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Friday, November 6, 2009

Stromboli Express, East Ave.

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If you consider downtown Rochester to be the area within the Inner Loop, then by my count there are just four places downtown where you can walk in during the day and grab a slice of pizza. (Whatever finally becomes of the former future Renaissance Square property, I think a pizzeria should be a top priority. Mayor Duffy, are you listening?)
The easternmost of this foursome is Stromboli Express, on East Avenue between Chestnut and Broadway.
As the name implies, they specialize in strombolis, with 26 varieties on the menu. But Stromboli Express also serves pizza, roughly in the New York style, and the times I’ve been there, that seems to be what most of the customers are getting. I recently stopped in at lunchtime for a couple of slices, one cheese and one pepperoni.
It took some minutes for my slices to come up, and while I was standing there, I noticed a number of small signs posted here and there displaying a certain, well, attitude on the part of the management. For example, one of them says something to the effect of (I'm paraphrasing here) “This isn’t Burger King, you don’t get it your way, you get it my way," and there several others in the same vein. Now I know they're just funny little signs, and in fact I've seen the Burger King sign at Pizza Stop, too, but I couldn’t help thinking that while one such sign can be taken mostly as a joke, seeing several like that kind of conveys the message that customer service is not exactly a high priority here. Just a thought.
Well, as I said, after a few minutes, my slices arrived. They were very thin and foldable, and though they were a little charred underneath, they were not especially crisp, except along the very outer edge of the cheese slice, which was dark and crunchy. Mostly, though, they were almost crepe-like in their soft, thin, supple pliability.
Both slices were on the saucy side. They weren’t exactly dripping with sauce, but the sauce was pretty liberally applied relative to the very thin crust. It had a complex flavor, with sweet, herbal, and tomatoey notes. The cheese was pretty basic, moderately applied and a tad browned in spots.
The slices had been dusted with a fair amount of dried herbs and, unusually, what appeared to be red pepper flakes, although not in enough quantity to register much of an effect on my taste buds (which, admittedly, have become rather desensitized over the years where hot peppers are concerned).
The wide and thin slices of pepperoni were soft, oily, and a bit spicy. They had yielded up a good bit of their fat in the form of grease, but the pizza as a whole was not overly greasy.
Despite the more than two dozen strombolis to pick from, the list of pizza toppings here is fairly modest by current standards, with 11 on offer, and there are 11 specialty pizzas on the menu as well. Stromboli Express also serves calzones, which come stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella and your choice of any one of five meats. (I’m frankly still a bit fuzzy on the difference between strombolis and calzones, but my understanding is that a stromboli is more like a baked wrap, while a calzone is essentially a baked pocket sandwich, but both are made with pizza dough.)
Outside of the pizza/stromboli/calzone trinity, Stromboli Express does wings, hot and cold subs, grilled sandwiches, salads and appetizers, pasta dinners, and a few desserts, including apple or cherry “bolis” (which would make 28 varieties altogether). There is some seating, including a couple of sidewalk tables in warm weather, and they deliver too.
I liked this pizza well enough, even if it didn’t (strom)bowl me over. Often as I’m thinking about the pizza that I’m eating, some adjective or phrase comes to mind, and here it occurred to me that this was kind of like a cross between the Piatza’s on Crittenden Rd. and Pizza Stop: thin, like both of those, with an underside that, like Pizza Stop’s, is somewhat charred and not greasy, but, like Piatza’s, floppy and not very crisp. I gave Pizza Stop an A, and Piatza's a D+. Averaging those two gives me a B-, and that sounds about right for Stromboli Express.
Stromboli Express, 113 East Ave. 546-2121
Mon. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sun. noon - 9 p.m.

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