Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Pizza Guy Note, Aug. 15, 2011: Brick 266 closed earlier this year, unfortunately.
It's funny - wood-fired pizza started in Rochester some years ago, with places like Brio, Pomodoro, and Panzari's leading the way, but only recently has it really exploded, with a new place seeming to open every month or so. Not coincidentally, I would argue, only recently have local wood-fired pizzerias started turning out pizza that's really worthy of the ovens whence they come, with thin, crackly, nicely charred crusts, cooked for just a few minutes and emerging with smoky overtones that you won't get from a conventional oven.
The latest entrant on the wood-fired scene is Brick 266 on Park Avenue. I stopped there recently for lunch with a couple of friends, which allowed us to sample three different pizzas.
Pizzas here come in 8- and 12-inch sizes, for $8 and $12 respectively. We got three 12-inchers: an "Alexander" (essentially a Margherita), with tomato, basil and mozzarella; a "Berkeley," with ham, sweet onions and pineapple, and a custom-made pizza with pepperoni, meatballs and mushrooms.
With just one pizzaiolo working, it took a little while it took a little while to get our pizzas, but all three arrived at about the same time, and all very hot. The crusts were quite thin, with a crisp exterior, but they were also supple enough to fold.
Surprisingly, the oven thermometer registered an even 500 degrees, not even as hot as the average home oven is capable of, and well below the typical cooking temperature of many commercial pizza ovens. I'm wondering now if that wasn't a centigrade thermometer (500 Celsius would equate to over 900 Fahrenheit, which sounds about right), but when I asked the pizzaiolo about the temperature, he made no mention of that, and the fire didn't seem to be blazingly hot, so I assume that was a Fahrenheit reading.
Whatever the temp, Brick 266's pizzas emerge from the oven with a nicely charred edge and underside, more so than is evident from the photo below. Our pizzas were by no means burnt, however - the charring imparted a toasty flavor and aroma, but the underlying bready flavor of the dough came through as well.
Nor were the toppings overcooked. The cheese was melted to a creamy consistency, and browned in a few spots, but neither it nor the other toppings had dried out or lost their flavor.
And those flavors were good. I liked all three of these pizzas. The Alexander displayed a nice balance among its toppings. A bed of melted, slightly browned low-moisture mozzarella was topped with slices of fresh, remarkably flavorful tomato. Some shreds of fresh basil added an herbal counterpoint to the sweetness of the tomatoes, and a smattering of melted, fresh mozzarella came last.
I've never been too keen on the concept of so-called Hawaiian pizza, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Berkeley. The contrasting flavors of the ham, onions and pineapple worked well together, and were both balanced and restrained enough to give the pizza plenty of flavor without overpowering the palate. Our custom pie was also well made and enjoyable, with a meaty flavor that was a touch on the spicy side thanks to the pepperoni. I didn't even mind the mushrooms - which rank among my least favorite foods - as these didn't have the rubberiness that I find so repugnant.
Brick 266's other specialty pizzas include the "Oxford" (mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and green peppers), the "Goodman" (jalapenos, banana peppers and onions), and the "Culver" (pesto sauce and onions). Or you can create your own, selecting, at no extra charge, up to three toppings from the thirteen available.
If you're not in the mood for pizza, Brick 266 also offers several sandwiches, wood-fired "pizza rolls," and a few sides. They also serve a pizza frita, described as fried dough with honey and confectioners sugar. Bottled beer and wine are also available.
One more pleasant surprise awaited us at the end of our meal, when we were informed that Brick 266 has a no-tipping policy. I'm not sure if that applies all the time or to all the staff, but it did on this occasion; the best tip we could give, we were informed, was to come back again, and to spread the word about Brick 266.
Well, I've done my part to spread the word, and I do intend to go back. This was very good pizza. Crisp yet pliable, charred but not burnt, flavorful and well balanced. I still don't know how these came from a 500 degree oven, but no matter. Figuring that Brick 266 is still new, still working the bugs out, I tried to think of a reason not to give these pizzas an "A," but I couldn't come up with one. So "A" it is.
Brick 266, 266 Park Ave. 730-8153
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sat: noon - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 8 p.m.