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Friday, April 30, 2010

Rochester Rhinos

There's a brief article on the WHEC website about the completion of 14 luxury suites at Marina Auto Stadium (where the Rhinos play - I wonder how many people around here know that). I mention it because the story says that "People renting the suites can order food through Lorraine’s Catering or call down to the concessions and have foods like Cam’s Pizza, Red Osier, and Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe delivered right to their door."
I was a little surprised to see that Cam's is the pizza option, since "Soccer Sam" Fantauzzo of Salvatore's fame has been so heavily involved with the Rhinos over the years, but according to Sam's website, he has no official affiliation with the team this season, although they apparently remain on good terms.
Even if he were still with the team, of course, that wouldn't necessarily mean that Salvatore's would be the pizza purveyor at Rhinos games, but it was still a bit of a surprise - kind of like seeking Budweiser as the official beer of Miller Park in Milwaukee.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pizza Stop: Sicilian and Stuffed Pizzas

Pizza Stop on Urbanspoon
Although my blogging activities have kept me from stopping in as often as I'd like, eventuall y I always end up back at Pizza Stop on State St. I stopped in the other day and, as much as I love their NY style slices, I decided in the interests of research to try something different, so I got a corner slice of their Sicilian pie, and a sausage-stuffed pizza.
The Sicilian slice had a very crunchy crust, but this wasn't a "fried" kind of crunch like you get with many sheet or pan pizzas. The underside wasn't greasy at all.
The dough was well risen and fairly light in texture, with lots of air holes inside. The browned cheese was moderately applied, a bit thicker perhaps than on the NY style pies, but in balance with the crust. The thick, tomatoey sauce tended to collect in the folds of dough on top, so that some bites were "saucier" than others.
There was a slight sheen of oil on the top of the crust, along the edge. The edge was particularly crunchy but not dry. All in all, a nice, well balanced slice of pizza.
Moving on to the stuffed pizza - I honestly don't know if I'd ever had stuffed pizza before this. I've certainly heard of it, seen it on menus, but it's not the sort of pizza that I'd be apt to try. Being mostly a thin-crust guy and a traditionalist, in theory it sounds like it should be the antithesis of what I think of as good pizza. A layer of dough on top of the pizza? What is this, some Chicagoan monstrosity? (Personally I think deep dish "pizza" is a joke that Chicagoans foist on unsuspecting tourists, while they go back and secretly eat their thin crust pies.)
But this looked kind of good, so I tried a slice, and lo and behold, it was good. Very good. (Admittedly, I was hungry, but even taking that into account, it was good.)
It had a crisp underside, which, like the Sicilian slice, had some crunch but no grease. It wasn't charred or toasty like Pizza Stop's NY style pizza, but instead well browned, in a mottled pattern, something like the bottom of a pancake.
The cheese was definitely on the heavy side here, but again in good balance; this is a pizza that needs a heavier hand with the cheese.
The meatball stuffing worked very well with the other components of this pizza. I was never much for meatballs on my pizza - they just seem too "heavy" for me, usually (though I have to admit, I do like the meatball parm pizza at, where else, Pizza Stop) - but here they blended in and complemented the other components, rather than weighing down or overwhelming the slice. It made for a very tasty, satisfying slice, certainly a bit more filling than the average cheese slice, but light enough to eat with one hand. This was not some enormous, lead-heavy pizza that had to be eaten with a knife and fork.
So Pizza Stop, which is deservedly known for its authentic, NY style, thin crust pizza, shows that it's not a one-trick pony, and that they can turn out some very good thicker variations as well. Probably nothing will ever make a full blown, thick-crust convert out of me, and on my next visit to Pizza Stop I'm pretty sure I'll be back to the thin crust, but their Sicilian and stuffed pizzas are not to be ignored. I don't imagine I could ever like them as much as Pizza Stop's NY style pies, but for what they are, I found them considerably better than average, so I think a B+ sounds about right.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Amy Rose Revisited

Amy Rose Pizza on Urbanspoon
My review of Amy Rose in Scottsville, in which I gave it a C- grade for a couple of slices that didn’t much impress me, prompted some criticism from a reader, who strongly suggested that I go back and try a full pie. So I did.
This was just for me, not to feed my family, so I only ordered a small cheese pie. It had a medium to thick crust that measured, on average, about a quarter inch thick. The browned underside was firm but not crisp. There was quite a bit of oil soaked into the cardboard box, though the underside of the pizza itself did not seem greasy.
The crust had a chewy, bready interior, with a very slight sweetness. The edge was thick and bready, with a bit of toasty flavor and exterior crispness, which I attributed partly to the shreds of browned cheese attached to it.
The sauce was applied a little thickly, but in good balance with, and proportionate to, the crust. It had a tangy, salty flavor, with just a hint of herbs in the background. The sauce was thick-textured, like a well-cooked red pasta sauce.
The cheese, which had been applied or gathered to the center of the pie, formed a single layer and was slightly browned, something like the layer of cheese you typically get on French onion soup. In some spots, it was nearly as thick as the crust. Particularly as it cooled, it easily separated from the crust.
I won’t bother running through the rest of Amy Rose’s menu - which I mentioned on my prior post, and which you can see on their website - other than to note that they serve Hershey’s ice cream, which you don’t see around here all that much (and which is not affiliated with the chocolate maker of the same name, by the way).
I did like this better than the slices I got last time, though I still can’t count it among my favorites. It was well balanced and well made, but the crust didn’t thrill me. It was OK - nothing wrong with it - but it didn’t quite have that heady aroma of freshly baked bread and the crisp bite that I look for in my pizza. And the toppings were all right, but not outstanding in any way.
But I had no major complaints about this pizza, and it tasted fine. So I’ll give it a just-above average C+. That probably won’t satisfy my reader-critic (who, I might note, based some of his rave review of Amy Rose on their getting a large order right, and on the sheer quantity of food that he and his family got for their money delivered, none of which I doubt, but all of which is irrelevant to this review).
As I’ve said all along, though, while I try to be as objective as I can in describing the pizza, the grades are inevitably subjective, although I try to stay reasonably consistent. And for me, this was, well, a little better than average, but not a lot. So again, a C+ seems about right.

Monday, April 26, 2010

2 Ton Tony's article in D & C

There was a brief article in yesterday's Democrat and Chronicle about Tony Proietti, owner of 2 Ton Tony's pizzeria in Irondequoit. It recites a bit of the family history, going back to the old Proietti's Pizza on Goodman St. Oddly, there's no mention of Proietti's restaurant in Webster, which has been around for some time and which turns out a pizza very similar in style to 2 Ton Tony's.
2 Ton Tony's was also featured in an April 15 article in the same paper. When yesterday's piece appeared I at first thought that maybe the D & C was just recycling its material, but the bylines for the two articles are different.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pizza Family Feud in Batavia

From the don't-mix-business-and-family department:

There is a lengthy article on The Batavian website (from which I got the photo at right) about the war of words and legal battles among the surviving children of Salvatore "Sam" Pontillo, who, along with his brothers, founded Pontillo's Pizzeria in Batavia in 1947. The dispute (which doesn't seem to directly involve the Pontillo's locations in Monroe County) goes back to the money troubles that led to the closing of the original Batavia location in November 2008. It's flared up again recently in the wake of the Batavia Pontillo's recent reopening.
Intrafamilial disputes tend to be the ugliest, and this one is no exception. Though the Batavian article examines it in some depth, it's hard to tell when you're finished who the villain is here, because the three brothers are all pointing fingers at each other. It's sad, but like all sordid affairs, oddly compelling.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Checker Flag, revisited

After I gave Checker Flag Pizza a scathing review and a D- last June, a reader left a comment that I must've just gone there on a bad day or at a bad time, because their pizza is usually better than what I had. So I recently went back to give them another try.
The same reader suggested that perhaps I went too early in the day (it was around noon), before the ovens were properly heated. If so, of course, the blame for that would lie with Checker Flag, which should ensure that its ovens are up to the proper temperature before they start making pizza, but this time I did go a little later in the day, around 2:30 p.m. on a weekday.
For whatever reason, it was better this time. That alone is not much of a surprise - it could hardly have been worse - but it was significantly better.
As before, this slice was extremely thin, but this time around it actually had an interior, at least on the outer half, nearer the edge of the pie from which it was cut. I could see that the dough had risen somewhat, despite its thinness.
The underside of my slice was crisp and browned in some areas. It was lightly dusted with cornmeal and bore no screen marks. The slice was very foldable - no surprise there, given its thinness - but also had a crackly exterior.
All of that was, thankfully, in contrast to the slice I had in June, which was pale and undercooked. This was much better, as far as the crust was concerned.
It was, however, still very light on the toppings, even for a slice this thin. That was not a total shocker either; you can only expect so much for a dollar. (And it was a dollar, by the way; last time I got charged a dollar and change. But their slices are supposed to cost a dollar apiece.)
What little sauce there was seemed a bit sweet. There was, though, so little sauce or cheese that the slice overall seemed a bit dry and bland. In its favor, the paucity of toppings allowed the slightly sweet, bready flavor of the crust to come through.
At any price, this was an OK slice. At a dollar, it was a decidedly good slice. Personally I’d gladly pay more for more in the way of toppings; with a little more sauce and cheese, this could be a very good slice.
But I doubt that’s going to happen, and that’s OK. There’s a niche for cheap, decent pizza, and based on this visit, Checker Flag seems to be filling that niche in this neighborhood. I’m not sure what the deal was with that horrendous slice I had last June, but I’m hoping it was an anomaly, and that this latest one was more representative of their pizza. I’ll give it a B-.
Checker Flag Pizza is at 1481 Dewey Ave. It's takeout and delivery only. They also serve subs and various fried sides. 458-0070

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pizza Tasting in Greece (I missed it)

Don’t know how I missed this one, but PetraPlace Counseling Services held a “People’s Choice Pizza Taste Testing” at Messiah Lutheran Church in Greece on March 30. According to the Greece Post, the winners were:

Cheesiest — Mark’s Pizzeria
Sweetest Sauce — Papa John’s Pizza
Best Sauce — Trotto’s Pizzeria
Best Crust — Pizzeria Americana
Best Flavor — Tony Pepperoni
Most Appetizing — Tony’s Birdland & Pizzeria
Best Aroma — Papa John’s
Most Unique — Pontillo’s
Most Likely to Order Again — Caraglio’s Pizza
Best Everything — Gallo Pizza & Subs

Maybe this was the kind of event where every participant wins a prize, but how is it that the pizza with the "best flavor" or "best everything" is not the pizza people would be most likely to order again? Anyway, a pretty impressive gathering of Greece pizzerias, with a lot of well known names there, for what sounds like a good cause. Kudos to the organizers of this event on that one. It'd be nice to see it become an annual event.

Pino's Deli, W. Ridge Rd.

Sometimes you find pizza in places where you're not necessarily expecting it. Take Pino's Deli, for instance. This small storefront in a strip plaza on W. Ridge Rd., looks like a basic Italian deli, but if you look closely at the sign, there's a pizza in the lower right hand corner. So, on a recent trip to Rowe Photo & Video next door, I stopped in, and sure enough, they had some slices.
The crust on this one was very soft, and somewhat oily underneath. It had an unusual browning pattern on the underside, with an array of brown spots that I couldn't make sense of.
The crust had a soft texture, even along the edge, which is often the one spot that gets crisp. The top of the crust was rather gummy, although that might've been because it had been out of the oven for a while. Sometimes the water in the sauce soaks in to the top layer of crust and turns it gummy. The crust was relatively thick, but still quite pliable.
There was a pronounced garlicky aroma to the slice, and the sauce, which was moderately applied, had a distinctly herbal flavor. The cheese was just a bit browned, with a few bare spots, and congealed but a bit gooey. The pepperoni was slightly crisp along the edges.
Given the softness of the crust, I almost had to fold this rather wide slice, with the result that the toppings all sort of glopped together in the middle, making this something like a pizza wrap. I was thankful for the aluminum foil, to catch any sauce that squeezed out along the sides when I took a bite.
Besides slices, Pino’s offers full pizzas. Aside from a separate listing for Buffalo chicken pizza, I couldn’t find any pizza topping list on their menu, but I assume they have all the basics, particularly since it’s a deli. The menu on their website has what seems to be an incomplete list.
And because it is primarily a deli, pizza is not the main focus at Pino’s. Most of the menu is taken up by sandwiches, which come in a wide array of hot and cold varieties. They also offer wings, pasta dinners, sides, “garbage platters,” salads, and a Friday fish fry. Freshly baked breads and some Italian grocery items are also available.
I liked what I saw at Pino’s, and I’d go back for a sandwich, a loaf of bread, or just to look around at some of their other stuff. But this wasn’t great pizza. Too soft and too messy, and rather oily underneath to boot. For the pizza - not the deli - I can only give it a C-.
Pino’s Deli, 2590 W. Ridge Rd. 227-6194
Mon. - Fri. 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Perlo's, East Rochester

Perlo's on Urbanspoon
Restaurants that serve pizza are a category unto themselves, separate from "regular" pizzerias. It generally takes me a while to get to these places, since I only go out to dinner a few nights a month, and when I do, it's not necessarily to a place that has pizza on the menu.
But eventually I do get around to them, as I did last week, when my wife and I had dinner at Perlo's in East Rochester. I'd heard good things about it, and I was intrigued by the grilled pizza on the menu (which is slightly out of date on their website - we'd planned on trying the grilled chicken wings, but they had disappeared from the menu on our visit).
As I understand it, to make grilled pizza, you grill the crust on one side, flip it, then add the toppings to the grilled side, while the other side cooks. Before going to Perlo's, I was certainly aware of the concept, but to be honest I don't think I'd ever tried a grilled pizza. I'm not sure that I've ever run across it, for one thing, and for another it's just not something I've sought out. I guess I'm a pizza traditionalist at heart, and grilled pizza always struck me as some bastardized California invention. But, some of Perlo's pizzas sounded good, and in the interest of thoroughness, I had to check it out.
We arrived at our reservation time, 6:45 on a Saturday, and things were in full swing, with a sizeable crowd at the bar, most tables occupied, and employees hustling to and fro.
We were, however, seated promptly. There are several dining rooms at Perlo's, and after squeezing between the bar patrons on one side and a two-man musical combo on the other (think Sinatra and Tony Bennett), we were thankfully ushered into the farthest room, which was a little more than half full and relatively quiet.
I had already decided on the pizza I wanted, but I still took some time to look over the menu, as I'd come hungry and wanted to supplement my pizza with an appetizer. One of my pet restaurant peeves is menus with cutesy names for all the dishes, and while Perlo's menu is full of them (mostly named after people I've never heard of, presumably friends or customers of Perlo's), thankfully the "real" names are given too. That spared me having to ask for a "Father Steve's" pizza, and I was able simply to ask for a Margherita (spelled Margarita on the menu). I considered getting a straightforward pepperoni pizza ("The Car Guys" pizza, on the menu), which the menu proclaimed, in capital letters, to be "everyone's favorite pizza," but I do like a good Margherita, and it's become something of a default choice for me when it appears on a restaurant menu.
When the pizza arrived, I could see that it had indeed been grilled on both sides. There were dark brown grill marks visible on top and bottom of the crust, but the dough having puffed up a bit here and there, it hadn't come into full contact with the grill, so the browned areas were mostly scattered, in contrast to the uniform, parallel or cross-hatch pattern you'll get with, say, a grilled steak.
The crust was firm, but not especially crisp. It was by no means greasy, but I thought I detected a very thin coating of oil on the underside, which I presume was applied to keep it from sticking to the grill.
The menu described the Margherita as topped with olive oil, garlic, crushed tomato, and "fresh basil and mozzarella cheese." I couldn't tell from that if the adjective "fresh" was intended to modify only "basil," or also "mozzarella cheese." And I'm still not sure. The cheese here was not the white, semi-liquefied slices that I've come to associate with fresh mozzarella, but a single, thick mass, with a slightly yellowish hue. It was well melted and creamy.
When we asked our server, though, we were told that yes, it was fresh, not processed, i.e., low-moisture mozzarella, and my wife - who loves fresh mozzarella - was also of the opinion that it was the fresh variety. I'm still not convinced. I think it was high-quality mozzarella, as evidenced by its smooth, creamy texture, but processed mozzarella nonetheless. I'm not saying our server was lying, but I'm also not sure she really understood what I meant by "fresh" mozzarella. As for my wife, well, sometimes husbands and wives disagree.
At any rate, the cheese had either been applied to, or migrated toward, the center of the crust, forming a fairly thick layer surrounded by a wide band of "naked" crust. Particularly as it cooled, the cheese had a tendency to come off the crust in one piece if I didn't cut or bite through it completely and cleanly.
Among the toppings, the mozzarella cheese very much played the lead role. There were a few browned bits of what might've been parmesan here and there, and the other components were pretty low-key. Some garlic was evident in the flavor, but not a lot. The basil shreds were pretty sparse, and the tomatoes, which were sliced, not crushed, I can best describe as OK - not bad, but hardly remarkable. The overall impression was of a very mild pizza, something like a flatbread with melted mozzarella and a few other toppings for flavor accents.
I must mention, though, that my wife absolutely loved this pizza. For her, this one hit a home run. She particularly liked the flavor and texture of the crust, and the cheese as well. In fact, she liked it better than her own entree, the Chicken Verde, which was fine but not as garlicky as anticipated.
Having said all that, both of us enjoyed our meals. We started with an Italian version of a Garbage Plate, which was very good - kind of like a cranked-up version of greens and beans, with chunks of sausage, kalamata olives, banana peppers, and a few other items thrown into the mix. With my bread, I sopped up as much of the light, flavorful sauce at the bottom of the plate as I dared, lest I get too full for my pizza.
I also enjoyed the tiramisu that I had for dessert. Although it was missing the distinctive edge of some, perhaps more traditional, versions that have been soaked in rum or another liquor, it had a pleasantly light, sweet flavor. The texture was moist, light and fresh, unlike some I've had that have clearly spent far too long in a dessert case.
Service was good as well. Our water glasses were promptly and repeatedly topped off, and our server was friendly, helpful and professional.
True to some reviews I'd read before going, the owner, Donna Perlo, was also present, and as I commented to my wife during dinner, she seems like a very hands-on proprietor, always on the move to head off problems and to make sure things are running smoothly.
And, I must add that for what they deliver, Perlo's prices are remarkably good. It took me some time to realize that the number at the bottom of our check wasn't just a subtotal, it was the grand total.
I look forward to going back to Perlo's, especially now that I'll feel free to explore some of the non-pizza items on the menu. I say that not because I disliked the pizza, but because there are a number of dishes on the menu that I'd like to try. I did like the pizza, even if it didn't quite win me over completely to the grilled pizza concept. Based on what I've read, and eaten, I also don't think this was the most authentic Margherita I've ever had - a little heavy on the cheese, a little light on the tomatoes and basil - but I'm not going to quibble much over semantics. The flavors were good, and I was intrigued enough to want to go back sometime and try "everyone's favorite" pepperoni pizza. But before I do that, I've got my eye on one or two of their pasta dishes. So it might be a while. In the meantime, I'm giving this pizza a B.
Perlo's Italian Grill, 202 N. Washington St., East Rochester 248-5060
Mon. - Sat. 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Daffies, Caledonia

Daffies on Urbanspoon
After last week’s look at Pizza Land in Caledonia, today we’ll head just a few doors down the street and stop in at Caledonia’s other pizza place, Daffies.
As I did at Pizza Land, I got a slice at midday. It had a medium thick crust, with a thick, rigid edge, making it not easily foldable. The screen-baked underside was a medium brown, fairly dry, and firm but not particularly crisp.
I couldn’t help comparing (or is it contrasting?) this with Pizza Land. It was definitely not as saucy, and had a more pronounced, tangier cheese flavor than my Pizza Land slice. The pepperoni was of the cup & char variety, and was spicier than Pizza Land’s. All in all, this slice had a more assertive flavor than the Pizza Land slice, but less sauce, and a thicker crust.
The edge was thick, had a slightly floury surface, and some decent breadiness. It had a chewy texture.
I don’t know what it is with these places in Caledonia, but like Pizza Land, Daffies didn’t have any to-go menus when I stopped in. The menu is mostly of the basic pizza/wings/subs variety, though as you can see in the exterior photo, they also serve tacos, pasta, and wraps, and fresh deli meat as well. There is some seating, and the atmosphere is strictly deli/pizza-joint.
Between Daffies and Pizza Land, I might go for the latter, just because I’m more generally partial to thin crusts, but trying to be objective, I’d rate them about equally. They’re different from each other, and each one is OK, if not exceptional, in its own right. If you like a saucy slice that’s easy to slide down the gullet, go for Pizza Land. If you like a cheesier slice with more of a crust presence, Daffies is the right call. I’m calling this a draw, then, and giving Daffies, like Pizza Land, a B-.
Daffies Pizza, 3178 State Street, Caledonia 538-4360
Mon. - Thu. 9 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. - Sat. 9 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pizza Land, Caledonia

Pizza Land on Urbanspoon
Today we'll take a trip to the southwest. The southwestern suburbs of Rochester, that is.
Caledonia, which is just across the county line in Livingston County, has a couple of pizza places within a stone's throw of each other on State Street, Daffies and Pizza Land. We'll look at Pizza Land first.
I stopped in at midday for a slice. It had a thin crust, and the underside was fairly dry, although after a while grease from the cheese started to soak through to the bottom. There was some cornmeal visible underneath, and it did not appear to have been baked on a screen. The underside was on the dark side, but more browned than charred.
Flavorwise, the crust wasn't bad. It had some decent breadiness, though again some exterior toastiness would have been welcome.
This was quite a saucy slice. The slightly sweet, tomatoey sauce was generously applied, making this a little sloppy to eat. Although the crust was easily foldable, and could be held with one hand, you probably wouldn't want to eat this on the go, especially if you're wearing a light-colored shirt or pants.
This slice came from a freshly baked pie, and even after it had cooled off a bit, the very melted cheese remained a little gooey and stringy. You'll want to have some napkins handy with a slice like this.
Pizza Land has several area locations; there are others in Le Roy and Avon - I think that's it- and is a family owned business dating back to 1960, though I'm not sure which one came first. They didn't have any takeout menus handy on my visit, but I don't recall seeing anything too out of the ordinary available, pretty much your basic pizza shop fare. There's a little seating in the front near the windows, again, your typical small-town pizzeria setup.
This was OK. The pizza had good flavor, and a decent crust. It was what I'd call a good "slurp down" slice: tastes good, easy to eat. Exceptional? No. But no major complaints here either. I'll give it a B-.
Pizza Land, 3150 State St. (Rt. 5), Caledonia 538-2810
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. noon - 10 p.m.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Original Pontillo's to Reopen in Batavia

According to a story on the Batavia Daily News Online site, the original Pontillo's in Batavia is set to reopen next Monday. Started in 1947, it's probably one of the oldest pizzerias in Western New York, at least one of the oldest that's still in the same location.
That's the good news. The bad news is that, according to the story, there's a Pontillo family feud brewing, including, yes, a lawsuit. That lawsuit is over money and doesn't appear to directly concern the Batavia place, but from the sound of it, there may be legal battles ahead over the use of the Pontillo's name.
Guys, guys. Sit down, have a pizza, and work it out. Life's too short.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sully's Pub, South Ave. - CLOSED

NOTE: Sully's Pub is now closed.
At long last I made it to Sully’s Pub, which is on the South Avenue extension downtown. It’s the part of South Avenue that dead-ends, next to the on-ramp for 490 East. Maybe because of the warmer weather, Sully’s has just begun opening for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays, which made it easier for me to get over there.
Sully’s rather brief menu features pizza baked in a wood-fired oven. Although the oven is new, it seems like a good fit for this space. Several bars have come and gone in this spot, but the building itself goes way back, and has a charming, vintage industrial feel to it, with high ceilings and brick inside and out. There’s also a courtyard/patio in back, which is where my two companions and I sampled three of Sully’s pizzas: a three-cheese pizza with garlic and tomatoes, a mushroom pie with sauteed onions, and a “margarita” with pepperoni.
As expected, the crusts were thin, but not paper thin. There was a little oil at the center of my three-cheese pizza, and the tips of the slices were a bit floppy, but the crusts were mostly firm and crisp.
The crusts were formed into a thin lip at the edge, which varied in texture from chewy to very crunchy, and were a little puffy here and there. The undersides were nicely browned with a little bit of charring.
All the pizzas had good flavor. The three cheeses on my pie (I neglected to have them identified) were evident, as the pie had a complex blend of cheese flavors, and the garlic came through quite nicely as well. The bland tomatoes seemed like an afterthought, but what do you expect in early April?
I also sampled my companions’ pies. The margarita - which to me seemed more like a standard, cheese, sauce and pepperoni pie than a margherita - had a very “bright” tasting sauce, and the pepperoni slices were well crisped but not dried out.
Surprisingly - since I don’t like mushrooms - I really liked the mushroom and onion pie. The mushrooms didn’t have the rubbery texture that I find particularly offputting about mushrooms, and the onions added quite a bit of flavor that complemented the other components quite well.
As I mentioned, Sully’s menu is pretty short. They do offer burgers, cooked on an outdoor grill, wraps and a few other items, but the star here is the pizza.
And it’s good pizza. Three pizzas is a pretty good sampling, and all three of these were enjoyable, tasty and well made. I would’ve liked just a bit more crispness and maybe some toasty smokiness in the crust, but that’s about my only minor quibble. I’ll rate these an A-.
Sully’s Pub, 242 South Ave. 232-3960
Tue. - Sat. 5 p.m. - 2 a.m., Open for lunch on Thu. and Fri., 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pizza Boy, N. Clinton Ave. - CLOSED

This establishment is now closed.
Whenever a new pizzeria opens, I’m always torn between wanting to try it right away and wanting to give it time to work the bugs out.
Well, the other day, Pizza Boy Pizza opened on North Clinton Avenue downtown, and this time I decided not to wait, especially after seeing their advertised everyday deal of a large thin crust cheese pizza for $4.97. It seemed highly unlikely that I could get a decent large pizza for that price, but I figured at worst I’d only be out five bucks, so why not?
I went in around lunchtime and ordered my pizza in person. I was told it would be about 30 minutes. I showed up 30 minutes later and was told that because I hadn’t paid in advance, it hadn’t been put in the oven, but had been “half made,” so, once I paid, it would be another 10 minutes. Although nobody had said anything about this rule when I ordered, I was only mildly annoyed, as I figured this is what I get for going in during their first week of operation.
One silver lining was that while I was waiting, they put out samples of their Tex-Mex pizza, so I got to try that. It wasn’t bad, kind of like a taco on a pizza crust.
At last my pizza came out. On inspection, I found that it measured 14 inches across, and had been screen baked. The browned underside had a few charred spots, was fairly crisp, and was not greasy.
This was a cheesy pizza, with relatively little sauce. There was a fair amount of neon orange oil or grease on top, which I imagine oozed out of the cheese. It did after a while soak through to the bottom, especially in the center of the pizza. A few napkins might be advisable here to soak up the oil.
I did detect a faint herbal flavor in there somewhere, from the sauce I guess, but overall the predominant components here were the crust and cheese.
The crust didn’t have an especially great interior, and wasn’t particularly bready, but it wasn’t bad by any means. The thick lip at the edge seemed to have been brushed with oil and was something like a lightly oiled breadstick in both flavor and texture.
Pizza Boy has a pretty standard list of pizza toppings, and eight specialty pizzas, including a Country Sweet Chicken pizza and a breakfast pizza. They also offer calzones, strombolis and breadsticks (aha!), “mega wings” (nine sauces), hot and cold subs, salads, and a handful of packaged refrigerated desserts.
As for the setup, there is just a little seating, with a few chairs and a few stools. There’s no parking to speak of, although there is metered parking nearby, and I was able to park right out front.
The prices here are a little odd - it’s $4.97 for a large thin crust cheese pizza, and $11.95 for a large cheese pizza with a 2-liter soda. I would not pay $7 extra just to get a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi (I guess the latter deal isn’t limited to thin-crust pizza, but I still wouldn’t pay that much extra).
In any event, the $4.97 deal is a good one, and I have no real complaints. Despite the mixup over prepayment, service was friendly and earnest. This was not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it certainly wasn’t bad, and pizzawise it may be the best value for the money around here. I have to wonder how long a deal like this will last, so get it while you can. I was thinking B- or C+ on this one, so giving them a little boost for the price, I’ll round it up to a B-.
Pizza Boy Pizza, 154 N. Clinton Ave. 454-1934
Mon. - Wed. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Thu. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 3 a.m. (no delivery after 10 p.m.), Sun. 2 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A conversation with John Gallo

In 1990, John and Alfia Gallo opened their eponymous pizzeria on Stone Road in Greece. They eventually sold the business and headed west to Las Vegas, where for seven years they ran a full-service restaurant, Gallo's Pizza Kitchen.
The tug of home and family eventually proved irresistible, however, and in 2007 the Gallos sold the Vegas restaurant - which is still operating under the Gallo's name, and still getting rave reviews on the internet - and headed back to Greece. They were able to buy back their original pizzeria, which fortunately had also kept the Gallo's name, so this year they've been able to celebrate the pizzeria's twentieth anniversary.
Whether you're talking takeout joint or high-end restaurant, twenty years is a long time in the food service industry. On a recent visit to Gallo's, I spoke for a few minutes with John Gallo (that's him on the right in the photo, which I lifted from the Gallo's website), and I think I got some clues to the pizzeria's longevity.
Gallo is a native of Gaeta, an Italian seacoast city roughly midway between Rome and Naples. (You’ll find a large photo of it on the wall inside the pizzeria.) His family emigrated when Gallo was five years old, and while he's been back many times - that's where he and Alfia met - it was here that Gallo learned the fundamentals of his current trade, while working at Petrillo’s Bakery on Lyell Avenue some forty-plus years ago.
Gallo’s experience at Petrillo’s proved to be formative, and led to what he describes as a lifelong passion. He particularly recalled the time when “I was a boy, about 12 or 13, old Mrs. Petrillo said to me in Italian, ‘Son, you’ve learned the trade, you’ll never starve to death. So you know how young boys are, they’re very impressionable. That kind of stuck in my head, and now here I am, forty, forty-five years later, still at it.”
I had to ask Gallo about Gallo's Old World Style pizza, one of which I'd devoured just a week earlier. As he explained it, "That was what the old timers used to call ‘wedding pizza,’ because that was what they used to serve at weddings - that and homemade cookies." At first, Gallo's menu listed these under the name "wedding pizza," but "people just weren’t catching on to the name. So [Gallo] changed it to ‘Old World,’ because it is traditional, from the Old World. That’s the way it’s made [in Italy].”
The mozzarella-laden pies most Americans think of as pizza "came afterwards," Gallo says. "Pizza originally was just the grated cheese, black pepper, oil, and then they would just blotch a little bit of mozzarella here and there. Then the chains came and started layering everything all over."
Sad to say, I’ve never been to Italy, but from what I’ve read and seen, pizza in Italy is a very simple dish, in contrast to the American, more-is-better approach. Gallo agreed, saying "It is simple [in Italy]. With [typical Italian pizza], you’re tasting the sauce and the spices. Sometimes if you want, you might put a few olives. Something so simple but so tasty."
By this time I was ready for a couple of slices, so I finished our conversation by asking Gallo to name the worst, and best, parts of running a pizzeria. Both answers came quickly.
The hardest part, he said, is the hours, and the difficulty of managing to find time to attend family functions or to take vacations, which are "short if any." Gallo learned early on, he says, that "You don’t own a business, the business owns you."
The best part? “The people. The satisfaction of putting out a good product, and just enjoying people, coming into contact with people, meeting new people."
This is just a guess, but I imagine that's an attitude shared by most good cooks, chefs and restaurateurs. The product - the food - is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, which is to create something that can nourish, be shared, and provide some pleasure as well. So "putting out a good product" and "enjoying people" really go hand in hand. It's an attitude that you'll find at Gallo's, and a big part of why this pizzeria is now entering its third decade of serving its customers.

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