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Friday, June 25, 2010

Empire Pizza, Empire Blvd.

Note, Aug. 15, 2011: this establishment was formerly a second location of the downtown pizzeria, The Pizza Stop. It is no longer associated with the Pizza Stop and is now operating under a different name, although ownership and management remain (partly) the same as when it opened. The following review was written shortly after this pizzeria opened and remains here as an historical record.
It took 24 years, but earlier this month the Pizza Stop finally opened a second location, on Empire Boulevard in Penfield (though most people probably think of it as Webster). Naturally I was eager to try it, although I pretty much knew what to expect:  the same, authentic New York style pizza served at the original on State Street. While consistency can be an issue when a pizzeria has multiple locations, I didn't expect that to be the case here, as the new Pizza Stop is run by the son of Pizza Stop co-founder Jim Staffieri. And sure enough, the pizza here was, to my palate at least, virtually indistinguishable from the original.
Ordinarily, I would go for a cheese or pepperoni slice, or one of each, but on this visit, fresh slices of the meatball parm pie were available, and I could not resist. And, just to change things up a bit, I got a white garlic slice as well.
The crust on both slices was, of course, thin, although the meatball parm slice was noticeably thinner than the white. And both were nicely charred underneath.
As I was eating the white slice, it occurred to me that one hallmark of a great crust is that you can fold it in half without breaking it in two, but when you do, small surface cracks should appear on the underside. That shows the proper balance of pliability and crispness, and the white slice had that exactly.
That slice was topped by a uniform layer of mozzarella that was dusted with dried herbs. The top was bit oily though I'm not sure if that came from the cheese or from the actual application of olive oil. It was also quite garlicky, in a good way. I couldn't see any garlic, so I'm assuming it lay under the cheese (I gobbled it down too quickly to stop and check). But I'm pretty certain from the flavor that this was chopped garlic, not garlic powder.
Oddly, the white pizza doesn't seem to be on the printed menu, so maybe it was a daily special. Or maybe it just got left off the menu for some reason.
As I mentioned, the meatball parm slice was quite thin. With the relatively heavy toppings, it almost had to be folded, though the underside still had some outer crispness. I've described Pizza Stop's meatball parm pizza before, and this was essentially the same, so I won't repeat myself here. But it was very enjoyable, a great blend of flavors, a bit spicy, and quite moist - almost "juicy" - without being sloppy. And despite its thinness, the toasty, crisp-yet-chewy crust made a great base for the toppings.
The menu here is pretty close to the State Street Pizza Stop's, with some variations. The most noticeable difference is that wings are available here. There are also a few specialty pizzas that don't appear on the menu at State Street (although you could probably special-order them there, as all the toppings are available).
The space here is not huge, but there's fairly ample seating. And although they were fairly busy when I stopped, there was not the mad rush that you sometimes see downtown, so the atmosphere was a bit less hectic.
To get down to specifics, the white pizza here was rather minimalistic, with little more than dough, cheese, garlic, some herbs and perhaps some olive oil. That's really getting back to pizza's roots - tomatoes didn't arrive in Italy until after Columbus, remember -  but it was almost too minimalistic for me. Still, it was executed well, and that's just a matter of my personal preferences. And the meatball parm slice was, as I said, very enjoyable.
In more general terms, Pizza Stop seems to have pulled it off - opening a second location that's as good as the original. So once again, a solid A rating from me.
Pizza Guy note: as a reader pointed out, Joe's Brooklyn Pizza, which opened last year in Henrietta, is in the same family, literally and figuratively, as the Pizza Stop. Although the sauce at Joe's is a little different from Pizza Stop's, the pizzas are pretty similar, so you might consider Joe's as a third, unofficial branch of the same pizza family tree.
Pizza Stop, 1773 Empire Blvd., Penfield 347-4050
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 8 p.m.
Pizza Guy note, 12/22/10:  The Empire Boulevard Pizza Stop is no longer affiliated in any way with the original downtown location.
Pizza Guy note, 4/26/11:  for a more recent review, go here.

39 comments:

  1. This will now be my regular stop.

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  2. Their buffalo chicken pizza is the best i've had. Not sure if you're into that style tho.

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  3. maybe you should mention joe's brooklyn pizza in henrietta in this post? i would almost consider this more like the "third" pizza stop location in spirit since including joes they all offer virtually the same pizza and they are run by the same immediate family, even though joe's has a different name...

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  4. Rhino - I'm thinking of doing a series of Buffalo Chicken pizza reviews because it is such a popular style around here. I typically don't eat it much, but I do like wings, so I'm OK with the concept.
    Ron - good point, change made.

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  5. @ ragin ron. Both pizza Stop locations are better than Joe's Brooklyn. I wouldn't group them together

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  6. i will admit pizza stop is better, but joe's is still a cut above most of the other pizza in rochester, especially in the category of "ny style" which is pretty limited to begin with, and it is a godsend for those who dont make it downtown during the day often, since pizza stop has pretty limited hours, sooooo thats why i think its worth mentioning (and thanks for adding it)

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  7. Glad to know about the Empire Blvd location. I'll have to stop and get a slice of meatball.

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  8. Re: the 12/22 comment - what happened? Wasn't it all in the same family?

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  9. My understanding is that it was a joint venture between the Staffieris (Jim and his son) and another party. The Staffieris are no longer involved with the Empire Boulevard location.

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  10. I have to say, I read this blog, and thought, these guys have visited a lot of pizza places, and I'm new to the area, so I'll just take a shot on one of their top rated spots, and see what I think.
    I'm not from Rochester originally, but I've lived here for a little while now, and my wife and I LOVE Guida's, particularly in Penfield. We rarely stray from there, but tonight I took a shot on the Empire Blvd. location of Pizza Stop, on your recommendation.
    I won't mince words; it was some of the worst pizza we've ever had.... ever. The sauce was awful, the pizza had sat there for a while (we came in at 5:45PM, dinner time by anyone's standard). The staff were short, one slice was somehow soggy on the bottom and burnt (not in a good way) at the same time, and it gave us both gut rot afterwards. This pizza was bad, grade F bad. But, that's our opinion.

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  11. David -
    I'm sorry to hear that. As noted, the post was written before the Empire Blvd. location split from the original on State Street, and I have not been back since that happened. I guess a revisit is overdue. But thanks for the input.
    (By the way, if you haven't been to the original Pizza Stop on State Street, I can still recommend that with confidence. It's consistently good.)

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  12. not sure where information is coming from but, the 2 pizza stops in rochester are affiliated by name and product. The only differences are the hours, and free parking in webster. The Webster location also serves wings and garlic twists. The original owners are still at the pizza stop and still serve the same quality pizza since opening day.

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  13. I'm not going to get in the middle of all this, but I think I'm on firm ground in saying, at least, that (1) day-to-day management of the two locations is wholly separate and (2) the relationship between the two locations, or the relevant parties, is not exactly what it was six months ago. I'm not passing any judgment here about anything, the pizza included. I do plan to update my reviews soon.

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  14. Let's clear this up and get back to what IS important.... the pizza! Day to day management of the two locations has always been wholly separate and the relationship between the stores is exactly the same(contractually). There has of course been personnel changes with the founders son choosing to go back to working at the downtown location. None of this effects the product. Pizza stop pizza is all we know how to make! Thank you Webster/Penfield for your business and continued support.

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  15. Thanks for all these comments. Ultimately it is the pizza that matters, not the name, the personalities, or anything else.
    While I will allow anybody to post a comment here, positive or negative (so long as it's not defamatory, vulgar or abusive), I urge readers to form their own opinions and not just take somebody else's word for it. Sometimes the only comments come from people who are extremely pleased or displeased with a product, and it would be nice to hear from a broad cross-section of readers.

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  16. Frankly, I have not been that impressed. Took my family there recently (accustomed to New Haven pizza), and we were very disappointed.

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  17. Pizza Guy you should settle this and go down there & try their Sicilian and let all of your loyal readers know. Their pizza always gets an A from me at lunchtime and I have been there at least 10 times.

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  18. OK, well I'm sure that it's going to "settle" anything, but I will make a point of trying the Sicilian.

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  19. I've been going for slices for lunch about once a week since August. I've noticed no change in quality. I am disappointed that Grandma's slices have become a rarity though. I used to get one plain and one Gandma's almost every time. Prior to this I was going to Joe's Brooklyn on the same schedule since it opened. I've never had bad pizza at either establishment. There has been variation, and sometimes are better than others, but the Pizza Stops and Joe's Brooklyn always have great pizza.

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  20. After the bad experience we had, (and again, honestly, it couldn't have been worse in EVERY reguard), I am turned off of trying either establishment ever again. I'd like to chock it up to, "eh, I must just have different tastes than other people when it comes to pizza", but my wife and I have eaten slices so many other places, all over the US and Canada, and really, it was among the worst, if not the THE worst we've ever eaten. After this experience, I decided for me, there's really no reason to "cheat" on Guida's of Penfield ever again, so I went back there earlier this week for a white garlic spinach/artichoke/red pepper slice (not even at dinner, it had actually been sitting for a bit, I'm sure), and compared to the pizza stop, it was like manna from heaven. And no, I don't work there, I'm not in any way affiliated with the restaurant, other than being a loyal (now more than ever) customer. :)

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  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  22. I try to maintain a liberal policy for comment posting, so for now, I'm going to leave these comments alone. But I'm putting everybody on notice that future comments may be deleted if in my discretion I decide that they are reckless or are not adding anything of value to the discussion.
    In the meantime, other readers should decide for themselves whether to give any weight or credence to these comments. I also urge you to see my more recent review of the Pizza Stop (see link at end of this post).

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  23. I agree with Pizza Guy. Although, as the owner, I appreciate "anonymous" commenting in our defense, it does no one any good to use a public forum to trash talk others. If "David's" comments were not so dramatic or over the top, we would be concerned.

    Let's get back to using this as a neutral location to source pizza shops throughout the greater Rochester region.

    If you want to start a "battle", vote on where you want us to open up next...... East side or West, small town or large??, let us know what you think!

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  24. I have deleted a certain comment that made an accusation against a certain person without any evidence. The gist of it was to call into question "David's" credibility.

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  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  26. I have deleted an anonymous comment because it made a factual assertion from a "reliable source" without any evidence to back it up.

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  27. Blogger "David" calling the Pizza Stop " THE worst we've ever eaten " and then saying a local competitor was like "Manna from heaven" is not very credible either, is it? It sounds like an obvious and lowly attempt by the "Manna from heaven" pizzeria to me.

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  28. I'm posting this just to say how much I love Pizza Stop. I'm from the Hudson Valley region and have never really liked WNY pizza and wouldn't get it very often. Now that Pizza Stop has opened my wife and I get it at least a few times a month. It is fantastic and I have always been impressed. Not a big fan of the wings though.

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  29. Just want to comment again, got Pizza and wings two nights ago, Pizza was great as always and the wings were substantially better!

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  30. pizza stop on state is truly among the best. it wouldn't still be there if it wasnt. 1 slice -pepperoni, hit it with parmesan, and go!

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  31. I am curious as to why this review is still on here. It seems like the owner has made it clear that he is no longer the pizza stop in any way, so I think the responsible thing to do is remove this review and write up and do another one for the place with no name yet.

    I have driven by numerous times and there is no sign pizza stop involvement. Im sure the owner would like to be judged on his own merits instead of riding the pizza stops coattails.

    I say give this guy a fair shot and re-review him under his new identity, whatever that may be.

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  32. Even when pizzerias have gone completely out of business, I keep the posts up (with an explanatory note) as a historical record. But thanks for pointing this out, and I have added a note to make clear what the current circumstances are, as I understand them.

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  33. Reviews for good, bad and outright ugly pizza, as well as pizzeria's that exist and no longer exist should be 'maintained. To think that people put forth time, energy and resources to start a business;their should be a 'resource' to their effort and memory, even in failure or transition.

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  34. post on rocwiki says that this place is now called "empire pizza"

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  35. Can someone tell me whats gong on with this place. It's had three name changes within the last few months. The Pizza Stop, Original New York Pizza and now Empire Pizza. Do they know what there dong over there, it kind of mkes you wonder what else has changed. When I see this kind of activity around a business it's never a good sign, somethings not quite right. I use to go there back when they first opened and it was great, since then it has changed, the pizza is not what it use to be. Maybe it has something to do with all the name changes.

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  36. The name changes reflect a split between ownership and management of the original (and now only) Pizza Stop downtown and this pizzeria. At this point I cannot speak to whether the pizza has changed here since my most recent review last April. I do intend to go back in the next month or so for an update. But regardless of what I say, you'll have to decide for yourself whether the pizza has changed.
    One more thing - since this pizzeria has generated a lot of controversy on this blog, let me remind everyone that comments should be focused on verifiable facts or your opinions based on actual experiences. Comments that are merely nasty, or personal attacks, or that otherwise do not contribute any useful information or meaningful dialogue, are subject to deletion. Please exercise some self-restraint.

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  37. As the owner I can tell you exactly what is "going on". The Pizza Stop Penfield opened in June 2010 with 3 owners. Chris Staffierri from the downtown location decided to leave in December of 2010 and go back to his dads shop. When that happened, it became a legal mess that has now been resolved. Original NY style pizza was never our name....... it is what we sell. The official name is now Empire Pizza and we are not affiliated with the Pizza Stop in any way. As far as the pizza, that hasn't changed at all. We have the same owners, same staff, same process, etc. as we did last year. What does bother me is the people who comment on here as "anonymous". That always lead to wonder if it is a legit comment or someone pretending to be who they are not. Fell free to come on by and express your opinions. There is a comment board right next to the front counter. As our handouts say.... same owners, same great pizza, same service....... new name. Empire Pizza.

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  38. Hey guys, David here. Well it has been a while, and I hadn't been on here to see the apparent "backlash" on my comments, ha. Let me just say, it was never my intention to make anyone upset. If I can't voice my opinion of pizza here though, where can I, you know? Anyway, that's all I intended to do here, was to give an honest review, and it was honest. To this day, I can still taste what I had that day lol, and yes, unfortunately it really was that bad. Also, I do love me some Guida's, but I also love a lot of other pizza as well, like Ralph and Rosie's in Bergen, and actually Main Street's deep dish is good, and Pontillo's in Penfield is awesome as well.
    I mean, I dunno, maybe I just hit this place on a bad day, but I really doubt it, as it was the actual flavors of basic components like the sauce and crust that I had a problem with. Again, not trying to be rude, just using a food blog to blog about food! :)

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  39. Hey Pizza Guy, I know you take a great deal of pride about being accurate and honest in the things you put in your blog, after all it's your reputation at stake. You would not take credit for somethng you did not write, would you? Well I have a big problem with this Empire Pizza. I love pizza and love your blog, I follow the pizza scene in rochester. So when I was doing my usual pizza searches I come accross Empires new web site and I notice that it says (" Best Pizza West of NYC " Rochester Magazine) and Im thinking thas strnge because I remeber that issue and I don't remeber seeing Empire there. I happen to know for a fact that that distinction was given to a very highly regarded pizza place downtown and not to Empire. And on top of this this guy has reviews of the same downtown pizza place on his facebook page?? I guess if you can't earn it then you just take it, I think it's pretty sad! I wonder what his customers would think of his deception?

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