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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dragonfly, Park Ave.

Dragonfly Tavern & Pizza Factory is a relatively recent addition to Park Avenue in Rochester. The Tavern opened last January in the space formerly occupied by the Park Bench, which has since moved to Monroe Ave., thus continuing the Rochester tradition of businesses with geographically misleading names (in addition to the ones listed here, I recently discovered that Park Avenue Pets is also located on Monroe Ave.).
The Pizza Factory opened somewhat later in the front of the building where Pontillo's used to be. The wall separating the bar from the pizza place has been knocked down, so you no longer have to go outside to get from one to the other, but they still each have their own space and identity.
I stopped in for a lunchtime slice not long ago. It was shortly after noon, and the first pepperoni pie of the day had just come out of the oven. It was somewhere between a standard slice and a “huge” slice in size, making the $3.50 price seem a tad steep for this area, although everything seems to cost a little more along Park Avenue.
Given its neighborhood, I thought that perhaps Dragonfly might turn out something along the lines of an “artisanal” pizza that would appeal to the local pizza cognoscenti (that’s Latin for “snobs”). So I was surprised, and a bit disappointed, to see that this pizza had been baked on a screen, which left heavy indentations on its medium-brown underside. One of the fundamental problems with a screen, I think, is that it prevents the dough from coming into direct contact with the oven floor, so that it bakes more by radiant than conductive heat, and can’t develop a nice, crisp bottom.
Still, lots of places use screens, so I can’t fault Dragonfly too much there. But even screen-baked pizza can be a little crisp underneath, and this wasn’t. It was soft and floppy, and a bit oily, leaving my fingertips a little greasy. The crust was thin but dense, and didn’t appear to have risen much.
This was a cheese-dominated slice, with a thick layer of congealed cheese on top. Though the menu describes the cheese as a blend of mozzarella and provolone, this slice had a strong aroma of what I took to be parmesan cheese, which also imparted a sharp, tangy flavor to the pizza.
The cheese lay atop a comparatively thin layer of sauce, which had a good tomatoey flavor. The pepperoni slices were embedded in the cheese, making them more soft than crisp. The thin lip of the crust was rather chewy and somewhat tough in texture.
Dragonfly has an extensive list of pizza toppings, some of which are frankly bizarre (how do peanuts, hash browns, or mandarin oranges sound on your pizza?), and a correspondingly long list of specialty pizzas, ranging from standards like breakfast pizza (which surprisingly does not include hash browns, though I’m sure you could ask for them to be added) to more exotic fare such as Jamaican chicken and clams casino pizzas. All the specialty pizzas can be ordered “half and half,” so you can try two at once, or split with a friend who doesn’t share your culinary predilections. Pies come in just two sizes, 10.5 or 16 inches.
Depending on your perspective, the rest of the menu is either a more sophisticated, or simply self-consciously trendy, version of a typical bar menu. French fries, for example, are offered here as “Boursin Cheese Fries,” with a sauce made of said cheese, white wine and shallots, “topped with scallions and a swirl of RedHot.” If burgers are your thing, the Buddha burger comes topped with seaweed salad, shiitake mushrooms and a kaffir lime soy glaze. There are also three desserts on the menu, which are more conventional: carrot cake, cheesecake, and a chocolate-peanut butter brownie, all of which are baked in house, from scratch. Oh, and if you want regular French fries or a plain ol’ cheeseburger, they can do that too.
Getting back to the pizza, this wasn’t bad, really, but it had its share of problems. Too soft, too floppy, and unbalanced, with too much cheese relative to the other components. The list of toppings and specialty pizzas suggests that Dragonfly is trying to appeal to a more discriminating clientele than your average pizza ’n’ wings crowd, but the execution here left something to be desired. But they’ve only been at it a short time, the service was friendly, and their heart seems to be in the right place, so I’ll check in on them again somewhere down the line. For now, I’m giving Dragonfly a C-.
Dragonfly Tavern & Pizza Factory, 725 Park Ave, 563-6333
Daily 11:00am – 2:00am
Limited menu 12:00am – 2:00am
Sunday Brunch 10:00am – 3:00am


  1. I stopped at Dragonfly today and I just want to note that your reviews are right on.

    During my past two visits to Rochester, I had two "A" pizzas: Union Hill Country Grill and Brandani's. They were both excellent. Then I started to worry that maybe I like pizza so much that any old pizza will do, so I went to the blog and decided to hit up Dragonfly this time because it was the most recent review and the picture made it look delicious. "How could that possibly be a C-?" I thought.

    Well your reviews are right on. The atmosphere at Dragonfly was absolutely pleasant, but the pizza was definitely a square C-.

    So keep up the good work and thanks for all the effort you have put into this blog. I look forward to trying more A and B pizza places in my future rochester visits.

    If you're ever in Buffalo, I have no shortage of recommendations!

  2. Thanks, I genuinely appreciate the comments. I know not everybody's always going to agree with my reviews but I do put some thought into the letter grades, especially the negative ones. So it's nice to hear from somebody who thinks they're accurate.
    I'm sure at some point I'll be needing pizza recommendations for Buffalo, so I'll keep your offer in mind. I know of some of the bigger and better-known places in town, but I also know that they're typically not the best.

  3. they have the best chicken wing pizza around but you have to get it on the thin crust, the specialty pizzas are the best compared to the regular, i have loved this pizza for years, it used to be in henrietta under the name pizza cafe! i could eat it everyday, never noticed the bottom, but its so good i wouldn't even look, their salads are great too!

  4. I wasn't aware that there was a connection with the old Pizza Cafe. Thanks for the info and the advice.