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Friday, October 30, 2009

Mark's Pizzeria, Lyell Ave.

Mark's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
From their many area locations and frequent TV ads, we’re all familiar with Mark's Pizzeria. Mark’s started out in Palmyra in 1982, and today has grown to about 40 locations in Western and Central New York. Its 16 Monroe County locations make Mark’s among the biggest local/regional chains around Rochester, and about the biggest that I’ll review. (I have no interest in reviewing national chains, although I might do it for laughs sometime.)
One difficulty in reviewing chains is that you never know if the pizza you get at one location is going to be representative of what you’d find at the others. A place like Domino’s may be able to maintain uniformity throughout its stores, but ironically, smaller chains sometimes seem to have trouble with that. But I’m not about to check out 16 different Mark’s, so I just picked the one on Lyell Avenue more or less at random.
I got two cheese slices, part of a deal that gets you 2 slices and a 20 oz. drink for $6, although I should mention that the soft drinks cooler was nearly empty when I visited. The pizza slices were fairly greasy, and that is consistent with my memories of the handful of times I’ve eaten Mark’s pizza in my life. The undersides were browned and soft, and the slices were foldable, but floppy. The crust was on the thin side, but with a wide, thick, puffy lip along the edge. The lip was a little crisp and had a certain breadiness to it.
The sauce was pretty much a background player here, but had OK flavor, very middle of the road, neither especially sweet, acidic, or herbal. The thick layer of congealed, browned cheese was quite greasy, and a lot of that grease had soaked down to the underside, which was actually shiny with oil. (Not that I like my cheese really stringy, but it occurred to me that these slices didn’t much resemble the one they always show in Mark’s TV ads, with long strings of mozzarella as the slice is being lifted from a pie.)
Mark’s has some 20 pizza toppings to choose from, and several specialty pizzas, none of them especially exotic or bizarre. They also offer wings, salads, hot and cold subs, calzones, burgers and sides.
I wasn’t too impressed by this pizza, but it wasn’t all that bad either. It’s one that, to me, has the potential to be quite good, but on this visit at least, didn’t live up to that potential. The sauce had good flavor, and the outer lip showed some nice breadiness, but the soft, floppy, greasy crust and thick layer of browned, oily cheese brought it down. It’s the sort of pizza that might be satisfying if you’re really hungry or in the mood for a heavy, greasy slice, but for my money there are better choices elsewhere on this stretch of Lyell Ave. I’ll give Mark’s a C-.
Mark’s Pizzeria, 1074 Lyell Ave. @ Glide St. 458-2310
Sun. - Thu. 10:30 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10:30 a.m. - midnight
Pizza Guy note:  this location of Mark's has now been replaced by Paradiso Pizza. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pudgie's, Irondequoit

Pudgie's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Pudgie’s Pizza, Pasta & Subs got its start in Elmira in 1963, and began franchising around 1972. Today its shops stretch from Mansfield, Pa. to Rochester. The two Rochester Pudgie’s, on North Goodman St., and on Titus Ave. in Irondequoit, across from the House of Guitars, have been locally family owned and operated for the past three decades.
I actually stopped at the Goodman St. Pudgie’s a while back, but due to some obvious miscommunication between me and the counter person, I ended up with a “cheese stick” instead of a slice of pizza. So following that abortive attempt to try Pudgie’s pizza, I recently made it up to the Titus Ave. location, which is a "Pudgie's Express," meaning, I guess, that it's strictly takeout or delivery. The Irondequoit Pudgie's forms one apex of a pizza triangle, with Cam’s and Bay Goodman, which are across Titus Ave. from Pudgie's, about a block and a half apart.
I got one cheese and one pepperoni slice. They had a medium thick crust, with a browned, somewhat oily, cratered underside and a soft texture.
The slightly sweet sauce was applied pretty liberally. It had a “cooked” flavor and although it tasted to me as if it had come out of a jar, the flavor was pretty good nonetheless.
The cheese was lightly browned, and formed a solid, but thin layer across the top. The three slices of pepperoni were unremarkable.
Pudgie’s offers a pretty wide variety of pizza toppings, though no “specialty” pizzas as such. Besides their regular 12- and 16-inch pies, they also have 12x12 “deep dish Sicilian” pizza, and thin crust is also available on request. Non-pizza items include the aforementioned cheese sticks, strombolis and calzones, wings, hot subs, fried sides, and a Friday fish fry.
This was one of those pizzas that tasted fine, but fell short, for me, in the crust department. I’m just not a fan of crusts that have that soft, browned, slightly oily underside instead of a nice crisp exterior. So on the whole, it was all right, in a fast-food kind of way. And I will say that the slice that I saved for later made for good next-day refrigerator pizza, as the healthy coating of sauce kept the slice from drying out. Not bad, then, but it didn’t wow me, and I’ll give it a C+.
Pudgie’s Pizzeria Express, 696 Titus Ave., Irondequoit (takeout and delivery only) 544-1310
Tue. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Closed Sun. & Mon.
Other Rochester location (which offers eat-in facilities) at 1753 N. Goodman St., 266-6605
Pizza Guy Note, Aug. 26, 2010:  the Irondequoit Pudgie's is no longer in business. The Goodman St. location remains open.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ricci's Family Restaurant, Latta Road

Ricci's Family on Urbanspoon
Despite its name, Ricci's is not what I would call a “family restaurant.” Family-run and family-friendly, perhaps, but not a “family restaurant.” They don’t serve breakfast, and there are no gyros on the menu, so that right there pretty much disqualifies it from the family-restaurant category.
Not that I'm complaining. No, it's just that Ricci’s, which opened in 1970 as Ricci's Pizza, is really more of an Italian restaurant, and it’s one of the suprisingly few around here that includes pizza on the menu. I stopped by for dinner recently and got a medium, with pepperoni.
My pizza, which arrived on a shiny, silvery platter, had a medium-to-thick crust that was quite a bit thicker along the edge. The underside bore screen markings, and was baked to a golden brown.
The crust had a little crispness, and the lip was crisp and crunchy. Not surprisingly, since it had just come out of the oven, it had a fresh bready aroma and flavor.

The bright red sauce was moderately applied, and had a tangy, tomatoey flavor. There were some hints of oregano, but I’m not sure if that came from the sauce itself or from the dried oregano that had been sprinkled over the pizza.
Atop the sauce was a solid blanket of melted mozzarella, which was still semi-liquid and stringy when the pizza arrived at my table. Interestingly, the thin slices of pepperoni, which had a mild flavor and were moist and chewy, lay under the cheese. I’ve seen that before - putting the cheese on last, over the other toppings - but I’m not sure that I like that with pepperoni. With a vegetable topping, like bell peppers or fresh garlic, I can see it, since it might keep them from drying out or burning, but pepperoni, I think, benefits from sitting on top of the pizza, so that it can crisp up a bit.
Ricci’s pizza offerings are modest, compared to those you’d find at a full-fledged pizzer
ia, with “only” ten toppings available. Pizzas come in small, medium and half sheet sizes.
The rest of the menu is dominated by Italian dishes, with a variety of pasta entrees, and all the local favorites like Chicken French, Parmigiana, and Cacciatore, plus greens and beans, calamari, tripe, veal piccata, and shrimp scam
pi. But it also includes steaks, burgers and hot sandwiches, wings, soups, and a Friday fish fry. There’s a modest dessert menu, and Ricci’s also serves beer and wine.
This was some pretty good pizza, but it occurred to me that when you get pizza at a restaurant, other than a restaurant that really focuses on pizza, you’re apt to get something a little different from what you’d tend to get from a pizzeria. I’m thinking here specifically of the crust
and the baking process. I’ve never worked at a restaurant, but I imagine that most of them don’t have specialized pizza ovens, and chances are that the ovens they do have are not set to (if they’re even capable of reaching) the kind of temperature that you would typically find with a commercial pizza oven.
In other words, you’re unlikely to get a really crisp, charred crust on a restaurant pizza, again, with the exception of places like Rocco or Tony D’s that have specialized ovens for that purpose. So you have to bear that in mind when you order, and I’m taking that into consider
ation here too. This pizza did not have an especially crisp, well-baked crust, and I probably wouldn’t look to Ricci’s for takeout. But it was flavorful, it wasn’t greasy, and it did have some pleasing bready qualities. I’ll peg this one at a B-.
Ricci’s Family Restaurant, 3166 Latta Rd. at Long Pond. 227-6750
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.,
Fri. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sat. 4 - 11 p.m., Sun. 4 - 9:30 p.m.
Pizza Guy's note, 11/19/09: I'm told by a reader (whom I consider a reliable source, though I have no confirmation or corroboration of this) that for their first 25 years or so, Ricci's baked their pizzas in cast iron pans, but switched to pans or screens in the mid '90s. The ovens, however, are the same stone deck ovens that Ricci's has been using since 1970.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nacca Bakery, Jay St.

Nacca Bakery on Urbanspoon
Rochester has a bunch of old Italian bakeries, which are mostly well known locally, like Gaetano’s, Martusciello, and Di Paolo. Some, like Veltre (whose sign is still visible on the side of Roncone’s restaurant on Lyell Ave.), fall into the “gone, but not forgotten” category.
And then there’s Nacca Bakery, which sits on a mostly residential stretch of Jay Street, near downtown. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard of it, literally - I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about it. But I’ve driven by it, and its red neon “BREAD - PIZZA” sign in the front window particularly caught my attention. My curiosity piqued, I finally stopped by one day around lunchtime to check it out.
Going in was a bit like one of those old Twilight Zone episodes where the character walks through a door and goes back in time. Nacca - which, it turns out, is also a deli - has an old-time feel to it, and with good reason. It’s been in business in that spot since 1966 (and for three years before that on Broad St.), and from the looks of it, hasn’t changed much in the four-plus decades since, thankfully.
The roughly square space is dominated by two large meat coolers, at a right angle to each other, with a vintage butcher’s scale on one end. The cream-colored walls are sparsely decorated, with a few family photos and religious images on one wall, and two clocks - one of which is yellowed and several hours off - on the other.
Above the photos is the menu, also yellowed with age, listing the various meats, sandwiches and pizza on offer. Turns out the only pizza available at Nacca these days comes in the form of “mini pizzas,” plain or with pepperoni, that come warm and sealed in plastic wrap.
I picked up a pepperoni mini pizza. Measuring 7 1/2" across, it appeared from its shape to have been baked in a small pan; in other words, it wasn't just a disk of dough that had been baked directly on the oven floor, but instead had an edge that conformed to the angled rim of the pan.
The crust - which is made from a different dough than Nacca’s bread - was crunchy on the outside and chewy inside, with an aroma that was faintly reminiscent of rye or sourdough bread, suggesting that it had gone through a long, slow rise. The crust was topped with a thin layer of sauce, and a transclucent layer of melted cheese. Several wide, lightly cooked slices of pepperoni lent a spicy counterpoint to the bready crust.
If you're not looking for pizza, Nacca has a wide variety of sandwich meats available. There's also a large soft drink cooler if you want to wash it down with something cold.
Nacca is a true mom ’n’ pop operation. It’s run by a couple hailing from near Naples, and I don’t mean the one in Ontario County. They took over the reins from the the original owner, who was also the husband’s uncle, in 1979.
Though business isn’t quite as brisk as it used to be, there’s still a core of regulars, some of whom no longer live in the neighborhood, but who make a point of swinging by for a sub or a pizza.
At some point, too, the owners cut back on their hours. Nacca used to be open several nights a week, but now it’s strictly a daytime operation. Along with that change, Nacca stopped offering full-size pizza, which is less in demand at lunchtime than it had been in the evening. Too bad. I wonder if they’d accommodate a special request and put together a big one for old time’s sake.
You know what? I'm not even going to give this one a rating. For one thing, to rate this compared with the other places I've reviewed is kind of like apples and oranges. It’s tough to compare the experience of eating one of Nacca’s mini pizzas with eating a slice or two out of a large pie.
For another, it would be hard for me to be objective. I just love these kinds of places. Distinctive, organic to their surroundings, timeworn yet timeless, with a venerable past but an uncertain future. If you share my affection for such places, and you find yourself in the area some weekday lunch hour, stop by and try it.
Nacca's Bakery, 463 Jay St., 436-5981

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sully's Family Pizzeria, Webster

Sully’s Family Pizzeria is located in a convenience store at the corner of Plank Road and Empire Blvd. in Webster. Ordinarily I would not bother with reviewing convenience store pizza, since I assume a lot of it is not made from scratch on the premises, but this place advertises itself as a pizzeria, and as a matter of fact someone behind the counter was busy stretching out some dough when I went in.
(Before I get to the pizza, I should mention that this place has no connection to Sully’s Pub in Rochester, which also makes pizza, and which I have not tried yet, though I intend to at some point.)
OK - the pizza. There was a pretty good selection to choose from at lunchtime. The sweet/hot pepper combo caught my eye, and so I went with that.
My slices were thick and heavy, and the crust was very soft. The underside was lightly browned and bore screen markings.
The crust was topped by a light layer of sauce, which had a slightly sweet, tomatoey flavor, with some herbs in the background. The cheese was more thickly applied, and though it was browned a bit here and there, it tended to separate back into its component shreds as I bit into it.
As a convenience store, Sully’s is pretty good. I didn’t check the gas prices, but they do have free air (which is as it should be - I know it costs money to buy and maintain an air pump, but gas stations shouldn’t charge for air, dammit), they serve Green Mountain coffee, and there’s even a liquor store attached, in case you’d like to pick up a nice bottle of Chianti to take home with your pizza (which the Italians apparently would never do, by the way).
As a pizzeria, however, Sully’s didn’t wow me on this visit. No glaring problems here, and the flavor was good enough, but the crust was just really too, too soft. In theory, pizza that’s cooked in a professional pizza oven should have a better, crisper, toastier crust than the same pizza cooked in your home oven, because the typical home oven just can’t get as hot as a full-size pizza oven. But I’ve made pizza at home that came out a lot crisper than this. Maybe they need to crank their oven up a little more, or give it more time to heat up, or just bake the pizza longer, but a pizza crust should be, well, crusty, and this one wasn’t.
Seems like I’ve been kind of stuck in the “C” range lately, but maybe it’s just the bell curve emerging. For pizza that wasn’t all that bad, but certainly could’ve been better, Sully’s ends up in the middle, and it gets a C from me.
Sully’s Family Pizzeria, 480 Plank Rd. (at Empire Blvd.), Webster 787-1111
(Pizzeria hours unknown at this point.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

DiRosato's, Elmgrove Road

Di Rosato's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon
DiRosato’s apparently has two area locations. I say “apparently” because it’s hard to keep track of them. At various times they’ve had several shops around the area, but right now I think there are just two, in Gates and Webster, at least according to their website. Last time I was in Webster, though, it looked to me like that location was now something called Roma Pizza, so I really don't know.
DiRosato’s opened its original store on Lyell Avenue. The Gates location, at the corner of Lyell and Elmgrove, was the second to open, in 1990. The Webster location - if it's still there and under the same ownership - traces its roots back to SS Coliseum Pizza on Dewey Ave., according to the RocWiki site.
Oh, and one odd note about the DiRosato's website - on search results, it comes up as “DiRosato's Pizza and Pasta- Home of the Five Free Toppings.” And if you click on the subpage entitled “The Owners,” which recites some of the history of DiRosato’s, it states that they were “the first pizza shop in Rochester to offer the ‘5 Free Toppings’ special. It was a huge success and other pizza shops followed their lead.”
So what’s odd about that? Well, they don’t seem to offer five free toppings. The menu says nothing about it. So presumably that offer has been discontinued. That’s fine, I don’t often want five toppings on my pizza anyway, but time to update the website, guys.
But on to the pizza. I stopped at the Gates store recently and grabbed a slice. It had a medium to thick crust, the underside of which was well browned and slightly greasy to the touch. Texturally, the crust had a certain oily crispness to it, and the outer lip was quite hard. The dough had clearly risen nicely, but otherwise there was nothing especially bready about the crust.
The slice was heavy on both the sauce and the cheese, which was fine given the relative thickness of the dough. Although some dried herbs were visible in the sauce, the sauce had a predominantly tomatoey flavor. The cheese was a bit browned, particularly near the outer edge.
The pepperoni slices varied in texture, and like the cheese, the ones near the lip seemed to have gotten more thoroughly cooked. Near the tip, the pepperoni was fairly soft and chewy; the ones near the outer edge were crisp, with an almost baconlike texture and flavor.
DiRosato’s has a pretty standard lineup of toppings and four specialty pizzas. They’re one of the few places around here that I’ve seen offer a potato pizza. From what I’ve been able to discover, you can find such a thing in Italy - it seems to be a Roman thing - but I doubt you’ll find one like DiRosato’s, which comes with “mild wing sauce, seasonal potatoes [sic], Mozzarella, Cheddar, and bacon bits served with sour cream.”
Besides pizza, DiRosato’s has calzones, subs, wings, hots and burgers, tacos, salads, and sides, plus a daily fish fry. The Gates location also has a dinner menu that includes pasta, “25-layer lasagna,” and several chicken dishes. I believe in the summer, they do an outdoor barbeque or “steakout” one night a week, or at least they did this past summer. And they serve wine and beer.
The menu indicates that the Webster DiRosato’s has “no dinner menu,” but you can get pizza there till 4 a.m., which is about as late as you’ll find it anywhere in this area, and they deliver countywide, according to their ad in the Yellow Pages.
This pizza was OK. I didn’t find any particular fault with it. But it didn’t wow me either. It tasted fine, but the crust was nothing special. Overall, it was neither better nor worse than your average pizza around here, so I’ll give it C.
DiRosato’s Pizza & Pasta, 3869 Lyell Rd. at Elmgrove Rd. 426-0270
Other location (not reviewed) at 2225 Empire Blvd., Webster (across from Loew’s) 671-8680
Both locations offer dine-in, delivery, takeout, and catering.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Great Northern Pizza Kitchen, Monroe Ave.

Great Northern Pizza Kitchens on Urbanspoon
I’m not too interested in reviewing chain pizzerias, but as long as they’re not national chains, I’ll give them a try. So while I haven’t exactly been in a hurry to check out Great Northern Pizza Kitchen, I finally got there the other day.
GNPK is actually one of the smaller chains around, with just six locations, four of which are in Monroe County (the others are near Syracuse and Buffalo). Somehow, though, it just feels like a big chain. Maybe it’s the slick-looking logo, or the name, or the layout of its shops, I don’t know.
At any rate - what Great Northern is probably best known for is the wide variety of its pizzas. I count 42 different pizzas on its menu, and 57 available toppings (which includes 12 different cheeses), plus six separate sauces.
If you just go in for a slice, you won’t find 42 pizzas to pick from, but there will be a pretty wide variety. I opted for one cheese slice, to serve as kind of a benchmark, and one specialty slice.
The cheese slice was thin and foldable, with a medium-soft crust. The underside was dusted with cornmeal and was browned, not charred. It had no real crispness to speak of; there was no “resistance” to my teeth when I took a bite. The crust became gradually thicker and chewier the closer I got to the edge, which, finally, had a bit of crispness to it.
The dough was topped by a moderate layer of thick, tomatoey sauce. The cheese, which was applied in proportion to the other components, was slightly browned and chewy, and bland, without much cheesy tang. The whole slice was dusted with dried herbs.
I had a hard time figuring out what it was, but overall this slice seemed to me to have an odd, slightly sweet flavor. I presume the sauce had something to do with that, or maybe it was the combined flavor of all the ingredients, but I didn’t especially care for it. I wish I could explain it better than that.
Anyway, who goes to Great Northern for a plain cheese slice? The specialty pizzas are the big draw here, and for mine I got a Mediterranean slice, which had been recommended to me by an acquaintance. This consisted of a whole-wheat crust buried under a mound of fresh spinach leaves, feta cheese, whole (pitted) kalamata olives, slices of red onion, artichokes, diced tomatoes and red bell pepper.
This one’s actually pretty easy to sum up. It was good. It just wasn’t much like pizza. It looked, roughly, like pizza, in the sense that it was a more or less triangular slice of dough with toppings on it, but it tasted more like a big piece of whole wheat pita bread with a Greek salad on top.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And the menu’s pretty upfront about it, describing the Mediterranean as “Greek salad meets a pizza.” It’s just that it wasn’t very pizzalike. The crust was very soft - again, more like pita bread than pizza crust. Part of that may be from the use of whole wheat flour, but I’ve had whole wheat pizzas that were crisper and crunchier than this. The toppings were also raw, which was fine - I mean, I don’t think I’d want a baked Greek salad - but the overall effect was simply fundamentally different from what I would call pizza.
I won’t bother trying to list all of GNPK’s specialty pizzas or pizza toppings, but the menu also includes calzones, deep dish pizza, wings, soup, salads, sandwiches and wraps, and cookies baked on the premises. They also serve wine and beer, and they deliver (free within a 3-mile radius).
It’s hard to judge a place that offers 42 kinds of pizza (and a practically infinite number of make-your-own combinations) based on just two slices, but what I get from these is that Great Northern’s pizza is all about the toppings. No big surprise there, I guess. But what I mean is that this isn’t a place to go for truly great, simple pizza: pizza so elemental that it embodies the Platonic ideal of pizza in its most basic form. In other words, this is not a place for pizza purists. But if you want a dizzying array of toppings to pick from and aren’t too hung up on the semantic issue of whether it is or isn’t “pizza,” it’s pretty good.
So again, a tough one to grade. Judging this as pizza, I wasn’t too impressed, but that’s not to say that some of these aren’t pretty tasty. So, somewhat arbitrarily, I’ll put it at slightly above average overall, or C+.
Great Northern Pizza Kitchen, 1918 Monroe Ave., Brighton 244-PIES (7437). Other area locations in Bushnell’s Basin, Henrietta, and Pittsford.
Sun. noon - 9 p.m., Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tony's Birdland, Greece

Tony's Birdland & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Tony's Birdland has two locations, on West Ridge Road and Dewey Ave., both in Greece. I recently picked up a cheese slice at the former.
The crust was thin to medium in thickness, with an overall appearance that would put it in the New York style category. It had clearly been baked on a screen, but the underside was dark, even a bit charred, and had a pleasantly toasty character.
The sauce, which was applied fairly generously, had a balanced flavor, with both tomatoey and herbal notes. The cheese was moderately applied, and had been baked to the point that it had developed some brown blisters across its surface.
The slice ended with a thin, floury, crunchy lip, that had a nice bready flavor.
Tony's Birdland has a pretty big menu. The pizza selections are fairly standard, but they also offer - you ready? - calzones, wings, fried chicken, wraps, hot and cold subs, "plates," burgers and hots, salads, various sides and appetizers, and dinners that include chicken (no surprise there, given the name of the place), ribs, fish and fried seafood. The desserts include fried dough (which I've never cared for, though I love the straightforward, unabashed descriptiveness of that name), Oreo cheesecake, and a few pie selections.
By the way, about those wings: if you like either of Tony's two sauces (sween 'n' sour or Buffalo), you can get it to go, in quantities up to a gallon.
But back to the pizza - I liked this slice. It was well balanced, with no one component taking center stage. The crust had a good flavor and some crispness, but would've been even better, I think, had it not been baked on a screen. The crust didn't have quite the mix of crunch and breadiness that makes for truly outstanding pizza.
I suppose there are practical reasons for using a screen, but from my experience, producing great pizza isn't one of them. So while this pizza fell a bit short of greatness, it was still pretty doggone good, and I'll give it a B.
Tony's Birdland & Pizzeria, 2680 W. Ridge Rd. 225-4720. Also 3800 Dewey Ave. 621-3277. (The Ridge Rd. location is open for lunch; I think the Dewey Ave. location doesn't open until sometime in the afternoon.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Doughboys, Irondequoit - Closed as of March 2011

Doughboy's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Doughboys is a takeout and delivery place on East Ridge Road, just west of Culver. I stopped by recently and took advantage of their pizza lunch special - two slices and a drink for just five dollars. I got one cheese and one pepperoni.
The slices were medium thick. The undersides were browned, and grease-free (remember, grease on top - OK; grease on bottom - bad). There had a little crispness, and the outer edges were crunchy and a bit floury (is “floury” a word?).
I wondered if there was some oil in the dough, as they seemed to have a hint of shortening in the crust. Overall, though, they were reasonably bready.
The slices were on the cheesy side, with a thick, browned, chewy layer of mozzarella atop each. The sauce was fairly thin, both in its consistency and application. It had a cooked-tomato, slightly herbal flavor. The pepperoni was of the wide-and-thin variety.
Doughboys has a pretty standard lineup of pizza toppings and specialty pizzas, as well as wings, hot and cold subs, cheese and pepperoni stuffed breads, calzones, burgers and hots, and sides.
Concerning those salads - although you can get a small tossed salad, most of the salads aren’t exactly diet food. How about a “Pin Oak Salad - not sure how that one got its name - which comes with shaved steak, french fries and cheddar cheese? I'll have one of those - hold the lettuce, please. Oh, and put the shaved steak on a bun.
I should also mention that Doughboys is one of the few places I've seen that puts its owners' names right on the menu. Kudos to them for that, as it shows a certain level of pride in, and responsibility for, their product.
Getting back to that product, this wasn’t bad pizza. It had pretty good flavor and some breadiness. I had no real complaints about it. On the other hand, I can’t say that it stood head and shoulders above the crowd, or that it was really exceptional in any way. But it is at least a cut above average, and so I’ll give it a C+.
Doughboys Pizzeria, 1963 East Ridge Rd., Irondequoit. 266-9380
Mon. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m., Tue. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. - 9 p.m. (fall & winter), 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. (spring & summer)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cobbs Hill review in today's D&C

There's a review of Cobbs Hill Italian Bistro (a/k/a Cobbs Hill Pizza) in today's D&C. Apparently food writer Karen Miltner didn't find her pizza as greasy as I did mine, or at least she doesn't mention it if she did.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Di Giacco's, Lyell Ave.

Di Giacco's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Di Giacco’s is on Lyell Ave., a few blocks east of Mt. Read. It’s a small operation that’s been in business for some years now; I can recall it being there in the 1990s.
Though it opens pretty early most days, pizza isn’t always immediately available. I was told on one occasion when I tried to order a pizza that the pizza ovens wouldn’t be up and running until sometime that evening. I’m not sure if that’s a regular occurrence or if was a one-time glitch.
What is available early, most days, are hot dogs, which are cooked and sold from a cart outside, right next to the building. You don’t often find a pizzeria with a hot dog cart.
You don’t often find pizza like Di Giacco’s, either. I did catch them the other day when they had pizza available, and got myself a pepperoni slice.
I knew this wasn’t going to be your average, generic rewarmed slice even before it was served to me. The owner (I’m pretty sure he was the owner) put my slice on a screen and popped it in the oven. While it was warming, he got a box out, laid down a piece of foil, and sprinkled it with coarse salt. He left the slice in the oven for several minutes, then took it out, put it in the box, and shaved some parmesan over the top.
Upon examination, the slice was on the thick side, with a well-browned bottom that was dusted with salt and cornmeal. It had a crunchy exterior and a doughy, slightly gummy interior, which tended to separate a bit from each other. The outer edge was also thick, crunchy, and salty, and had a distinct toasty flavor and aroma.
The sauce was thick and very “herbal” in flavor. The cheese was baked juuust to the point of browning, and seemed to be a blend rather than just straight mozzarella, as it had a definite lactic tang to it that I don’t think came just from the parmesan shavings. It was thickly, but less than evenly applied, with a few bare spots here and there (not a problem, in fact a lot of people like it that way). The tasty pepperoni was thinly sliced and nicely crisped.
They didn’t have any menus handy on my visit, so I can’t tell you much about what else Di Giacco’s offers. They do offer subs and wings, and of course hot dogs. You could eat on the premises, but it’s pretty much a takeout place.
I know that I often say that rating a particular pizzeria is a hard call, but I have to say it again here. This was a very unusual slice of pizza, and one of the most distinctive I’ve tried around here. Lots going on here from a sensory standpoint: salty, crunchy, herbal, tangy - as I said, this was not your average slice.
I’m not sure, frankly, just how much I liked this pizza, as it didn’t quite fit my preconceived ideas about what makes great pizza. But I do like that it is so distinctive, and I like the care that went into it. For example, I’m not sure that I cared for all that salt on the bottom, but I like the fact that it was there, nonetheless, because that tells me that this is how this owner/pizzaiolo makes his pizza. I’ll even forgive the bit of blackened cheese that was stuck to the bottom of my slice because I noticed that after he took it out of the oven, the owner took a look at the screen, frowned, and tossed it aside, apparently deeming it not fit for reuse until it had been cleaned up (I would’ve liked it if he’d done that before my slice went in, but at least he cared enough to do it at all).
So, while I can’t say this was one of the best pizzas I’ve had around here, based on my criteria, it was certainly not "average," either. You may like it, you may not, but if you enjoy trying different styles of pizza even half as much as I do, Di Giacco’s should be on your list. I’ll give it a B.
Di Giacco’s Pizzeria, 970 Lyell Ave. 458-8030
Even the hours are unusual: Mon. 10:30 a.m-3 p.m., Tue.-Thu. 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri. 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 3 p.m.-11 p.m.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sylvio's, Scottsville Road

Sylvio's is on Scottsville Road, about a quarter mile south of Jefferson Road. It shares a building, and in fact is physically connected to, the Lex South Sports Bar. (The bar could probably drop the “South” modifier, as the original Lex bar on Lexington Avenue is now operating under a different name.)
I stopped around lunchtime for a “monster” slice, which lived up to its name. It was truly enormous, and required two hands to eat it. I’d guess it measured a good foot along the sides.
Interestingly, my pepperoni slice was taken from a pizza that had apparently been par-baked with just cheese, to which some pepperoni slices were added, and the whole thing was put back into the oven for several minutes to finish baking.
Sylvio’s menu proclaims that they offer “brick oven pizza,” and perhaps they do use a brick oven - I should start paying more attention to the ovens at these places - but if so, they don’t seem to be taking full advantage of it. Upon emerging, my slice was still quite pale underneath, and seemed a bit underdone to me. I suppose I should’ve given it a look and asked for it to be put back into the oven, so I’ll take some of the blame there. It had also been screen baked, though, which again kind of defeats the purpose of using a brick oven, and it had a doughy, rather than bready, aroma.
The crust was fairly thin, or at least it seemed thin relative to its overall size.The lip, though, did have some crispness and breadiness. Overall, it was like slightly undercooked, but good, bread dough.
The crust was topped with a thick, concentrated, slightly sweet/herbal sauce. It was on the cheesy side, but the cheese really took a back seat here to the sauce, as well as to the cup and char pepperoni, which had good flavor. The pepperoni was nicely crisped along the edges but not burnt, though it did add a lot of grease to the slice.
Sylvio’s has a handful of specialty pizzas on the menu, and any pizza can be ordered thick or thin as you prefer. They also have “jumbo” wings (and quite a few wing sauces, including the curiously named “Boom Boom” sauce), hot and cold subs, burgers, hots, “plates,” Italian and seafood dinners, “Italian style” tripe soup, chili, and various munchies. There’s a dessert case as well, although it was empty on my visit.
Sylvio’s is also clearly proud of its homemade Italian sausage. Had I spotted that sooner I would’ve asked for that on my pizza instead of the pepperoni, not that I’m complaining about the latter.
There are a couple of tall tables inside, and some outdoor seating as well. And as I mentioned, the pizzeria is connected by an interior door to the bar next door, and I presume that it’s OK to take your food into the bar. The service was friendly, if a bit automatic; every request I made was met with a reflexive “you got it.”
This was, on the whole, some pretty good pizza, particularly for a “monster” slice, which all too often are more about quantity than quality. But it had its shortcomings, too, particularly its lack of doneness. Again, I could certainly have asked that it be baked longer, but even if I had, I don’t think this would’ve had a truly great crust. All in all, then, this was not world-class pizza, but it certainly wasn’t bad, and I’ll give it a B-.
Sylvio’s Pizza and Catering, 1761 Scottsville Rd. 436-6390
Mon. - Sat. 10 a.m. - midnight, Sun. noon - 10 p.m.

Monday, October 5, 2009

R Pizzeria, North St.

I was on my way to - where else? - a pizzeria when a big sign reading "R Pizzeria" caught my eye. It's on North Street, which runs between Portland and Hudson, a few blocks south of Clifford Ave. I kept going to my original destination, but made a mental note to check out R Pizzeria, which I did a few days later.
The only slices available when I stopped were pepperoni, and sausage & pepperoni. I got two of the former.
They came in a styrofoam to-go container, which frankly doesn't make a good container for pizza. Styrofoam traps moisture, meaning that if the pizza's hot, it's apt to get soggy if it sits in there for long.
And the last thing this pizza needed was to get soggy. It had a thick, soft, spongy, pancake-like crust with a dark brown, bubbly underside that had the appearance of fried dough. It was topped with a thin layer of sauce that managed to be both oily and watery at the same time. Some of the sauce had soaked through the top layer of the spongy dough, making it very wet on its upper surface. The outer edge was formed into a thick lip, which was, well, not bad. Not particularly crusty or chewy, but OK, in a white-bread kind of way.
The cheese, which had been laid on a bit thickly, was a little browned, but still fairly stringy. The small pieces of pepperoni were the real stars of this pizza, however. They were crisp along the edges, oily and spicy, and that spicy flavor and crisp chewy texture was - fortunately - the dominant feature of these slices.
R Pizzeria has a limited menu, with pizza, hot and cold subs, wings, fried chicken, and various other fried stuff. It's also one of the only pizzerias I've seen with gizzards on the menu. I'm not sure if gizzards are available as a pizza topping, but you could always ask. There's a small grocery here as well. It's pretty much a takeout and delivery place.
As you might guess, I wasn't thrilled by this pizza, but you know, I didn't hate it either. It was actually kind of good in its own way; almost good in spite of itself. Maybe it was the synergy of the crisp, spicy pepperoni and the toasted, stringy, chewy cheese. Had they been atop a better crust, I might've really enjoyed this pizza a lot. As it was, though, that flaccid, spongy, grease-bottomed crust dragged the rest of the pizza down with it, resulting in a score of C-.
R Pizzeria, 695 North St. 338-7929
(Not sure of the hours)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gaetano's

Gaetano's Bakery on Urbanspoon
Gaetano's Bakery is one of those old Italian bakeries with which Rochester is so richly blessed. Although I have to admit that Wegmans bakes some pretty good bread, I'll often skip their bakery section and make a special stop at one of these places for a loaf of Italian bread, just to help keep them in business. These places are local treasures that we too often take for granted until one day you're driving by, or watching the local news, and you learn that one of them is closing.
Since pizza dough is essentially bread dough, it's a little surprising that more of them don't do pizza in addition to bread. I suppose space constraints may play a role, among other factors.
But Gaetano's does do pizza. In fact, their menu describes Gaetano's as "more than just a bakery," with a "full menu of homemade quality food!" So on a recent day when I had occasion to be in the area, I stopped in and grabbed a slice. I would've preferred trying a whole pie, to get the fresh-out-of-the-oven experience, but it was lunchtime, so that will have to wait for another day.
My pepperoni slice was medium thick. The underside was not very crisp, but the outer edge, which had a fairly thick lip, was quite firm, so much so that the slice successfully resisted my attempts to fold it. No matter, as this was not a big, floppy slice in need of folding anyway.
“Medium” also best describes the color of the underside; not charred, but not pale, either. It was punctured here and there with tiny holes, which I’ve seen before elsewhere. Perhaps they serve the function of avoiding large air bubbles building up. I’ll have to ask sometime.
The crust was chewy, but not in a particularly bready way; the dough didn’t seem to have risen all that much, and was fairly dense, which I found surprising for a pizza that had been made at a bakery.
The sauce had a thick consistency and a cooked-down flavor, and was moderately applied. The cheese was well browned, and became easily separated from the crust. Gaetano’s menu states that they use 100% whole milk mozzarella, but this slice didn’t have any of the excess oil that sometimes seems to result from using whole-milk cheese, which of course contains more fat than the part-skim variety.
As I mentioned, the outer edge was formed into a pretty thick lip, which made a nice finish to the slice, with its crunchy, breadstick-like flavor and texture.
Gaetano’s offers a full range of pizzas, and four specialty pizzas, including a Sicilian, which is topped with oil, black pepper, fresh garlic, parsley, romano cheese and basil. You can also buy pizza dough (which I think you can do at a lot of pizzerias, it’s just that most don’t advertise it), either regular or whole wheat.
Other items on the menu include hot and cold subs, calzones, wings, “homemade” soup, and a few sides. (Their catering menus are much more extensive, and can be viewed on their website.)
And of course bread. Lots of breads, from basic Italian to baguettes, ciabatta, “Tuscan crusty bread,” and others, plus rolls and various stuffed breads. Finally, let’s not forget the desserts, which include a range of pies, cookies, and pastries.
As I said, I love these kinds of places. They’re local, they’re family owned, they’re part of Rochester’s history and social fabric. They help create a sense of place in a way that chain establishments never will.
But I have to be honest here, and I was a little disappointed with this pizza. It was OK, but as I was eating it, it came to mind that it had an overall “flat” flavor. I was expecting more from the dough, particularly. I do think Gaetano’s deserves another shot, and I’ll give it one - that Sicilian sounds very tempting - but on the basis of this one slice, I’m giving it a C.
Gaetano’s Bakery, 1439 W. Ridge Rd. 865-7810
Mon. - Thu. 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 9 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

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