Friday, October 2, 2009
Gaetano's Bakery is one of those old Italian bakeries with which Rochester is so richly blessed. Although I have to admit that Wegmans bakes some pretty good bread, I'll often skip their bakery section and make a special stop at one of these places for a loaf of Italian bread, just to help keep them in business. These places are local treasures that we too often take for granted until one day you're driving by, or watching the local news, and you learn that one of them is closing.
Since pizza dough is essentially bread dough, it's a little surprising that more of them don't do pizza in addition to bread. I suppose space constraints may play a role, among other factors.
But Gaetano's does do pizza. In fact, their menu describes Gaetano's as "more than just a bakery," with a "full menu of homemade quality food!" So on a recent day when I had occasion to be in the area, I stopped in and grabbed a slice. I would've preferred trying a whole pie, to get the fresh-out-of-the-oven experience, but it was lunchtime, so that will have to wait for another day.
My pepperoni slice was medium thick. The underside was not very crisp, but the outer edge, which had a fairly thick lip, was quite firm, so much so that the slice successfully resisted my attempts to fold it. No matter, as this was not a big, floppy slice in need of folding anyway.
“Medium” also best describes the color of the underside; not charred, but not pale, either. It was punctured here and there with tiny holes, which I’ve seen before elsewhere. Perhaps they serve the function of avoiding large air bubbles building up. I’ll have to ask sometime.
The crust was chewy, but not in a particularly bready way; the dough didn’t seem to have risen all that much, and was fairly dense, which I found surprising for a pizza that had been made at a bakery.
The sauce had a thick consistency and a cooked-down flavor, and was moderately applied. The cheese was well browned, and became easily separated from the crust. Gaetano’s menu states that they use 100% whole milk mozzarella, but this slice didn’t have any of the excess oil that sometimes seems to result from using whole-milk cheese, which of course contains more fat than the part-skim variety.
As I mentioned, the outer edge was formed into a pretty thick lip, which made a nice finish to the slice, with its crunchy, breadstick-like flavor and texture.
Gaetano’s offers a full range of pizzas, and four specialty pizzas, including a Sicilian, which is topped with oil, black pepper, fresh garlic, parsley, romano cheese and basil. You can also buy pizza dough (which I think you can do at a lot of pizzerias, it’s just that most don’t advertise it), either regular or whole wheat.
Other items on the menu include hot and cold subs, calzones, wings, “homemade” soup, and a few sides. (Their catering menus are much more extensive, and can be viewed on their website.)
And of course bread. Lots of breads, from basic Italian to baguettes, ciabatta, “Tuscan crusty bread,” and others, plus rolls and various stuffed breads. Finally, let’s not forget the desserts, which include a range of pies, cookies, and pastries.
As I said, I love these kinds of places. They’re local, they’re family owned, they’re part of Rochester’s history and social fabric. They help create a sense of place in a way that chain establishments never will.
But I have to be honest here, and I was a little disappointed with this pizza. It was OK, but as I was eating it, it came to mind that it had an overall “flat” flavor. I was expecting more from the dough, particularly. I do think Gaetano’s deserves another shot, and I’ll give it one - that Sicilian sounds very tempting - but on the basis of this one slice, I’m giving it a C.
Gaetano’s Bakery, 1439 W. Ridge Rd. 865-7810
Mon. - Thu. 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 9 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.