Thursday, December 31, 2009
Lucca is a wood-fired pizza place in Victor. If I have my facts straight, it used to be Slice of Napa, which was the second location of Napa Wood Fired Pizza. Napa is now back to just one location, in Fairport, having sold the Victor business to new owners, who changed it over to Lucca in May 2009.
You can get slices here at lunchtime, but to my way of thinking, wood-fired pizza is something that needs to be ordered as a whole, freshly baked pie. A NY-style slice can actually improve when it's been out of the oven for a while and then reheated for a minute before serving, but not so with this kind of pizza. That's especially true of a margherita, which is what I ordered, since it's typically made with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, neither of which is going to get any better once the pizza comes out of the oven.
The crust on my 10" pie was very thin, which is typical of wood-fired pizza. It was dry, crackly, and crunchy, which was pleasant enough as far as that goes, but it had almost no interior chewiness.
For a wood-fired pizza, it was also not particularly charred. The underside was fairly pale, with just a few scattered charred spots, and the crust had a more doughy than toasty flavor. The outer edge was also thin, dark brown, and crunchy.
Sauce was optional on the margherita (I suppose everything's optional on a pizza, but the person taking my order asked if I wanted sauce), and I opted for it. It had a straight-ahead, concentrated tomato flavor that was reminiscent of tomato paste.
I don't mean that as a putdown, and the menu describes the sauce as San Marzano tomato sauce, which is high-quality stuff. It's just that it was very tomatoey, meaning it didn't have much in the way of herbs or sweeteners, and it had a strong, concentrated flavor, as if much of the water in the tomatoes had been cooked out.
With that assertive flavor, the sauce might've been better left off this pizza, as it tended to dominate the other components, but then again the slices of fresh tomato weren't all that great. I can't fault Lucca much on that one, I mean, try to find a decent tomato around here in December, but if I had it to do over I think I'd ask for them to go easy on the sauce.
The fresh mozzarella seemed a tad overcooked. Rather than liquefying into little pools of creamy cheese, it was a bit browned and somewhat rubbery. (This was no more than a few minutes after I picked up the pizza, so I don't think it was simply a matter of the cheese having cooled.)
The basil here was applied with whole leaves rather than shredded, which was pleasing to the eye, although it meant getting a real mouthful of basil flavor on some bites and little or none on others. That was OK with me, though - it's nice to get some variation as you work your way through a pizza.
According to the menu, the margherita toppings include garlic, but I really didn't notice any here, either visually or on my palate. The pizza appeared to have been lightly dusted with parmesan, although I didn't pick up much of its flavor.
Lucca offers ten different pizzas, which generally are more high-end than you'll see at your average pizzeria, without venturing into the bizarre category. For example, the funghi pizza is topped with garlic, roasted red peppers, spinach, prosciutto, white and portobello mushrooms, truffle oil and Italian cheeses. That sounds awfully busy for any pizza, much less one with a very thin crust, but if you're more of a minimalist, you can design your own pizza, choosing from among four sauces, eight cheeses, eight meats, and fourteen vegetable toppings. They also serve salads, soup, wood-fired chicken wings (which can be ordered with one of six sauces), panini sandwiches, and the intriguing-sounding wood-fired pork shanks, "seasoned Sicilian style." Oh, and they have cannolis, too. There are some tables, but the dining space is limited.
I liked this pizza, but to me, it didn't live up to its full potential. One problem that I sometimes have with wood-fired pizza is that the crust can be too crackerlike, all crunch and no chewiness. My ideal pizza crust has a contrast of crisp, crunchy exterior and chewy, doughy interior. I know a fast-baking, thin crust is not going to have a lot on the inside, but there ought to be something there besides just that crackly exterior; otherwise, it's just an empty shell.
This pizza came pretty close to that line. That may be how some people like it, but I want a little more chew in my crust. And as crisp as this was, I'd like a smidgen more charring as well. It's all too easy for a wood-fired pizzeria to take things to extremes and turn out what amounts to a burnt crust, but this was really rather pale. So I'd like a bit thicker crust, baked, perhaps, at a somewhat higher temperature for a little shorter period of time.
But that's just my personal preference, and I can't say that this pizza was poorly made. If you like a super-thin, crackly crust, this should be exactly what you're looking for. So while I can't give Lucca a top grade, I will give it an above-average B.
Lucca Wood-Fired Pizza, 90 West Main St., Victor 924-9009
Mon. - Thu. 11:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Pizza Guy Note, 7/6/11: Lucca is now under new management. The owner informs me that the pizza recipe has not changed but I have not tried it yet since the change.