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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Abba's Pizza

NOTE:  Abba's is no longer in operation. Chabad Lubavitch now offers Gavi's kosher pizza.
Pizza probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of kosher food, but yes, there is such a thing as kosher pizza, and yes, you can get it in Rochester. Yesterday I made it over to Rochester's first, and I believe only kosher pizzeria, Abba's Pizza, at the Chabad Center on Winton Road, just south of Monroe and Elmwood.
Abba's is open to the public, but don't expect to see any signs for it outside; simply look for the Chabad Center, go in the front door, and follow your nose down the hall to the kitchen.
The operator of Abba's is a Rochester native who spent some time in the photography business in L.A., then moved back here with his wife to raise a family. Despite a lack of experience in the food service industry (rare in L.A., I guess, which is full of actors waiting on tables), he accepted a job taking over the kitchen at Chabad. Since then, he's managed to "reinvent" himself, in his words, as a chef and pizzaiolo.
So what makes a pizza kosher? Well, most obviously, there's no meat. No pepperoni, no sausage, no meatballs. Second, all the ingredients are kosher - the flour, salt, you name it. Where that makes the most noticeable difference is probably the cheese, which is under rabbinical supervision from the milking of the cow to the production of the cheese. More significantly, in terms of taste, texture and appearance, the cheese on Abba's pizza is also made without rennet, which is an animal product commonly used in cheesemaking.
My slice (topped with red bell pepper and onion) had a very thin crust, which is a nod to the tastes of the many transplanted New Yorkers at the Chabad Center. Although Abba's started out with a crust described as a "compromise between thick and thin," that's no longer the case; there are no compromises here, and this is decidedly a thin crust. (And in case your knowledge of Jewish dietary laws is as poor as mine, no, it's not unleavened. Yeast is OK. Most of the time.)
The underside of the crust, which was given a one- or two-minute reheating in Abba's large commercial pizza oven, was firm and crisp on the outside. It wasn't exactly charred, but there were bits of what seemed to be burnt cheese underneath.
The crust was topped with a tomato sauce that was somewhat thick, not so much in a cooked-down way, but just in a not-watery way. It had a good, tomatoey flavor, with a certain background taste of herbs that I couldn't quite pin down.
Atop the sauce lay the cheese, which I found a bit bland, without the tanginess of most pizza cheese, but which partially made up for its relative lack of flavor with a melted, smooth, creamy texture. The vegetable toppings actually worked quite well with this slice, since a strong-flavored topping like pepperoni, even if it were available, would simply have overwhelmed the other components.
Abba's sells pizza by the slice, as well as in whole 16" pies, which might go up to 18" at some point, in response to consumer demand (those NYers love a big, foldable slice). They also offer soups, salads, sandwiches and fries. Prices are a bit above what you might pay elsewhere, largely because of the cost of the kosher ingredients, the cheese in particular, but the pizza is certainly not outrageously expensive, either.
In the months since it opened, Abba's has gotten a very good response from its Chabad clientele, and when school is in session it also does a steady business with students from Brighton High School across the street. Outside business has been slow, but given Abba's low public profile, that's not surprising.
This was pretty good pizza, and certainly distinctive. There was not a single aspect of it that stood out as particularly noteworthy or unusual, but the total blend of flavor and texture made it different from any other pizza I've had around here. I'm looking forward to going back to Abba's sometime for a full, made-to-order pie, but for now I'll give it a B-.
Abba's Pizza, 1037 Winton Road South, 14618  360-9723
Mon. & Wed. 10:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., Tue. & Thu. 10:30 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sat. 7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas (Eve) Present from 2 Ton Tony's

Wearing a sweatshirt as red as Santa's suit, "2 Ton Tony" Proietti hosted a free Christmas Eve buffet lunch at his eponymous pizzeria in Irondequoit last Friday.
The event revives a family tradition started by Tony's grandparents, who owned the long-gone Ozzie's pizzeria on Goodman Street. Every year on Christmas Eve, they'd put out a free lunch as a thank-you to their customers.
This year Tony decided to do the same, the only change being the expanded size and variety of the buffet. When I stopped by at around 1:30, the booths at Tony's were filled with a mix of patrons, friends and family, who occasionally lined up at the buffet table as new trays were brought out, laden with several varieties of pizza, wings, meatballs, Italian sausage, rigatoni, salad, antipasti and more.
As Tony was busy overseeing it all and visiting with guests, he paused long enough for a photo, together with his daughter and his grandson, who sometime in the near future was going to have himself a sibling.
I chatted with Tony for just a few minutes, and as he casually mentioned some of the local pizzeria owners with whom he talks on a regular basis, I realized that there's a genuine community of local, independent pizza purveyors out there, probably as in any business, but it's nice to know nonetheless. Their very sense of neighborhood is what makes the independents less competitors than colleagues. And it's events like this that will help them survive, and thrive, in the face of economic challenges and competition from the big guys.
That community spirit exists not only among the owners themselves, but extends to their clientele too. As customers, we can help keep it alive by supporting our local pizzerias, so keep that in mind next time you're ordering. Buon appetito and Happy Holidays.
2 Ton Tony’s, 545 Titus Ave. 266-TONY (8669)
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 9 p.m.

Friday, December 24, 2010

That's Downright Criminal


Thought I'd pass this on -
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) - A man wearing a Bob Dylan backstage pass who ordered 178 pizzas from a Massachusetts pizza parlor but never picked them up has agreed to hand over the dough.
A lawyer for the New Jersey man says his client is a "decent enough" guy with no criminal record who felt bad about the prank.
Attorney Sean Cleary did not reveal his client's name and did not say how much he'll repay. The pizzas he ordered were worth about $4,000.
Workers at Antonio's in the college town of Amherst stayed until 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 20 making the pies. The man ordered them shortly after a Dylan concert at the nearby University of Massachusetts.
He said he would return in several hours and deliver them to Dylan's crew. But he never returned and the manager called police.
Some pizzas were given away, but most were thrown out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pizza Stop on State St. No Longer Affiliated with Empire Blvd. Location

I've learned that The Pizza Stop on State Street in downtown Rochester is no longer affiliated with The Pizza Stop on Empire Boulevard in Penfield. The split comes just six months after the opening of the Penfield location, which took place 24 years after the original began serving New York style pizza to downtown workers. Owner Jim Staffieri and his son remain at the State Street Pizza Stop, while the Empire Boulevard Pizza Stop is now under separate ownership and management. No word yet on whether any name changes will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fat Jack's, Fairport - CLOSED

Note: as of Nov. 2011, Fat Jack's is closed.
Last January, I reported on Portside Pizza in Fairport. I thought the slice I got there was OK but had a few flaws, and gave it a C+.
Well, Portside has exited the stage, and now enters Fat Jack's, which claims to be "Fairport's only home for true NY Style Pizza."
A bold claim, there, considering that Fat Jack's is new on the scene, and that Fairport already has some pretty decent NY style pizza at Pizza Chef. I was naturally eager, then, to put Fat Jack's to the test.
I got two slices, one cheese, one pepperoni. While slices aren't always representative of a pizzeria's best stuff, any true NY style pizzeria ought to be able to turn out good individual slices, like the ones you'll find at countless pizza joints in the Big Apple.
Visually, these slices bore some resemblance to what you'd get in the City, but there were noticeable differences too. They were thin, but of course there's more to New York style pizza than mere thinness.
The underside, for example. With rare exceptions, the slices I've gotten in New York have not been baked on a pizza screen. A NY-style slice should also be crisp and at least faintly charred underneath and along the outer edge.
These slices, though, bore clear screen marks, and were more medium or golden brown than charred, with just a few darker spots here and there. The bottom surface was firm, but not really crisp. On the plus side, they were foldable but not floppy, and the tip pointed straight out when the slice was folded.
The top side, too, didn't quite resemble genuine NYC pizza, as the cheese was rather browned. In my experience, a typical New York slice is charred underneath, but the cheese is simply melted, not browned.
I don't mean to get hung up on style, here - the bottom line, after all, is whether the pizza's good or not, not whether it meets some stylistic criteria - but I think it's fair to mention these things, since Fat Jack's chose to bill itself as a purveyor of "true NY style pizza."
That said, let's move on to the more important matter of how this pizza tasted. As I said, the crust was thin - very thin toward the tip - and there was some evidence in the outer lip of the dough having risen nicely, which gave it a pleasing chewiness. All in all, the crust had good texture and flavor, with the faintest hint of saltiness in the background, but it lacked exterior crispness.
The sauce was moderately applied, but certainly noticeable given the thinness of the crust. It had a thick texture, with a smattering of dried herbs visible, and I'm pretty sure I picked up some basil flavor. Not bad.
The cheese, as I mentioned, was a bit browned. It was OK, but not quite as smooth or creamy as I would've liked. The pepperoni had a nice peppery kick, and was reasonably crisp.
At this point, Fat Jack's has a relatively modest list of nine pizza toppings, and four specialty pizzas. They also do hot and cold subs, wings, salads and strombolis. It's pretty much a takeout place - sorry, I'm not sure if they deliver, but I'll try to find out.
I liked this pizza well enough to go back. It had good flavor, and the crust wasn't bad. I do take issue with Fat Jack's claim to serve authentic New York style pizza, though. I'd be pretty surprised if I got a slice like these from a pizza place in New York City. It may just be a matter of baking the pizza directly on the oven deck, which I think would make the crust crisper and cook the crust through before the cheese started to brown. But on the basis of these slices, this was better than average pizza, and I'll give them a B.
Fat Jack's Pizza, 110 Packetts Landing, Fairport
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Fri. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gifts for the Pizza Lover

We're down to crunch time here, but if you've still got shopping to do for the pizza lover in your life (who may be you), consider:
1) a pizza stone - great for homemade pizza with a crisp crust. Rectangular is better than round. You can also use unglazed quarry tiles, which will save you some money, though a baking stone probably makes a nicer gift 
2) a pizza cutter - comes in handy even for takeout, which is sometimes not cut cleanly through
3) chef's hat and apron - great for getting in the spirit of things when you're making pizza
4) a pizza peel - I have two, a wooden one for sliding the pizza into the oven and a metal one for getting it out. But either alone would work fine.
5) an insulated pizza bag, like the ones the delivery people use - good for takeout, especially if the pizzeria is some distance from your home
6) a pizza cookbook. There are a lot of good ones, but my standby is American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza by Peter Reinhart. He's got several dough recipes for everything from traditional Neapolitan pizza to New York style to generic American pizza.
7) and of course, a gift certificate to your giftee's favorite pizzeria. You can't go wrong with that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Martusciello's - Full of Surprises

Last February, I reported on the array of pizzas available from Martusciello Bakery's display case.While I wasn't completely bowled over by the pie that I got, I did love the sheer number of choices, and the visual appeal of all those different pizzas, ready to go.
But that still left me wondering what a fresh, made-to-order pizza from Martusciello's would be like, so the other day I ordered a pie to go.
I was met by several surprises along the way, beginning with the ordering process. After asking for a medium pepperoni pizza, I was asked what else I wanted on it. I'm not sure what my exact response was, but I must have expressed some confusion, because the girl had to explain that she meant, what else did I want besides pepperoni? Did I want sauce as well? Cheese?
This was a first for me, and I answered yes to both questions. That was followed up by another - did I want mozzarella? Initially I said yes, but then inquired what my choices were. The answer was the standard deli list, provolone, Swiss, cheddar, etc. I settled on a combination of mozzarella and provolone, with a little Romano thrown in for good measure.
The next surprise came when I picked up the pizza and was handed a big, sheet-pizza style box. I was afraid that perhaps there'd been a mixup, but as it turned out, the box contained a normal size, medium pizza, with plenty of room in the box to spare. Either they were out of smaller boxes, or they mostly sell sheet pizzas and don't bother to stock smaller boxes.
A visual inspection of the pizza yielded still more surprises. First off, I'd been expecting something along the lines of what I'd seen in the display case, but this really didn't resemble those pizzas much at all. It was roughly square, for one thing, and the cheese was on top, with the pepperoni underneath.
There was quite a bit of cheese, too. Maybe I got more cheese than normal because I asked for three varieties, but this was a cheesy pizza (I didn't notice if I was charged for extra cheese, though I don't think I was).
The crust was pretty thin, and tended to break apart, from itself and from the cheese, when I attempted to extricate a slice.
The underside was not especially greasy, although the bottom of the box was soaked with oil, and the underside did have the telltale yellow-brown tint of oily dough. There was also some yellowish oil visible on top that apparently had exuded from the cheese.
The crust was firm, but not all that crisp. There wasn't much evidence of the dough having risen, either visually or in terms of the texture, which lacked the bready chewiness of some crusts.Along the edge, the crust was formed into a crunchy, thin lip.
The cheese was well melted, but not to the point where it had all melted together. The provolone had been applied in full slices rather than shreds, and I was easily able to separate it from the mozzarella and peel it off in individual slices.
Under the cheese, there was an abundance of pepperoni slices, of the wide, thin-cut variety. It had a somewhat spicy flavor.
What was most remarkable about the pepperoni, however, was how much of it there was. In many spots, it was 2, 3, 4 or more slices deep. Had each slice been applied separately, it would easily have covered the entire surface of the pie.
A thin layer of sauce came next. It had a fairly thick consistency, and a cooked-tomato flavor. I could detect some herbs in the background, but otherwise it was pretty middle-of-the-road, neither very salty nor sweet.
Underneath it all lay the Romano, which had been sprinkled on in a relatively moderate amount, but enough to add a distinctive, sharp tanginess. Good idea there, putting it on first, as Romano, having little moisture, tends to dry out completely if it's baked on top of the pizza.
All in all, this was a very unusual pizza. I liked it, more perhaps than I would've expected. It was rather messy to eat while hot, with the crust breaking apart and all, but it tasted good. And the leftovers may have been even better the next day, eaten cold. The cold tended to firm up the crust a bit - probably from the oil hardening - and although the cheese had dried out a bit, it was still tasty.
As I was eating this pizza, I found myself thinking, "I shouldn't be liking this," given the unspectacular crust and the heavy layer of cheese, which to me tends to throw a thin crust pizza out of balance. But sometimes good is good, regardless of one's preconceptions about what pizza should be like, and I did enjoy this one. I don't think this would be my go-to pizza on a regular basis, but I'll give it some props for flavor and sheer uniqueness, enough to rate a solid B from me.
Martusciello's Bakery, 2280 Lyell Ave., Rochester 14606, 247-0510
Mon. - Fri. 7:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., Sat. 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Sun. 7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Last orders accepted one hour before closing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pizza Shack #1, Spencerport

Pizza Shack I on Urbanspoon
Nearly a year ago, I did a post on Pizza Shack #1 (sometimes spelled Pizza Shack I) in Spencerport. I thought it was OK, but not great, with a crust that was decent but quite pale underneath, and I gave it a C+.
That sparked a couple of responses insisting that I was way off base, and that Pizza Shack rates far better than a C+, so I vowed to go back.
It's taken nearly a year, but back I went last week. Instead of getting a couple of slices at lunchtime, as on my previous visit, this time I picked up a large pie for dinner. I got peppers and onions on half.
The crust was on the thick side of medium, and the square-cut pieces were firm along the outside, though the pie was thinner, and the slices floppier, toward the center. The outer pieces averaged about 5/8 inch thick.
The edge was thick and crunchy, and the underside was well browned and dry to the touch. The crust throughout was pleasantly bready, and the dough appeared to have risen nicely, giving it a good, chewy texture and no oversize bubbles anywhere.
The crust was topped with a healthy dose of sauce, which had a salty/acidic, tomatoey flavor that was lightly seasoned with herbs. The mozzarella was added in good proportion to the sauce, and as is typical of pizzas with additional toppings on half, the cheese-only side was somewhat browned. 
This was quite a change from the slices I got here last December, and quite an improvement, in my opinion. I suspect that the 12-month span in between was not as much of a factor as the 5- or 6-hour difference in the time of day when I ordered these. Last time, maybe the ovens weren't quite hot enough, or maybe the pizzaiolo was in a hurry to get the pie out of the oven to accommodate lunchtime customers, but the pie I got this time around was better baked, which made a lot of difference. The texture was better, the flavor was better, and the other components seemed to meld together better.
This was also a good example of what I think of as Rochester style pizza. A bit thick, plenty of sauce and cheese, but well balanced, with a bready crust that's typically given a square cut. It didn't stand head and shoulders above the crowd, perhaps, but it was a very solid representative of the local style, and I'll give it a B+.
Pizza Shack #1, 5008 Ridge Road West, Spencerport, 14559. 352-5005
Sun. - Thu. 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.
Delivery to Spencerport, Hilton, and West Greece.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bay Goodman, Winton Rd.

Bay Goodman Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
The Winton Road location of Bay Goodman Pizza was one of the first pizzerias that I reported on, back in March 2009. I wouldn't call it the original location, since the original was at - where else? - Bay and Goodman Streets, but this was where Bay Goodman moved, I believe, after the original location closed.
I wasn't particularly impressed by the slice I got at Bay Goodman in '09, giving it a C+, though it did have some nostalgia value, as I fondly remembered chowing down on Bay Goodman pizzas in years past.
But I've heard from more than one source that the pizza had improved following Bay Goodman's move a few blocks north, to the intersection of North Winton and Browncroft Boulevard. So I returned recently to check it out.
I got two slices this time, a regular cheese slice and a garlic-vegetable slice. Both were built on a thin to medium crust, which on the cheese slice had a slightly charred, leather-brown underside. It was foldable, as befits Bay Goodman's claim to making "New York pizza," and the bottom surface, which was lightly dusted with corn meal, was a little crackly, but not really crisp. The very bottom of the crust had a tough texture, and was easily separable from the top half, or interior, of the crust, which was softer and breadier. The outer edge was formed into a thin, crunchy lip.

A thin layer of sauce had been applied to the crust. It had a rather bland flavor, not much going on there. It was topped by a relatively thick layer of melted mozzarella.
The garlic veggie slice was wetter underneath, presumably because of the water in the spinach, tomatoes and onions on top. It was a little oily on top, which is not uncommon with white pizzas. The slice had a pleasant garlic flavor that complemented but did not overwhelm the other components.
So, has Bay Goodman's pizza changed since the move, and if so, for the better? Well, the crust of the cheese slice was, for my taste, marginally better than the pepperoni slice I got last time, as it came closer to the charred, crisp crust that I prefer. The vegetable slice, on the other hand, was unfortunately soggy. And the tomato sauce on the cheese could've used a little more zing - something was missing there. It may be something as simple as a little more salt or some additional herbs, but I found it on the bland side. Overall, the flavor of both slices was good enough, but not spectacular, and the components on both slices were well balanced.
Still, I can't say that these showed enough improvement over my prior visit to rate a higher grade. With some very minor changes, these would easily rate a B- or better, but these particular slices I'll give a C+.
Bay Goodman Pizza, 620 North Winton Rd, 14609. 288-0730
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. -10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun. 1 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Awarded, Again

The Rochester NY Pizza Blog was recently named among the 100 Best Restaurant and Dining Blogs in the country by the Guide to Culinary Schools. It's about 2/3 of the way down the list, right between Epicuryan and Capitol Bites. After looking at some of the other 99 blogs on the list, I'm not sure I deserve the honor, but who am I to argue? Take a look at the list if you want to poke around some other food-related blogs out there.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CJ's Pub & Grill, Spencerport

You don't find a lot of pizzerias in bowling alleys, but hey, why not? Bowling and pizza seem like pretty good partners. If you're going to eat while you bowl, better a slice of pizza than a hot sauce-coated chicken wing - you don't want to be picking up a bowling ball with grease on your fingers.
As the name implies, CJ's Pub & Grill, which opened earlier this year in the same building as Spencerport Bowl, is not just a pizzeria, but it does offer a full pizza menu. It's not the first place in Spencerport Bowl to offer pizza; Pizzeria Nove was there for a while, but closed in March 2009. CJ's is in a different space within the building, and unlike Pizzeria Nove, which was mostly a takeout place, CJ's is a full-fledged pub with a bar and tables.
I recently stopped at CJ's to pick up a large pie with green (sweet) peppers and onions. It had a pretty thin crust, the underside of which bore an unusual cross-hatch pattern, something like grill marks, but more widely separated than I would expect from an ordinary grill.
The crust was, well, kind of odd. It was slightly oily to the touch, with a chewy, somewhat dense, doughy texture. It didn't taste like raw dough, it just had the texture of raw dough, as if the dough hadn't risen very much. One big air bubble (visible in the top photo at about 1:00) and a few smaller but still prominent bubbles suggested that perhaps the dough hadn't risen much before going into the oven, where the heat briefly sent the yeast into overdrive.
On the plus side, the overall flavor wasn't bad. The crust was topped with a bright-tasting, tangy sauce, and a moderate layer of slightly browned cheese. In general, the components were well balanced. The diced, fresh peppers and onions were not added in abundance, but enough to provide flavor and a bit of crunch. The outer edge of the pie was formed into a thin, narrow lip.
CJ's menu is pretty basic, as far as pizza goes, with eleven toppings and no specialty pizzas. There's also a full range of bar food, as well as more substantial fare, including steaks, pasta, sandwiches, and salads. There's a kid's menu as well.
I might go back sometime, but probably not for the pizza. While this pizza had pretty good flavor, the crust really wasn't so hot. There's a lot of pizza competition in the immediate vicinity of CJ's, including Cam's, Leccese's, and a Pontillo's (which I haven't been to yet). If CJ's were trying to make a go of it as a pizzeria, I wouldn't be too optimistic. Judging from their Facebook page, though, the pub seems to have a fair number of fans, and it may do very well, but at this point pizza is not CJ's forte, I'm afraid. I'm giving this one a C-.
CJ's Pub & Grill, 45 Nichols St., Spencerport 14559. 585-352-5772
Not sure of the hours, but I believe it's open daily for lunch and dinner, and the bar stays open late.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Batavia Pontillo's Changes Name

I've mentioned before the lawsuit within the Pontillo family over the original Pontillo's restaurant in Batavia. It's just been reported that the Batavia location (which is not affiliated with the various Pontillo's in and around Rochester) has been renamed, "Batavia's Original." No word yet on whether this will resolve the lawsuit.
For a recent blog post on the pizza at what was then Pontillo's in Batavia, go here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mac's, Lyell Ave.

For some years now, a pizzeria has occupied the inside corner of the shopping plaza across from the Lyell Ave. Wegmans. It hasn't always been the same pizzeria; in fact, in just the past few years, KC's, Piatza's, and the oddly named Hot to Trot have come and gone there.
Undeterred by their strikeouts, Mac's has now stepped up to the plate. I'm always hesitant to pronounce any judgments about a place right after it's opened, or for that matter, about a place based on a single slice of pizza. But I do like to give readers a heads-up on new places, and to check out new pizzerias, so I stopped by Mac's a few days ago for a lunchtime slice.
Mac's slices are pretty big - each slice is a quarter of a large pie - so I just got one.  They had two choices when I visited, plain cheese and pepperoni, and I went with the pepperoni. It looked pretty fresh, but they gave it a quick reheating in the oven.
I don't know how much of this was attributable to the reheating, but the underside of this medium-thick slice was quite dark, and even blackened in some areas. I don't mean charred, like you would get from a super-hot oven, but blackened like an overdone piece of toast or a pancake that had been left on the griddle for too long. On the plus side, the bottom was dry, not greasy, but not crisp either. The crust had a soft texture, although the interior had some pleasant breadiness. That bready quality was most pronounced in the lip along the outer edge, which had a nice, chewy texture.
This was a well balanced pizza, with enough sauce and cheese to complement each other and the crust. The sauce had good flavor, with a nice balance of tomatoey, herbal and salty flavors. It seemed a tad spcy, although that miight've been from the pepperoni.
The cheese had congealed, and was not stringy or particularly chewy. It had a slightly tangy flavor, and easily separated from the crust. The slice also appeared to have been dusted with some grated cheese, which might be where some of that tanginess was coming from.
Mac's pizza menu, at this point, is pretty basic, with thirteen toppings, and one specialty pizza (chicken wing). They also serve wings, calzones, hot and cold subs, salads, burgers, dogs, "Mac plates," and sides, along with a fish fry on Fridays.
This slice was not bad, but the crust was a little soft for me, and the underside was more overcooked than charred. The cheese also seemed a bit lacking in terms of texture, and was more dried out than melted. But the interior of the crust was pleasant enough, the sauce had good flavor, and this was a pretty good deal at $3 for a slice with a 20 oz. drink.
If I were a business owner, I'd be pretty hesitant about going into a location where several others had tried and failed at the same kind of business, but I guess not everybody's so timid. Mac's has the makings of a good product, and I wish them success. For now, I'd say this slice comes out to about average, so I'll give it a provisional C, with a mental note to myself to go back sometime.
Mac's Pizzeria & Grill, 2346 Lyell Ave. 14606. 429-MACS (6227)
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Free delivery

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fullerino's, Byron

Fullerino's on Urbanspoon
Following in the footsteps of our pioneer forefathers, I've been pushing the western boundary of my pizza travels lately, in search of new discoveries. My latest venture took me to Byron, which sits about halfway between Brockport and Batavia.
The town of Byron is mostly agricultural, but at the crossroads of Routes 262 and 237, you'll find the essentials:  the fire hall, church, garage, tavern, and, yes, pizzeria. Fullerino's occupies the northeast corner of the intersection, with a taxidermy sign out near the curb and locals looking on from the porch of the 160-year-old Byron Hotel across the street.
I ordered a large pie from Fullerino's, half pepperoni. I was asked if I wanted regular or sweet sauce, and after a moment of indecision, went with regular, though I'm told that the sweet sauce - which I guess is regular sauce with added white and brown sugar - is pretty popular. Sweet sauce seems to be something of a local phenomenon, as I've also seen it (and tried it) at Ralph & Rosie's in nearby Bergen.
This pizza was based on a thin-to-medium crust, which had a dry, screen-baked bottom that was not as crisp as I would've liked. The crust was reasonably bready on the inside, with a narrow, crisp and crunchy edge.
On top, the cheese was well baked and browned, to the point of being a tad overdone on the cheese-only side (in fairness, I've found that ordering extra toppings like pepperoni on only half the pie generally results in browned cheese on the other half, since the half with the extra toppings requires a little more baking time). The cheese separated easily from the crust, although the pizza did spend maybe 20 to 30 minutes in the box (in an insulated pizza bag) before I got it home, so the cheese might've congealed and hardened a bit in that time.
Between the crust and the cheese lay the sauce, which had a thick consistency and a slightly salty, concentrated tomatoey flavor. The pepperoni was tasty, with a baconlike flavor and crisp edges.

Aside from the sweet-sauce option, Fullerino's pizza menu is pretty basic, with the only specialty pizzas being a white pizza and a "Lesonja" pizza, with no less than eight toppings. They also serve chicken wings (breading optional), hot and cold subs, fried seafood, calzones, sides, burgers, and salads. There's limited seating, and they do deliver.
This pizza wasn't bad, and although I wasn't blown away by it, I had no major complaints. I mentioned Ralph & Rosie's, and this did remind me a lot of the pizza I had from there. Like R&R's, this was maybe a cut above average, and I'll give it a C+.
Fullerino's, Corner Rt. 237 and Rt. 262, Byron. 548-2727
Store hours:  Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Delivery hours:  Wed. & Thu. 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 5 p.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dustin's, Holley

Dustin's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
At the outer reaches of the Rochester area, we find Dustin's in Holley. a few miles west of Brockport. I recently picked up a couple of pepperoni slices at lunchtime.
These had a thin to medium crust, which was a little soft and a little oily underneath. They were topped with a thick layer of melted mozzarella, which lay atop a relatively thin layer of sauce. The sauce had a tomatoey flavor, with faint herbal notes, and a medium-thick consistency.
The slice ended with a thick, bready lip. This was another pizza where I wished that the breadiness of the edge would’ve been found more in the rest of the crust, which didn't have a great deal of character.
Dustin's is your basic small-town pizzeria, with a standard lineup of pizzas, subs, wings, and grilled foods. There's some seating, and they offer free delivery within the village of Holley. It looks like there's also ice cream in season. On my visit, the service wasn't particularly friendly; I wouldn't call it rude, but the vibe I got was that I and the other customer in the shop at the time were more like annoyances than guests. Oh well.
This was OK pizza. Just OK. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing great either. The flavor was all right, the crust so-so. It was, in fact, pretty average, and so I'll give it an average grade, a C.
Dustin's Pizzeria, 50 Public Square, Holley 14470.
(585) 638-5440

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Union St. Bakery, Public Market

Sicilian pizza is not something you see a whole lot of around here, particularly sold by the slice. It's not impossible to find, certainly, but at most pizzerias the closest you're apt to find is "sheet pizza," which is usually just a thicker, pan-risen, and not-as-good version of the pizzeria's regular pizza. Sheet pizza is usually only available in half or full sheets, which is a lot of pizza. So I don't eat it too often.
But if Sicilian pizza were available by the slice at more places, I'd probably get it more often. One place where you can find it is at the Union Street Bakery in Rochester's Public Market. In fact, this is the only kind of pizza they sell, along with their breads, pastries and other baked goods.
I got two slices the other day, which measured about one and a quarter inches thick. The smooth bottom had a uniform golden color, giving it an appearance similar to that of cornbread. There was a faint trace of oil detectable on the surface, though this wasn't at all what I would call greasy.
The interior of the crusts was very interesting. Obviously the dough had risen, but the air holes were quite small, and the crust had a very puffy feel. In thinking about how to describe the texture, the word "cottony" came to mind, and that's about as apt a description as I can come up with. I don't think I've ever had a pizza with a texture quite like it.
The best thing about these was the aroma and flavor of the toppings. This pizza had a wonderful, enticing aroma, a heady mix of garlic, cooked tomatoes, herbs and cheese. The thick tomatoey sauce was topped with a generous helping of mixed dried herbs, chopped garlic, and a smattering of shredded processed cheese and granules of, I think, Romano.
The relatively sparse cheese on this pizza is one reason I would consider this more of a Sicilian slice than simply another sheet pizza. A heavy layer of cheese, I think, is more of an American than an Italian thing. The cheese here was a nice mix of softer, "melting" cheese and sharp grated cheese.
Union Street Bakery is located near the main entrance to the Public Market, in the same building as Fare Game Food Co. and Monterrey Mexican Tacos. It's a convenient stop if you're alone or with others, since there are several vendors to choose from, and pretty ample seating, except at peak times on Saturday (but seating turnover is quick, so you won't have to wait too long for a seat).
This pizza was kind of a mixed bag. It had excellent flavor and aroma, but I really didn't care much for the crust. It was just a very strange texture, not dense exactly, but chewy, and again I come back to cottony as the most apt adjective I can think of. The flavor and crust just about balance each other out in terms of good/bad, and at just $1 a slice, I'll bump this up to one notch above average, for a C+.
Union Street Bakery, 4 Public Market, Union St. 14609, 232-8110
Not sure of the bakery hours, but the market is open Tue. and Thu. 6 a.m. - 1 p.m., and Sat. 5 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pizza Stone Article

There's plenty of stuff on the internet about pizza stones, but this recent article was passed on to me the other day, and it has some sound advice, so I'll pass it on to you. My pizza stone cracked a while ago and I may just go the quarry-tile route myself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rhino's Revisited

Here's another revisit to pick up a pie at a place where I'd previously gotten a slice. This one brings us to Rhino's on Humboldt Street.
Last March, I gave Rhino's a C for a pepperoni slice that was OK but no better than average. Not long ago, I went back, this time getting a small pie with sausage. (I'm starting to like sausage on my pizza - I think there's more variability with sausage compared to pepperoni, perhaps because some places make their own, or maybe I'm just not as used to it as I am to pepperoni).
On that note, I'll break with my usual format here and start with the sausage. This was mildly spicy, and meaty but not greasy or gristly. Good sausage.
Rhino's menu notes that you can order your crust thin, thick or regular. My "regular" crust measured about a half to three quarters of an inch, with the cheese, which adhered well to the crust, making it difficult to tell where the crust ended and the cheese began. The underside was dry to the touch, and not exactly charred, but nicely darkened, showing good, high, conductive heat from the oven. Topside, the crust had bubbled in a number of spots, though not to such an extent as to detract from the pizza as a whole.
The sauce was amply applied, and had a medium-thick consistency. There were some dried herbs visible throughout the sauce, and they made themselves known on the palate as well, with an occasional burst of oregano or basil that imparted an almost minty counterpart to the overall tomatoey flavor of the sauce.
The moderately applied cheese had melted nicely, settling in around the bubbles in the crust, giving them the appearance of tiny islands poking up out of a mozzarella sea.
Each slice ended in a fairly thick, bready lip. It was a tad softer than I'd expected, suggesting perhaps a light brushing with oil before going into the oven, or maybe it was just that it stayed moist from the sauce, which was applied nearly to the edge of the pie. But it was nicely risen and had a pleasant, breadlike flavor and texture.
As I mentioned the other day, sometimes there is a big difference between getting a slice and getting a fresh pie. It was certainly the case here. This pizza was considerably better than the slice I had in March, which was topped with clumps of not-quite-melted shredded cheese and some lifeless pepperoni slices, and which frankly seemed a tad stale. This time around, everything worked, with a good (if not quite great) crust, well melted cheese, full-flavored sauce and meaty chunks of sausage. The only minor downsides were that the crust was not quite as crisp underneath as I like, the bubbles were a slight, mostly cosmetic blemish, and the sauce was maybe a bit too strongly seasoned for my taste. But all in all, this was a solid pizza, and good enough to rate a B+ from me.
Rhino's Pizzeria, 391 Humboldt St., Rochester 14609, 288-7492
Mon. - Thu. 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun.noon - 8:30 p.m.
(The Webster location at 85 Donovan St. has the same hours, phone is 872-3150.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Naked Pizza Open House this Saturday

I'm not sure if the arrival of another pizza chain is exciting news, but Naked Pizza has opened in - where else - Victor, and as reported by the Rochester Business Journal, they'll be holding an open house this Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. Attendees will be able to sample Naked Pizza's food and receive promotional items for free. The New Orleans-based chain stresses nutrition, including a pizza crust made from a blend of ten grains, "prebiotic fiber," whatever the hell that is, and probiotics. Yum.
Naked Pizza is located at 202 High Point Dr. in Victor. Phone: (585) 223-0088.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Irondequoit Pizza Challenge Winners

Here are the winners from last weekend's Irondequoit Pizza Challenge, in which attendees got to vote for their favorites among Cam's, 2 Ton Tony's, Mark's, Salvatore's, Cordello's, and Pontillo's.

Best Crust: Cam's
Best Sauce: 2 Ton Tony's
Best Specialty Pizza: (tie) Mark's and Cam's
Overall Favorite: 2 Ton Tony's

Mark's, I think, had a chicken, bacon and ranch specialty pizza, and Cam's had a "sweet and tangy" chicken bacon pizza. It was a well attended, well run event and I hope it becomes an annual one. It would also be nice to see similar events spring up in other suburbs and neighborhoods. With a chance to try six different pizzerias for five bucks, it was a heckuva deal.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Krony's Spencerport: pepperoni and sausage pie

Krony's Pizza Etc on Urbanspoon
Lately I've been catching up on some places I visited previously for a slice or two, and going back to try a full pie. One of those is Krony's in Spencerport. Last January, I gave them a B based on a pepperoni slice and a cheese slice. Recently I went back and got a large pie with pepperoni and sausage.
The crust on this pie was pretty thin, with a dark brown, dry underside. It was just faintly charred and had a bit of exterior crunch. The slices were rather floppy, but that was partly because this pie had been cut into 12 slices, resulting in relatively narrow slices; wider slices, I think, tend not to be as floppy because you can bend or fold them a little in the middle, which gives the slice a little more rigidity.
These slices were also weighted down a little by the toppings, which were generously applied. This pizza was rather saucy, with a medium-thick, tomatoey sauce. I wouldn't call it a sweet sauce, but it wasn't as sharply tangy as some, so there may have been a little sugar in there to take the edge off the acidity of the tomatoes.
The mozzarella was applied in good balance with the sauce, forming a nearly uniform blanket of stringy, well-melted cheese. The pepperoni and sausage were not particularly remarkable, though again, they were quite generously applied, covering every square inch of the pizza's surface.
Only the outer edge of this pizza was thick enough to really get much of a sense of the crust's flavor and texture. It was crunchy, with a pleasant, white-bread flavor. Although I'm mostly a thin-crust guy, I think I actually would've preferred a slightly thicker crust on this pizza, just to stand up to, and balance out the abundant toppings.
Not too much has changed since my prior visit to Krony's. I'll direct you to their website for a look at their menu. One thing I will mention is that they're one of the few pizzerias I've seen serving draft beer, and although there are only a handful of taps, they included Rohrbach Scotch Ale and Sam Adams Octoberfest.
At some pizzerias, ordering by the slice is the way to go. For example, although many of the more famous New York City pizzerias only sell whole pies, I've always thought that your average New York style pizza improves when it's put back in the oven for reheating. It comes out crisper that way.
And at some pizzerias, it's best to get a fresh pie. I think Krony's may be one such place. Although the slices I got last time were OK, this pie was better. That may have something to do with the relatively heavy toppings, which are best eaten fresh out of the oven, while the cheese is still gooey, and before the sauce has had a chance to dry out or seep into the crust. So I'm bumping this one up a notch over last time, and giving it a B+.
Krony’s Pizza Etc., 2139 N. Union St., Spencerport 14559 (in Barefoot Landing Plaza, next to Pineway Ponds Park) 352-1199 Mon. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. (closes at 10 p.m. Mon. - Thu. in winter) Hamlin location: 500 Hamlin-Clarkson Townline Rd. 964-7111

Friday, November 12, 2010

Giuseppe's "Old Timer"

Giuseppe's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Picking up on the theme of a recent post in which I wrote about seeking out simple, old-style pizzas, today brings us to a variation on that theme. Giuseppe's "Old Timer" pizza is not exactly what you would call basic, but it does hark back to earlier times.
Some years ago, the pizzas at Giuseppe's - which can trace its local history back to 1927 - were considerably different from what they are today, at least as far as the toppings are concerned. Until relatively recently, their pizzas came with a sprinkling of grated pecorino Romano, with mozzarella available only as an optional add-on. And going back even further, in the early days anchovies and onions were pretty much it, if you wanted more than cheese on your pizza. This was some serious old-school Italian.
That's all changed now, and Giuseppe's pizza lineup today is not much different from other pizzerias'. But as something of a tribute to the older generation of customers, Giuseppe's came up with the Old Timer, topped with sauce, Romano, anchovies, and hot cherry pepper slices. (The Old Timer, by the way, appears only on the restaurant menu - you will not see it on the to-go menu, though you can order it to go, as I did.)
I was never a fan of anchovies, so I approached this pizza with some trepidation, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good the overall flavor was. I was expecting a strong, even overpowering anchovy flavor, but they blended in quite well with the other components.
That's not to say that the flavors weren't strong. A single bite yielded a complex burst of flavors, including the salty anchovies, sharp Romano, thick, sweet tomato sauce, and of course the cherry peppers. If anything threatened to overwhelm the pizza, in fact, it was the peppers, which were quite hot and vinegary.
Interestingly, the Romano was added generously enough to add not just flavor and aroma, but texture as well. I don't think I've ever eaten a pizza with this much Romano on it. More than just a sprinkling, this was actually a bed of Romano, which in the oven created an almost breadcrumb-like layer between the sauce and the other toppings. It had also browned along the outer edge of the pizza, which only added to the complexity of the flavors and textures of this pie.
Given all that sensory input at work here, the crust was almost an afterthought. But it was good enough, medium thick, just a bit gummy on top (not a big surprise there, given the heavy toppings), with a firm, not-quite-crisp bottom.
The Old Timer is, I'm told, still ordered by a lot of, well, old timers. But it's a pizza worth keeping around, and I'd hate to see it pass into history as one generation gives way to another. It seems to me to be a first- or second-generation American descendant of Italian pizza, a sort of hybrid between the products of the world's two great pizza cultures. If you're at least a little adventurous, foodwise, consider it sometime. And if you really want to get back to basics, Giuseppe's offers just Romano- and sauce-topped mini pizzas in the dry case at the front counter.
I don't often do this, but I'm not going to give this one a grade. It defies grading. If the thought of anchovies and cherry peppers on a pizza makes you gag, you'd hate this pizza. But if you're into trying new (or perhaps I should say old - really old) things, you may find this a real treat. For me, this was not an everyday pizza, but I do think it's one I'll order again.
Giuseppe’s, 40 Spencerport Rd. (Rt. 31), 14606, 426-3397
Takeout hours: Mon. - Thu. 9 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. &. Sat. 9 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Dine-in hours: Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thank You!!!

To all the readers who voted for The Rochester NY Pizza Blog in City's Best of Rochester 2010 poll, a huge thank you! The Pizza Blog won in the "Best Local Blog" category. While this has no immediate effect other than to inflate my ego, I genuinely appreciate your support. Knowing that there's a substantial readership out there helps me stay committed to making this site as good as it can be. Thanks again, and thanks for all your feedback. Now go have some pizza!

Caraglio's, Hilton

Caraglios Pizza on Urbanspoon
I've previously written about Caraglio's on Dewey Avenue in Greece. I thought that the slice I had there wasn't bad, but could've been much better, and gave it a C+.
There are two other Caraglio's, one on North Greece Road and one in Hilton, at the former site of a Piatza's pizza shop. I stopped at the latter, and again, I got a pepperoni slice.
One other note about the location - the Hilton Caraglio's is just around the corner from a Carbone's location. I almost have to wonder if there's a law that says that Caraglio’s and Carbone’s have to locate near each other? There's a Carbone's across the street from the Dewey Ave. Caraglio's, and another Carbone's on - guess what? - North Greece Road.
While this shared some characteristics with the slice I got on Dewey Ave., it also had some things in common with the former occupant of this site, Piatza's. It was another huge, mega, jumbo, whatever you want to call it slice, quite thin, and, not surprisingly, quite floppy. The bottom was lightly singed, with distinct screen marks, and a slightly doughy aroma exuded from the crust.
The surface of the slice was rather greasy, more than I would have expected from the relatively modest amount of cheese and pepperoni. I was able to saturate most of a napkin soaking up the orangey oil.
The moderately applied sauce had a straightforward, middle-of-the-road flavor; it was neither particularly salty, sweet, nor herbal. But it had pretty good flavor and blended well with the slightly tangy, nicely melted mozzarella. Topping it all off were small slices of cup-and-char pepperoni, which were crisp but few in number; I'm of the opinion that on a pepperoni pizza, every bite should include some pepperoni, but here there were some relatively large, pepperoniless areas.
Eventually I worked my way to the outer edge, which would only be worth finishing if you're still hungry after consuming the rest of the slice. Like the rest of the crust, it was rather bland, with what I would describe as a dull flavor. But at least it was dry and a little crisp; the underside was a little wet in spots, making it even softer than it otherwise would have been. I don't think it was oil, but rather water that I assume had condensed from the slice itself. I removed the slice from its sleeve within a minute or two after getting it, so my only guess is that the pizza was put onto a tray right after coming out of the oven, and that some steam from the bottom condensed underneath. It certainly wasn't what this already floppy slice needed, and the soft, somewhat undercooked crust really couldn't hold up even to the moderate amount of toppings on this slice.
, edge not bad, kind of chewy but dull flavor
decent flavor but bad texture, wet and soft, undercooked crust couldn’t hold up to even moderate toppings
Caraglio's menu is available on their website, so I won't go into detail describing it. Perhaps most noteworthy is the "Big Tony," which measures a full 28 inches in diameter. (I assume this slice was taken from a Big Tony.)
As with the slice I got on Dewey Ave., I was disappointed with this pizza, yet there's still something about it that I liked. Maybe there's just something inherently good, or satisfying, or enjoyable, about a big, floppy, slice of pizza. But the crust just brought this one down. A better, crisper crust would probably vault this pizza up a full grade or more, but I'm giving this one a C-.
Caraglios Pizza, 7 Main St., Hilton, 392-9000
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.