Friday, March 5, 2010
My post last December about Rochester’s pizza history prompted comments from several people, including Whitey Proietti, proprietor of Proietti’s Restaurant in Webster. As he explained, Proietti’s can trace its roots back to a long-gone place on Goodman St. named Ozzie’s back in the early 1960s. So pizza and the Proietti family go back a long way.
Not long ago, I stopped off at Proietti’s to pick up a large pizza. Due to lack of time and my general preference for making my initial visit anonymously, I was unable to take up Whitey Proietti up on his invitation to come in and meet him, though I firmly intend to do that at some point.
My pizza, which was given a square or grid cut, had a medium-thick crust. The golden brown underside bore screen marks, and was dry, with some crispness.
Texturally, the crust might best be described as “fine.” It was not dense or “heavy,” but neither was it airy, in the sense of having large air holes in the interior. It also was not especially “gluteny,” by which I mean that it didn’t have the stretchy chewiness that I associate with extensive development of gluten in the dough. That, and the noticeably white interior of the crust, which was almost the color of angel food cake, got me curious about the flour that was used here. (In doing a bit of research, I ran across this discussion, which suggests that some gluten will result in a crust with more “bite” than “chew,” which is another good way to describe this one.)
Technical talk aside, I found the crust enjoyable. It had a mild but not bland flavor, and although I wouldn’t describe it as especially bready, it was easy to chew, without the toughness of some thicker crusts.
The pizza was rather saucy, though not so much as to be out of balance. The sauce was more tomatoey than herbal, with an acidic sharpness. The cheese seemed to be straight mozzarella, and was applied moderately, with a narrow border of sauce between it and the inch-wide edge.
The wide and thin slices of pepperoni were uniformly but generously applied in neat rows. The slices of fresh green bell pepper and white onion on the other half were al dente, and made for a pleasing combination. A sprinkling of dried herbs over the entire pizza was visible, though this wasn’t a particularly herbal-tasting pie.
In keeping with its status as an “old school” pizzeria, Proietti’s is not a place to go for newfangled “gourmet” pizzerias with unusual toppings. There are 14, pretty standard, toppings, and aside from the size of the pizza, your only other options are the thick-crust “double dough” and white pizza made with mozzarella, romano and garlic.
Aside from pizza, there is a full menu of Italian selections, and if you dine there you can expect to start off with Proietti’s complimentary and renowned zucchini appetizer. Though it’s located in an otherwise charmless shopping plaza, Proietti’s has a charming interior, with subdued lighting, family photos on the walls, and white linens on the tables. It’s tough to be both dinner-date formal and family-dinner casual, but Proietti’s straddles the line nicely.
I could see, eating this pizza, how it does hark back to an older era. This is why I love seeking out these places with deep local roots, to see what pizza was like around here in the days before national pizza chains, and before Rochester pizzerias began to consciously imitate the styles of other American cities. This pizza had a basic, straightforward, “traditional” flavor, texture and appearance (right down to the “square” cut) that I could appreciate. It was also obviously made with care and attention to detail, as evidenced by the neat rows of pepperoni slices and the uniform width of the outer edge. I’m giving this one a B+.
Proietti’s Italian Restaurant & Catering, 980 Ridge Rd. E. (Webster Plaza), Webster 872-2330
Sun., Tue. - Thu. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.