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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bay Goodman move

As I was on my way to get a haircut at Rocky's (a/k/a Winton Hair Stylist) - which I highly recommend, by the way - I noticed that Bay Goodman Pizza has moved, again, this time to the corner of Browncroft and North Winton, where there was previously a sub shop, I believe. Bay Goodman's most recent past location a few blocks south promises the upcoming opening of "Winton Hots" or something along those lines. I think this would mark the third relocation for Bay Goodman.
I didn't check it out, since I stuck to my original plan of stopping by Captain Tony's on Winton and Humboldt. I'll post a review in the near future.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Checker Flag, Dewey Ave.

Checker Flag Pizza on Urbanspoon
Checker Flag Pizza is at the corner of Dewey Ave. and Ridgeway in NW Rochester. Given the name, the black and white checkered logo, and the "Slice of Heaven" sign in the window, you might be forgiven for thinking it's connected with Chester Cab pizza on Park Ave., but the two places are miles apart, literally and figuratively.
One tip-off that Checker Flag is a little different is the sign in the window warning that "this is not a hangout." More inviting is the 99-cent price emblazoned on that "Slice of Heaven" sign in the front window. 99 cents?! For a slice of pizza? Really?
Well, almost. Turns out it's about $1.25 plus tax. That's still dirt cheap though. Must be a tiny slice, right?
In fact, no it's not, at least not in surface area. The slices are impressively long and wide, about the same size as your average "huge slice."
Thickness and weight are another matter entirely. These had to be the thinnest pizza slices I've ever seen. In a way this was more like a giant flour tortilla than a pizza.
The underside was a pale yellow-white and was dusted with corn meal. The only crispness came from its being somewhat dried out. It also had a doughy flavor, not raw dough exactly, but like dough that had been "baked," if you want to call it that, at a very low temperature, so that it dried more than cooked.
The toppings were correspondingly lightweight, which was fortunate because this crust could not have handled the weight of even moderately heavy toppings - I would've had to roll it up and eaten it like a burrito.
The sauce looked as if it had been painted on with a brush. Surprisingly, the sparsely applied cheese was somewhat browned, certainly browner than the dough.
As an aside, while I was waiting for my slices, I saw one patron walk away with two slices, the cheese on one of which was well-browned, and barely melted on the other. I had to wonder, did he ask for them that way, or was this just wild inconsistency on the part of the person doing the cooking?
As you might guess, you almost have to fold these slices to eat them, and that turns out to be a good thing, because it essentially doubles the amount of toppings you're getting with each bite. Biting into a folded slice, I could actually taste the sauce a bit. It was pretty basic tomatoey pizza sauce, but it helped add a bit of flavor and moisture.
The minute or two I spent waiting gave me a chance to peruse the menu on the wall. It wasn't extensive, but included wings, subs, burgers and a few fried sides.
In case you haven't guessed, I wasn't crazy about this pizza. I did finish most of it (I was pretty hungry, which helped), and for a buck-25 a slice I can't complain too much, but this was not good. I didn't eat the outer edge of the crust at all, which, with a good pizza, is often my favorite part because it's where the bready qualities of the dough are most noticeable and well developed.
But that was exactly the problem here. This pizza may have been made from perfectly good dough, but its preparation gave it no chance to develop any real character. A longer rise time - a rise time, period - and a hotter oven, and you might have something here. But the entire point of this pizza seemed to be not to make a pizza that tastes good, but to make it look as if you're getting a lot of pizza for your buck and a quarter.
I don't think I'm a pizza snob, and if there's a market for this kind of pizza, OK. I may even be way off base here. Maybe this is just a style of pizza that I've never had before and I'm just missing whatever it is about it that appeals to some people. But it's not for me. I'll give Checker Flag a D-.
Checker Flag Pizza, 1481 Dewey Ave. 458-0070
P.S. Next door to Checker Flag is what appears to be a pretty recently opened, nice-looking place called the Caribbean Mexican Grill. Might be worth a visit if you're into Latin American food.
Pizza Guy note, 4/22/10: for a later (and much more favorable) review of Checker Flag, go here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cordellos, Lyell Rd., Gates

Cordello's on Urbanspoon
Cordello's has four, five or six area locations - it's a little hard to tell from the published information - including the Gates location on Lyell Rd. near Howard Rd., a stone's throw from the Lyell Ave. Wegmans. There used to be an Italian restaurant and bar here until a few years ago, though I forget the name.
The lunchtime slice choices were cheese or pepperoni. I got two pepperoni, which got a rewarming in the oven prior to serving. As always, I first took a look at the underside, and was struck by the remarkable charring, which made a kind of camouflage pattern.
The crust did have some toasty flavor, but in spite of the charring it was pretty soft, for the most part. It was also thin toward the point and got gradually thicker, breadier and crunchier toward the edge. My guess is that prior to going in the oven, the dough was thinner in the middle, causing the sauce to pool there, and soak all the way through, so that the middle of the pie never got crisp. (You'll notice in the photo that the charring stops about halfway to the point, which tends to confirm this theory.)
The dominant component, though, was definitely the cheese. If you had told me that this was a double-cheese slice I'd have believed it. It seemed to be all mozzarella, and was pretty chewy. If you like a lot of cheese on your pizza, this would be for you. The sauce, meanwhile, stayed very much in the background. It didn't add much flavor and I hardly noticed it. The wide and thin pepperoni was OK, a little crisp along the edges.
The Gates location has its own menu, so I don't know if the others are the same, but they have a number of pasta and other Italian entrees, salads, wings, appetizers, hots and burgers, and hot and cold subs. There's a decent range of pizza toppings available.
The Lyell Road Cordello's also has a dining room, though on my visit it was totally empty. The menu claims that there is a "Bar Opening Soon!" but I didn't see any signs of that.
The menu also claims that they have the "largest delivery area of any pizzeria in Rochester and Monroe County," and says that they do catering for up to 100 people. Apparently they deliver areawide till 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends.
This pizza wasn't bad, but I was a little disappointed that the well-charred crust wasn't crisper, and it had more cheese than I care for, though others may differ. But the outer half of the slice did have some pleasant charred flavor and breadiness, and for that I'll give it a B-.
Cordello's Pizzeria, 2445 Lyell Rd., Gates. 254-6110

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Guida's Pizzeria, Empire Blvd.

Guida's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Guida's Pizzeria, which bills itself as "Home of the Best Brick Oven Pizza," has been in business since 1994. While I'm not sure if it's the original, the Empire Boulevard location, which is just west of 590, seems to be the flagship operation, and that's the one I tried.
At lunchtime, there were about six or seven varieties available. The names were written on a board but unfortunately the slices themselves were behind the counter where I couldn't see them very well.
Despite, or should I say because of, the variety to choose from, I got a plain cheese slice. I always figure the best measure of a pizzeria is its cheese slice anyway. That way I'm not overly influenced by the toppings.
This was a medium-thick slice, with a nicely charred bottom. It had a pleasant crunch on the exterior, but was bready on the inside.
As an aside, I call it a "slice," but it was actually two narrow slices. From the looks of it I'd say they came from a pie that had been cut into 12 slices.
This was also a saucy slice. The sauce was applied pretty generously and had a tomatoey, noticeably herbal flavor.
And it was a cheesy slice. The cheese was thick and a bit stringy, and I'd say it was the dominant component here. It seemed to be all mozzarella.
The sauce and cheese were more noticeable near the tip of the slice. The slice got gradually thicker toward the outer edge, and I think that the sauce and cheese had pooled a bit toward the middle of the pie, resulting in a drier edge. I didn't mind that, though, as it better allowed me to pick up the toasted-bread flavor of the crust when I got near the edge.
Guida's has a big menu. Pizzas (made from "hand pounded dough," a phrase I've never seen before, and which I'm not sure I understand) can be ordered regular, thick, "N.Y.C. Thin," or "Pan Risen Sicilian," which takes at least an hour and only comes in half or full sheets. There's a long list of toppings, none too bizarre, but besides mozzarella you can get Romano, feta, crumbly blue and ricotta cheeses.
The list of subs is equally lengthy, and includes "The Schwartzkoff" (not sure if that's an allusion to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who looks like he's downed more than a few subs in his lifetime), which is billed on the menu as "the best sub ever created" and which comes with ham, chicken, swiss, mozzarella, lettuce, onion, mayo, and sweet & sour sauce. On my visit, there were also "Schwartzkoff" pizza slices available, but assuming they had a similar array of toppings, that doesn't sound like my kind of pizza.
Anyway - to wrap up the menu - there are wings, tacos, appetizers. fish, Sunday dinners, desserts ... well, check the menu on their website. There's a lot of stuff on there.
Guida's delivers, for an extra charge, and the Empire Blvd. location had some seating, as I think they all do.
What struck me about this pizza was that each of the components - the crispy, toasted crust, the herbal sauce, the substantial layer of melted cheese - seemed to be vying with the others for my attention. With some pizzas (a classic NY-style cheese slice comes to mind), the components blend together into a seamless whole. Here, though, on just about every bite (until I got close to the edge, when the crust took over) I could taste, and get the texture of, each component individually. That's neither a criticism nor an endorsement, just a description. You may like that, you may not. I did, and I'll give this slice a B+.
NY style pizza remains my favorite, and I'll probably try Guida's take on that style sometime. But this slice did leave me wondering - if a Guida's cheese slice has this much going on, what must a "Schwartzkoff" be like?
Guida's Pizzeria, 404 Empire Blvd. 288-0590
Mon-Thu. 11am-10pm, Fri. & Sat. 11am-11pm, Sun. Noon-10pm
The other locations are in Penfield, Honeoye Falls, Webster, and on Elmgrove Rd. in Gates.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pizza Chef, Fairport

Pizza Chef on Urbanspoon

The Pizza Chef is on East Avenue in Fairport, just off North Main St. The entrance is on the side of the building facing the gas station next door and would be easy to miss if you didn't know where it was.
They had a few types of slices available at lunchtime, but I went with plain cheese. The pepperoni looked a bit fresher but the cheese slices just looked good to me. The guy at the counter courteously asked if I wanted it to get a 30-second rewarming, which I did. The pies, by the way, are cut into sixths, putting the slices halfway between a regular, eighth-of-a-pie slice and a "giant" quarter-pie slice.
The crust was on the thin side, with some definite charring underneath, more, or blacker, perhaps, than you can see in the photo. Maybe it had something to do with the rewarming, but it was also very crackly, and split when I tried to fold it.
That was, however, a minor fault in what was otherwise a very good New York-style slice of pizza. True to its appearance, the crust had an immediately noticeable toasted flavor, and under the crunchy exterior lay a thin but still bready interior.
The sauce and cheese were also applied in good balance with the crust. I'm not saying that a saucy pizza can't be good, but to me, the sauce on a NY-style pizza should stay in the background, with just enough to balance out the dryness of the crust and provide some acidic, tomatoey flavor contrast, and that's what the sauce did here. It was flecked with a few herbs, but had a mild flavor.
Likewise, the cheese, though not skimpy, did not predominate or overwhelm the crust. It was more creamy than stringy, and was fairly greasy (check the pool of grease on the paper plate in the lower photo). Maybe it's whole-milk mozzarella, which I assume is higher in fat than part-skim and hence more likely to get greasy when baked.
If you want a whole pizza, The Pizza Chef also offers a thick-crust Sicilian pizza in addition to its NY pies. Toppings are pretty much the usual ones. They also have wings, calzones and strombolis (never had one, probably never will, and not sure what the difference is), hot and cold subs, salads, and fried sides. They offer free delivery to Fairport, East Rochester and Perinton. There are a few tables, not many.
As I said, this was a very good slice of pizza: the ingredients were well balanced and well integrated with each other. The only real fault that I could find here was that crackly crust. A NY slice should be neither brittle nor floppy, but instead be crisp and supple at the same time. You should be able to fold it, yet still feel that little bit of crunch when you bite into it. This slice didn't quite pull off that balancing act. So I'm giving it a B+, but putting the Pizza Chef on my mental list of places to go back to, in the hopeful expectation that next time it'll rate an A.
The Pizza Chef, 7 East Ave., Fairport. Mon. - Sat. 11 am - 10 pm. Sun. 3-9 pm. 377-9690

Friday, June 19, 2009

TK's Pizzeria, Fairport

T K's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon.
T.K.'s Pizzeria is in the middle of the village of Fairport, on Liftbridge Lane, just north of the canal. I tried a lunchtime cheese slice, which was the only kind available at that moment.
T.K.'s menu advertises thin, medium or thick crust pies. I'm guessing this was medium, although I suppose it could've been considered thin.
The browned underside had a crunchy, crackly exterior, with some interior bready texture and flavor. The slice was doused with a fair amount of sauce, which had a somewhat tangy acidic bite. I spotted a few flecks of dried herbs, but it wasn't an especially herbal sauce.
What stood out most was the cheese. I'm not sure if it was 100% mozzarella or a blend of cheeses, but it was definitely applied on the thick side, and was rather chewy. Cheese was the main component here.
T.K.'s has a modest number of toppings available, as well as subs, wings, salads, and a handful of sides. It's nothing fancy on the inside, but there's ample seating. Somewhat unusually for a pizzeria, they're open for lunch from 11 to 1:30, and again for dinner from 4 till 10 (11 on weekends).
Cheesiness aside, the adjective that came to mind as I was eating this slice was "uncomplicated." Medium-thick, bready crust, straightforward sauce, and lots of cheese. Not a bad slice at all, though a tad heavy on the cheese, and a bit thicker than I like. But for what it was - and I guess I'd say this fits within the rough category of "Rochester style" - it was well made, and I'll give it a B.
T.K.'s Pizzeria, 27 Liftbridge Lane, Fairport. 388-1700

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Patriotic Pizza

Ordinarily I wouldn't post a news item on here unless it related to the local pizza scene, but I'll make an exception for Pizzas4Patriots, the goal of which is to send pizza to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As far as I can tell, it appears to be a legitimate operation, although you can decide for yourself. There's a link on their website if you think you'd like to contribute. Sounds like a nice idea to me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Starvin' Marvin's, Lake Avenue

At any given time, some local pizza chains are expanding, and some are shrinking. One of the expanding ones right now seems to be Starvin' Marvin's, which has locations on Lake Ave., Culver Rd. near Sea Breeze, and in the Village of Webster, with another one in the works for Brockport. (Brockport has seen another pizzeria, Avanti, opening recently, and already has a pretty good NY-style pizzeria, Main Street, so I need to get out there soon. Gotta love college towns for pizza.)
I tried the Lake Ave. location, which is not far from downtown Rochester. The only lunchtime slices available were plain cheese and pepperoni. I tried the pepperoni. They were not "huge" slices, but you can get two with a 20 oz. bottle of pop for about $4.30 with tax.
The pizza had clearly been cooked on a screen, and had a uniformly brown, slightly greasy underside. It was pretty soft, with no "crunch" on biting into it, except at the edge. The slice was medium thin, with a chewy texture and not much breadiness, except, again, along the outer edge.
The sauce had a mild flavor, with some specks of herbs here and there, and the mozzarella was applied moderately, in good balance with the other components. The wide-and-thin pepperoni had just a bit of crispness.
Although the slices at Starvin' Marvin's aren't huge, the menu is. They offer wings, calzones, subs (referred to on the menu as "hoagies," a term I haven't seen in a while), salads, pasta, fried seafood, wraps, sides, "plates" and desserts.
As I'm eating and thinking about a pizza, oftentimes a word or phrase comes to mind. This time it was "middle of the road." There was nothing wrong with this pizza, but it wasn't really distinctive or outstanding in any way either. The crust was OK, but not crisp enough for me, and the other components were in balance with the crust, but the pizza had a certain generic quality to it. If I'm jonesin' for pizza, this would do just fine. But I doubt that I would ever feel a particular craving for Starvin' Marvin's. So given my criteria, I almost have to give it a C (average) grade, but for offering "normal" size slices and the friendly counter service, I'll bump it up to a C+.
Starvin' Marvin's, 534 Lake Ave. 458-MARV (6278)
Update: Starvin' Marvin's is apparently now known as Marvin Mozzeroni's. (8/3/09)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pontillo's, Spencerport Road

Pontillo's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon
Pontillo's is one of the biggest local chains around, with around 25 locations. It started in Batavia in 1947, and sadly, the original location is now closed, but that has no effect on the other locations, because apparently it's not a chain in the traditional sense.
According to the Rochester Wiki entry for Pontillo's, its various locations are independently owned, and do not follow the usual franchise model of sticking to a uniform menu, recipe, etc., so the success or failure of one has no effect on the others. Assuming that's correct, it also means what you get at one location may or may not be indicative of what you get elsewhere.
I tried the Spencerport Road location in Gates around lunchtime. Apparently they have no formal association with the rest of the Pontillo's chain - they even have their own website - but they do share the name and the heritage, claiming to be "the same pizza your grandparents enjoyed in 1947!"
Since it is, loosely, part of a chain, traditional or otherwise, and since the sign out front advertised giant slices, I wasn't expecting much. Pontillo's has won some City Newspaper awards for best local pizzeria, but I don't put much stock in those things. A chain will always have an advantage in the sense that it's better known throughout the area than a little hole-in-the-wall with only one location.
Having said all that, I was pleasantly surprised by my pepperoni slice. It had a medium-thick crust, with a nice outer crunch (it was reheated in the oven) and some inner bready chewiness. The bottom was what I would call nearly charred, with dark brown areas that were done almost, but not quite, to the point of charring. It was not baked on a screen, which is a good thing. (I have to do a post about pizza screens sometime.)
The sauce, which was laid on fairly heavily, had a distinct herbal flavor, and the cheese layer was fairly thick too. Still, everything was pretty well balanced; this didn't seem like an especially heavy slice, and I mean that as a compliment. A thicker crust calls for a little more sauce and a little more cheese, but not so much as to overwhelm the crust. This slice pulled off that balancing act pretty well.
The pepperoni was nicely charred along the edges, but was applied somewhat more sparingly, and stayed mostly in the background. It was more of an accent than a dominating player.
I asked for a to-go menu, but was told that they wouldn't be in until later that day. I did get a look at a menu, though, and it seemed to be the usual pizza/wings/subs type of stuff. The Gates location also has a lunch buffet - unlike many Pontillo's, this one has plenty of seating, being located in a spot that's housed several restaurants over the past few years. I didn't see the buffet, though, so I can't comment on it. The service was friendly; the middle-aged guy making the pizzas greeted me when I came in, as did the two women behind the counter.
I am still philosophically opposed to the idea of a chain pizzeria, but all in all this was pretty good. That may have something to do with its being independently owned and operated, so that it's run and staffed by people with a real stake in its success, and not just by some teenager working a summer job. I guess the independent-ownership aspect also means that I can't make any sweeping generalizations about the quality of Pontillo's pizza chainwide, but the Gates location gets a B+ from me.
Pontillo's Pizzeria, 777 Spencerport Road, Gates. Sun. - Thu. 11 am - 12 m, Fri. - Sat. 11 am - 1 am. Phone: (585) 429-5050

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rocco's, Webster

Rocco's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Rocco's (not to be confused with Rocco, which is an upscale restaurant doing brick-oven pizzas on Monroe Ave. near downtown Rochester) is on North Avenue in Webster, not far from Rhino's. It appears that this used to be an outpost of Guida's (haven't gotten there yet), but no longer. Meanwhile, Guida's has since opened a new location in Webster, so I'm not sure how this place ended up as Rocco's.
Be that as it may, how's the pizza? Well, not bad. Rocco's is another big-slice joint, but it's one of the better ones I've tried.
Rocco's "huge" (or is it "huuu - gia!"?) slice is basically two slices out of a large pie, that simply haven't been cut in two; in other words, the pie from which it's cut isn't especially huge, it's just that it's been cut into quarters rather than eighths.
Though big in surface area, Rocco's huge slice is not particularly thick, heavy, or overloaded with toppings, fortunately I say. Rocco's had several different slices available on my lunchtime visit, and I opted for pepperoni, which looked to be the freshest, as usual.
The crust was mildly browned on the bottom. It was pretty thin overall, though of somewhat uneven thickness, with some spots more thick and chewy, and others so thin that my slice spontaneously tore as I was holding it. It was pretty floppy, with a soft texture, though it did have some bready flavor, and the edge had a bit of crunch to it.
The sauce was applied a little heavily, and a little sloppily, too, as you can see from the photo - it nearly came to the outer edge in some spots, and was a good 2+ inches from the edge in others. It had a very noticeable tomatoey/herbal flavor reminiscent of a slow-cooked spaghetti sauce. The mozzarella cheese was just a bit browned but not burnt, which is how I like it. The pepperoni was pretty basic.
Rocco's has an almost intimidatingly long menu, with everything from pizza, subs and wings to pasta, tacos and fajitas, and even turkey dinners, something I hadn't seen at a pizzeria up until now. The list of pizza toppings and specialty pizzas is likewise lengthy, and includes something called sweet-and-sour pizza sauce (which frankly doesn't sound good to me at all) and six kinds of peppers (which sounds very good).
I'm usually skeptical of places with long menus - I figure you can't do that many things and do them all well - but as I said this wasn't bad, especially compared to other big-slice places. It seemed to me that a little more care could've been taken with the pizza - more uniform thickness, more careful spreading of the sauce and cheese, for example - and it was a tad underdone on the bottom, for my taste. But it had a good flavor, and I had no serious complaints. I'll give it a C+.
Rocco's Pizza & Pasta, 195 North Ave., Webster. Sun. - Thu. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 11 p.m. Phone: 872-2210

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Perri's, Lyell Ave.

Perri's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Perri's Pizzeria, which has been in business since 1992, has had a number of area locations over the years. Right now there's one on Lyell Ave. in Gates and one on Norton St. in Irondequoit. I checked out the one in Gates.
This is the self-proclaimed "home of the huge slice," and yes, the slices are huge. And at 3 bucks, they're cheap.
But are they good? Well, let's start with the crust. My cheese slice was on the medium side of thin, but got gradually thicker from the point to the outer edge. The underside was browned, not charred, and was not greasy. It was more soft than crisp, and folded easily. It bore some faint screen marks underneath, although it was briefly reheated on the oven floor. The edge was reminiscent of a soft, slightly oily, fresh-baked breadstick.
The crust was slightly undercooked in the center, meaning that it either hadn't spent enough time in the oven or was baked at too low a temperature to cook all the way through. But visually and texturally, it was clearly still doughy in the middle. And this was, as I said, a fairly thin slice.
The cheese was the dominant player. It was laid on in a thick layer of mozzarella, with a more soft-melted, rather than crisp-browned flavor and texture. The sauce was slightly sweet, but I had to taste it separately to know that, because it was almost undetectable under the cheese.
Perri's has a good-size menu, with 10 different specialty pizzas (Buffalo chicken pizza - which I just can't get into, even though I like chicken wings - seemed to be a big seller), several varieties of wings, subs, fried chicken, Philly-type steak sandwiches, "plates," and fish fry or shrimp dinners. It seemed to be a popular draw for local blue-collar workers, and the service was friendly.
Overall, this wasn't bad pizza, and it was a good deal. But I have a hard time getting past the raw-dough interior of my slice. I know lunchtime is busy and you've got to get those pizzas in and out of the oven fast, but with a hot enough oven that shouldn't be a problem, and you'll end up with better pizza to boot. If that's as hot as your oven gets, then tell your customers that good pizza takes a little time.
But who am I to complain? As I said, Perri's seemed to have a big and loyal clientele. From my perspective, though, this had the makings of a very good pizza, but fell short of its potential, and I can only give it a C. Not bad, but just average.
Perri's Pizzeria, 2000 Lyell Ave. 247-4040.
Pizza Guy note:  for a more recent review of a Perri's NY style pie, go here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Constantino's, Ridgeway Ave.

Constantino's must be serving up some pretty good pizza, because they've been in business now for several years, despite an almost total lack of self-promotion. No website, only a handful of relevant search results on Google, no Yellow Pages ad, and no menus. At least on my visit. There was a laminated menu on the counter, but when I asked for a menu to go, they looked around a bit, and said, "No." But they were pretty busy, so they must be doing something right.
And, truth be told, the pizza is pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. It's thin and foldable, and qualifies, in my mind, as New York style.
The crust, however, was quite soft. Mine was done to more golden than brown - forget charred - and only the very edge had any crispness at all to it. It had some bready flavor, though, and although I like my crust on the crisp side, it wasn't unpleasant.
The pizza also had a very noticeable garlicky (I think) aroma. As soon as I opened the box, it hit me. It seemed to come from the dough itself, as if it had been dusted with or contained garlic powder, or, perhaps had been brushed with garlic-infused oil. There might've been some onion powder or herbs in there too, as I did see some flakes of dried herbs here and there, but mostly I detected garlic.
It was a fairly saucy slice, with sauce oozing out as I bit into the folded slice. The sauce had a mild tomatoey flavor.
The cheese on my slice, which was fresh out of the oven, was melted to the point of creaminess. It was a little greasy on the surface.
I wish I could tell you what else Constantino's has to offer, or give you more details, but I wasn't about to stand there and copy it all off their display menu. There is a little seating, including a couple of outdoor tables.
I should also mention that, at least at lunchtime, if you ask for a slice, you get two - essentially, a quarter of a large pie - for $3.25.
That's a very reasonable price, but it makes me wonder what this thing is about double-size slices. Whether they cut it in two, or serve it as one "mega slice," a lot of places around here pretty much require you to buy a quarter of a pie at once. Maybe that makes some sort of business sense, and maybe I'm in the minority on this one, but I like the option of buying a "standard" 1/8-of-a-pie slice, the kind you can get in any pizza joint in New York City. For one thing, I may not be that hungry. Or I may want to eat it on the go, and it's a lot easier to eat a standard-size slice while you're on foot than a giant slice.
That's not a rant about Constantino's, in particular, so much as about what seems to be an unfortunate trend. If any pizza parlor owners are reading this, take note, please.
Again, I don't mean that as a knock on Constantino's. I liked their pizza. If they could get their ovens hotter and crisp up that crust a little, I'd like it even more. I might even buy two slices at a time, of my own volition. For now, I give it a B-.
Constantino's, 2532 Ridgeway Ave. near Long Pond Rd. 227-0170
Note:  as of May 2010 Constantino's appears to have closed. This address is now the home of Good Guys Pizza.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rhino's Pizzeria, Webster

Rhino's Pizzeria & Deli on Urbanspoon
Rhino's Pizzeria is located at a rather unlikely location in Village of Webster, in a cinderblock building on a side street in a semi-residential area not far off 104. I have a rule of thumb, though, that if you find a successful restaurant in an out-of-the-way location, it's probably a good restaurant. And judging by the lunchtime crowd, Rhino's looked pretty successful to me.
Rhino's serves slices, but they're not up front where you can see them, so I just ordered a cheese slice, figuring that was a pretty safe bet.
Not wanting a lot of packaging, I ordered it "for here," even though I intended to take it out. Though you order at the counter, eat-in orders are delivered to your table, so I sat at a booth near the register, right next to the autographed photo of Webster resident and rock legend Lou Gramm. My slice was brought out to me after a few minutes.
The underside of the crust was well-dusted with flour, and had a moderate amount of dark brown, nearly-charred areas. It had a nice, crisp, crackly bite to it and was just on the thin side of medium. The slightly thicker edge had a fresh, bready flavor and was pleasingly crunchy.
The cheese was laid on pretty heavily, and was stringy. This was a cheesy slice. It was straight mozzarella, I think, and might've been whole milk mozzarella, as there was a fair amount of grease oozing out of it. The sauce was unremarkable and stayed very much in the background.
Rhino's has the usual toppings available, and a handful of specialty pizzas, including a "chicken fajita pizza." They also have plenty of sides and appetizers, salads, wings, grill items, and a wide variety of subs. There are several booths for eat-in patrons, and they get extra points for having free delivery.
This was a pretty good slice: well browned, crisp, reasonably thin, maybe a little heavy on the cheese, but pretty good. Kind of like a New York slice on steroids: a little wider, a little thicker, a little cheesier, certainly heavier, but with good flavor and texture. I'll give it a B.

Rhino's Pizzeria & Deli, 85 Donovan St., Webster. 872-3150

What do the ratings mean?

At the end of each post, I give the pizza a letter grade, from A+ to F. So what do those mean?
Well, not much, frankly. My main intent in each post is to describe the pizza, not to judge it. Since opinions about pizza differ so much, whether I like it isn't necessarily going to be that helpful to you, unless you and I have the same likes and dislikes, which is unlikely.
I try not to let my prejudices and preconceptions get in the way, but there's no getting around the fact that for me, the ideal pizza has a thin crust, as well as certain other attributes, and I'm not sure that any pizza without those characteristics could ever rate an A+ from me. But that's why I always try to describe, as objectively as I can, the appearance, texture and flavor of the crust, cheese, and other components of the pizza, so that even if I didn't care for it, you can decide for yourself whether it sounds like a pizza you might like to try.
For the same reason, I try to stay away from purely subjective terminology. I may say that a crust was soggy, or that the sauce was salty or the cheese was burnt, but never simply that the pizza "sucked."
Having said all that, I know that inevitably my subjective reactions are going to creep in anyway, and I figure, as long as I'm at it, I may as well throw in a rating at the end. I try to stay fairly consistent by checking how I've rated other pizzas, so that one place doesn't end up with a higher or lower rating based simply on what mood I was in or how hungry I was at the time, but it's an imprecise system at best.
Another variable, of course, is the time and day when I visit. Maybe I got a slice that had been sitting out for a half hour, and had I arrived five minutes later, I could've gotten one fresh out of the oven. Or maybe the Wednesday lunchtime employee isn't as skilled a pizzaiolo as the Saturday night person. But that's the pizzeria's problem, not mine; if a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then a pizzeria is only as good as its worst pizza.
I'm probably a little bit of a harsh grader, compared to most people. To some people, "C" sounds like a bad grade, but to me, "C" means average. Not bad, just average. If you need a pizza fix, it'll do.
"B" is a cut above average. Among the better pizza places around. Worth driving a little out of your way, or spending a little bit more for.
"A" is truly great. Among the best pizza in the area.
"A+" is reserved for world-class pizza, the kind you'll remember all your life, on a par with my all-time favorite, Patsy's in New York City. I may never find an A+ pizza around here, though I hope I do.
"D" is good enough to eat, but only if you've already spent the money on it. F is not worth eating even if you've already paid for it.
The bottom line, then, is that the grades are rough guides to my overall impressions of a pizza at the particular time when I tried it, based on its objective characteristics and my subjective preferences. No more, no less. So if I give your favorite pizza a lower grade than you think it deserves, by all means voice your opinion in the comments section, but don't get your blood pressure up over it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

KC's Smokin' BBQ & Pizza Pit, Lyell Ave.

Kc's smokin' bbq & pizza pit on Urbanspoon
Looking at my pizza map, it's striking how pizzerias seem to cluster in certain areas and along certain streets. One contender for Rochester's #1 pizza strip has to be Lyell Avenue, where, depending on how you count them, you can find a good 10 pizza parlors in a 2-mile stretch in the area roughly centering on 390.
I'm overdue, then, to report on this area. I'll begin with a relative newcomer, KC's Smokin' BBQ & Pizza Pit, which is in Gateway Plaza, across from the Lyell Ave. Wegmans. This used to be a Piatza's, and at one time it was also called "Hot to Trot," but for some reason - maybe the presence of the ovens - there always seems to be a pizzeria here. (The BBQ, though, is something new, and I haven't tried it yet.)
And they always seem to be big-slice joints. I'm happy to report, though, that unlike the pizza at most such places, this was a pretty good slice of pizza. Not great, mind you, but pretty good.
The crust was quite thin, but despite the size of the slice - probably a good foot long - it passed the fold test, meaning that it could be folded without the tip flopping down. It was pretty soft, though, and almost had to be folded unless you were going to eat it with a knife and fork. But you should not be eating this with a knife and fork.
The underside was browned toward the tip, i.e., the center of the pizza, and was nearly charred in spots. It had telltale cross-hatch screen marks, but had just a bit of crispness, which is often completely lacking in screen-baked pizzas. The edge, which was also pretty thin, had a nice crunch and a toasty flavor, but the rest of the crust had a floury, slightly undercooked, raw-dough flavor.
The orange-red sauce was very prominent here, although of course the thinner the crust the more likely the sauce is to get noticed. Then too, folding the slice causes the sauce to collect at the bottom of the fold, so the first few bites were especially saucy. But this was definitely a saucy slice, with a definite tomato and "Italian herb" flavor in each bite.
The cheese was pretty creamy and gloppy, and also tended to slide into the bottom of the fold. It was noticeable, but not laid on so thickly as to overwhelm the other components.
KC's pizza offerings aren't too exotic, unless you count the 28-inch "Monster" pizza. The rest of the menu is intriguing, though, with "hickory-smoked St. Louis style ribs," jambalaya and gumbo, an andouille sausage sandwich, and country fried steak. There's limited seating, and they deliver.
KC's is tucked into a corner of a plaza and would be easy to overlook. That may be one reason that other places haven't made it in that spot. But the pizza's not bad at all, and despite the abundant competition along Lyell Ave., I think they're worth a try, especially if you like thin-crust pizza. If they can lose the screens, crank up the ovens a bit and get some real crispness in their crust, they might have some really great pizza on their hands. For now I'll give KC's a B- and a sincere wish of success.
KC's Smokin' BBQ & Pizza Pit, Lyell Ave., 2346 Lyell Ave. 426-3444. Mon. - Sat. 10-10, Sun. 12-9
Pizza Guy Note:  see an updated post on KC's here.

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