skim stuff that most places use. I probably should have known that; some months ago, after I complained that another local pizzeria's product was greasy, a reader posted a comment essentially calling me an idiot for not realizing that what I called grease was actually oil from the "high quality" cheese they used.
My emailer states that there are steps the pizzeria can take to reduce the amount of oil/grease on the pizza after baking, like sopping it up with a paper towel, though I don't think I've ever seen that done other than by the consumer. At any rate, while I can appreciate the use of "better" cheese, and I can certainly tolerate some oil on top of the pizza, I do have a problem when the oil from the cheese ends up seeping into the crust. When I bite into the crust, I want my palate to be met by the flavor and texture of good bread, not of grease. If they can't find a way to avoid that, then I for one would prefer that they use the part-skim cheese. Just my opinion.]
If they could make this without all the grease, I think I'd really like it. As it was, I still liked it, but I couldn’t help thinking how much better it could’ve been. I’ll give it a B-.
Cobbs Hill Pizza & Pasta, 630 Park Ave., 442-6730
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Rochester Pizza Guy note: see my June 2010 review of a Cobbs Hill pie here.