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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Olives, Pittsford

Olive's Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon
You might not ordinarily think of a Greek restaurant as a place to go for pizza, but why not? Although it's not too common around here, there are a couple of styles of pizza in this country commonly known as Greek pizza. I'm guessing, too, that the concept of putting toppings on flatbread and baking it is fairly widespread throughout the Mediterranean.
So it shouldn't come as a total surprise to find pizza on the menu at Olives at Schoen Place in Pittsford. I was tipped off to this by a reader quite some time ago, but I finally got around to trying it.
Olives offers eight different pizzas, and the "Spartan," with mozzarella, goat feta, and kasseri cheeses with tomatoes and onions, was both recommended and sounded good to me.
The crust on this personal-size pizza was about a quarter of an inch thick, and the dry underside bore some grill marks. The interior had some visible air holes and was a bit chewy, while the thin edge was dry and crunchy, with a toasted flavor.
As it often does in any dish, the feta took center stage here, lending a sharp, salty pungency to this pizza. It was not completely overwhelming, though, and I could also easily detect the flavor of the tomatoes (mostly from the underlying layer of sauce rather than from the sliced tomatoes, though the latter weren't bad, and of the onions as well. The pizza was also well dusted with dried herbs that gave it an added dimension to the overall flavor profile. All the toppings worked well together and with the crust.
You can look over Olives' menu on their website, but it generally covers all the standard Greek fare, from gyros to souvlaki, as well as some entrees that you won't find at your basic Greek diner. As far as the pizza goes, you won't find any cheese-and-pepperoni pies on the menu, but there are plenty of places around where you can get that. Next time I might try the Athenian, which is topped with roasted red peppers, artichokes, kasseri cheese and garlic spread.
And yes, this was good enough for there to be a next time. I generally don't care for "faux" pizzas made using pita bread, which I've seen at some Greek or Middle Eastern restaurants, but this was pretty good. Not an everyday kind of pizza, but a nice change of pace, and quite tasty. I'll give it a B.
Olives Greek Taverna, 50 State Street, Pittsford 381-3990
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Good Guys, Ridgeway Ave.

Last month, Constantino's, a pizzeria on Ridgeway Avenue that I reported on a year ago, closed for good, which is too bad, because they made some decent pizza.
The good news is that the space is now home to the second location of Good Guys. I did a blog post on their original location in Chili in May 2009, giving it a B- for pretty good thin crust pizza. I was curious to see how the new Good Guys stacked up, so I swung by recently to check things out.
My cheese slice was quite thin. The crust itself was maybe 1/8 inch thick. The non-greasy underside was a bit floury on the surface, and nearly but not quite charred. It was a little crisp, and easily foldable. The thin lip at the edge had pretty good flavor and was nice and crisp.
There was not much sauce on this slice. It leaned more toward the cheesy side of things, with a uniform layer of melted, slightly tangy mozzarella. I could taste the sauce, which had a tomatoey flavor with a touch of herbs to it, but it stayed mostly in the background. The herbal flavor of this slice was accentuated by a fairly generous sprinking of dried herbs, which were visible across the surface.
Good Guys offers 20 pizza toppings, and five specialty pizzas, mostly geared toward carnivores. They also do calzones, wings, wraps, quesadillas, salads and sides.
This was not quite the same as the slice I got at the Chili location of Good Guys, but for the most part I liked it. For me, the crust could've been just a tad thicker, or at least had more of an interior, with some interior air holes. And a little more sauce would've helped balance out the crust and cheese. Still, it was a reasonably good thin slice of pizza, with pretty good flavor, and I'll give it a B.
Good Guys Pizza, 2532 Ridgeway Ave. 225-8788
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. noon - 9 p.m.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Empire Pizza, Empire Blvd.

Note, Aug. 15, 2011: this establishment was formerly a second location of the downtown pizzeria, The Pizza Stop. It is no longer associated with the Pizza Stop and is now operating under a different name, although ownership and management remain (partly) the same as when it opened. The following review was written shortly after this pizzeria opened and remains here as an historical record.
It took 24 years, but earlier this month the Pizza Stop finally opened a second location, on Empire Boulevard in Penfield (though most people probably think of it as Webster). Naturally I was eager to try it, although I pretty much knew what to expect:  the same, authentic New York style pizza served at the original on State Street. While consistency can be an issue when a pizzeria has multiple locations, I didn't expect that to be the case here, as the new Pizza Stop is run by the son of Pizza Stop co-founder Jim Staffieri. And sure enough, the pizza here was, to my palate at least, virtually indistinguishable from the original.
Ordinarily, I would go for a cheese or pepperoni slice, or one of each, but on this visit, fresh slices of the meatball parm pie were available, and I could not resist. And, just to change things up a bit, I got a white garlic slice as well.
The crust on both slices was, of course, thin, although the meatball parm slice was noticeably thinner than the white. And both were nicely charred underneath.
As I was eating the white slice, it occurred to me that one hallmark of a great crust is that you can fold it in half without breaking it in two, but when you do, small surface cracks should appear on the underside. That shows the proper balance of pliability and crispness, and the white slice had that exactly.
That slice was topped by a uniform layer of mozzarella that was dusted with dried herbs. The top was bit oily though I'm not sure if that came from the cheese or from the actual application of olive oil. It was also quite garlicky, in a good way. I couldn't see any garlic, so I'm assuming it lay under the cheese (I gobbled it down too quickly to stop and check). But I'm pretty certain from the flavor that this was chopped garlic, not garlic powder.
Oddly, the white pizza doesn't seem to be on the printed menu, so maybe it was a daily special. Or maybe it just got left off the menu for some reason.
As I mentioned, the meatball parm slice was quite thin. With the relatively heavy toppings, it almost had to be folded, though the underside still had some outer crispness. I've described Pizza Stop's meatball parm pizza before, and this was essentially the same, so I won't repeat myself here. But it was very enjoyable, a great blend of flavors, a bit spicy, and quite moist - almost "juicy" - without being sloppy. And despite its thinness, the toasty, crisp-yet-chewy crust made a great base for the toppings.
The menu here is pretty close to the State Street Pizza Stop's, with some variations. The most noticeable difference is that wings are available here. There are also a few specialty pizzas that don't appear on the menu at State Street (although you could probably special-order them there, as all the toppings are available).
The space here is not huge, but there's fairly ample seating. And although they were fairly busy when I stopped, there was not the mad rush that you sometimes see downtown, so the atmosphere was a bit less hectic.
To get down to specifics, the white pizza here was rather minimalistic, with little more than dough, cheese, garlic, some herbs and perhaps some olive oil. That's really getting back to pizza's roots - tomatoes didn't arrive in Italy until after Columbus, remember -  but it was almost too minimalistic for me. Still, it was executed well, and that's just a matter of my personal preferences. And the meatball parm slice was, as I said, very enjoyable.
In more general terms, Pizza Stop seems to have pulled it off - opening a second location that's as good as the original. So once again, a solid A rating from me.
Pizza Guy note: as a reader pointed out, Joe's Brooklyn Pizza, which opened last year in Henrietta, is in the same family, literally and figuratively, as the Pizza Stop. Although the sauce at Joe's is a little different from Pizza Stop's, the pizzas are pretty similar, so you might consider Joe's as a third, unofficial branch of the same pizza family tree.
Pizza Stop, 1773 Empire Blvd., Penfield 347-4050
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 8 p.m.
Pizza Guy note, 12/22/10:  The Empire Boulevard Pizza Stop is no longer affiliated in any way with the original downtown location.
Pizza Guy note, 4/26/11:  for a more recent review, go here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chicken Mom's, North Goodman St.

Chicken Mom's on Urbanspoon
Chicken Mom's, a takeout joint at the corner of Goodman and Clifford Avenues, is a place I'd been meaning to go to for some time. For one thing, I love that name, which is derived, I believe, from its previous incarnation, Chicken Tom's. And on my pizza map, where I note pizzerias I've been to or not by green and red icons, there it sat, smack dab in the center of Rochester, a red icon in a sea of green. I had to turn that icon from red to green.
But it took a while. When I went to Papa Van's across the street, I tried to get a slice at Chicken Mom's, but found out they don't serve slices. On another occasion, I called Chicken Mom's in the early afternoon, but was told the pizza ovens wouldn't be ready until later in the day. But finally, the stars were in proper alignment the other day, and I got myself a Chicken Mom's pizza.
Like a number of places in the city, Chicken Mom's offers very reasonably priced large pizzas. Here, the special is a large pepperoni pie for $7 even.
When I arrived to pick it up, I was greeted by a smallish, middle-aged lady, whom I took to be Chicken Mom herself. Hustling back and forth from the pizza oven to the counter, she had a plainspoken affability and an energetic manner that suggested a person both sociable yet tough enough to get by in this relatively gritty section of town. (Though I wasn't required to use it at this relatively early hour, Chicken Mom's front counter is topped by a heavy-duty, counter-to-ceiling security window, with openings just large enough to allow customers' orders to be passed through.)
I got the pizza out to my car and gave it a quick look-see. I wasn't expecting much, frankly, as my experience with these super-cheap pizzas from inner city pizzerias has been uneven at best.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty good-looking pizza. It had a very thick, bubbly, edge, and a screen-marked, tan underside.
The bottom was firm but not crisp, and though there was some grease, it appeared to have soaked down from the top of the pizza; in those spots where it hadn't, the underside was dry to the touch.
The edge was not especially bready or airy, but it had a pleasant bready flavor and a crackly exterior. The crust was much thinner toward the center of the pie. It was a decent enough base for the toppings, but the texture was unexceptional.
The crust was topped with a thin layer of sauce. It had a mild - even bland - flavor that stayed very much in the background.
Much more prominent were the cheese and pepperoni. Though there wasn't an abundance of pepperoni (perhaps no surprise, at this low price), the pepperoni had an assertively spicy flavor that worked well with that of the mozzarella cheese, which was moderately browned but not overbaked. It had a smooth, melted texture along with a lightly toasted flavor.
I don't know if it was just the pepperoni, or the cheese as well, but this pizza was quite oily on top. You may want to sop some of that up with a napkin if you're not a fan of greasy pizza.
Chicken Mom's pizza menu is pretty basic, with three sizes (medium, large and sheet) and ten toppings. The rest of the menu is quite varied, however. There are all the usual suspects, like wings, hot and cold subs, burgers, hots and bombers, and, of course, chicken dinners. But you'll also find ribs, pork chops, and chicken gizzards too.
As I said, I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of this pizza, and that carried through to the eating of it. I could quibble about a few things - the crust could've had a better texture, and the sauce seemed to be missing in action - but in general, the flavor was good. With its square cut and thick, puffy edge, it was something like what I consider traditional Rochester style pizza, albeit with a much thinner crust in the middle and a little lighter on the toppings.
But again, for seven bucks, you can't expect a lot of everything. And when you factor in the price, this was really a very good value. I would never get, or recommend, a pizza just because it was cheap. Life's too short to eat bad pizza. But this has more going for it than just the price; it was pretty decent stuff, regardless of the price. And judging it against some of the other places around town offering very low-priced pizza, this was one of the best. I'll give it a B.
Chicken Mom's, 1159 N. Goodman St. 482-8239
Sun. - Thu. 1 p.m. - midnight, Fri. & Sat. 1 p.m. - 1 a.m.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Food, Main and Clinton

The recent opening of Food at the northwest corner of Main and Clinton downtown generated quite a lot of publicity in the local news media, probably because it's the first new business to open at this intersection since the whole Renaissance Square fiasco.
I guess all that publicity is mostly good, from a business owner's perspective, but after all I'd seen and read about Food, I was a little surprised, when I stopped by recently to check it out, to find a fairly ordinary looking breakfast-and-lunch joint. Although they still seem to be doing some work on the place, at this point, Food, while nice enough, is not particularly remarkable in its own right.
At any rate - prompted by all that attention given tio it, I checked out Food's website, where I noted that they serve pizza by the slice, so I decided to investigate.
When I entered through the front door on Main Street, I was met by a server, who took my order. She informed me that the slices were pretty large, so I just ordered one, with pepperoni.
About a minute later she emerged from the back with my slice, which came in a paper sleeve. It wasn't all that big, but that was OK, because frankly it wasn't all that good.
The crust was medium thick, with a pale underside that was slightly oily, yet dried out at the same time. I suspect that the crust may have been frozen, as it had a premade, shell-like appearance and texture.
The mozzarella cheese was applied fairly thickly, a bit browned, and separated easily from the crust. Between them lay a thin layer of sauce, which had a touch of sweetness and some herbal notes to it.
I couldn't actually see the available slices, so I don't know for sure, but I think the pizza options here are pretty limited. The rest of the menu is fairly basic, with hot and cold sandwiches and hot dogs, plates, standard breakfast fare, salads and sides.
I wish Food success, and it may well prosper. Apparently Mayor Duffy, in keeping with local political tradition, wants to make sure that he doesn't leave office without ramming through at least one boneheaded project, and, having thwarted Maggie Brooks's efforts in that vein, has chosen an RTS bus station near this very corner as his legacy.
If the city succeeds where the county failed, and manages to override local residents' objections to this particular white elephant, that may or may not prove a boon to Food. That depends on whether a bus station attracts more potential customers than it repels.
Aside from that, I've no reason to think that most of Food's food is anything other than good, so it may become a fixture here for years to come. But the pizza - the pizza I got, at least - was not good. The crust was dry and flavorless, and was neither integrated with, nor saved by the toppings. I have to give this one a D.
Food, 1 N.  Clinton Ave. 325-7373
Mon. - Fri. 6:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Palermo's, Elmgrove Road

Palermo's Sub Station on Urbanspoon
Elmgrove Road near Rt. 531 has become something of a pizza hotspot of late, with five pizzerias along a one-mile stretch. Anchoring the southern end of this "pizza mile" is Palermo’s, which serves up a variety of subs, pizza and wings.
Though you'll find references to this as "Palermo's Sub Station," their website bears the name "Palermo's Subs & Pizza," and I think pizza is either a relatively recent addition to the menu, or maybe they've just decided to give it more prominence, so that people don't think of Palermo's as just a place to get subs.
I had assumed that this was affiliated in some way with Palermo's Meat & Food Market, which has locations on Culver and Winton Roads, but in poking around the internet, I don't see any indication of that. So as far as I can tell, they are separate entities.
Anyway - I stopped by Palermo's in early spring for a couple of slices, one pepperoni, one cheese. The crust on these was thin, with what I call a “pancake bottom,” meaning that resembles the underside of a pancake:  brown, with some bubbles, and a somewhat oily surface. I'll have to ask a professional sometime, but my surmise is that pizzas like this rise, and are baked, in an oil-coated pan. I could be wrong, but it just doesn't seem to me that if a pizza were slid directly onto the deck of a pizza oven, that you would end up with something that looks like this.
This was not a particularly greasy crust, but it did have a slightly oily feel. Despite the pancake appearance, it was also not overly soft or spongy - it wasn't bad, really - but it certainly wasn't crisp, either. The thin lip at the edge wasn't bad either, not quite as crisp as I would like, and again just a bit oily, but with pretty good flavor.
There was very little sauce on either slice. The slightly browned mozzarella cheese was OK, and applied in good balance with the crust. The slices appeared also to have received a light dusting of Parmesan or Romano, although the sharp flavor of those cheeses was not apparent to me. I did pick up some herbal flavor in the background, however, perhaps of dried basil, oregano, or a blend.
And of course there was the pepperoni, which was very generously applied; even the cheese slice had some pepperoni on it. These were cut from a pie that had a pepperoni side and a cheese side, but either the slices weren't cut quite right, or the pepperoni was applied to more than half of the pie before it went into the oven. I guess they figured since I was also getting a pepperoni slice, I wouldn't mind getting some "bonus" pepperoni on my cheese slice.
Palermo's pizza menu has all the usual toppings, and seven specialty pizzas, plus breakfast pizza. They also serve baked chicken wings, hot and cold subs, wraps, paninis, soup, salads and sides.
This pizza was all right, but to me, it could have been better. The crust wasn't bad - the flavor was good - but my feeling was that the baking process didn’t optimize its potential. With four other pizzerias just up the road (and DeLinda's about a half mile south on Buffalo Road), Palermo's has some serious competition to deal with, and for my money, I think there's some room for improvement here, at least on the pizza side of things. I'll give this one a C.
Palermo's Subs & Pizza, 910 Elmgrove Rd. 426-8400
Sun. - Thu. 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Little D's, Lake Ave.- CLOSED

Note: this space is now occupied by Mama's Pizza.
In March of this year I did a post about Charlotte Pizzeria on Lake Avenue.  I didn't care much for their pizza, which had a a soft, spongy, oily crust, and gave it a C-.
Apparently not many other people cared for it either, because Charlotte Pizzeria has since gone out of business, and its former location is now the home of Little D's House of Pizza, where I stopped recently.
The slices here are quite a bit different from what I got in March. For one, they're bigger; Little D's "monster" slices are cut from a 28-inch pie.
The crust is medium thick, perhaps a tad thinner than Charlotte's, but the underside is where I noticed another big difference. Where Charlotte's pizza had the telltale look and scent of cooking oil, the crust here is screen baked and dry. Now I'm not a huge fan of screen-baked pizza - in my experience, it tends to result in a crust with less crispness than I'd like - I'll take it any day over a crust that's oily underneath. The underside here was fairly soft, but it had some faint charring, and it was not at all greasy, with just a touch of exterior crispness that was more noticeable along the edge. The interior was decent too, with some visible air holes, and a pretty good, bready texture, despite just a bit gumminess on top.
The cheese, which I took to be 100% mozzarella, was slightly browned, with a faintly tangy flavor. It was moderately, and somewhat unevenly applied, with some bare spots here and there, where the sauce was exposed, and where there was cheese, it was a little thicker in some areas than others.Unless it's done to excess, which it wasn't here, I don't consider that a flaw, as it lends some variety to the eating experience.
This was not a particularly saucy slice, with just enough sauce for some added flavor and a little moisture. It had a mild flavor that was neither noticeably sweet nor herbal, just a middle-of-the-road tomatoey flavor. Overall, the components were in good balance with each other. The thin-to-medium crust formed a solid base, and was pretty evenly matched by the cheese, except near the edge, where the crust got thicker and became more dominant. The sauce, by comparison, stayed more in the background, but was not overwhelmed by the other components, or missing in action, as it is on some pizza. The cup 'n' char pepperoni was pretty evenly applied as well, with just about one slice per bite.
Little D's pizzas come in five sizes, from 10 to 28 inches in diameter, and they have a long list of specialty pizzas, which run the gamut from carnivores' delights like shredded pork or grilled steak to vegetarian options such as a spinach pie with pesto, or a veggie parm pizza with eggplant or artichoke hearts. They also serve wings, hot and cold subs, burgers, hots, plates, calzones, salads, sides, and fish fry (every day, not just Friday).
All in all, this was not bad, particularly for a big slice. All too often, the quantity you get at these "mega" slice joints tends to come at the expense of quality, but even at four dollars a slice, this was a pretty good deal. Though far better than its predecessor's, Little D's crust didn't quite thrill me, but this was good enough to rate a B from me.
Little D's House of Pizza, 4410 Lake Ave. 287-6040
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 3 a.m.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Amico's Pizza Bianco

Amico's Pizza on Urbanspoon
I previously reported on Amico Pizza in April 2009, giving it a B for "good, basic, honest Rochester pizza." Not long ago, I went back and picked up a Pizza Bianco, which is described in the menu as topped with fresh chopped garlic, olive oil, Peccorino Romano, mozzarella, ricotta, tomatoes, onions and fresh basil.
This pie had a medium thick crust with a browned, flour-dusted bottom. The underside was dry and non-greasy, with some firmness, though the heavily-laden slices were a bit floppy at the tips.
This was a flavorful pizza, starting with the crust, which had the aroma, flavor and texture of freshly baked bread. The puffy edges of the crust were nice and chewy, without being tough.
Olive oil and garlic is pretty much a can’t-miss combination as far as I'm concerned, and here they made a terrific base for the other toppings, starting with the Romano, which added a sharp, salty tanginess to the pizza. I believe it was sprinkled on first, then layered with low-moisture mozzarella and finally the ricotta. Though the latter two cheeses didn't contribute as much flavor as the Romano, they added some varied textures. The mozzarella was smooth melted but not browned, except for a few stray strands near the edge. The mildly-flavored ricotta had a texture somewhere between the liquidity of fresh mozzarella and the thickness of cream cheese.
The remaining toppings - tomatoes, onions and basil - were judiciously applied, adding some further interest to the overall flavor profile without taking center stage. The chopped tomatoes were OK, not great, but not bad for still being out of season locally.
Different pizzerias make white pizza in different ways. Some keep it simple, with just some olive oil and a minimum of toppings, some use a lot of cheese, and others use an alfredo or other white sauce. Though the olive oil was an important component here - conveying flavor and keeping the crust from drying out on top - this was a cheese-dominated pizza.
At the same time, though, it was really an exercise in balance, with the various components added in inverse proportion to the assertiveness of their flavors. The strongly-flavored Romano was added in a small enough amount to keep it from dominating, while the milder mozzarella and ricotta were laid on in much more substantial quantities. The garlic, onions, tomatoes and basil were also noticeably present, but all in balance, complementing rather than competing with each other.
There are other places and other pizzas that I mean to try, but this will not be my last visit to Amico. I still want to try their minimalist-sounding "#1," which is topped with nothing but sauce and Pecorino Romano. But if you're a fan of white pizza - cheesy white pizza, in particular - Amico's take on it is well worth a try. I'll give it a B+.
Amico Pizza, 859 E.Ridge Rd. 544-8380
Sun. 1 p.m. - 9 p.m., Tue. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 am - 11:30 p.m.
Pizza Guy note, 9/15/10:  I'm not sure if these hours are accurate. I called the other day to order a pizza for lunch and was told that they didn't open until 4:00.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New York Style Pizza: Empire Pizza opening set

I've been informed that Empire Pizza is set to open on June 19. It will be located at 1733 Empire Boulevard in Webster, in the spot formerly occupied by Bay Hots. Pizza Stop 2 will be run by the son of Pizza Stop owner Jim Staffieri, so the pizza should be virtually the same as the original on State Street.
If you like New York style pizza, live on the East Side, and have never made it downtown to try Pizza Stop, you're in for a treat. It's as authentic a New York style pizza as any you'll find this side of the Hudson River. While there isn't that classic view of the Hudson the foldability of the pizza will have you believing you're in NYC, if only for a second.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hose 22, Charlotte

Hose 22 Firehouse Grill on Urbanspoon
Hose 22 Firehouse Grill opened about a year ago in Charlotte, inside a handsome brick building erected in 1916 to serve as a firehouse. I love going to restaurants in converted spaces like this. Old firehouses, railroad stations, factories - they have a charm and an appeal that can't be duplicated by a shiny new structure, no matter how well appointed and built.
The catch is that sometimes, a place that leans too heavily on its physical space - whether it's the building itself, the view, or simply its location - may not have the food to match. So on seeing that Hose 22 served pizzas, I was eager to visit, but guardedly optimistic.
There are five pizzas on the menu:  an alfredo-based white, a Florentine (spinach), Buffalo chicken, barbeque, and a Margherita. As I usually do, I opted for the Margherita, which was described as topped with fresh basil, oven roasted tomatoes, and mozzarella, and finished with a balsamic drizzle.
My pie was served to me on a pizza screen, though the underside bore no screen marks. The crust was very thin, and the slices were floppy at the tips, but crunchy and firm along the outer edges. The underside was baked to a mostly dark brown color, but in several areas, there were folds in the dough, creating lighter-hued crevices on the bottom.
Topside, an even layer of melted, browned mozzarella covered the surface.The oven roasted tomatoes were out of the ordinary, with some of the flavor intensity of sun dried tomatoes, but without the prune-like chewiness that you sometimes get with the sun dried variety. The wilted basil was perhaps the least prominent of the toppings.
What was probably most unusual about this pizza was the use of balsamic vinegar. Like the tomatoes, it seemed to be somewhat concentrated, suggesting that it may have been reduced prior to going on the pizza. It tended to collect into small pools among the cheese and tomatoes, and while its flavor was unmistakable, it was judiciously applied. A little balsamic can go a long way, and this stayed in the background, providing an added dimension of flavor without overwhelming everything else.
Hose 22's menu is on the eclectic side, and ranges from upscale pub grub to ribs, steaks, and lobster tail (the more substantial entrees are available only on the dinner menu). Physically, it's an attractive space, with a small bar facing the patio in front, and booths and tables in the back. Particularly in warm weather, when the big firehouse doors are open, the high ceilings give it an open, airy feel. The walls are decorated with local firefighters' gear, but the effect is not overdone. There's also a downstairs pub, but I didn't check that out. The service was good, attentive without being intrusive.
This was a very unusual take on a Margherita. It had the tomatoes, the cheese and the basil, but the crust was not quite like any I've had before, and the overall flavor was a wild mix of tomatoes, crust, balsamic vinegar, basil, and mozzarella, with a whiff of smokiness to the whole thing. It certainly didn't fit the profile of a classic Margherita, but it was pretty easy to put away this 12" pie singlehandedly. I'll give it a B+.
Hose 22 Firehouse Grill, 56 Stutson St. 621-2200
Tue. - Sat. 11:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bay Goodman, Titus Ave.

Tomorrow, I'll report on a new place, but today I continue to whittle away at a backlog of notes on revisits and reviews of other locations of local chains.
The Winton Ave. location of Bay Goodman Pizza (which has since moved up the street) was one of the first places I reviewed on this blog, back in March '09. I gave the pepperoni slice I had on that occasion a C+.
Last month I stopped by the Bay Goodman on Titus Ave., which is in the heart of Irondquoit's pizza district, across from Pudgies, and within a couple blocks of 2 Ton Tony's and several other pizzerias.
This time, I got a pepperoni and hot pepper slice. It was fairly large, though not quite as massive as some "mega" slices you'll find around town. It had a thin, foldable crust, with a slightly soft exterior and a faint aroma of cooking oil.
Despite its thinness, it was a pretty heavy slice, probably due mostly to the cheese, which had been laid on rather thickly. I found the components generally to be in good balance with each other, though. The sauce was moderately applied and had a straightforward tomatoey flavor, and the cup 'n' char pepperoni and banana peppers were neither skimped on nor overloaded. The crust, however, was kind of chewy, and not in a good, breadlike way. It had a somewhat tough texture, which was most pronounced in the lip at the outer edge.
The menu here is the same as at Winton, with seventeen toppings and a pretty wide variety of specialty pizzas, most of which can also be ordered as calzones. I've got my eye on the Pizza Napoli, which is described as a thin crust topped with olive oil, pecorino Romano, mozzarella, ricotta, fresh tomato and basil leaves, making it roughly similar to a Margherita.
I also note here, again we see "Sicilian" pizza ("Pizza Sicillia," on the menu) defined by the toppings rather than by the crust. Bay Goodman's comes with red sauce, diced onions, hot banana peppers, pepperoni, Italian sausage and Pecorino Romano.
The rest of the menu, which is available on their website, includes wings, subs, burgers, plates, and pasta, plus a few desserts. (If anybody from Bay Goodman happens to read this, by the way, let your webmaster know that the "history" link doesn't work properly, and takes the user to a pizza menu page.) There are a few chairs there, but they're mostly for people waiting for their order to come out. This really isn't an eat-in kind of place.
As for my slice, it had the same basic profile as the one that I got at the Winton Road location, but differed from that one in some ways. Both were on the cheesy side, and the same ingredients seemed to be used, but the crust here was, I think, not quite as bready, and may have been a tad thinner. On the plus side, this slice wasn't as greasy as the one I got at Winton. All in all, it was an average big slice - nothing too subtle about it, but reasonably satisfying, and I think that once again, a C+ sounds about right.
Bay Goodman Pizza, 667 Titus Ave., 338-1150

Mon. - Thu. 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., Fri. &amp Sat. 11:00 a.m. - midnight, Sun. 1:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Perri's, Norton St.

Perri's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Clearing out some backlog:  in late winter I stopped at Perri's on Norton Street for a slice. I never got around to posting a review until now, but I took pretty good notes, so here it is, better late than never.
Perri's shares a building with Mama Rosa Italian Restaurant, which I haven't been to in ages, although as I recall, the food there was pretty decent. I'm not sure what the connection is between Mama Rosa and Perri's beyond the fact that they have the same address, but physically the two are completely separate and occupy different halves of the building.
I got a slice around lunchtime. Unlike the Lyell Ave. location, which has a number of different slices available, ready to go, here there was simply a sliced cheese pie, and toppings were added before the slice went into the oven for rewarming. I was the only customer there, which also differed from my stop at the Lyell Ave. Perri's, where they seem to get a steady lunchtime crowd.
This was a big slice, with a browned, screen baked, slightly oily underside. The thin-to-medium crust was none too bready, and didn't have much going on in terms of texture.
The sauce, which had dried out somewhat, had a slightly sweet flavor. The cheese was a bit browned and congealed, and the cup 'n' char pepperoni, which was not done enough to char or get crisp, really didn't stick to the cheese at all. The edge of the slice, which was formed into a fairly thin lip, had some sort of black powdery substance that I couldn't identify. Oven soot seems unlikely, since that would tend to appear on the bottom of the pizza, not the edge, so it may have been some sort of spice that blackened in the oven. It didn't seem to have any particular flavor, though.
Despite my less than rave review of the Lyell Ave. Perri's, I think they make OK pizza. I've had good pizza there before I started the blog, and I mean to go back sometime to see if I just caught them on an off day. And I'd certainly take their slices over the Norton St. Perri's. The basic formula is the same - big, thin slice - but if my visit here was any indication, this is not a place to go for a fresh slice. The overall atmosphere was more bare bones - depressing, even - than at Lyell. For a whole (i.e., freshly made) pizza, this might be a fine place to go, but not for slices. It wasn't awful, just stale, and I'll give it a C-.
Perri's Pizza, 1733 Norton St., 266-0030
Daily 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pizza Event this Thursday

Thanks to a reader for making me aware of this event. I can't make it, I'm afraid, but it sounds like fun.

Cobbs Hill Revisited

Cobbs Hill Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon
Last September, I did a post about a couple of slices that I got at Cobbs Hill Pizza on Park Avenue. I liked it, mostly, but found it exceptionally greasy, and gave it a B-. Well, since then, some comments that I got and other reviews that I've seen left me thinking that I may have just gone there on a bad day, as my experience seemed to be atypical. So I returned recently to get a full pie, half cheese, half pepperoni.
OK, first things first:  it was not greasy. Yeah, there were some grease spots on the cardboard underneath, but nothing remarkable. More to the point, the crust itself was not greasy, the way my slices had been.
The crust was in the thin-to-medium range, with a firm, though not crisp underside, and a nice, bready interior. It was a fairly uniform golden brown in hue. The edge was a bit soft, and the slices were easily foldable.
While the bottom photo seems to show some oven soot on the underside of the slice, that was actually a surprise to me when I noticed it because I don't recall seeing any soot while I was eating it, and I always inspect the underside of my pizza. So the soot may have just been on that one slice, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't on most of the pizza.
The sauce and cheese were applied in good balance with the crust. The former had a slightly sweet tomatoey flavor, and the lightly browned cheese seemed to be basic mozzarella, spread uniformly across the pizza surface in a thin blanket. All the components were well integrated and in good balance with each other.
Since this is a revisit, I won't repeat all the other details about Cobbs Hill, as nothing seems to have changed there since my prior visit. Except for the pizza, that is. I guess I just went there on a bad day last time, or maybe they have issues with consistency, but this pizza had nowhere near the grease factor that those two slices did back in September.
And all in all, it wasn't bad. I'd describe it as roughly New York style, but a bit thicker, and without the crisp, charred underside that you get on really good NY pizza. Maybe not quite up there with the best purveyors of the style in our area, but based on this pie, I'd say Cobbs Hill turns out some perfectly respectable, serviceable pizza. With the hope that this is more typical of what you can expect from Cobbs Hill, I'll give this one a B.
Cobbs Hill Pizza & Pasta, 630 Park Ave., 442-6730
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Barbeque & Pizza Too - Extra Large Pie


Last August, I did a post about a slice that I had picked up at Barbeque & Pizza Too in Henrietta. It was surprisingly good for a screen-baked pizza, and I gave it a B+.
I'm the first to recognize the limitations of basing a review on one visit, and especially on just one slice, so I decided to go back recently and get an entire pie.
BBQ&P2 offers a large 16-inch pizza, and, for three dollars more, an extra large 20-inch pie. The menu specifies that the 20-incher is a "N.Y. Style Thin Crust," and since the 16-inch pie is not given the same designation, that leads me to if they aren't made with the same amount of dough, just stretched out to different dimensions. 
Now if that's true, then three dollars might seem like a lot to pay just for another four inches in diameter, but if my math is correct, going from a 16" to a 20" diameter means an increase in surface area from about 201 to 314 square inches, so you're talking considerably more sauce and cheese. Looked at that way, the extra three bucks seems reasonable.
At any rate, I wanted to try the thin crust, so I ordered the 20 inch pie. It was extremely thin, about 3/16 of an inch, on average. Given that thinness, it came as little surprise that the crust had no real interior to speak of, except closer to the edge where it got just a bit thicker.
As my slice had been last year, the underside here was screen baked. The underside was also well browned - certainly more browned than charred - and I detected a very faint aroma of cooking oil. It wasn't soggy or greasy, but it was not crisp either, and between that, the thinness, and the 10" radius, these slices were floppy. So floppy, in fact, that they could not only be folded, but rolled up like a crepe.
The sauce and cheese were applied modestly, but in good balance with the thin crust. And the components were well integrated - the cheese didn't come off in one piece when I took a bite, or go sliding around on a bed of sauce. The overall flavor was pretty good, with some lactic tang from the cheese, and enough sauce to add some lubrication as well as a little flavor.
In my prior post on BBQ&P2, I ran down the other basics about the place - the menu, seating, etc., so I won't bother to repeat myself here. And of course you can peruse their menu on their website.
I will mention, though, that along with this pizza I picked up one of their fire-roasted veggie salads. As you might imagine, I'm generally not real big on salads, but this was really tasty, with a pronounced roasted flavor that was well complemented by the balsamic marinade. That sweet/smoky combo enhanced the flavor of the vegetables and gave the salad much more character than you get with the average side salad.
Getting back to the pizza, it wasn't world class, and I'd honestly have to say I wasn't quiiite as impressed this time around as when I got that one slice last time. I like thin crusts, but I like a crust with some backbone and substance to it too, and on a return visit I might opt for the 16-inch large with a "regular" crust. But if you like really thin pizza, you should like this one. One of the things I like about thin crusts is that, assuming the pizza tastes good, it's easy to eat several slices before you get full. With some thick crusts, one or two slices and I'm done.This was very definitely good "slurp down" pizza. Quick and easy down the gullet, and pretty tasty too. The crust was only so-so, but overall this pizza was still good enough to rate a B from me.
Barbeque & Pizza Too, 3105 E. Henrietta Rd. 334-3300
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 12:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lucci's, East River Rd.

Lucci's is a relatively new place - new to me, anyway, as I only learned of its existence a few weeks ago - near RIT.  That means that RIT students now have three pizzerias within a short distance of the campus, the other two being Sylvio's and Paradiso (which is actually on campus). And supposedly, RIT's Food Services department is in the process of revamping its own pizza to try to make it more competitive with outside vendors. So in terms of the sheer number of choices, at least, RIT students should consider themselves fortunate, where pizza's concerned.
I grabbed a couple of pepperoni slices recently. They were quite thin, with a screen baked underside that was fairly pale, just a bit sooty, and dry to the touch but not very crisp. The crust had a chewy texture that made it more suitable for tearing off a mouthful at a time, rather than biting cleanly through. It was a pliable crust, though, and the slices were easily foldable.
Topside, both slices were quite greasy, mostly, I assume, from the pepperoni. These were what I'll call “2 napkin” slices, meaning that it took two napkins apiece to sop up the layer of grease on each one.
The sauce was noticeably, though not liberally, applied, and had a slightly sweet flavor. A light dusting of dried herbs was visible, mixed in with the sauce.
The cheese was applied somewhat thinly, though in good balance with the thin crust. There were some bare, cheeseless areas along the outer edge, which was formed into a thin lip. The dough had bubbled in a couple of spots along the edge, creating some large pockets of air.
Lucci's available pizza toppings are pretty basic, but they do offer seven specialty pizzas, including a "monster" (essentially a garbage plate pizza) and what they call a Sicilian, which is described as topped with Italian olives, mushrooms, hot peppers and cheese. Sounds good (except for the mushrooms - I don't like mushrooms), but can we get a definition of "Sicilian" pizza? I've seen all sorts of pizzas around here going by the name Sicilian, that don't fit the profile of what I always thought of as Sicilian pizza.
The non-pizza part of the menu includes wings, hot and cold subs, burgers, hots, chicken dinners, seafood and fish, pasta, "plates," salads, soup, sides, and a few breakfast items (including breakfast pizza) as well. And since it's in a convenience store, you can also pick up basic groceries, beer, tobacco, and of course Lotto tickets.
As far as the pizza's concerned, this was not bad, not great. All three of the basic components - crust, sauce and cheese - were well integrated with each other, and generally it tasted pretty good. But the crust seemed a bit undercooked and lacking in crispness. It may have been the first pizza of the day when I went there, and sometimes that can be tricky because the ovens may not be quite up to full temp, I don't know.
Based on my limited experience, if I were on campus and wanted pizza, I might go to Lucci's, especially if I wanted to pick up some other stuff too. For a convenient, decent NY style slice, I'd probably walk over to Paradiso, and if I wanted a monster slice or to go somewhere with a bar, I'd head to Sylvio's. Now let's wait and see what RIT Food Services can come up with. In the meantime, Lucci's gets a C+ from me.
Lucci’s Pizza & Grill, 3289 East River Rd. 292-6780
Mon. - Fri. 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., Sat. 9:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m., Sun. 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bertino's, Monroe Ave.

Pizza Guy Note, Feb. 2, 2012:  Bertino's is now closed.
Over a year ago, I reviewed Rookies Express on Monroe Avenue. I didn't care much for it -- gave it a D -- and though one reader left a comment saying things had improved there since then, I guess they didn't improve enough, because it's no longer in business.
Replacing it is Bertino's, which sells pizza, pasta, subs and wings. Despite the slick, snazzy logo, it appears to be a local, independent operation, not part of a chain.
I picked up a cheese slice at lunchtime. Like Rookies Express, Bertino's serves oversize slices, and this one, which was a bit asymmetrical, measured 9 inches along one side, and just over 8 inches along the other. Given the right-angle cut at the tip, this represented a quarter of either a 16- or 18-inch pie. I assume 16 inch, since that's the largest pizza on their menu.
The crust on this slice was quite thin. So thin, in fact, that there was almost no interior -- no air holes, in other words -- except near the outer edge, which was formed into a wide lip.
The screen-baked underside was pale and dry to the touch, with a non-greasy, slightly floury surface. Despite the relatively thick lip, the slice was easily foldable, and that lip wasn't bad, with a mildly breadlike flavor and texture.
In contrast to the underside (and rather curiously), the top was very well done. The cheese had bubbled and browned quite a bit. It almost looked as if it had been under a broiler.
There didn't seem to be much sauce, or perhaps the sauce had simply dried out. I could taste it, but only a little. Between the well-done cheese and the relative lack of sauce, the slice as a whole was a bit on the dry side.
Bertino's doesn't appear to have a website just yet, but for now you can see their menu here.
This was not a particularly bad slice of pizza, but it didn't have a lot going on. It was simply a very thin slice with some browned cheese and a smidgen of sauce on top. The toppings managed to add some lubrication to the whole thing, but not much, and not much flavor other than that of well-baked cheese.
And though I like thin crusts, I also like some interior airiness and chew, and this was lacking in both. It was OK for a quick, reasonably filling snack, but at $3.25 a slice I expect better. In fact, I got a better slice, of about the same size, for one dollar on my last visit to Checker Flag on Dewey Ave. Now what late-night bargoers on Monroe Avenue are willing to pay is not necessarily what you can get away with charging in the Maplewood neighborhood, but the point is, at $3.25 I wouldn't call this a bargain. I'll give it a C-.
Bertino's Pizza, Pasta & More, 649 Monroe Ave. 271-7000
Mon. & Tue. 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., Wed. - Fri. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m., Sat. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Pizza Guy Note: for an August 9, 2010 update on Bertino's, go here.

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