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Friday, July 31, 2009

Costello's Grill & Pizza, Fairport

Costello's Pizza Emporium on Urbanspoon
Costello's is a family-owned and operated place that has been in business since 1987. It's at the corner of Fairport and Baird Roads, just on the western edge of the village of Fairport.
There wasn't much to choose from on my lunchtime visit, slicewise. I got a cheese slice.
It was, frankly, a rather sorry looking little slice, but it was better - somewhat - than it looked. The fairly thin crust had a chewy texture. It was limp toward the tip, but got a bit more firm toward the edge. The edge, in fact, was the best part for me, as it had some crunch and a pleasant bready quality.
The sauce had a rather thick consistency, either from having been cooked before it was applied to the pizza or from evaporation during baking and afterwards. It had a somewhat herbal flavor.
The cheese was applied a bit thickly, and had congealed, pulling away from the edge. It did not adhere to the crust, and pulled off the slice completely when I took my first bite.
Costello's has a counter upfront, with some booths in an adjoining dining room, which is tastefully decorated for a pizza parlor. But then again, it's not just a pizza parlor. They offer various grilled items, including NY strip steak, pasta dinners, plus all the usual stuff like subs, wings, wraps, calzones and salads.
As for pizzas, the toppings list is rather modest, and there are a handful of specialty pizzas.
I had the feeling, eating my Costello's slice, that slices might not be the way to go here. This didn't seem to be the kind of place where they're bringing out a freshly baked and sliced pie every 10 minutes. I'm guessing that a fresh pizza from Costello's would be a decided improvement over the slice I had, but I can only rate what I got. There were some things to like about this pizza, but overall it was just OK. I'll give it a C.
Costello's Grill & Pizza, 1220 Fairport Road at Baird Road, Fairport. 586-5300
Sun. & Mon. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., Tue. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sat. 4 p.m. - 11 p.m.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mike's Village Way Pizzeria, East Rochester

Village Way Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Mike's Village Way Pizzeria is on Main St. - which really isn't the main street - in East Rochester. I tried a pepperoni slice at lunchtime. (I asked for cheese, but got pepperoni, which I didn't mind. The counter guy seemed as if he might've been new at the job, though. He was friendly enough but also had some trouble with the cash register.)
As an aside, here as at many places, the slices weren't visible to the customer. I like to see the slices before I order, to see if anything looks good and to see if I'm getting a fresh- or a stale-looking slice. That may be exactly why some places keep them out of sight (and I don't mean to suggest that's why Mike's does, since it could just be a matter of the physical layout of the place), but that's my editorial for the day.
This slice had a thin-to-medium crust that got gradually thicker toward the edge. It was fairly crunchy, though that may have been partly from its having been rewarmed in the oven, which will make any slice crunchier. It had some interior breadiness, which was more pronounced along the edge.
It was also greasy. Maybe some of it was from the pepperoni, but this was a pretty oily slice. It was one of those that you can hold by the edge and let the oil drip off.
The underside was pretty well browned, and bore some surface cracks as well. I'm guessing that both of those are attributable to the presence of the oil. That would also explain why I found more breadiness along the thicker edge, since the grease hadn't had a chance to soak through it as much.
The sauce had a straightforward tomatoey flavor, but pretty much stayed in the background. The cheese was applied just a bit thickly, making this a fairly cheesy slice.
Village Way offers pizzas, calzones, hot and cold subs, wings, hot sandwiches, burgers, sides and some Italian dinners like chicken parm and spaghetti and meatballs. They deliver for a $2 charge. There are a few chairs but it's pretty much a takeout or delivery place.
This wasn't a bad slice of pizza, but nothing special. In particular, it was too greasy for me. A little oil on top is fine, as fat helps convey flavor to the tastebuds, but to me a pizza shouldn't be greasy underneath. Overall, though, the flavors weren't bad, so I'll give Mike's a right-down-the-middle C.
Mike's Village Way, 108 N. Main St., East Rochester. 586-2919
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sat. noon - 11 p.m., Sun. noon - 10 p.m.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Captain Tony's Part II - "New York Thin Crust"

My less than favorable review of Captain Tony's generated a few comments disputing my critique, as well as an email from the "Captain" himself inviting me to try one of their thin-crust, New York style pizzas. So I did.
I was afraid this would be simply a thinner version of the pizza I had before. Not so.
The crust was indeed thin. Not super-thin, but, well, thin. The underside was well browned and dimpled, which I think indicated that it had been baked on a dimpled aluminum pan. Apparently a dimpled pan is supposed to result in a crisper crust, although I'm not sure what the theory is behind that. This one wasn't particularly crisp, but there was some firmness to the crust; a slice could be held in one hand without flopping over. The texture was somewhere between soft and crisp.
While I often find that the edge of a pizza gives a good indication of what the crust is like, there wasn't much of an edge to speak of here. The toppings went right up to the very edge of the pie, which was barely thicker than the rest of the pizza. If you like a nice, thick, bready edge, you may find that a negative. If you're the type of pizza eater who leaves the uneaten crusts on your plate, and likes toppings in every bite, you'll appreciate this one.
Speaking of toppings, this was definitely a saucier slice than the "regular" Captain Tony's pizza that I had last time. The sauce had a tangy, tomatoey, slightly herbal flavor. The cheese was applied moderately but uniformly - no bare spots here - and was lightly browned, with a stringy/chewy texture.
The wide and thin pepperoni was OK, and like the cheese, was precisely applied, with exactly three slices of pepperoni on each slice of the pepperoni half of the pizza.
So what did I think of this one? Well, I did like it better than the "standard" Captain Tony's slices I had last time, which I found too soft, cheesy and greasy (or "oily," for those of you who insist there's a difference) for my taste. This was a little more firm, if not really crisp, was not nearly as oily, and the components - crust, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni - were in good balance with each other.
Having said that, I wouldn't call it an authentic NY style pizza, as it says on the menu. Your average pizza in NYC is typically baked directly on the oven floor, and tends to be crisper than this, with a flour-dusted, dry underside, maybe a little charring underneath, a thicker, crimped edge, and a predominantly bready flavor. That's just not what this was.
Still, I don't want to get hung up on labels or semantics. Whatever you want to call it, this was pretty good pizza. It struck me as kind of a throwback pizza - nothing too fancy, no pretenses to being "gourmet" or "artisanal," just your basic, straightforward pizza. In fact, it actually reminded me of the pies we used to get from a particular pizza shop when I was growing up, more years ago than I care to ponder.
I should mention in passing here that I picked up some wings with my pizza, and they were pretty good - crisp and meaty. As for the pizza, it was worth the trip back to Captain Tony's. Most pizzerias can make your pie thicker or thinner as you prefer, but again this pizza wasn't just thinner, it was qualitatively different from the original Captain Tony's "pan" pizza. New York style? I don't think so. But on its own terms, not bad at all. Its most ringing endorsement in my household came from our 6-year-old daughter, who pronounced it "real, real good to me." So she might give it an A. Me, I'd still like a little more crispness underneath - a little crunch when I bite into it, a little more bready flavor and texture - but the overall flavor was good, the components were well balanced, and there were no real problems to speak of, so I'll give it a B-.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Russo's Clubhouse Pizza, Long Pond Road, Greece

Russo's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Russo's Clubhouse Pizza is near the northern end of Long Pond Road, in Cedarfield Commons in Greece. Their lunchtime slice choices are limited to plain cheese or pepperoni. I had a pepperoni slice.
This was a medium-to-thick slice, and fairly heavy. The underside showed some pizza-screen marks but was also a wee bit charred, which is unusual for a screen-baked pizza. It had some creases, kind of like fault lines in appearance, from where the dough seemed to have been folded onto itself while rising. It wasn't at all greasy, had a nice bready flavor, and a thick, chewy edge.
The sauce had a straightforward tomatoey flavor, and was applied enough to be noticed, but still remain mostly in the background behind the crust and the cheese. The latter was a chewy layer of mozzarella, on the thick side, but in balance with the thickish crust, putting this into what I would call Rochester-style pizza.
The wide-and-thin pepperoni was OK, a little crsip and a little greasy.
Russo's has a pretty basic menu, with pizza, wings, burgers, hot dogs, meatball subs, BBQ roast beef sandwiches, steak sandwiches, and a handful of sides, plus ice cream and lemon ice. They don't offer any specialty pizzas (aside from white pizza), although you're free to create your own from their toppings list, but they do have a "diet pizza" with a thin crust, "light" cheese and vegetable toppings. It may be good, but I think I'll stick with my pizza diet over diet pizza.
There are some tables and chairs, and they advertise a "limited delivery area."
My experience with screen-baked pizzas up till now has been almost universally disappointing, but this was one of the better ones I've had, maybe even the best. That may sound like damning with faint praise, but it's not meant that way. Mind you, it did make me wonder how much better it could've been had it been baked in a "hearth" oven, which might've added to the complexity of the flavors and texture of the dough, but I'm not complaining about this pizza. I'll give it a B-.
Russo's Pizza, 496 Long Pond Road, Greece. 225-3570.
Sun. - Thu. 11 am - 10:30 pm, Fri. & Sat. 11 am - midnight

Friday, July 24, 2009

Little Venice, South Ave.

Little Venice Pizza on Urbanspoon
Little Venice Pizzeria has been a South Wedge mainstay for many years. They used to have a hole-in-the-wall place doing takeout and delivery only. A few years ago they moved into a bigger space across the street, with a few tables, and, I think, a bigger menu.
I got a couple of lunchtime slices. The crust was thin, and just a little browned underneath. There was no charring at all, though there was a bit of oven soot.
The texture was a little crunchy, and they were kind of greasy. My fingertips were left a little oily from holding them. That crunch, then, I'd say was more from the oil - kind of a fried crunch - than from any high oven temperature.
Aside from that crunch, there wasn't a lot going on here texturally. I didn't get the sense that the dough had risen all that much, as there wasn't really any interior breadiness to speak of.
They were fairly cheesy slices. The cheese was on the thick side, was lightly browned, and gave the pizza a certain tangy flavor.
The sauce, on the other hand, seemed almost nonexistent. There was really very little of it, although what there was had a slightly herbal flavor. The wide and thin slices of pepperoni tasted fine, and were applied pretty generously.
Turning to the menu, Little Venice offers a handful of specialty pizzas, including "Doc's Special," which is a white pizza with garlic, mozzarella, oregano, spinach, tomato, artichoke, ricotta and parmesan. They also do calzones, strombolis, wings, hot and cold subs, burgers, and several dinner entrees, including homemade cheese manicotti, chicken, veal, or eggplant parm, and lasagna.
There's not a whole lot of seating, but there are a few tables inside and out. It's an informal place, and the service was friendly. On my visit, just listening to the banter between the two guys working there - one of whom I took to be the proprietor - was pretty entertaining.
As for the pizza, it had no major flaws, but it loses points in a number of areas, particularly the soot, the greasy feel, the pale underside, and the general lack of breadiness of the crust. A longer rise and higher baking temperature would go a long way toward improving this pizza, in my opinion. (And scrape out that oven!)
None of these were major problems on their own, and overall the pizza tasted OK. Personally, I'd like a smidgen less cheese and a tad more sauce, but that's mostly a matter of personal preference, and I won't really fault them for that. But the soot and pale underside are harder to overlook. Bottom line, I'd say this was pretty much average pizza, and taking off some points for that unattractive bottom, I'll give it a C-.
Little Venice Pizzeria, 742 South Ave. 473-6710. Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 12:30 a.m., Sun. 1 p.m. - 11:30 p.m. Free delivery.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Local pizza news

This week's City Newspaper has several pizza-related items, including a review - sort of - of Big Deal Pizzeria, which suggests to me that maybe I should give it another try, as I wasn't too crazy about it when I first tried it, shortly after it opened. City's Tricia Seymour didn't actually try Big Deal's pizza, but owner Kevin Wratni is reported as saying that their dough is "cold fermented for 24 hours, and then hand tossed," and that he "uses a stone deck oven versus a conveyor belt to bake the pizzas." Outside of the big chains, at least, I don't know of too many places that don't hand toss the dough, or that use conveyor belts (thank god), but a cold, 24-hour rise should produce good dough, and a stone deck oven is generally a good thing, so one of these days I'll give Big Deal another shot.
City also has a mini-review of Lucca Pizza in Victor, which I haven't gotten to yet, as well as notes about Bay Goodman's recent move, and about a new place on Culver, Big Daddy's Pizza Pit & Grocery, which I'll add to the to-do list.
Speaking of new pizzerias, I don't report every time I see a new place open up, although I do try to keep my map up to date. There have been several recent additions to the map, including Sully's on South Ave. downtown and Mama Lizzie's on Lyell Ave. Oh, and Hong Kong House on South Clinton, which I'm dying to try, if only because I find the idea of a Chinese restaurant serving pizza irresistible. So check the map for the most current listing of pizzerias. And as always, if you know of a place that isn't listed, please email me. I will generally try to get to a new place before too long, but I do like to give them a few weeks at least to get the bugs out (figuratively speaking) before I post a review.

Paulie's, Latta Road, Greece

Paulie's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Paulie's Pizza is on Latta Road in Greece, in a small strip plaza just east of Dewey Ave. It bills itself as the "Home of the 18" Large," with the added notation that "the Competition's is Just 16"."
For some reason I was expecting this to be a NY-style pizza, or at least thin, maybe because I associate big, 18" pies with thin crusts.
Well anyway, this wasn't NY style, or particularly thin. It was medium-to-thick, with a soft, chewy crust. The mottled underside varied from pale to golden to dark brown, with no charring and a soft exterior. Like the rest of the pizza, it was not at all greasy.
The cheese was applied moderately, was a little browned on top, and was quite stringy, at least while the pizza remained hot. The sauce was fairly noticeable on the palate, and had a bright tomatoey flavor. Interestingly, the pepperoni pizza comes with both the usual wide-and-thin, and "cup 'n' char" slices, which was a nice tough that added a pleasant variety to the pie.
Paulie's offers red, white, or "pink" sauce on its pizza - I assume pink sauce isn't really pink, but a combination of the red and white sauces - and quite a few specialty pies, including a baked potato pizza, alfredo pizzas, and frittata pizza. They also have calzones, wings, "plates," salads, hot and cold subs, daily fish fries (or is it fish frys?) and a few fried sides, plus some sweets like brownies and cannolis.
Besides their 18" large, Paulie's has a deal where you get a free large pizza for every 10 purchases of $10 or more. It may 'not sound like much, but for a regular customer its a nice reward. Just remember to get your receipt stamped.
This was pretty good pizza. Very bready, and pretty filling. The toppings were good, and it wasn't greasy. I enjoyed its bready qualities, but this was one of those that, for my tastes, are just a little too thick and bready, and I would've liked a bit more bread-like crustiness on the outside, instead of just soft chewiness all the way through. Still, pretty good overall. I'll give it a B-.
Paulie's Pizza, 1250 Latta Road, Greece. 663-9150
Mon. - Thu.. 4 pm - 9 pm, Fri. & Sat. 11 am - 10 pm, Sun. noon - 9 pm.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Head to head in Geneseo: Mama Mia's and Pizza Paul's

Mama Mia's Pizza on UrbanspoonPizza Paul's on Urbanspoon
Geneseo is a bit beyond the geographic scope of this blog, but more than one commenter has told me that I should try Mama Mia's, and a weekend trip down to the Southern Tier gave me the opportunity.
Turns out there are two pizza joints across the street from each other, Mama Mia's, which has been in business since 1990, and the equally alliterative Pizza Paul's, which opened three years later (and which has a second location in Lakeville). Since I was kind of hungry anyway, I couldn't pass up this chance for a head-to-head matchup.
Unfortunately, my copious notes appear to have gotten tossed in the recycling bin, which went to the curb last night and was emptied this morning, so I'm going strictly by memory here, but I still remember them well enough that I think I can give a pretty accurate description.
On first glance, both MM's and PP's slices appeared similar: thin crusts, same size, pretty much basic New York-style pizza, although PP's was a little thicker along the edge. (All the MM's pictures are on the left, and PP's are on the right.)
Picking them up showed the first difference, though. MM's, though a tad thinner, could be held, folded, with one hand, with the tip of the pizza slice pointing straight out. When I held a PP's slice the same way, the tip flopped over, pointing downward.
Now that may sound like something that only a complete pizza geek would notice or care about, and it probably is, but it's not just an aethetic thing. It indicates that the MM's crust has a bit more backbone, that it's a little crisper, not as soft.
The undersides also showed a significant difference. MM's was dotted with tiny charred spots, while PP's, which was heavily dusted with cornmeal, was more uniformly browned (darker brown, I think, than the photo indicates). That shade of brown, I believe, is indicative of oil. It was not a greasy slice by any means, and I could be wrong about this, but to me, it seemed to be the shade of brown that dough gets when it cooks in the presence of oil.
As I said, the MM's slices were also a wee bit thinner. Very thin, in fact, some of the thinnest I've had around here. Yet despite that thinness, MM's had both an exterior crispness on the underside, and an interior breadiness. They were so thin there hardly seemed to be an interior at all, and yet there was a distinct flavor and chewy texture of good bread in there, contrasting nicely with the exterior crunch.
PP's slices, in contrast, lacked that exterior crispness. They were softer and chewier, without a distinct exterior and interior, from a textural standpoint. And though good bread should be chewy, well, there's chewy and then there's chewy. Think of a great, "artisanal" loaf, with big air pockets inside, from the slow rise and well-developed gluten. Then think of a dense, undercooked loaf that hardly rose at all. Both chewy. Not the same, though. PP's, to me, didn't have as enjoyable a chew as MM's. It was OK, but just OK.
The textural differences became most apparent at the edge. With no toppings to distract the palate, the breadiness of MM's slices really came through, with a satisfying crunch and enough thickness to reveal the interior air pockets created by the yeast. PP's, on the other hand, lacked that crunch. Whereas I could bite clean through the MM's edge, PP's was more tough and resistant, requiring first a bite, and then a pull away, so that it was more a matter of tearing off than biting off.
All right, on to the toppings. Both were good, but a little different. The sauce on PP's was more noticeable. It had a bright tomatoey flavor that I liked.
On MM's, the individual components were harder to sort out. This was one of those pizzas in which the toppings seem to just blend in to create a unified whole. Or maybe I was just enjoying that crust so much I didn't pay as much attention to them. Anyway, given the thinness of the pizza, the toppings were appropriately applied with a restrained enough hand to add flavor and contrasting textures without overwhelming the slice. In other words, in balance.
The cheeses were similar, although the cheese on PP's seemed to have congealed just a bit more, and did not adhere quite as much to the slice, possibly because of the thicker intervening layer of sauce. The pepperoni was about the same, but a little more uniformly distributed on MM's.
As you've probably guessed by now, I liked Mama Mia's pizza more than Pizza Paul's. Doing this as a side-by-side comparison is a bit unfair to Paul's, because on its own, it was really pretty good pizza. If I wanted pizza and Mama Mia's was closed, I'd have no problem going to Pizza Paul's, though I'd be a little disappointed. But based on this visit I'd say that if I lived or went to school in Geneseo it would be Mama Mia's for me just about every time. Paul's had good flavor, but that crust was really only about average. I'll give it a B-.
Mama Mia's, on the other hand, was sublime. Thin - thin enough that I could probably down a whole pie without too much trouble - crisp and crunchy yet bready and chewy, with a hint of charring but not burned or greasy underneath. It was what New York style pizza should be. I give it an A.
Having lost my notes - which were written on the menus - I can't give you as full a rundown on the menus, hours, etc. as usual. I can tell you that both are counter-service places with some indoor seating. MM's is a little bigger, and there's a room adjoining the main area where they serve ice cream, although they didn't seem to be doing so on this Saturday lunchtime visit. Mama Mia's had a pretty good-sized menu with lots of grilled and fried items. The lunchtime special was two slices and a medium soft drink for $5. They stay open till 3 a.m. on weekends, and I'm guessing that come September, they will be pretty busy around that time.
You can check out Pizza Paul's menu on their website. It's basically pizza, wings, subs and fried foods. All the solid food a college student needs, in other words.
Mama Mia's, 87 Main St., Geneseo. (585) 243-4840
Pizza Paul's, 110 Main St., Geneseo (585) 243-3690. Sun. - Thu. 11am - 11pm, Fri. & Sat. 11am - Midnight (open until 3am when college is in session)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Leccese's, Spencerport

Note: as of January 2012, it appears that Leccese's is closed.
 Today we head out to the west side, to the Village of Spencerport. Leccese's Pizzeria (which used to be - under different ownership, I think - West Side Pizzeria), is in a plaza at the NW corner of Union St. and Rt. 31, just off the 531 expressway.
Leccese's menu says you can order your pizza "thin, thick, or in between" (which frankly, any pizzeria should be able to do, unless, God forbid, they're using premade crusts), but my usual approach is not to ask for a particular thickness and just let them make it the way they usually do. What I got was a medium thick pizza - no surprise there - with a better-than-average crust. It was slightly charred underneath, with a bit of crispness, a nice bready flavor and no greasiness.
In terms of overall flavor, the sauce was a major player here. It was applied fairly thickly and had a definite herbal flavor. Unlike a lot of pizzas where the sauce is very much in the background, it was quite prominent here.
The mozzarella cheese was a bit thick, but in good balance with the other components. It was browned here and there, but still had a "melted" consistency. The thin-sliced pepperoni had good flavor, and was surprisingly ungreasy.
Getting back to the crust, this was reminiscent of a crusty Italian bread, especially along the crunchy edge. Here and there it had bubbled up from the yeast, and the tiny air holes inside also showed that it had been given a good rise. I also thought I picked up a whiff of garlic powder in there somewhere, but I'm not sure where it was coming from - inside the crust, an outside dusting, or perhaps the sauce.
Leccese's has a pretty standard "expanded" pizzeria menu, meaning the usual wings and subs, plus quesadillas, grilled and fried items, wraps, "Lemessy Plates," but they also offer some Italian entrees like homemade lasagna, greens & beans and chicken parm. Only a handful of specialty pizzas, but they include a "spiedie" pizza made with white sauce, mozzarella and chicken spiedies, and a Greek pizza with feta, kalamata olives, red onions, spinach, tomatoes, white sauce and mozzarella. There's some seating, but it's mostly takeout and delivery.
Leccese's faces some nearby competition. Although Spencerport is blissfully free - so far - of national chain pizzerias, there's a big, shiny Cam's right across the street from (and in a much more prominent location than) Leccese's, and a Pontillo's on the other side of Union St. But if the locals have discriminating tastes where pizza is concerned, then I don't think Lecesse's should have to worry. This is good pizza. I'd put it in the "Rochester style" category, with its medium-thick crust, plenty of sauce, and fairly thick layer of cheese. This was another one of those pizzas in which the individual components complement each other, yet maintain their separate, noticeable presence with each bite. What made it a cut or two above average, for me, was the good, bready crust. Start with that, add good toppings, and you've got good pizza. Sounds easy, but a lot of places don't seem to get it. Leccese's does, and I'll give it a B+.
Leccese's Pizzeria, 42 Nichols St., Spencerport. 352-TOGO (8646).
Mon. - Thu. 10:30 am - 10 pm, Fri. & Sat. 11 am - midnight, Sun. noon - 9 pm

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ZiaMo's, Honeoye Falls

This pizzeria is now closed. - RPG
ZiaMo's Pizzeria is a relative newcomer to Honeoye Falls. It's in the same building as "Brongo Bowl." There used to be a pizzeria in the same spot called Bucciarelli's, which I never tried, and this was my first visit to ZiaMo's.
I don't usually go for a lot of toppings, but there were some slices with pepperoni, hot peppers, and roasted red peppers that looked good, so I went with that.
This was a big slice, any way you cut it (pun intended) - it was wide, thick, and heavy. It had been screen-baked, and the underside was browned and not at all crisp. Despite its thickness, it was quite foldable.
The mozzarella was pretty thick and chewy, adding to the heft of this slice. There was a sprinkling of oregano flakes visible, which were distinctly noticeable on the palate. The tomatoey sauce got a bit lost among all the other toppings.
The slice as a whole had a good flavor, but would've benefited from a crisper crust. For all its thickness, this crust was kind of wimpy. It was soft, and the bottom of the crust separated a bit from the top, which I imagine is something that happened during the baking process, though I'm not sure exactly what the explanation is. It may have something to do with the top being wetter than the bottom, because of the the sauce and other toppings, and also more insulated from the heat of the oven.
Overall, the crust had a bit of an undercooked bread dough flavor. And the edge, which I often like because it tends to crisp up nicely, instead had a texture that I can best describe as "tough." Chewy, but not in a good way.
ZiaMo's has a pretty big menu, with all the standards - fried appetizers, wings, hot subs (no cold subs, apparently), wraps, burgers, etc. They also have several chicken and fish entrees, including a Caribbean Chicken with pineapple salsa, and parmesan-crusted tilapia.
The pizza menu features six specialty pizzas, including "Tony's Favorite," which must be what I got, and a white pizza with garlic, grilled chicken, tomatoes, artichokes, onion and green peppers.
This one's a little bit of a tough call. I mean, I liked it OK, it tasted pretty good, but it was mostly the toppings that I liked. And to me, the best toppings in the world can't save a mediocre crust. From some comments I've gotten about other places, I know there are those who feel differently. But I can only rate ZiaMo's according to my own preferences. So with that in mind, I'm giving it a C. Not bad, but no better than average.
ZiaMo's Pizzeria, 126 W. Main St., Honeoye Falls, inside Brongo Bowl. (The bowling alley and adjoining bar were closed on my lunchtime visit.) 624-3810. Current summer hours: Mon. 11 - 8, Tue. - Sat. 11 - 9, Sun. 4 - 8.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Slices, Honeoye Falls

Slices Pizza & Subs on Urbanspoon
Tony and Enzo's Slices is on Main St. in the village of Honeoye Falls. It's your typical small-town pizza joint, the kind of place where locals stop by to have a quick lunch, grab an after-school slice, or to pick up a pizza on the way home from work.
I had a cheese slice at lunchtime. It was pretty thin and foldable, and I might've been inclined to call it a NYC-style slice until I checked the underside, which was a uniform, medium brown, and which was pockmarked with tiny holes and dimples that I couldn't figure out. It had a faint aroma of cooking oil or grease, and was soft and chewy.
The sauce had a slightly herbal flavor, and the cheese was nicely browned. Both were applied in moderation, which I mean as a compliment, as they were in good balance with the crust.
Slices offers "traditional" and pan pizza, with a decent range of toppings, and some interesting "gourmet" pizzas, includiing chicken bacon ranch, cheeseburger, and greek pizzas. They also have hot and cold subs, calzones, regular and breaded wings, salads, and grilled and fried items like burgers, fries, etc. Plus chili, fried chicken and wraps. Lots of stuff.
Some things I liked about this pizza, some not so much. The sauce had good flavor, the cheese was baked just to the point of browning, and both were in balance with each other and with the crust.
That crust, though, didn't thrill me. Very soft, no crispness or charring, and that faint whiff of grease. I'm not saying this was badly made, but that's just not my idea of a great crust, and without a great crust you can't have a great pizza. The slice overall tasted good, the toppings were good, and overall it was satisfying, but to me, this pizza fell a little short of what it could've been. I'll give it a C+.
Tony and Enzo's Slices, 10 N. Main St., Honeoye Falls. 624-4930
Mon. - Fri. 11 am - 9 pm, Sat. 3 - 9 pm. Closed Sun. Some seating. Delivery available after 4:00.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ken's Pizza Corner, W. Henrietta Road

Pizza Corner on Urbanspoon
Ken's Pizza Corner is at the northwest corner of the intersection of West Henrietta and Erie Station Roads in Henrietta. It's been in business for 15 years, according to the menu, and bills itself as "The Authentic Pizzeria."
I got a pepperoni slice from a pie that looked to be pretty fresh out of the oven. The crust was on the thin side of medium. The underside wasn't really charred, but had a sort of a pebbly, tortoise-shell appearance.
First thing I noticed on taking a bite was the crunch. Very crunchy slice of pizza. Crunchy on taking that first bite, and stayed crunchy even while chewing: crunch, crunch, crunch.
It was good, though. This wasn't the kind of crunchiness that you get when a pizza has been cooked on a greasy surface and comes out more fried than baked. The underside was not greasy, nor was the dough particularly dry or brittle - it folded pretty easily. The slice hadn't been rewarmed, either (which will tend to make a slice crunchier) - as I said, the pie seemed to have just come out of the oven. It was just that those little pebbly areas you see on the underside were super crunchy.
As for flavor, the slice as a whole tasted of well-done toast and burnt cheese. That's not meant as a putdown, but as you can see the cheese was pretty well browned, if not blackened in spots, and had that distinctive, not unpleasant flavor of burnt cheese. Maybe "burnt" is too strong an adjective; I don't mean burnt to a crisp. "Caramelized" might work better, although that usually refers to sugar. Anyway, you know what I mean.
The sauce stayed very much in the background and was barely detectable on my palate. The cheese was applied in a moderate amount, neither skimpy nor heavy. As will happen when cheese gets well done, it had congealed together and could probably have been lifted off the slice in one piece.
The wide-and-thin pepperoni was OK, a bit crisp along the edges, and it added a bit of spicy bite in the flavor.
Pizza Corner has a fairly long menu, with quite a few specialty pizzas, including a potato pizza and a "cajun chicken alfredo" pizza. There are also calzones, wraps, quesadillas, wings, grilled items, sides and salads, subs, and several pasta dishes available, and a few desserts as well, such as cannolis and cheesecake.
There's some seating, including a couple of tables on the front porch if you want to dine al fresco. The menu says they have "limited delivery," whatever that means.
Speaking of the menu, I should mention Pizza Corner's unusual guarantee, part of which reads: "if you happen to purchase a pizza from someone else in our area and are dissatisfied with it, I [meaning Ken, I guess] want you to contact me immediately at 334-0090 and I will exchange the uneaten portion of their pizza with a quality Pizza Corner Pizza of the same size and toppings for free!" I'm curious to know how many people have taken them up on that offer.
Anyway, back to my pizza - I had to wonder, eating this remarkably crunchy slice, was it typical of Pizza Corner's pizza, or did the pie from which this slice was taken spend a little longer in the oven than usual? I don't know, but I think even if this pizza had come out of the oven sooner it would still have been pretty crunchy. That crunch wasn't just from a long cooking time, but from the dough. I don't know if it was the ingredients, the rise time, or something else, though. Anyway, while this didn't exactly fit the profile of my ideal pizza, it was good, and what's also important, it was distinctive. I'll give it a B.

Ken's Pizza Corner, 5665 W. Henrietta Rd. 334-0090
Open Mon-Thu 11am-2pm, 4pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 11am-2pm, 4pm-12am; Sun 12pm-10pm

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Union Hill Country Grill, Webster

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I frankly wasn't expecting much from the Union Hill Country Grill in Webster. When I see "country" in the name of a restaurant I always envision one of those "homestyle" kind of places where the walls are decorated with prints of barnyard ducks wearing ribbons around their necks and they serve "breakfast" all day. I mean, you might be able to get some decent biscuits with sausage gravy or some chicken-fried steak here, but good pizza? Not likely. But, it's in Monroe County, which more or less defines the geographic scope of this blog, and they also advertise themselves as a pizzeria, so it had to be done.
Was I in for a surprise. This was some of the best pizza I've had since starting this blog.
Even upon arrival, things didn't look that promising. There's a counter near the entrance, and beyond that was the dining room, which looked like about what I expected. I didn't spot any images of beribboned domestic waterfowl on the walls, but there might've been.
Behind the counter, and looking rather incongruous in this setting, were two pizzas on racks, one with pepperoni, the other some sort of white pizza. I asked for a pepperoni slice to go.
My first surprise came on visual inspection. The crust was pretty thin, except for the thickly crimped edge. The underside showed a fair amount of charring, which I hadn't expected. My nostrils picked up, I think, a faint smoky aroma, although it was subtle and hard to detect under the prominent perfume of the pepperoni (more on that later). Taking a bite, I found that the underside had a pleasing exterior crispness and interior breadiness. The bready quality of the dough really came through in the thick, crunchy-yet-chewy edge.
It was a fairly cheesy slice, but the cheese - which had pulled away a bit from the edge toward the center of the pizza - was not laid on so thickly as to overwhelm the other components.
The sauce stayed pretty much in the background on this one, although it wasn't unnoticeable. It had a mild, cooked-tomato flavor.
The cup-and-char pepperoni was very good. I'm not usually a big "toppings" guy, but this pepperoni, which was applied fairly generously, had a nice crisp edge and a spicy aroma. It was greasy enough to convey flavor to the tastebuds but not so much as to need sopping up with a napkin.
As a full-service restaurant, Union Hill has a wide menu that I won't bother trying to recite here. The pizza menu offers "hand tossed brick oven pizza" - the brick oven helps explain that great crust - and calzones. There's a pretty good range of toppings and 15 specialty pizzas.
The only pizzerias I've given an "A" to so far are the Pizza Stop and Brandani's. If you could cross-breed them, you might come up with something pretty close to Union Hill's pizza. It's got a crisp, charred underside like Pizza Stop, but unlike Pizza Stop's authentic New York-style pizza, this is thicker and breadier, like Brandani's, with a thickness somewhere between the two. The obvious conclusion, then, is that Union Hill joins those two's elite ranks as my third "Grade A" pizzeria.
Union Hill Country Grill, 1891 Ridge Road, Webster, at the corner of County Line Rd. 265-4443.
Mon. - Thu. and Sat. 6 am - 9 pm, Fri. 6 am - 10 pm, Sun. 7 am - 8 pm. Beer and wine available.
Pizza Guy note:  as of Jan. 2011, Union Hill is closed. It has since reopened as Mama Lor's Cafe, and pizza is available Wed. - Sat.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Captain Tony's, North Winton Road

Captain Tony's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon
The grandiloquently named Captain Tony's Pizza & Pasta Emporium is a name that goes back some years in Rochester. If memory serves, there used to be a few Captain Tony's locations around town, but for a while now they've been down to one, at the intersection of Winton and Humboldt.
Oddly, Captain Tony's has other locations in - get this - Cleveland, California, Kansas, Arizona, and ... England. Two in England, in fact.
There's probably an interesting story behind that, but my concern is the pizza here in Rochester. I got a couple of cheese slices at lunchtime.
The crust was medium thick and very soft, almost wet-sponge soft, and it practically had to be folded, at least if you wanted to eat it with one hand. It was a bit greasy on the bottom. Only the edge had any textural bite, and that was more of a greasy crunch than a baked-bread crispness.
It was more than a bit greasy on top. I wasn't even trying to get the grease off, but it started dripping grease as soon as I folded it. I flipped a slice over onto the inside of the box and you can see how much grease came off in the small photo below.
Just about everything about this slice was heavy: heavy, greasy dough, lots of sauce (which had a bright, tomatoey flavor), and a thick layer of chewy, browned mozzarella. These weren't necessarily "huge" slices, as they came from what I'm estimating would be a 12" pie, but they were filling.
Captain Tony's has a fair number of toppings available, including several types of cheese, and several types of pizza too, including "New York Thin Crust," "Pan Pizza," "Deep Dish," and "Stuffed Pizza." I'm guessing my slices were from a pan pizza, which is advertised as the "original Captain's recipe direct from Italy" with a "thick, golden brown crust." They also have a few specialty pizzas, subs, wings, salads and sides, and, yes, pasta. It's pretty much takeout and delivery only, although there are a couple of outdoor tables in nice weather.
I wasn't too crazy about this pizza. The flavor was good - I liked the sauce - and it was certainly a filling lunch for under $4. But I found it too soft, too greasy, and too heavy, especially on the cheese. I can see how some people might like it, and next time I'm in Liverpool (the one in England, not the one near Syracuse) I might stop in for a slice, but I'm only giving it a C-.
CaptainTony's Pizza & Pasta Emporium, 385 N. Winton Rd. 482-8430
Update 7/29/09: since this was posted, I have gone back and tried Captain Tony's thin crust pizza. See that review here.

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