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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tipping points

Based on my latest poll, my readers are a generous bunch. Out of 62 respondents, only 2 don't tip for their pizza, while 55 tip pizza drivers and 5 tip even when they pick up.
Personally I don't like those tip jars on restaurant counters. It's like nonverbally asking for a tip, and I don't think people should ask for tips. Street musicians and lounge piano players are excepted from the rule, but that's about it.
I consider myself a fairly generous tipper, but I really prefer they way they do it in Europe, and probably much of the rest of the civilized world, where a service charge is included in the bill, and no tip is expected. Takes the guesswork out of it.
And it's mostly the guesswork that I don't like - either not knowing whom to tip, or how much is appropriate. Like on those rare occasions when I go to a full service gas station. Sorry, I'm not tipping somebody for pumping my gas. I'm already paying more at the pump at those places, which is why I try to avoid them in the first place. And yet I always feel a bit uncomfortable not tipping, because maybe I'm "supposed" to tip the guy.
And not to sound like an old geezer, but I'm old enough to remember when "full service" meant that they didn't just pump your gas, they cleaned your windshield and offered to check your oil. For that, I might tip. But just because we've lowered the bar for what constitutes "full" service doesn't mean I'm going to tip for something as simple as sticking a nozzle in my gas tank. If it's 10 below zero and snowing I might, but most of the time, no.
But these days it seems as if nearly everybody who performs any service for a customer (other than professional services like accounting, medical, etc.) is supposed to get a tip. Or are they? As I said, it's the uncertainty of it that I hate most.
Well, I've strayed a bit off the subject of pizza. But I'm with the 88% of respondents who tip only for delivery, not for pickup. If anybody's got a different take on the subject, by all means feel free to share it.

Gusto, Alexander St.

Gusto on Urbanspoon
Somebody recently clued me in to Gusto, a small restaurant on Alexander St., in the same building that houses the Old Toad pub. I sort of knew there was a restaurant in there, but I'd never really paid it much attention.
It turns out, they offer pizza - eight different specialty pizzas. So off I went one day at lunchtime, with a couple of friends.
While I was sorely tempted by the Salame pizza (Genoa salami, homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella and marinated artichokes), I went with my usual default option, the Margherita, which was described as topped with homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil.
It had a pretty thin crust, which was very crisp, and in fact downright dry. The edge was quite crunchy. There were some small round indentations here and there on the underside, suggesting that it had baked on a pan with those little nubs that I guess are supposed to help the crust get crisp by allowing steam to escape from underneath.
The crust on mine was not exactly crisp, but as I mentioned, it was a bit dry. It was not crackerlike, and the interior did display indications of a decent rise. This was not a dense crust, in fact it was on the airy side, but it was certainly more crunchy than chewy. The underside was browned, and I picked up just some slight toastiness in the flavor and aroma.
Judged as a Margherita, this wasn't world-class, but it wasn't bad. It was topped with stringy processed mozzarella and sprinkled grated cheese (parmesan, I think). The sliced tomatoes were pretty decent - they were sowewhat sweet, in contrast to some of the flavorless, pale things that pass for tomatoes at so many restaurants. In addition to the fresh tomatoes, the pizza was also topped with a moderate amount of sauce, which was welcome. The duo of fresh tomatoes and sauce helped balance out the dry crust. Topping it all off were some shreds of fresh basil, which appeared to have been added when the pizza came out of the oven (probably a good idea - if you add the basil before baking, it tends to just turn black and lose most of its flavor).
Gusto's other pizza offerings include polpetta (meatball), pepperoni, bianca (white), portabello, vegetale (veggie), and melanzana (eggplant) pies, as well as daily specials. One of my companions ordered that day's white pizza special - I don't recall what differentiated it from the regular white pizza on the menu - and based on my forkful I thought it was pretty good. It was brushed with olive oil, and fresh garlic was among the toppings. Bake anything with olive oil and garlic and it's going to taste good.
For whatever reason, that pizza was not as well done underneath as mine, nor did it seem as crunchy or dry. A combination of the olive oil and shorter baking time, perhaps.
I do wonder, though, about the crusts. After we ordered, my friend noticed an employee carrying a stack of what appeared to be frozen, or at least premade, pizza crust disks.  Gusto's menu also says that "all pizzas are available on white, wheat or gluten free crust." That leads me to think that they're using some sort of premade crusts. I don't say that in an accusatory way, it's just an observation.
If you're not in the mood for pizza, Gusto, which opens at 8:30 on weekdays, also serve breakfast, and the rest of the menu includes soups, salad, panini, pasta (after 5 p.m.), and desserts. It's also a pleasant space, with high ceilings and windows that give it a bright, airy feel.
As for the pizza, it had some pluses and some minuses, but on the whole it was pretty good. The dry, overly crunchy crust was the biggest negative for me, but the overall flavor was good, and as I mentioned, the tomatoes and sauce helped balance out the crust. Judging by my friend's white pizza, my dry crust may also not have been typical of Gusto's pies. So while it didn't transport me to pizza heaven, I did like it, and I'll give it an above-average B.
Gusto, 277 Alexander St. 232-7810
Mon. - Thu. 8:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. 8:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Closed Sundays except for private parties.

Monday, May 24, 2010

RIT Sets Out to Create "Rochester's Best Pizza"

No, this is not some wacky engineering project, just an effort by RIT's Dining Services Department to improve their offerings. According to the Reporter Online, a team from the department is making a number of changes to the on-campus food services, and one of their goals is to come up with “'Rochester’s best pizza' through student feedback and a little experimenting. 'I don’t want to see anymore of these [Domino’s pizza boxes] on my campus!' [Executive Director of Dining Services Patty] Spinelli joked."
Certainly a worthwhile goal. If there are any RIT students out there, I'd love to hear how the project is going, pizzawise. In the meantime, though, Spinelli and her team may want to take advantage of all the engineers in training there - check out this website and you'll see what I mean.
I wonder, by the way, how Paradiso Pizza feels about this, being located on campus and all.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Carmine's Family Restaurant

Carmine's Family on Urbanspoon
Way back in August 2009, I did a post on Carmine's Express in Gates. I got a lunchtime slice there, which at Carmine's Express means a rectangular, sheet-pizza slice, with a thick but airy crust and stringy, melted mozzarella.
Well, there's also a Carmine's Family Restaurant in Greece, which has a shared history with Carmine's Express, but the two are apparently no longer affiliated; the Carmine's Express website describes the owner of that establishment as "the former co-owner of Carmine's Family Restaurant."
All of which is background to why I wanted to check out Carmine's Family Restaurant. As I did at Carmine's Express, I got a single pepperoni slice at lunchtime.
Although sometimes, when two pizzerias, or pizzeria owners, go their separate ways, the pizzas become very different from each other, that was not the case here. My slice at Carmine's Family Restaurant was quite similar to the one I got at Carmine's Express.
Again, this was a sheet-pizza type of slice, and it, too, had a thick but light-textured, crunchy crust. The underside was lightly browned and reasonably non-greasy.
It was pretty saucy, and the sauce had a thick, cooked-down consistency and an acidic tomatoey flavor.
I hate to keep making comparisons, but as at Carmine's Express, this slice was topped with a layer of very melted mozzarella, which was soft and stringy. The thin-sliced pepperoni was just a bit crisp.
Carmine's Family Restaurant also offers conventional pizza pies, in 10", 14" and 16" sizes. I got a look at one of them, and it appeared to have a relatively thick crust, although the menu on the wall stated that thin crust, "New York Style" pizza was available on request. They were also advertising Philly cheese steak, Buffalo chicken, and "Chicago deep dish" pizzas.
Otherwise, the pizza menu is fairly modest, with thirteen toppings, and white (garlic) pizzas available as well. The rest of the menu includes calzones, wings, hot and cold subs, burgers, hot dogs, pasta dinners, salads and sides.
I will say that this appeared to be a popular lunchtime destination. They were quite busy on my visit, and a lot of people were eating pizza. Maybe it was the heavy customer traffic, or just unlucky timing on my part, but it took several minutes for my one slice to come up.
I gave Carmine's Express a C, and, even aside from considerations of consistency, that seems about right for Carmine's Family Restaurant too. This slice was all right, not really my idea of great pizza, but not bad either. If I'm eating thick crust, I'd actually like a little more heft or substance to the crust; a really light-textured crust is kind of like the pizza equivalent of sponge candy; it's good, but not quite as satisfying as I might like. Still, I'll give this one some points for not being greasy, like so many other pan-risen pizzas. So again, a C seems right on target.
Carmine's Family Restaurant, 671 Maiden Lane 663-0050
11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dew-E-Sub, Dewey Ave.

Dew-E-Sub Chicken & Rib on Urbanspoon
Another entrant in the cheap-pizza category is Dew-E-Sub on Dewey Avenue, just south of Lexington. Like Pizza Boy on North Clinton, what caught my eye here was the "Large Pizza $5" sign.
Pizza Boy's pizza actually wasn't bad. Surprisingly good, in fact, for the price. Would I fare as well at Dew-E?
Not quite. The pizza was a bit thicker than Pizza Boy, averaging about 5/8 inch thick, including the cheese (which wasn’t thick at all). It had a pale bottom dotted with pin pricks, and had been baked, it appeared, on some sort of screen. The bottom was dry, but not crisp.
The interior of the crust displayed some evidence of the dough having risen, on the bottom half of the crust at least, but it was a little gummy on top.
The sauce had a thick texture, and there were a lot of dried herbs visible, though the flavor was not especially herbal. It was mostly a basic tomato-sauce flavor. The cheese was applied pretty lightly, and was browned in many areas. It was not at all oily, and in fact was a little dry. I'm pretty sure this was not full-fat cheese.
The edge of the crust was thick, and had pleasantly bready interior, with some air holes visible, though no exterior toastiness. It, too, was a bit dry on the inside.
Dew-E has a pretty basic pizza menu, with ten available toppings, and no specialty pizzas. They also do wings, ribs, hot and cold subs, and assorted grilled and fried items, burgers, fish fry, and the like. You can also get fried or rotisserie-cooked chicken, oven-roasted pork, and rice & beans. Some grocery items and cold cuts to go are also available. It's pretty much a takeout and delivery place, although there were a few stools along the front window.
This was not great pizza, though for five dollars you could hardly complain. It was mostly doughy and bready, none too crisp underneath, a bit dry, and very light on the toppings. I guess the latter comes as no surprise, as the price of cheese has gone up in the past year or two, and they've got to make a profit somewhere.
So if we're talking $5 pizzas, I definitely preferred Pizza Boy's over Dew-E's, as it had a better crust and better balance among the components. I will say, though, that Dew-E's thicker crust made for a more filling pizza, so if your aim is to get the most bang for your buck, Dew-E's would be the way to go. Taking the price into consideration, I'll give it a C.
Dew-E Sub, 740 Dewey Ave. 254-7400
Mon. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Closed Sunday.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NY Times article on making pizza at home

The Times ran an article yesterday on achieving great pizza crusts at home. The gist of it is, let the dough rise slowly. So many pizza recipes call for an hour's rise. That's way too fast. Not only does a slow rise give the dough a better flavor and texture, it makes it easier to handle, in my experience.
The article also has some accompanying recipes, tips on using a sourdough starter for your dough, and advice from my baking guru, Peter Reinhart. I now have three of his books, and he's one of those guys who won't let you down if you follow his advice.
Speaking of sourdough, the Times article, like most that I've read on the subject, recommends discarding part of your starter every time you feed it. I did sourdough for a while, until I unthinkingly used up my entire starter in one batch of bread, and after doing some research and through trial and error, I found that unnecessary. When I used my starter for baking, I'd use all but a small portion of it, then feed it twice, several days before my next batch. Each time you feed it, you double it. By the time I was ready to bake, I had enough healthy, active starter for baking, and I just repeated the process, using it all but about a half cup. Worked for me, and a lot less wasteful.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lorraine's Food Factory

Lorraine's Food Factory on Urbanspoon

In the category of places you wouldn't think to go for pizza, today we visit Lorraine's Food Factory. It's been around for years, starting as a sandwich shop on Park Avenue, then a catering business, and finally, in 2002, a full-fledged restaurant in its current location on Culver Road.
I still associate Lorraine's with sandwiches, and for good reason, because they have a wide array of them on the menu. But they do a lot of other stuff too, including personal-size pizzas.
There are five to pick from: plain cheese, veggie, pepperoni, Mediterranean shrimp, and Southwest chicken. I went with the pepperoni.
Lorraine's web site has an online ordering service, which I used, but when I arrived to pick up my pizza, the person at the counter couldn't find it on her register. After a brief trip to the kitchen, she informed me that my order had not been received, but that the chef would have a pizza ready for me in about ten minutes. OK.
My pizza did in fact come out pretty quickly. The pie was given an unusual cut, sliced into long, thin wedges, rather than traditional pie slices. The crust was thin, and had a soft, pale bottom. I wondered if the chef had taken it out a bit sooner than he otherwise would have because he knew I was waiting for it.
Perhaps not, because it was rather well done on top. The cheese was browned and the pepperoni had begun to get crisp along the edges. Another minute or two in the oven and the cheese would have gotten overdone.
There was not a lot of  sauce on this pizza. It was a more cheese- and pepperoni-dominated pie. In many areas, in fact, the cheese was thicker than the crust. I especially noticed this the next day, when I finished off this pizza in the form of cold leftovers; it was like eating a slice of cheese with some dough attached. I'm not judging the pizza based on how it tasted the next day, cold, mind you, but just citing that to show how thick the cheese was relative to the crust.
Speaking of the crust, it did not have a particularly airy, "risen" interior, except in a couple of areas near the edge, where it had bubbled. In those spots, though, the crust had just formed into one big, hollow bubble, rather than a network of smaller air holes.
Mostly, the crust was just doughy, like a tortilla. I'd be tempted to blame that on the short notice again, but I don't think that explains it. Although I don't claim to be more than an amateur pizza baker, it seems to me that once the dough has risen, it's essentially ready to go. Take off a piece, press it out, and, as long as you don't squeeze out all the gas, you should end up with a pie that has a nice, airy interior. Whatever the reason, that was not the case here.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Lorraine's has a wide variety of foods on its menu. Plenty of sandwiches, salads, wraps, quesadillas, and sides.
There's also a dinner menu, which Lorraine's website indicates is available on Fridays only. But the website also shows them closing no later than 3:00 every day, so I don't know if they still serve dinner or not. There's also a full bar, but this doesn't strike me as the kind of place you would go to and hang out at the bar.
Besides the restaurant and the catering business, Lorraine's also offers "take-n-bake" gourmet frozen meals, which are definitely not the TV dinners of my youth. They include, for example, herbed salmon cake with wilted kale and dill risotto, and honey mustard pork tenderloin with sauteed bok choy and walnut brown rice.
All those sound worth a try. But I'm not inclined to go back for the pizza. I didn't care for the underdone, doughy crust, and I also found the pizza out of balance, with too little sauce and too much cheese. The pepperoni had a nice, spicy kick, but again, it needed some tomatoey sweetness to balance it out.
I've commented before about how some places that have otherwise good menus sometimes come up short when they decide to throw pizza into the mix. I'm afraid, based on this visit, that Lorraine's is one of them. For the pizza, I'm giving it a C-.

Lorraine's Food Factory Bar and Restaurant, 777 Culver Road, 442-6574
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Sun. brunch 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Monday, May 17, 2010

ROC in the ROK

Google "Rochester pizza" and naturally you'll get results ranging from here to Minnesota to England to anywhere else there's a place named Rochester. But South Korea? Check it out here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Joey Mags, South Clinton


It's taken me a while, but I finally made it to Joey Mags, which opened some months ago on a stretch of South Clinton Avenue with a lot of food choices, including Shiki, India House, and Ming, among others.

Joey Mags is something of a combination deli/pizzeria, with a cold-cuts counter in front and pizza ovens in back. When it opened, it was also serving barbecue, and while there are still ribs on the menu, the smoker that used to be out front was not there on my visit. Had I noticed it at the time, I would've asked about it, but I didn't see any signs of outdoor, wood-burning barbecue going on. It may be just as well, since barbecue takes a long time and continual attention to do properly. Perhaps they decided to concentrate on the pizza and deli part of the operation, I'm not really sure.
Anyway - I was a bit surprised to find out that Joey Mags' pizzas only come in one size, large. Kind of odd, but OK, I can live with that. I got a half cheese, half pepperoni, as well as a small order of wings.
Speaking of which, another idiosyncrasy here is that unless you request otherwise, your wings will be cooked "whole" - in other words, the "drumstick," "flat," and tip in one piece. According to the owner, this results in a juicier wing, but I didn't learn that until after I'd ordered mine split, so I can't verify that. It makes some sense, though, I guess, since the juices would have fewer holes to escape from.
My pizza had a thin crust, which got a little thicker toward the edge. The dough hadn't risen much, and the crust didn't have much of an interior; it was a bit dense or gummy in texture, with a chewy texture. The underside was firm but not crisp, browned, but not greasy.
There wasn't much sauce on this pizza. A peek under the cheese revealed a few pockets here and there, in the folds of the dough, but not much. I did notice a pronounced flavor and aroma of herbs and, I think, garlic powder.
There was a fairly large amount of cheese, particularly relative to the sauce. The cheese was well browned. The pepperoni slices were just a bit crisp along the edge, with some spiciness.
As I said, I also got wings. They were pretty spicy for "mild" wings, and were coated with a rather unusual looking, almost pink sauce. It also had a distinctive flavor that I couldn't pin down, not really classic Buffalo sauce, but not bad either.
Besides pizza and wings, there are plenty of sandwich fillings to choose from, and a few other items - the aformentioned ribs (cooked indoors, I presume) among them.
There are a few tables, but not as much seating as you might think from the outside. One of the most interesting features of the interior, for me, was the bust atop the deli counter, of a bald but unidentified man. Perhaps some customer will eventually recognize who the subject was. Service was good, and if the owner is there when you visit, you'll find him friendly and conversational.
The pizza, alas, didn't thrill me. I'm not saying it was bad, but for my taste, there were a few issues:  it seemed a bit out of balance due to the relative paucity of the sauce; the crust could've been crisper underneath, and didn't have a very airy interior; and the garlic-powder aroma put me off a bit as well.
That said, it had some things going for it. If not crisp, the crust was at least not greasy, the cheese was OK, and garlic powder aside, the overall flavor was decent. In other words, this was an average pizza. So I'll give it an average grade, a C.
Joey Mags,1026 S. Clinton Ave. 442-2270

Daily: 4:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Pizza Guy note, 12/3/10:  Joey Mag's has closed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

T Shirts!

In a shameless display of crass, unbridled commercialism, you can now buy official Rochester Pizza Blog tee shirts from my store at zazzle.com (there's also a link in the "Links" section on the left). They feature the Pizza Guy icon on  the front, atop the immortal phrase found on pizza boxes across the land, and the web address on the back. The shirts are available in a wide variety of styles and colors.

As somebody who (A) owns more t-shirts than I know what to do with, and (B) doesn't (I don't think) have an exaggerated view of his own importance, I don't anticipate making a lot of money off this. In fact, I may not sell a single shirt. But I designed one for myself, and I thought, as long as I'm at it, why not offer them for sale? So if you'd like to be the first kid on your block to wear this nifty new shirt, or find yourself stumped about what to get for the pizza lover in your life, give 'em a look. Think of it as the one shirt you won't be embarrassed to get pizza sauce stains on.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pettinari's, Hilton

Pettinari's Deli & Pizza on Urbanspoon
Another day, another gas station/
convenience store, another slice of pizza.
Today finds us in Hilton, at Pettinari's, at the corner of Roosevelt Highway and Clarkson Parma Town Line Road. (Roosevelt Highway, a/k/a Route 18, is not much of a highway, by the way, just an ordinary looking two-lane road. But I digress.)
Pettinari's full name is Pettinari's Deli & Pizza, and it has a full pizza menu, thus qualifying it as a full-fledged pizzeria, not just a convenience store that pops a frozen pie in the microwave every morning and leaves it on the warming rack all day. So I made the trek there for a slice.
My pepperoni slice was screen baked, and nearly charred in spots, but mostly a medium shade of "golden" brown. It was rather thin, and foldable, though the crust cracked a bit when I folded it.
The exterior of the crust had a slightly oily feel on the fingertips, and I detected a faint aroma of cooking oil as well. That's a definite negative for me, as I like my pizza crust to smell like freshly baked bread or toast, not like french fries.
The dough was nicely risen though, and had some internal breadiness, especially along the outer edge.
(Digression #2: I suppose "outer edge" is a redunancy; aren't all edges "outer"? But you know what I mean. The edge of the pie, not the edges where it was sliced.)
Besides cooking oil, the other prominent aroma here was of garlic - garlic powder, if I'm not mistaken. Flavorwise, the sauce was herbal and garlicky. It was moderately applied, and topped with a thin but uniform layer of congealed mozzarella. Overall, the components were pretty well balanced.
Pettinari's menu describes its standard pizza as "New York style." I wouldn't say that, but it's a common misconception around here that thin pizza is the same as New York style.
Be that as it may, Pettinari's also offers white pizza, "garlic" pizza, and "Abruzzese" pizza. Had I read over the menu while I was there, I would've asked more about the latter two, particularly the Abruzzese. I know Abruzzo is a region of Italy, but I have no idea what an Abruzzese pizza would be, nor does the menu offer any clues.
Pizza toppings are limited to eight choices (half of which are animal products - this is not a vegetarian-friendly menu), and they also do calzones. You can also get wings, hot and cold subs, a "chicken stir fry" with cheese, mushrooms, peppers, onions and broccoli, and a variety of grilled and fried items as well, including calamari and ribs.
Getting back to the pizza, well, I liked it, but with reservations. There were a few flaws, starting with the underside, with its oily aroma and feel. The garlic-powder flavor was also a bit too strong for me. I like - no, I love - garlic, but garlic powder can have a harsh flavor, and this was a little harsh for me.
On the plus side, the dough, which I consider the most important component of any pizza, was pretty good. It had a grainy flavor, and despite the competing flavors of cooking oil and garlic powder, I could taste the wheat in the crust. The components were also in good balance with each other, and the sauce had a pleasing herbal flavor. So adding it all up, I come out with a B- for this one.
Pettinari's Deli & Pizza, Inc.
918 Roosevelt Hwy, Hilton 392-4450
8:00 am - 9:00 pm daily

Monday, May 10, 2010

Carlton Express, Long Pond Road

As I've mentioned before, ordinarily I would not bother reporting on pizza from a convenience store, since the pizza at these places usually looks like it was made from a preformed crust or frozen pizza. But if a convenience store advertises itself as a full-fledged pizzeria, I'll check it out.
Such is the case with Carlton Express, way up at the intersection of Long Pond Road and Edgemere Drive, near the lake. They have a full pizza menu that also includes wings, as well as subs that are served on Carlton Express's fresh-baked bread.
I picked up a pepperoni slice. It had a fairly thin crust that had been screen baked. The underside was dry, not greasy, with a soft texture and pale hue. As you can see in the bottom photo, the crust seemed to have adhered to the screen because a part of it was torn away. The edge was formed into a thick lip, which had a chewy interior.
The sauce was moderately applied, in good balance with the crust, and distinctly, though not overly sweet flavor. The cheese was well browned, though not burnt. The pepperoni - what little there was of it - was crisp and had a smoky, almost baconlike flavor and aroma.
As I mentioned, Carlton Express has a pretty full menu for a convenience store operation. Although the pizza toppings list is relatively modest, at 13 toppings, their six specialty pizzas include a Grandma's pizza, something I don't recall seeing elsewhere around here outside of Joe's. (I have it on good authority that Guida's also offers a Grandma's pizza, but I haven't tried it.) Carlton's version comes with "light sauce, mozzarella, salt, black pepper, parsley, basil, oregano, chopped garlic, Romano and olive oil.
Other than pizza, Carlton Express offers wings, hot and cold subs, wraps, calzones, salads, a few sides, and (in what I assume is not a typo), a "Garage Plate." And of course, there are the basic grocery items available as well.
As far as the pizza's concerned, this may be a case of, difficult to judge based on one slice. This was not great pizza, though it had some things going for it. The components were well balanced, the sauce tasted good (if you like your sauce on the sweet side), the pepperoni was nice and crisp, and the edge wasn't bad. But the topside seemed more cooked than the underside, and the crust, apart from the edge, was rather soft and lifeless.
So while I'm intrigued enough that I might go back sometime to try that Grandma's pizza, based on this slice, Carlton Express rates a C from me.
Carlton Express, 16 Long Pond Rd. at Edgemere Dr. 225-5095

Friday, May 7, 2010

No child left behind

In light of her plan to combat childhood obesity, I don't know if Michelle Obama would approve (although she has taken her daughters to Grimaldi's in Brooklyn, where she came out in favor of NY pizza over Chicago's), but kids can learn about the history of pizza on this virtual field trip to Lombardi's, the oldest pizzeria in New York. I think kids should do fewer things "virtually" and more things "actually," but there are worse ways for kids to spend their time online. And let's face it, every child's education should include learning about pizza.

Cimino's, Spencerport - CLOSED

Pizza Guy Note: Cimino's is no longer in business.
As I’ve said before, I’m never sure if it’s a good idea to go to a place right after it’s opened, but sometimes curiosity gets the better of me. Such was the case last week when I visited Cimino’s Pizzeria & Birdland, which is in the Village Plaza in Spencerport, in a space that until recently was home to Cordello’s.
I picked up a plain cheese pie on a late Friday afternoon. Calling a brand new pizzeria on a Friday after work is asking for trouble, but to their credit there were no mistakes with my order. It took 10 or 15 minutes longer than predicted, but they were extremely busy and I considered that negligible.
The pizza had a medium thick crust, with a dry, nearly charred underside that was firm and slightly crisp. It was not especially airy inside, but not dense either, and had a pleasant flavor and chewiness. The edge was somewhat thick, a little crunchy, and enjoyable if not particularly bready.
This was a pretty saucy pizza. The sauce was generously applied, and had a slightly sweet flavor with some herbal notes. It was not very salty or acidic, compared with others that I’ve had, and it had a medium consistency, neither watery or oily, nor cooked-down.
The cheese was a bit browned, but not dried out, and had a nice, melted texture. It seemed to be all mozzarella. It was moderately applied, in good proportion to the other components as far as I was concerned, though cheese lovers might want to ask for extra cheese here.
Cimino’s offers five specialty pizzas, plus a “Chicago Style Deep Dish” pie, stuffed pizza, and calzones. There are fifteen available toppings, nothing too exotic. The dough and sauce are made fresh daily.
Chicken also figures prominently on the menu - hence the “birdland” moniker - in the form of wings, chicken fingers, and both fried and baked chicken dinners. They also offer hot and cold subs, burgers, bombers and hots, a couple of pasta dishes, fish fry, and salads. There are four booths, and a TV in the dining area, though on my visit there didn’t seem to be any air conditioning, and I would’ve found it a bit warm to eat there.
This was a pretty good pizza, more or less in the traditional Rochester style, but with a little less cheese and a little more sauce than usual. It was well made and the flavors were good. For a small village, Spencerport has an abundance of pizzerias, but based on this pie, Cimino’s is a welcome addition to the scene. I’ll give it a B.
Cimino’s Pizzeria & Birdland, 47 Slayton Ave. (Village Plaza), Spencerport 352-9800
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Savoia, Clifford Ave.

Savoia Pastry Shoppe on Urbanspoon
Thanks to a tip from a reader, I learned not long ago that Savoia bakery on Clifford St. serves mini pizzas, so I got myself over there last week to check it out.
With that unmistakable aroma that is unique to pastry shops greeting you as soon as you open the door, it would be easy to make a beeline for the impressive array of cookies, cakes and pastries in the front display cases, but if you do that, you'll miss the pizzas entirely. They're on a shelf in the center of the room, individually wrapped in plastic bags.
There were three varieties to pick from: pepperoni, a white spinach pizza, and what was labeled a focaccia pizza, topped with olives and parmesan. Though they all looked good, I went with the pepperoni, since its ubiquity among pizza shops makes it a good benchmark. There was some variation among them in terms of the apparent doneness of the crust, so I picked one that was a medium, even shade of brown.
Figuring that the plastic bag probably hadn't done much for the crispness of the crust, I reheated my pizza in a toaster oven at 350 for about eight minutes before eating it. It measured about 8 1/2 inches across, and, once rewarmed, had a nicely crunchy bottom that was not at all greasy. The crust was a little on the thick side - about a half inch, on average - with an underside that was browned and cratered from air bubbles.
The crust was topped with a thick, well cooked sauce. The sauce seemed to have been reduced quite a bit, to the point that it was somewhat dried out. It had a concentrated, tomatoey flavor.
The mozzarella cheese was a bit browned in spots, and it seemed to have exuded some orangey oil that was mostly visible around the edge of the pizza.
Speaking of the edge, it was on the crunchy side, and filled with small air holes. All in all, the pizza was pretty well balanced between the crust, sauce and cheese.
Whether you're there for the pizza or not, you'll want to check out Savoia's other offerings, which run from Italian and other breads to pastries, cookies, pies, and just about any other baked confection you could want. If there are nuptials in your future, Savoia is also well known for their wedding cakes.
Getting back to the pizza - well, first let me say that you have to approach a pizza like this with realistic expectations. What I mean is, if you are getting a room-temperature pizza in a plastic bag off a shelf, you cannot expect it to blow you away, or to be on a par with the best pizzas you've had, fresh out of the oven. The reheating helped, and I think is definitely advisable if you can do it, but no matter what, you're talking rewarmed pizza here.
Having said that, I'm still going to rate this based on how it struck me at the time, and I found it to be pretty good, not great by any means, but certainly not bad. One of these and a cannoli or a slice of tiramisu, and you've got yourself a meal. So while the bakery as a whole would easily earn a spon on the dean's list, the pizza comes in at a C+.
Savoia Pastry Shoppe, 2267 Clifford Avenue, 482-1130
Monday-Friday 7:30am-6pm
Saturday 9am-6pm
Sunday 9am-2pm

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pizza Chef, Fairport: NY style pie

Pizza Chef on Urbanspoon
In June 2009, I posted a review of Pizza Chef in Fairport, based on one cheese slice that I got there at lunchtime. I liked their New York style pizza enough to give it a B+, but the crust was so brittle underneath that I couldn't give it an A.
As I said in that post, I had made a mental note to go back some time, and though it's taken a while, I finally got around to it. I picked up a cheese pie for dinner on a recent Friday afternoon.
The underside was a mostly unform brown, nearly charred in spots, and not greasy. The crust was very thin, with some interior chewiness. The perimeter of the pie was formed into a narrow lip, which was slightly toasty and crisp.
The crust was topped with a mild tomatoey sauce. I found it slightly sweet, with just a hint of herbs. The cheese was moderately applied, and both sauce and cheese were in good balance with the thin crust.
As a whole, this was a well balanced, integrated pizza. By that I mean that it was not a pizza where everything - the crust, sauce and cheese - seemed separate, either physically (such as a pizza where the cheese tends to separate from the crust) or on the palate. Everything was working together here.
Since my prior post described Pizza Chef in general, I won't repeat myself here. I'll just say that this was a very respectable New York style pie. I wouldn't put it quite on a par with the best New York pizza I've had around here - the crust didn't quite reach the heights of greatness for me- but it was certainly very good. I'll give it an A-.
The Pizza Chef, 7 East Ave., Fairport. Mon. - Sat. 11 am - 10 pm. Sun. 3-9 pm. 377-9690

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