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Monday, August 31, 2009

Tom & Nancy's, Stone Rd., Greece

Tom & Nancy's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Tom & Nancy's Pizzeria is a name that goes back many years in the Rochester area. According to their menu they've been in business for nearly three decades. If I remember correctly they at one time had a place on Dewey Ave., and recently a location in Spencerport, which, sadly, closed last year. Currently their one location is on Stone Road in Greece. My understanding is that the original owners sold the business and the name, and have retired. If anybody knows differently, or has more info, please let me know or correct me.
I recently stopped by for a large pie, half pepperoni, half plain. The medium-to-thick crust had a toasted brown underside, with no greasiness. There was a bit of oven soot on the bottom, mostly cornmeal, as well as what appeared to be burned cheese (although it was blackened beyond recognition) that was stuck to the edge of the pizza in a couple of spots.
Despite that, I really enjoyed the crust on this pizza. It had terrific flavor and aroma as well as texture, with a chewy, bready, moist interior.
The sauce and cheese were both applied moderately, and in good balance with the crust. The sauce leaned more toward the tomatoey than the herbal end of the spectrum. The cheese was well melted but not browned, a little gooey, and had pooled a bit toward the center of the pie. The "cup & char" pepperoni was reasonably crisp and had good flavor.
Tom & Nancy's has resisted the trend among pizzerias to have huge menus offering everything under the sun. They keep it pretty simple here, with pizza (whole pies only, no slices) and calzones, a reasonable list of available toppings but no weird "specialty" pizzas, as well as wings, fried chicken, and a modest list of deep-fried sides. It's strictly a takeout and delivery operation, with a couple of chairs if you're waiting for your food, but no eat-in facilities.
This was very good pizza, in what to me is the traditional "Rochester style" - a tad thick, nice and bready, with a healthy but not overwhelming dose of sauce and mozzarella.
One of Rochester's great culinary assets is the presence of some great old bakeries turning out delicious, traditional Italian bread, and I think some of that heritage is reflected in Rochester's older, established pizzerias as well. Tom & Nancy's is one of them, and based on this visit, it's a good one. With its fresh-baked-bread flavor and well-balanced components, this was a very enjoyable pizza, although on this particular one I have to take off some points for the oven soot (not so much the cornmeal as the burnt-to-a-crisp cheese stuck to the edge, which was pretty unappealing looking). A little more attention to detail and this could be a top-notch pizza, but this time around I'll give it a B+.
Tom & Nancy's Pizzeria, 423 Stone Rd., 663-1274
(I'm not sure of the hours at this point but I think they generally open sometime in mid-afternoon.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Carmine's Express, Elmgrove Road - CLOSED

Carmine's Express on Urbanspoon
Carmine's Express. which is not to be confused with Carmine's Family Restaurant, is at the corner of Elmgrove and Lyell in Gates.
I was disappointed to find out that a slice here meant a rectangular slice out of a sheet pizza, rather than a slice cut out of a circular pie. I like to think that a slice is representative of what I would get if I ordered a whole pie, and a round pie and a sheet pizza are two different things.
Well, no matter. Let's just consider this a "Sicilian" slice.
The first thing I noticed about this slice is how light it was. I often find sheet pizza to be thick, heavy, and greasy, but this had a surprisingly light and airy texture. The lightly browned underside had a delicate crunchiness and a slightly toasty flavor.
The sauce had a slightly herbal flavor, but mostly stayed in the background. The melted cheese was almost liquid in consistency, and quite stringy. In its pale, just-melted state, it was reminiscent of Little Louie’s in Spencerport, which, coincidentally, was also a sheet pizza.
One thing I don’t like about getting a square piece is that if if was cut from the middle of the pizza, it won’t have an exterior edge, which is where the character of the dough comes through best. Had I known this was going to be a square slice, I would’ve asked for an “outside” or even a corner slice. All I can say about this dough is that had just a bit of crunch on the outside and doughy, but light-textured interior.
If you’re ordering a pie, Carmine’s Express does make round pizza, in 10, 14 and 16” diameters. They have a relatively modest list of available toppings. They also do wings, hot and cold subs, burgers and other grilled items, salads, several sides including homemade soup and chili, pasta dinners, Friday fish fry, and the “kitchen sink,” which is Carmine’s version of the garbage plate.
There are a few chairs at Carmine's, but as the "Express" implies, it's pretty much a takeout and delivery place. Delivery, by the way, is free.
At some point I will probably go back for a pie and see how that is. As for my square slice, it was OK, but not great. I don't have any particular complaints, but nothing about it stood out as especially praiseworthy either. As I said, it was reminiscent of Little Louie's, but I think I have to give a slight edge to the latter for a little more "oomph" to the crust and a good balance among the components. So Carmine's Express comes in just a notch lower, with a C.
Carmine's Express, 3872 Lyell Rd. (corner of Elmgrove). 247-7575
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Big Daddy's, Culver Road

Big Daddy's opened a few weeks ago on Culver Road near the corner of Parsells Ave. Figuring they'd had enough time to work out any initial bugs, I stopped by recently for a slice.
This is another "huge slice" place, and I was a bit taken aback initially because my slice looked an awful lot like the "huge" slice I got at Checker Flag on Dewey Ave., which wasn't very good at all. It was big, wide, and super thin, with a wide, pale edge.
On closer inspection, though, I found that unlike Checker Flag's, this pizza had an underside that was browned, even lightly charred here and there. So that was a good sign.
It was, as I said, thin. Very thin. I would almost call the crust bready, but there simply wasn't enough of an interior to really allow for much bready flavor or, especially, texture, to come through.
The underside, besides having some toasty brown color, was dry, not greasy, and lightly dusted with cornmeal. The exterior was not exactly crisp, but firm. The crust overall had a very chewy texture. The wide edge had some toasty crispness, but wasn’t much thicker than the rest of the crust, and was pretty much a disposable handle - OK for holding the slice, but not worth eating.
(While I'm on the subject, if you think you're getting a good deal by getting a "huge slice," better factor in how much of the slice is actually worth eating. If there's a good 2 inches of "naked" crust along the edge, and probably another inch of crust with just sauce, no cheese, and the crust isn't very good in its own right, so that you're probably going to throw it out, the edible portion of that "huge" slice suddenly shrinks down to much more ordinary size. How good a deal is that?)
The sauce - and this was reminiscent of Checker Flag - was more noticeable to the eye than to the palate. What there was of it seemed very dried or cooked down. Folding the slice, which was clearly called for here, made it a little easier to taste the slightly herbal sauce, as well as the cheese, which had a somewhat tangy flavor.
While standing at the counter, I noticed that the pepperoni slices appeared to be much more well-done than the cheese slices. Oddly, I’d seen the same kind of inconsistency at Checker Flag. I don’t know if a lack of attention to detail or what, but you’d like to think that all the pizzas are going to be cooked more or less to the same level of doneness (barring custom orders, of course).
According to their menu, Big Daddy's offers "red tomato," "white garlic," and "Daddy's Sauce," which is simply a mix of red and white. You can also order your pizza crust "standard, thick, thin, or in between," though I'm not sure if that amounts to 3 or 4 different thicknesses (is there any difference between "standard" and "in between"?). They have a pretty long list of both toppings and specialty pizzas.
Other menu items include hot and cold subs, "plates," wings, wraps, calzones, fried fish and seafood, pasta dinners, quesadillas, and grilled and fried items.
This pizza had some potential, but didn't quite live up to it. A thin crust is fine, but it still needs some breadiness. The most accurate word I can find to describe this crust is "lifeless." But except for that wide, bland, throwaway edge, it certainly wasn't the worst pizza I've ever had. This may be a bit generous, but I'll give it a C-.
Big Daddy's Pizza Pit & Grocery, 1157 Culver Rd. 654-5051
Sun. - Wed. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Thu. 10 a.m. - 2 a.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m. - 3 a.m.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Barbeque & Pizza Too, Henrietta

Barbeque & Pizza Too on Urbanspoon
Barbeque and pizza might seem like an unlikely combination, but there are now at least two places in the area doing both - KC's, which opened several months ago on Lyell Ave., and Barbeque & Pizza Too, which has been doing business for several years now at the corner of East Henrietta and Lehigh Station Roads in Henrietta.
Certainly both barbeque and pizza call for a certain amount of artistry on the part of the chef, but the processes themselves are very different. Barbeque generally means "low and slow," as in cooking at relatively low temperature, say 250 degrees, for many hours. Pizza, on the other hand, is generally baked at high temperatures - upwards of 600 degrees, maybe considerably higher - for just a few minutes.
But when done right, they're both good. And if you love 'em both, and you want to open a restaurant, I guess you might do 'em both. Sad to say, I have yet to try the barbeque at either KC's or BBQ&P2, but they both do a pretty good job on the pizza side of the equation.
On a lunchtime visit at the latter, I was told that there was one pepperoni slice and three cheese slices available. The slices weren't visible - which I don't like - but I opted for the cheese.
It came out already encased in a paper to-go sleeve, so I had no idea what it would look like until I "unwrapped" it like a present.
To my pleasant surprise, it bore a pretty fair resemblance to a NY-style slice. It wasn't the "jumbo" slice advertised on the menu, but it was thin, and topped with an even layer of lightly browned cheese.
Turning it over, I was sorry to see it had been cooked on a screen. Surprisingly, though, it was well browned, nearly to the point of faint charring in spots.
It also had a definite exterior crispness, just a bit of crunch, and despite its thinness, some interior breadiness. It was also very pliable and folded easily.
The sauce was applied lightly, and mostly seemed to add a little lubrication between the crust and cheese. The cheese was applied moderately, in good balance with the thin crust, and had a somewhat tangy flavor, leading me to think that it was a blend of mozzarella and some sharper cheese. I'm not enough of a cheese connoisseur to hazard a guess at what it might've been.
The edge was pretty thin, just a little ridge to keep the toppings from dripping off. It was OK, but didn't have quite the crusty breadiness of a really good NY pie.
The menu, of course, is quite extensive. Besides all the usual pizzeria fare like wings, subs, etc., they offer jambalaya, gumbo and chili, ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and fried catfish, plus plenty of sides. There's a little seating, not much, and they deliver.
This may sound like damning with faint praise, but this was the best screen-baked pizza I've had to date. It was a very respectable NY-style slice. That said, I can't help but think that it could be still better if they'd lose the screen, and bake it directly on the oven floor, to give it some toasty/charred flavor accents and a breadier crust. But I'm not complaining. And if the barbeque is as good as the pizza, they've got a winning combination going here. I'll give it a B+.
Barbeque & Pizza Too, 3105 E. Henrietta Rd. 334-3300
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sund. 12:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hong Kong House, S. Clinton Ave.

Yes, you read that right. The Hong Kong House. A Chinese restaurant. On a pizza blog.
Over the years, this location has housed "Little Saigon," "Fast Chinese Restaurant" (love that name), and the Imperial Chinese restaurant. Given the building's facade, it will probably always house something along those lines, barring a major facelift.
So it was with some surprise that I noticed one day that word on the sign: "pizza." And after checking the menu on their MySpace page and seeing that they offer "Green Olivers" on their pizza, well, sheer curiosity took over.
Then again, who knows?, I thought. You don't have to be Italian to make good pizza, and even discounting a bit their claim to make the "best pizza in town," the menu does say that it's "bakeo in real brick oven," so it might be pretty good, I figured.
(I'm not trying to make fun of the owners themselves for the misspellings, by the way. I don't know Mandarin Chinese from a mandarin orange, and my knowledge of their language is pretty much limited to those words on the back of fortune cookie slips. But some of the menu entries I find hilarious.)
I went for the lunchtime pizza special - two slices, french fries, and a soft drink for $5. By the time my food came out, I had forgotten about the drink, and the lady at the counter said nothing, so I ended up with just the pizza and fries, but that still is a pretty good deal.
Or at least it would be if the pizza were any good. It wasn't.
The crust was very dark brown underneath, but not at all crisp. In fact, it was downright soggy, like a wet sponge. Had I kept it in its styrofoam container for very long, I might've attributed that to condensation from the steam, but it wasn't in there more than a couple of minutes.
For all its soft wetness, though, one edge of one of the slices was actually hard - so hard that it was difficult to chew through it. I began to suspect that this pizza might've been baked the night before, rescued from god knows where when a customer unexpectedly asked for pizza at lunchtime, and thrown into the microwave. Maybe not, but that might just as well be what happened, considering what I was given.
The cheese was melted and bland. The sauce was barely noticeable save for some faint herbalness. I didn't pick up any tomato flavor at all.
The fries, at least, weren't too bad. Not great, and they smelled a bit of stale cooking oil, but good enough to eat, which is more than I can say for the pizza, most of which I ended up throwing out.
Now it might seem all too easy to pick on a Chinese restaurant for its bad pizza - I mean, I wouldn't expect to get great Kung Pao chicken at an Italian restaurant. But an Italian restaurant wouldn't serve that in the first place, nor, for that matter, does your average Chinese restaurant offer pizza. So I can't cut them any slack in that regard. They chose to offer pizza, even going so far as to claim it to be the best in town. Was I surprised that it wasn't very good? Not really. But I'll hold it to the same standards as any other pizza.
I should mention, by the way, that HKH's culinary diversity goes well beyond pizza. Besides Chinese food, they also offer spaghetti, tacos, subs, souvlaki, clam chowder ... well, you get the idea.
If it were up to me, I'd say concentrate on the Chinese food and forget the other stuff. But maybe this works for them. They are open till 3 a.m. every night, and maybe if you're drunk and hungry in the wee hours this stuff tastes just fine. But stone sober in the early afternoon, I found this pizza inedible. I give it an F.
Hong Kong House, 985-B S. Clinton Ave. 244-5569, 244-6103
Mon. - Wed., Sat. & Sun. 3 p.m. - 3 a.m. Thu. & Fri. 11 a.m. - 3 a.m.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gregorio's, N. Goodman St.

Gregorio's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Gregorio's is on N. Goodman St. about a block north of Clifford Ave., right across the street from Bausch & Lomb. (There's another place named Gregorio's on Chili Ave. in SW Rochester, which used to serve pizza, but last time I drove by it appeared to be strictly a convenience store.)
I recently visited at lunchtime. They were doing a decent business, probably attracting a lot of B & L employees.
Two pepperoni slices were all that was available at the time. They were pretty big slices, so I got one.
The first thing I noticed about this pizza was how soft the crust was. So soft that I could fold it twice. The bottom was well browned, but had no crispness to it at all, except for just a bit of crunch along the edge.
The dough also was not very bready. It had a texture reminiscent of a pancake or thick crepe. There was little evidence of gluten development or a slow rise, which are needed to give you those nice air holes and bready chewiness on the interior.
The sauce was pretty sparsely applied. In terms of the overall flavor profile, it was very much a background player, but I did pick up a little herbal flavor. The cheese, which seemed to be all mozzarella, was applied a bit heavily, and was just barely browned. I would describe it as stretchy but not stringy.
Gregorio's is one of those places that offers several crusts - "regular" (which I assume is what I got), "thin & crispy," and "thick & chewy."
They have the usual assortment of toppings (although cauliflower is not something you see every day on a pizza menu), a modest number of specialty pizzas, and a rather extensive menu of other items, including wings, subs, etc., plus pasta dinners, fried chicken, soup and chili, fish fry, and a few desserts like cheesecake and cannolis.
Anybody who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I don't care for soft crusts, so it will come as no surprise that I wasn't crazy about this pizza. Just way too soft, no backbone whatsoever.
Having said that, it tasted pretty good. Eating pizza involves several senses - touch (with regard to the texture), taste, smell, and sight. Even hearing comes into play sometimes, if it's a crunchy slice. The texture of this one didn't do much for me, but the flavor wasn't bad. I may go back sometime for a thin & crispy and see what I think of that. For now, though, I'm giving Gregorio's a C-.
Gregorio's Pizza & Deli, 1313 N. Goodman St., 482-7110. Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun. noon - 10 p.m.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Little Louie's, Spencerport

Little Louie's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Little Louie's in on North Union St. (Rt. 259), just off Rt. 104 in Spencerport. It's in a small strip plaza that it shares with a dance studio and a fireplace dealer.
The way the pizza is served here is a little unusual. You can get a "1/4 moon" or "1/2 moon" slice, a 9" "personal" size pizza, a 13" medium, a 13" x 18" large, or a "full sheet," which measures 18" x 26".
So a large here is what you might call a half sheet. (Some places might call this Sicilian but Louie's doesn't make that claim, so I won't get into whether this is "authentic" Sicilian pizza.)
Ordinarily I stay away from sheet pizza. Some pizzerias that make perfectly good round thin- or medium-crust pies turn out sheet pizzas with a crust that's thick and greasy, with a fried-crunchy texture. But on this occasion, this wasn't just research, it was also the family dinner, so I made an exception.
I'm not sure it mattered, because when I arrived to pick it up, I got a look at some round pies that, size and shape aside, looked pretty similar to what I got. What I got was a fairly thick pizza with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese, on the "medium rare" side.
The underside was rather pale, and not exactly crisp, but not soft either. "Firm" is the best way I can describe it. Only along the edges was there just a bit of crunch.
Taking a bite, I found that the crust had a texture somewhat reminiscent of focaccia - lighter and softer than I expected, not dense and chewy, and without the large air (actually CO2) holes that you find in some crusts. The dough had something of a white-bread flavor to it - not a lot of complexity here.
The sauce was more tomatoey than herbal, with a bright, tangy flavor. The thick layer of mozzarella was done just to the point of melting, with no browning at all. The wide and thin slices of pepperoni were OK, nothing remarkable.
Little Louie's offers the usual assortment of toppings, and a handful of specialty pizzas. The pizza is also available with red, "pink," or white (garlic) sauce. They also have wings - which were quite good, by the way, big, meaty and crisp, with a good "Buffalo" flavor even in the mild version - hot and cold subs, grilled sandwiches, sides, and "Big Louie plates." There's a little seating, but it's mostly a takeout and delivery place.
Getting back to the pizza, this one is kind of a tough call. This was better than a lot of sheet pizzas I've had, since it wasn't all greasy on the bottom, nor was it overly soft; the crust had a bit of backbone to it. And though the toppings were a little heavy - the cheese in particular - that was appropriate, given the thick crust, and overall the components were in pretty good balance with each other. Still, I would've liked it to have been a little darker and crisper underneath, with a bit of browning on top, though I'm not sure if a higher oven temperature or simply a longer baking time would be the better way to achieve that.
But that's not a fundamental flaw in the pizza, just my preference. Next time I'd ask them to make it more "well done."
And there probably will be a next time. This was a pretty enjoyable pizza overall, and I'd like to check out their slices or round pies sometime. I'll give it a C+.
Little Louie's Pizzeria, 1835 N. Union St., Spencerport. 349-3393
Mon. - Sat. 10:30 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., Sun. noon - 9:00 p.m.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

FYI: D & C reviews Lucca

I have yet to make it out to Lucca in Victor, but the Democrat and Chronicle has a review in today's paper. It's a favorable review, although I think that's true of virtually all the D&C's restaurant reviews, so take it for what it's worth. Just thought I'd pass it along.

Rocco, Monroe Ave.

Rocco on Urbanspoon
There are a number of ways to categorize pizza, mostly involving the thickness of the crust: thin vs. thick, Neapolitan vs. Sicilian, New York vs. deep dish (often misleadingly called "Chicago" pizza).
Then there's what I'll call "takeout" pizza vs. "restaurant" pizza. The kind you bring home to share while watching TV, and the kind you sit down and appreciate as part of a formal meal.
The latter is what you'll get at Rocco on Monroe Avenue. Located a half-block outside the Inner Loop in what was previously the Greek restaurant The Olive Tree, Rocco is a high-end Italian restaurant that serves what are commonly referred to these days as "artisanal" pizzas, that are baked in a gas-fired, brick-lined oven (thanks to Metromix for that information).
I recently had dinner there, and although there were a number of tempting entrees on the menu, I had to try the pizza. I got a margherita, which in its simplicity generally makes a good benchmark by which to judge a pizzeria.
(It's hard to write here just about the pizza, because the whole meal was outstanding. But this isn't meant to be a full-blown restaurant review, so I'll try to stick to the pizza.)
The pizza arrived at the table uncut, along with a pair of food scissors, which I couldn't bring myself to dirty, so I got used my knife and fork, which worked just fine.
The crust was well charred on the bottom, with a noticeable dusting of flour, and so firm that I could hold the entire pizza by the edge without it flopping over.
That is not to say, however, that it was burned, or that it was little more than a giant cracker. When I say it was charred, I mean it was lightly blackened on the surface of the underside, not all the way through the interior. And there was an interior. It was thin, but not paper thin, and had some bready, gluteny chewiness to it, forming a nice contrast to the exterior, which was very crisp, and crackled when I bit into it.
The sauce, which was applied moderately, was fresh in taste and texture. It was not a thick, slow-cooked sauce, but had a vibrant flavor of fresh tomatoes; it was a little sweet, but the sweetness seemed to come from the tomatoes rather than from any added sugary or other sweeteners.
The fresh mozzarella was melted and creamy, adding some chewy texture, and the strips of wilted, shredded basil provided an additional layer of flavor to the overall profile. The surface of the pizza was just a little oily, which - I'm guessing here - might've come from a light drizzling of olive oil. The pizza was capped off by an edge with the flavor and texture of a good, crusty, chewy loaf of bread.
I'll refer you to their website for the rest of Rocco's menu - which changes seasonally - but this was a great meal from start to finish. Even if you or someone you're with doesn't like pizza (if that's even possible) it's well worth a visit.
Again, this is not a pizza that you grab on the way home and scarf down while watching TV, so it's tough to compare it with what you'll get at most other places. But any way you slice it (I can't resist that pun), this was some of the best pizza I've had. With each bite, the crackly, chewy, bready crust was noticeably present, yet each of the other components came through too, creating a complex yet complementary medley of textures and flavors. I could find no faults with this pizza, which rates an "A" from me.
Osteria Rocco, 165 Monroe Ave., 454-3510
Mon-Thu, 5-9 pm; Fri & Sat, 5-10 pm; All nights, pizza 1 hour later

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Montesano's, Rush

Montesano's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Rush has just one pizza place, Montesano's, but it's not a bad one by any means. At lunchtime you can get two slices and a 12 oz. soft drink for $4, which is what I got.
I had two pepperoni slices, hot out of the oven. They were thin to medium, and had been baked on a screen. They were a little greasy underneath, but not too much, and the crust was fairly soft. The most noticeable thing visually was the well-browned cheese, which was much more well done than the crust.
The soft crust had a little breadiness to it, and was still hot on the inside from having been in the oven. For having been baked on a screen, it had just a bit of exterior crispness, which may be related to its just having come out of the oven, since the interior moisture hadn't yet had a chance to work its way out and soften the outside of the crust. The edge had a nice crunch to it, but a bit of a greasy feel, as if it had been brushed with oil before baking (which you may or may not like).
The sauce was certainly there - I could see it - but I couldn't really detect it much, except perhaps for a bit of garlic and maybe a very slight herbal flavor. I noticed that it was a much paler shade of red than on a most pizzas, almost like what some places call a "pink" sauce. I wondered if there was some butter in there, but I can't really explain it. It was a pretty mild tasting sauce, though, without much tomatoey acidity.
As I said, the cheese was quite browned. In fact, while the slices had some crispness, that came more from the cheese than the crust. It wasn't unpleasant, but it was unusual. The sparsely applied, wide and thin pepperoni was also a bit crisped along the edge.
I didn't notice any to-go menus at Montesano's and neglected to ask for one. There was a printed menu above the counter with the usual subs 'n' such, and it seemed to be a pretty popular lunchtime spot. Service was friendly. There is some indoor seating but not a lot.
This one is kind of a hard call. I liked the interior breadiness of the crust, and the cheese, though browned a bit more than I prefer, gave it a distinctive flavor and texture. On the other hand, the sauce was rather bland, and the crust, like just about every other screen-baked crust, lacked exterior crispness. For me, this pizza wasn't bad, it just lacked a certain "zing."
I wondered while eating it if perhaps I ate this one too soon out of the oven. As anybody who's baked bread knows, as tempting as it may be to slice into a loaf while it's still hot, bread needs a good hour or so to cool before reaching its optimum flavor and texture. Pizza shouldn't need that long, but it probably takes a little while for the various components to jell and deliver their maximum impact. If I'm in Rush again sometime - but not in a rush - I'll give it another shot. For now, I'll give Montesano's a C+.
Montesano's Italiano Kitchen, 2 Park Lane, Rush. 533-1150

Monday, August 10, 2009

Despatch Pizza Kitchen, East Rochester - CLOSED

This location is now the site of Crust Pizza Kitchen - RPG
Despatch Pizza Kitchen is a takeout and delivery place in East Rochester. It's in the former location of a Piatza's, and in fact the sign looks roughly similar to the Piatza's logo.
Unlike Piatza's, the slices at DPK are not "mega" in size, and they're also less expensive, so you're not forced to buy a quarter of an extra-large pizza if you're only in the mood for a normal size slice.
I never tried the pizza here when it was a Piatza's. Assuming that it was similar to the pizza that I had at the Piatza's in Brighton, though, the pizza at Despatch differs in some other ways besides the size and the price.
For one, it was not cooked on a screen. It was, however, very soft. In fact, the first thing I noticed about this slice - which was thin-to-medium in thickness - is how soft it was. No crispness or crustiness at all.
It was also on the greasy side. Some of that certainly came from the pepperoni, but the underside also had a slightly oily feel to it. It looked and felt similar to a soft bread that's been baked in a well-greased baking pan.
As for the components, this was a fairly saucy slice. The sauce was laid on pretty thickly and had a cooked-down, concentrated flavor. Some flecks of dried herbs were visible but I didn't really taste them. The cheese was rather browned, and with the thick layer of sauce between it and the dough, it separated quite easily from the crust. The wide and thin pepperoni was a little crisp and greasy enough to call for a bit of sopping up with a napkin.
Between the soft, moist crust, the ample sauce, and the grease from the pepperoni, this was a pretty "wet" slice. The crust was really quite overwhelmed by the toppings. The overall flavor was good, but I like a little more substance or backbone to my crust. This one was really all about the toppings, which may be to some people's liking.
Speaking of toppings, DPK has a long list of toppings and a wide assortment of speciality pizzas, including a "cheeseburger pizza" with 1000 Island dressing, pickles, onions, tomatoes, ground beef, and American and mozzarella cheese. It may very well be quite tasty, for all I know, but it sounds like a good candidate for this site. (In fairness, I should mention that there are more "healthy" alternatives, including several vegetarian pizzas.)
They also have a long list of subs, plus salads, wings, sides, "plates," calzones, wraps, a few Italian entrees, fried fish and shrimp, and even some desserts like "midnight fudge cake" and cannolis.
As for the pizza, again, my slice had some decent flavor, but the crust just didn't do it for me. Too soft and just not enough "oomph" to stand up to the toppings. I'll give it a C-.
Despatch Pizza Kitchen, 115 W. Commercial St., East Rochester. 381-6170
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Brockport, Part III: Marvin Mozzeroni's

I thought I had finished my brief Brockport pizzeria tour when I spotted the "NOW OPEN" sign for something called Marvin Mozzeroni's Pizza & Pasta. A new pizza place? I couldn't resist.
Well, new to Brockport. Turns out this is the latest location of the pizzeria formerly known as Starvin' Marvin's. I don't know the reason for the name change, but Marvin is no longer starvin', and he's gotten a last name.
Since I've already reviewed the Marvin's on Lake Avenue in Rochester, and since this pizza wasn't much different from that one, I'll keep this short.
Like its counterpart on Lake Ave., this place bakes its pizzas on a screen, resulting in a brown, slightly greasy underside to its thin-to-medium pizza. The edge was quite thick, so much so that the slice couldn't be folded down the middle. While the edge was firm, the rest of the crust was not, and the tip flopped down when I held the slice in one hand.
It was a relatively saucy slice, with just a bit of herbalness to the sauce, topped by a medium-thick layer of lightly browned cheese.
Enough said. Marvin's seems to be on its way to becoming a local chain, and I don't see much point in reviewing multiple locations of the same chain. The menu, which is quite extensive, is available on their website.
My initial reaction was to give this pizza a "C", but since I gave the other Marvin's a C+, and this was pretty much the same thing, I'll give it a C+ as well, for consistency's sake.
My review of the Lake Ave. location indicates that I nearly gave it a C but bumped it up a notch for good service, and I should note that the service here was good as well. I especially appreciated the counter person asking me if there was any particular slice I wanted off the rack, which was a nice touch.
Marvin Mozzeroni's, 39 North Main St., Brockport. 637-MARV (6278)
Mon-Thu: 10 am - 9 pm, Fri: 10 am - 11 pm, Sat: noon - 11 pm, Sun: noon - 9 pm
Delivery available to Brockport, Clarkson and SUNY Brockport campus.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Brockport, Part II: Avanti Pizza

Avanti Pizza in Brockport is the second location of this pizzeria, which started in Medina in Orleans County. They advertise themselves as offering "gourmet pizza and old-fashioned subs," with the added promise that at Avanti's you can "get more, eat better, [and] pay less!"
I put that claim to the test with a cheese slice. It was medium thick, with a soft crust that had just a little crispness on the exterior. The underside was browned where it had come into contact with the cooking surface in the oven, but not at all charred.
The crust was more doughy than bready. I'm not saying it was undercooked, just that it lacked the complex flavors and texture of bread. This was more, well, doughy, with a soft, somewhat spongy texture.
The sauce was applied moderately, and had a slightly sweet flavor. That's apparently a trademark of Avanti, as their menu advertises both their "original" pizza sauce that "made [them] famous," and their "NY-style" pizza sauce, which is their "non-sweet traditional pizza sauce packed with lots of flavor." This was clearly the original.
The mozzarella cheese was browned here and there, and there were also sprinkles of what I took to be Romano, although my taste buds didn't pick up much of the sharp flavor of Romano. The edge of the slice had a bit more crispness than the rest, and was fairly enjoyable as edges go.
Avanti has a very long menu, mostly because they offer so many different varieties of pizza, subs and calzones. Besides the two different sauces, there's "classic" pizza, "old-fashioned Sicilian style" (which comes with cheese only, something I've never associated with Sicilian-style pizza), and 17 varieties of "gourmet" pizza, including "3 cheese steak hoagie," BLT, "loaded potato," and cheeseburger pizza, which comes with, yes, dill pickles. They also have wings, salads, and fish fry dinners, plus a few sides. There's some seating, and they have a large delivery area.
This wasn't bad pizza, but I think Avanti is more about the toppings than the crust. If you like a wide variety of toppings, or are into exotic, "gourmet" pizzas, Avanti may be just what you're looking for. Me, I'm more of a keep-it-simple pizza lover - just give me a good, crisp, bready crust, with just enough toppings to add some contrast and complexity. And for me, Avanti fell a little short in the crust department. It had good flavor overall, but lacked the solid base that I look for in my pizza. I'll give it a C+.
Avanti Pizza, 27 Main St., Brockport. 637-6377
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 9 p.m.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Brockport roundup Part I: Main Street Pizza

Main Street Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Having recently reported on a couple of places in Geneseo, and with a new school year approaching, I figured it was a good time to check out another college town closer to home.
Brockport has several pizzerias, three of which I recently visited. I'll start with the oldest and best of the bunch, Main Street Pizzeria.
If you're ordering a full pie, Main Street offers "NYC" or "Traditional" style, as well as white pizza, but the emphasis here is clearly on NYC, as evidenced by the black-and-white photos on the wall of Joe DiMaggio and other icons of Gotham.
And if you're ordering by the slice, NYC style is your only option. But not to worry. These are some good NY style slices.
Full size but not "mega," my cheese slice very thin, with a crisp, moderately charred underside. It was foldable, but when folded, the tip stood straight out - no flopping - showing that it had that combination of pliability and backbone that is the hallmark of NY pizza.
The crust had a bit of crunch to it, with some interior breadiness. The sauce was applied lightly, also true to style, and had a straightforward tomatoey flavor.
The cheese was a tad on the thick side for a NY slice, but not enough to throw the pizza out of balance or to overwhelm the other components. It had a pleasant chewiness and a slightly lactic tanginess.
While munching on the edge, it occurred to me that a good pizza - especially a NY pizza - should have an edge just wide and thick enough to allow you to savor its bready qualities, but no wider or thicker than that; if I wanted to eat plain bread, I would've gotten a loaf of bread. This met that test, with a nice, crunchy/chewy edge that was about the size and texture of a good breadstick.
Main Street doesn't do specialty pizzas as such, but they have a reasonably wide variety of toppings to choose from. The rest of the menu is pretty extensive, with wings, grilled items, "plates," hot and cold subs, wraps, various sides, and several pasta dinners. There's some seating, including a couple of tables outside in nice weather. They also deliver.
With school still a month away, Main Street was cranking out the pies on my dinnertime visit, and come September I imagine things will only pick up even more. The well-preserved eponymous street out front is more small-town America than Big Apple, but the City has a culinary outpost at #82. I'm giving Main Street Pizza an A-.
Main Street Pizza, 13 Main St., Brockport. 637-8760. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Guetti's

Guetti's Pizza & Subs on Urbanspoon
Guetti's is a place I had never heard of or noticed until I started compiling my list of local pizzerias and found its one-line entry in the Yellow Pages. It's just off Chili Ave., about a mile east of Chili Center, but it's easy to miss, since it's not on Chili Ave. itself but on Chestnut Ridge Road, which runs off of Chili. It's right next to a Wilson Farms, but the building is kind of tucked away behind ... well, anyway, if you want to find it, google the address.
The lunchtime special was two slices and a 20 oz. drink for $5, so I went with that. I wasn't asked what kind of slices I wanted, but out came two with pepperoni, which was OK with me.
They were pretty thin - that was good - but the undersides were the color of raw dough, except for the greasy areas, which were more yellow, and the spots with black oven soot - not so good. And taking a bite, I found that indeed the crust didn't seem to have been baked, or even risen, very much. It was soft and chewy, with a spongy, almost gummy texture.
The slices were coated with a thick, well-cooked sauce, but the sauce seemed to have penetrated the dough a bit on top, adding to the wet-dough texture of the slice. The sauce had a tomato-pasty, concentrated flavor and texture, but with a slightly spicy edge or acidic bite to it, the way that spaghetti sauce gets when you cook it way down until it thickens, so that the flavors are more concentrated.
The cheese was pretty well browned, which was odd and hard to figure given how undercooked the dough was. It was as if the pizza had been broiled rather than baked. The cup 'n' char pepperoni was good, with a little crispness along the edge.
Guetti's has a handful of speciality pizzas, including "Fletches Favorite," which is a white garlic pizza with mozzarella, a garlic-parmesan crust, chicken and diced tomato. They also have wings and subs, a few fried finger foods, a Friday fish fry, and homemade Italian sausage. Their menu doesn't say anything about delivery, and except for a few chairs there's really no place to eat on site, so this seems to be pretty much a pickup place.
This was a weird, split-personality kind of pizza. I liked the toppings. The sauce, cheese and pepperoni worked well together, and they all had good flavor. But the crust I didn't like at all. A crust should be, well, crusty. This wasn't. I actually ended up just pulling off the cheese, which took the pepperoni and most of the sauce with it, and ate that, leaving the crust behind.
I wanted to like this pizza, I really did. Partly because I wanted to feel as if I'd "discovered" this great little pizzeria that most people around here have never heard of. And the service (I think it was the owner) was friendly. And again, I did like the toppings, which were almost - but not quite - good enough to make up for the undercooked, soft, gummy crust.
I'd like to think that maybe I just caught Guetti's on a bad day or at a bad time, but the guy making the pizza - especially if he was the owner - should know if a pizza came out bad, or wrong, and if so, he should chuck it and make another. Since he didn't, I don't think it was a matter of bad timing on my part, and I assume this was a typical, representative sampling of Guetti's pizza. The best I can give Guetti's, based on that, is a D+.
Guetti's Pizza & Subs, 25 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Chili. 247-9410
Mon. - Thu. 11 am - 10 pm, Fri. & Sat. 11 am - 11 pm, Sun. 1 pm - 9 pm
Pizza Guy Note: for a more recent Guetti's review, go here.

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