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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.

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