Tuesday, November 2, 2010
My wife and I recently had occasion to travel to Batavia, so while I was there I made a point of stopping by Pontillo's for lunch. This is site of the original Pontillo's, and that makes it one of the oldest pizzerias, in the same location, in Western New York. These days, there is no direct connection between this Pontillo's and any of the Pontillo's that most of us are familiar with in the Rochester area, but that's a whole soap opera unto itself. But in short, the Pontillo's in and around Rochester are part of a loosely knit chain, while the Batavia Pontillo's is a stand-alone location. Some might question whether the Batavia Pontillo's can really claim a direct lineage to the original, but it's the same place at least, and there is one Pontillo brother involved in the Batavia business.
I was curious, then, to see how the pizza here would compare with what I've had at various Pontillo's in Monroe County. Although I've seen a number of comments to the effect that the pizza varies widely from one Pontillo's location to another, I've found a definite consistency within the Pontillo's chain, in certain respects, particularly with regard to the crust, which tends to have a somewhat charred underside, sometimes nearly black in some areas but browned elsewhere.
We each ordered a small pizza. I ordered a small with "Sicilian sauce," which was supposed to be just crushed tomatoes, garlic, herbs and Romano, but I was given a regular cheese pie instead, with "regular" red sauce. In the waiter's defense, I may have confused him because I first ordered a plain cheese pizza, but then asked for Sicilian sauce. Maybe I should've just ordered a Sicilian to begin with. But on our check, there was no mention of Sicilian anything, so I think the order just went in as a plain cheese pizza.
My wife got a "Siena," which was topped with Gorgonzola, balsamic vinegar, mozzarella, grilled chicken and eggplant.
The crust on both was similar, on the thin side, nice and crisp though not charred underneath at all. The crust on the Siena was a little oily, probably from the toppings, particularly the eggplant, which had been deep fried.
Nonetheless, both undersides had a nice combination of chewiness and crunchiness, and the undersides were lightly dusted with cornmeal. The edge was thick, bready and chewy.
The cheese on my pizza was laid on a bit heavily, and was rather stringy when the still-hot pizza arrived at our table. The cheese contributed not just texture, but a pleasant, mild melted-mozzarella flavor.
The sauce was added in moderation, and had a simple tomatoey flavor, with a few bits here and there of what looked like fresh shredded basil, but they were so tiny that I was unsure if they were fresh or dried. It was a perfectly acceptable sauce, though it left me wondering what the Sicilian would've been like.
Although my wife was a little disappointed that her eggplant was breaded and deep fried (I can't stand eggplant in any form, although deep-fried is probably least offensive to me), she was otherwise was very happy with the pie. It was a little oily, as I mentioned, but the flavor was good. I never would have come up with that particular combination of toppings, but they worked quite well together, especially with the sharp Gorgonzola playing off the sweet acidity of the balsamic vinegar.
Speaking of beverages, there's a bar overlooking the kitchen area, though I don't recall if it's a full bar or just beer and wine. The ample seating is divided between the bar area and the adjoining dining room.
This pizza was certainly different from what I've gotten at Pontillo's in and around Rochester, at least as to the crust, which was not charred underneath. But it was nonetheless crisp and bready, and good enough to polish off the outer crust. The overall flavor on both pizzas was good too, and I'd like to go back sometime to try both the Sicilian and the clam pizzas.
I wonder if any oldtimers out there remember what Pontillo's pizza was like back in the late '40s or '50s. And I'd love to see a menu from the original place back then. I can't tell you who can better claim to represent the pizza of the original Pontillo's, but the Batavia location turns out a very nice pie, indeed, and I'll give it a B+.
Pontillo's Pizzeria Restaurant, 500 E. Main St., Batavia, 343-3333
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight