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Monday, August 30, 2010

Joe's Brooklyn Pizza: Aunt Rose's Spinach Pizza

Joe's Brooklyn Pizza on Urbanspoon
Continuing to work my way through Joe's Brooklyn Pizza's menu, I recently tried their "Aunt Rose's Spinach Pizza," which is a white pizza topped with spinach, garlic, shallots, mozzarella, olive oil, and Romano.
As do most of Joe's pizzas, this started out with a thin, crisp crust. The crust on this one seemed particularly thin, even for Joe's, which specializes in New York style pizza. I'm not complaining, it was still good, it just seemed really thin this time.
Spinach isn't for everybody, and spinach pizza isn't for everybody, nor is white pizza. Personally I'm OK with spinach, though I don't count it among my favorite vegetables. And I liked this pizza, but not quite as much as I hoped I would. The flavor was quite mild, and it was a little more bland than I expected.
In saying that, though, I must confess that I got this to go, and due to heavy rush hour traffic it was probably a good hour after leaving Joe's that I was able to sit down and eat this pizza. So although it wasn't exactly cold when I got it home, it was probably not as flavorful as it would've been had I eaten it sooner after it came out of the oven. And in fact some hot slices that I rewarmed the next day did seem to have a little more flavor.
The point is, the flavors of this pizza are more subtle than you'd get with, say, pepperoni, sausage and peppers, etc., and are probably best appreciated when the pizza is still hot. I don't know how much of this is attributable to the long car ride, but this one didn't have as much spinach flavor as I'd expected, and the spinach leaves seemed to have dried out a little. I wondered if they might've been better under, rather than on top of the cheese.
The other flavors worked well together, but again nothing particularly stood out. The garlic was present but not too assertive, and if I picked up anything it was an overall, slight saltiness.
Not a bad pizza, by any means - none of it went to waste, I can assure you - but I wouldn't put this one among my favorites from Joe's. I'd get it again, and in fact I will get it again, sometime, in the form of a fresh, hot slice, just to see how much difference the freshness factor does make. Though this wasn't as bursting with flavor as I'd anticipated, it still had a pleasing combination of toppings, and of course that tasty, crisp crust, making it good enough to rate a B+.
Joe's Brooklyn Pizza, 1100 Jefferson Rd. 424-5637
Mon. - Tue. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Wed. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 8 p.m.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Giuseppe's Clam Pizza

Giuseppe's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
I've reported before about the pizza from Giuseppe's, a West side restaurant that can trace its roots back over 80 years. I liked my pepperoni pizza, finding it "uncomplicated, straightforward, and full flavored," and gave it a B+.
Sometimes I visit a pizzeria, try their pizza, and think, OK, I get it, I know what their pizza's like now, and I don't necessarily have any strong desire to go back. But Giuseppe's is one of the places I wanted to revisit, partly because they have some interesting items on the pizza menu, one of which is a clam pizza.
Clam pizza's not something you see much of around here, and is probably most closely associated with Pepe's in New Haven, Connecticut.
I've never been to Pepe's, I'm sorry to say, and in fact before last week I'd never tried any clam pizza, but from what I've read, Pepe's clam pizza consists of freshly shucked clams, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and a dash of grated cheese on a thin, crisp crust. Giuseppe's version, while also a white pizza, is considerably different; the crust is brushed with olive oil, then topped with garlic, pecorino Romano, mozzarella, fresh bell peppers, onions, chopped clams and bacon.
I'll start, as always, with the crust. The underside was browned and marked by an oily sheen. Thankfully, the oil, which I think was probably mostly from the toppings, hadn't penetrated the interior of the crust, which was still fairly crisp on the outside. It had a pleasant, bready flavor, which was no surprise, since Giuseppe's also turns out some of the best Italian bread in the area, for my money.
Because of the abundance of toppings, this wasn't an especially "clammy" pizza. The bits of clam, though numerous, were not so much the stars at center stage, as they were role players.
The ensemble cast started with the mozzarella, of which there was a substantial amount. It was well melted and very stringy, serving as a medium to hold the other toppings together.
Surprisingly, if one of those toppings stood out, it was the green bell peppers. They were fresh, and not overly cooked, so their mild but distinctive flavor and crunchy texture formed a counterpoint to that of the slightly salty, chewy clams.
The other toppings tended to blend together into the background. I didn't notice much garlic flavor, and wondered if Giuseppe's used garlic powder rather than chopped garlic. The bacon was sparingly applied, which was fortunate, because although I like bacon, too much of it could easily have overwhelmed the clams and other toppings, turning this into a bacon pizza with clams rather than the other way around.
This being my first-ever clam pizza, I have no idea what a clam pizza "ought" to taste like, or how this measures up against Pepe's or anybody else's. So I won't even try to rate it against some standard, other than the standard of pizza in general and my own subjective experience. And based on that standard, I'd say it was pretty good. It's hard to compare the overall flavor to anything else I've tried, pizza or otherwise, but after being somewhat apprehensive about how some of those toppings were going to work together, I was pleasantly surprised. This pizza was flavorful, yet the flavors were not overly strong, and they did coalesce nicely together. I also enjoyed the contrasting textures of the bready crust, rubbery mozzarella, crunchy peppers and bacon, and the chewy, chunky clams.
I'm not going to say this was a perfect pizza - I could've done with a little less oil underneath, and the bell peppers came close to stealing the show from the clams - but I liked it, and so I think this rates exactly where I pegged my previous pepperoni pie from Giuseppe's, a B+.
Giuseppe’s, 40 Spencerport Rd. (Rt. 31) 426-3397
Takeout hours:  Mon. - Thu. 9 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. &. Sat. 9 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Dine-in hours: Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Irondequoit Pudgie's Gone

I've commented before about the proliferation of pizzerias in the Titus/Hudson area of Irondequoit, and it looks as if the competition has claimed its first victim. While enjoying a couple of slices today at Cam's on Titus Avenue, I noticed that Pudgie's, which had been right across the street, is no longer there. A sign in the window announced that some non-pizza business would be opening in September. Pudgie's website does not list the Irondequoit location, so apparently it has closed, not just moved. The North Goodman St. Pudgie's is still open, as far as I know.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cortese Restaurant, Binghamton

Today's post is a little unusual, for a couple of reasons. First, this is about a restaurant/ pizzeria in Binghamton, considerably outside of what would normally be the geographic scope of this blog. Second, this pizza comes par-baked or half-baked, so that you can finish it in your home oven.
The pizza in question is from Cortese Restaurant in Binghamton, courtesy of a friend whose family are Cortese aficionados. As I said, it was partially cooked at Cortese - the cheese had clearly begun to melt - and, following the instructions on the box, I placed it on a baking sheet and gave it about 15 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees (it may have been 375, I don't remember).
Removing the pizza from the oven, I found that the cheese had browned nicely, and the underside had turned a medium shade of golden brown. It had the somewhat cratered, bubbly underside common to pan pizzas.
The edges on this pizza were deceptively thick, as the interior part of the crust was quite thin, surprisingly thin in fact for a pan pizza. Even more unusual was the crust's biscuitlike flavor and texture; I was told by my friend that Cortese is said to use a biscuit mix in making its dough. It was soft and pliable, but not greasy or gummy.
The bright, tomatoey sauce on this pizza was moderately applied. The entire pizza was blanketed by a fairly thick layer of melted cheese. Although the cheese had browned considerably in some areas, it was still somewhat stringy and almost creamy in texture (of course it was still pretty hot out of the oven, too, which helps).
Because Cortese is well outside of the Rochester area, I'm not going to assign a grade to this one, though I did enjoy it. Importantly, it was quite distinctive, particularly with its biscuitlike crust. I don't think I would mistake this for any other pizza I've had around here. And their distinctiveness - the sense you get that nobody else makes a pizza quite like this one - is one of the things I love most about independent pizzerias.
If you go, Cortese has 15 or so pizza toppings, including Genoa salami and (of course) that Binghamton staple, chicken spiedies. They also offer several specialty pizzas, including a Florentine with fresh spinach, sour cream(!), onions, and Romano and mozzarella cheeses; a pesto pizza with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Romano and mozzarella; and "the Cortese Special," with pepperoni, sausage, meat sauce, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and black olives, covered with a thick layer of mozzarella and Romano. You can also order "double dough" if you prefer a thicker crust. The rest of the menu is extensive, with plenty of Italian dishes as well as steaks and seafood.
On the pizza page of Cortese's website, there is a link labeled "Nate Cortese talks about pizza at Cortese," but sadly I couldn't get it to play properly - the sound was garbled. Too bad, because I'd like to hear it. Failing that, next time I head down that way maybe I'll get a chance to stop at Cortese and see Nate in person.
Cortese Restaurant, 117 Robinson St., Binghamton
Reservations (607) 723-6440
Pizza & Take-Out (607) 723-6477
Mon. - Wed. 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m., Thu. - Sat. 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. noon - 9 p.m.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pizza Stop to Reopen in September

I mentioned this on my Facebook page, but in case you didn't see it:  don't panic if you happen to go by Pizza Stop on State Street and find it completely boarded up. Though it looks as if it's gone for good, it's only closed temporarily, due to construction work on the building.
Right now the expected reopening date is September 16, though it could be sooner. If I find out any more details, I'll post updates here and on Facebook.
In the meantime, the Empire Boulevard location is open, for those of you needing a Pizza Stop fix.

Pizzeria Americana, Long Pond Road - Grandma's Pizza

Having recently done a post on Pizzeria Americana Ohana on Monroe Avenue, I decided that it was time to make a return visit to its erstwhile sister pizzeria on Long Pond Road in Greece. I say "erstwhile" because it's a word I don't get to use that often, but also because according to RocWiki, the two locations have been under separate ownership since 2007.
So, nearly a year and a half after my previous post on Kip's Pizzeria Americana, I returned there recently, primarily to try their version of "Grandma's" pizza. Prior to this, my only previous experience with this particular style of pizza was the Grandma's that I got from Joe's Brooklyn Pizza (although the Pizza Stop's meatball parm pizza is very similar, except for the addition of meatballs).
Kip's menu describes its Grandma's as consisting of "a thick crust with red sauce" and Romano cheese, topped with sausage, broccoli, and black olives." Contrary to that description, the crust on my pizza was not particularly thick, not that I'm complaining. The underside was crisp and nicely charred but not burnt, and the interior was bready.
Naturally, the sauce took center stage here. Yes, there is cheese, but since Romano has such a sharper flavor than mozzarella - and doesn't melt very well - it doesn't blanket the pizza, but is just added as more of a flavor accent.
The sauce on this was very tomatoey, with a slightly sweet, cooked-tomato flavor.
Next up, flavorwise, was the sausage, which was mild, with a pleasant, meaty flavor.
Despite its sharpness, the Romano stayed mostly in the background, as did the broccoli and olives. They were obviously visible, and I could taste them, but they came close to being overwhelmed by the sauce.
I also picked up a Margherita, which was pretty similar to the one I got at the Brighton location, except that Kip's used sliced rather than diced tomatoes, and the basil was not shredded as finely, nor was it as wilted from the heat of the oven as the Ohana Margherita. Again, this was not, as far as I know, a "classic" Margherita, which typically are topped with crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, but the flavors of the components here blended well together, with a prominent garlic flavor and the tangy low-moisture mozzarella forming a base for the fresh tomatoes and basil. The crust was crisp and bready.
As evidence of their common heritage, Kip's and Ohana share a lot of similar menu items, and there are still more specialty pizzas I'd like to try here, such as the "Rosemary," with olive oil, garlic, oregano, mozzarella, potato and rosemary, or the Mediterranean, with basil pesto, pine nuts, spinach, fresh tomato, mozzarella dn feta cheese.
Speaking of the menu, though, for whatever reason, the menu I picked up at Kip's last year lists 29 specialty pizzas, while the one I got this last time only has 19. The Grandma's doesn't appear on the newer menu, nor does the Mediterranean, although it does show up on the online menu.
I hope that doesn't mean that they're trying to phase out the Grandma's, because it was good pizza. Not an everyday pizza, or for everybody, but if you're a lover of red sauce, and don't mind a (nearly) cheeseless pizza now and then, you should enjoy this. With that nicely baked, crisp crust as a base, this was good enough to rate an A- from me.
Kip's Pizzeria Americana, 516 Long Pond Rd. (Carriage Stop Plaza) 227-9913
Mon. - Wed. 3 p.m. - 10 p.m., Thu. 2 p.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 2:30 p.m. - midnight, Sat. noon - midnight, Sun. noon - 10 p.m.

Friday, August 20, 2010

KC's Smokin' BBQ & Pizza Pit, Revisited

Kc's Smokin' BBQ & Pizza Pit on Urbanspoon

In June 2009, I did post on KC's Smokin' BBQ & Pizza Pit on Lyell Avenue, which at the time had just opened. Based on one cheese slice, I thought they were off to a pretty good start, and I gave them a B-.
Not long ago, I stopped back, this time for a full pie, to see how things have been coming along.
I often don't ask for any particular thickness with my pizza, figuring I'm best off letting them do what they usually do, but KC's menu specifies that pizza comes in thin, regular and thick, so I asked for thin. My slice last summer was thin, and I thought it was pretty good, though not as crisp as I would've liked, so thin seemed like a good bet.
My pie was thin indeed, very thin, so much so that the crust had no real interior, except along the very edge (which was still pretty thin). But I asked for it thin, so no complaints there.
Unfortunately, the crust was no crisper than last time. The slices were quite floppy, partly, of course, because they were so thin, but also I think because the crust lacked any real backbone. The pale underside was criss-crossed with screen marks, and while the crust tasted all right, it was a tad gummy.
The sauce on this pie had a straightforward tomatoey flavor, similar to a basic NY style pizza sauce. I wouldn't say that there was too much sauce, but a crust this thin doesn't need a whole lot of sauce. This one didn't cross the line, but it was saucy. The mozzarella was moderately applied, in pretty good balance with the crust, and was nicely melted, just barely to the point of browning.
I still haven't tried KC's barbeque, mostly because I don't eat barbeque all that often, and when I do I like to go to my local BBQ joint. A few menu items worthy of note here are the BBQ spaghetti with pulled pork and the southern fried chicken & waffles. Among KC's specialty pizzas, you'll find a trash plate pizza, chicken wing pizza, and of course a pulled-pork pizza.
The good news here is that KC's seems pretty consistent. This pie wasn't much different from the slice I got fourteen months ago, not long after KC's opened for business.
The bad news is that, well, it hasn't changed much. I thought that June 2009 slice was OK, but would've liked a crisper crust, and I guess I was hoping to find an improvement this time. The crust on this pie, though, was soft and pale, nearly to the point that I'd call it underdone. In fact, it was even paler than last year's slice, which probably benefited from rewarming in the oven.
Overall though, the flavor was pretty good, so if I were to order from here again, I think I'd specify that I'd like my pizza on the crispy side or, in steak parlance, ask for it medium-well. I think I'd go with a medium-thick crust too, to get more of an interior crust and to balance out the sauce. Until then, I'm dropping KC's down one notch, to a C+.
KC's Smokin' BBQ & Pizza Pit, 2346 Lyell Ave. (Gateway Plaza behind Arby's)
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sat. 3 p.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Pizza Guy Note, 11/30/10:  KC's has closed. Mac's Pizza now occupies this location.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vinny's, Fairport

Thanks to a reader, I found out about a new place in Fairport serving pizza, Vinny’s Bakery & Deli. It didn’t take me long to get out there to check it out. Having had mixed results with pizza from Italian bakeries/delis, I was cautiously optimistic.
Upon entering Vinny’s, you’ll find several rows of shelves holding various pastas and canned foods, many of them imported, and a deli counter toward the back. There were two varieties of pizza slices when I visited, “regular” pepperoni slices and Sicilian slices. I got one of each.
The pepperoni slice was medium thick, and had a dry, blistered underside. The crust was nicely risen, with large air holes throughout its interior. The narrow edge was quite firm, but still pleasantly chewy.
A thick, slightly salty, tomatoey sauce covered almost the entire slice, right up to the outer edge, and was topped with a solid layer of tangy cheese. There was a sharpness to the flavor of the cheese that led me to think that it contained more than just ordinary mozzarella, though I can’t say for sure. The pepperoni was wide and thin, and rather spicy.
At some pizzerias, a Sicilian slice might be little more than a thicker, pan-risen version of their regular pizza, but not so here. The Sicilian slice was markedly, qualitatively different from the pepperoni slice. Yes, it was thicker - a good inch thick - but that wasn’t all. The underside had an oily sheen, yet was not particularly oily to the touch, and was considerably more browned than the pepperoni slice.
This slice was also topped differently, with its most prominent feature being the abundance of fresh garlic. Well before I got the slice to my mouth, my nostrils were greeted with the scent of garlic, and bits of fresh chopped garlic were evident across the surface of the pizza.
There was also less cheese on this slice, with a combination of shredded and grated cheeses sprinkled atop the sauce. It was difficult to identify them, what with all that garlic, but there was a lactic tanginess that leads me to think that one of them was Romano. The sauce, which I think was the same as on the pepperoni slice, was liberally applied, which helped balance out the thick crust and add some moisture.
In addition to pizza and imported packaged foods, Vinny’s offers a variety of deli meats and cold subs, breads and baked sweets. I picked up a sausage-stuffed bread (bottom photo), though I gave it to an elderly friend so I can’t say if it tasted as good as it looked.
When I visited, there was just one woman working behind the counter, and she was dealing with a pretty steady lunchtime crowd, so I wasn’t able to get any details about Vinny’s. I did catch her Italian accent, though, and even aside from that I have a strong feeling that much of what you find here is pretty close to something you might run across in Italy. Though I’ve never been to Italy, the Sicilian pizza here particularly struck me as having a certain authenticity to it, with its glistening underside, sprinking of sharp cheese, and marriage of garlic and tomatoes. It seemed to me that the Sicilian was more like Vinny’s “regular” pizza, with the thinner pepperoni pie something of a concession to American consumers (as evidenced by the little kids who were behind me in line with their moms, all of whom wanted the pepperoni pizza).
I do intend to go back sometime, and maybe I can do it at a time when Vinny’s isn’t quite as busy, so I can chat a bit with the proprietors. And I already know what I want - I spotted potato pizza on the menu. Until then, I’m giving Vinny’s a B+.
Vinny's Bakery & Deli, 1350 Fairport Road, Fairport 377-4200
8 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily

Monday, August 16, 2010

Guetti's Revisited: Sausage Pie

Guetti's Pizza & Subs on Urbanspoon
A little over a year ago, I did a post on Guetti's in Chili. I gave my slices from there a D+, which still puts Guetti's in my all-time bottom 10.
I decided that I really ought to go back sometime, just to give Guetti's another shot. I just couldn't believe that those slices were really typical of Guetti's pizza, because if they were, I didn't see how the place could stay in business.
So not long ago, I went back, this time ordering a medium sausage pie. I was taking a gamble getting a pie - if it were as bad as those slices, I'd have wasted ten bucks - but somehow a made-to-order pie seems like a better gauge of a pizzeria than premade slices.
I don't ordinarily get sausage on my pizza, but Guetti's makes its own sausage, so I thought this way I'd get to sample that as well.
Things weren't promising initially. My pie had the same pale yellowish hue underneath (most accurately pictured in the second photo, right) as the slices did last August. And there was a little oven soot, which I never like to see (that's soot you see in the third photo, not charring). I know it's just burnt flour, but I just don't like it on my pizza.
The crust was thin to medium in thickness, and was oddly fragmented in one area (see bottom photo), with one section separating from the other like a sheet of sedimentary rock. The crust had a dense texture, a doughy aroma, and a distinct flavor or raw flour.
Things got better on top, where there was a thin layer of browned cheese, atop a very tomatoey sauce; bits of tomato skin were visible here and there in the sauce, which was moderately applied, and in good balance with the cheese and crust.
The sausage was a definite plus. It had a mild, yet prominent pork flavor, and added a nice, meaty complement to the other components, without much grease. It wasn't exactly breakfast sausage, but it made this pizza reminiscent, in a good way, of a breakfast sandwich.
The crust also improved as I worked my way out to the edge. At last, here I found some crispness, along with the aroma and flavor of fresh bread. Had that extended to the rest of the crust, this pizza would have been a real winner. I'm not sure why, but this pizza also seemed better the next day out of the fridge. Somehow the bready flavor came through better, and the flavors seemed to work together more than they had when the pie was still warm.
A mixed verdict here, then, with some good things and some bad things. This was a marked improvement on the slices I had last August, with that really awful, gummy crust, but it still fell short in some areas. Again, the crust was the main problem - the area around the center of the pie just seemed under-risen and undercooked, with a dense texture and raw flavor. Yet the outer crust showed that there was real potential here, and the homemade sausage helped bring this pie up a notch or two as well. Put it all together and average it out, and I'm going to come out right in the middle on this one. This time around, I'll give Guetti's a C.
Guetti's Pizza & Subs, 25 Chestnut Ridge Rd. near Chili Ave. 247-9410
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Coliseum Pizza Roma, Webster

Coliseum Pizza Roma is on Empire Boulevard in Webster, though the location has seen several pizzerias come and go over the past few years. At one point there was a DiRosato's here, then simply "Pizza Roma," and now we have Coliseum Pizza Roma, which has roots going back some years to "SS Coliseum Pizza" on Dewey Avenue in Rochester.
Confusing, yes, but regardless of the name, this is a place I'd meant to get to for some time. Coliseum doesn't open until 4 p.m., so this wasn't a place I could go to for a lunchtime slice. I did finally get a pepperoni pie there recently for dinner.
When I opened the box, I saw what looked like a pretty good looking pizza, until I took a peek at the underside. It was very pale, and somewhat sooty. For whatever reason, the top had cooked just fine, then, but the bottom was quite underdone.I'm not sure exactly what the problem was, but I do know that I can get a better-baked crust in my home oven.
Anyway, the bottom was dry, at least, not greasy, and overall the crust was on the thick side of medium. The thickness was uneven, though, with some slices considerably thicker than others.
Not surprisingly, the crust had a doughy flavor, and a chewy texture. The edge was brown and crisp, a bit crunchy, and I think I would've enjoyed the crust quite a lot if it had been better baked.
The sauce on this one was moderately applied, with a tomatoey, slightly tangy flavor. This was a pretty cheesy pie, with a fairly thick layer of browned cheese. There were a few dried herbs visible, but I didn't detect a lot of herb flavor.
Coliseum offers a pretty basic menu, with a handful of specialty pizzas, hot subs and wraps, wings and fried appetizers, and chicken parm dinners. Perhaps what really separates them from the crowd is that they're open till 4 a.m. every night, and they deliver "anywhere" in the Rochester area.
Despite its flaws, this was OK pizza. The right components were there, and the flavor wasn't bad, but the problem was one of execution. So I'm going to call it average, and give it a C.
Coliseum Pizza Roma, 2225 Empire Blvd., Webster 458-1470, 671-8680
Open 4 p.m. - 4 a.m. daily.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chester Cab: stuffed pizza

Chester Cab Pizza on Urbanspoon
Over a year ago, I did a post on Chester Cab Pizza,
which specializes in Chicago-style "stuffed" pizza. I didn't try the stuffed pizza on that occasion, because I had simply stopped in for a slice, and stuffed pizza at Chester Cab is only made to order, and they need about 45 minutes to do it.
So instead, I got a regular slice, which I gave a B-minus. It was purported to be a New York style slice, but it seemed more like a thinner version of Chicago-style pizza.
But since Chester Cab's claim to fame is its stuffed pizza, I knew eventually I'd have to go back and try it sometime. Last weekend's Park Avenue Festival presented me with a rare opportunity to get a single stuffed slice, but I thought it would be better to get a fresh, whole pizza, so this week I picked one up.
Chester Cab's stuffed pizza comes in mini, small and large sizes, which are 8, 10 and 12 inches in diameter respectively. For one person, a mini is plenty, so that's what I got, with spinach and roasted red peppers.
At first, I was inclined to think of this as a deep-dish pizza rather than a stuffed pizza. To me, stuffed pizza has a crust on the top as well as on the bottom. At first, this did not appear to meet that description. On closer examination, though, there was a thin top crust under the sauce and cheese. So from the bottom up, you had bottom crust, spinach and red peppers, top crust, cheese and sauce.
Still, it's the depth of the pie that makes this pizza distinctive. While many people may think "thick crust" when they see or hear the words "Chicago pizza," the bottom crust on this was not particularly thick, only about 3/8 of an inch or so. It's the sides of the pizza that are the key, because they form a bowl that hold a casserole-like layer of toppings.
I'll get to those toppings in a minute, but first a few more words about the crust. It was well browned on both top and bottom, but the flavor was not toasty, like a good New York style pie, nor - fortunately - did it have the cooking-oil flavor of some pizzas. Instead, it had a slightly sweet, almost caramelized flavor.
Both in that respect, and in terms of the texture, the crust was reminiscent of a cobbler, though not as sweet, certainly. It did not have the gluteny, chewy texture of most pizza crusts, and while it held together well enough while eating, it was more crumbly in the mouth, like a shortbread.
Both the mozzarella and the sauce were added in abundance. The cheese had a melted, chewy texture, but it was the sauce that really dominated. It was chunky, with a sweet, herbal flavor. While that same flavor didn't work too well on the "New York style" slice I had last time, here it seemed a better fit with the slightly sweet crust and the thick layer of cheese.
The roasted red peppers and spinach, sad to say, tended to get lost among the other components. For one thing, there was simply a lot more of everything else, and besides that, I think their flavors - the peppers especially - were simply too subtle to stand up to all that sauce. Each topping on a mini adds another $1.05 to the total, so I'd either skip them or get something with a bolder flavor, like pepperoni or hot peppers.
So, the verdict? Well, even though I generally lean toward thin crust, I liked this pizza. And yes, it is pizza, contrary to what some purists might argue. Unlike NY style pizza, this isn't something I could see myself eating every day, but once in a while, yeah. The flavors were good, and despite its more-of-everything approach, the components were generally in good balance with each other.
It's been a few years since I was last in Chicago, so I'm not sure how close this comes to the real thing, but in its own right, it was pretty enjoyable. It's a little tough to rate, since it's so unlike any other pizza I've had around here, but I'll give it a B.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bertino's, Part II

A couple of months ago, I did a post on Bertino's, which opened on Monroe Ave. where Rookies Express had been.  I didn't especially care for my slice, and gave it a C-.
But at that time, Bertino's had just opened, and I know sometimes it takes a while for a place to get its act together, so I stopped back the other day to see if things had improved. I got a pepperoni slice.
The good news is, this was better than the cheese slice I had last time, which was overcooked on top and pale underneath, had no interior crust, and not enough sauce. The not-so-good news is, it's still not great pizza. But it was OK.
The crust on this one was medium thick, though rather thin toward the tip. The underside was brown, with a faint aroma of cooking oil. It was firm but not crisp, and the crust did have some interior air holes and a little breadiness.
Nicely, there was a noticeable amount of sauce on this one, particularly near the tip, where it probably pooled in the oven, due to the crust being thinner near the middle of the pizza. It had a slightly sweet flavor, with some herbal notes.
That was topped by a moderate layer of mozzarella. The cheese was again well browned, maybe a shade too much for my taste, though not as much as last time. On the plus side, the pepperoni was nice and crisp along the edges. The thin lip at the edge of the slice was a bit tough and chewy, and I was glad that it was so narrow.
So, some pluses and some minuses here. The crust - except for the edge - was decent, if a tad oily underneath. Even though this slice was pretty fresh, I think it might've benefited from a quick reheat on the oven floor, just to crisp it up a little. And there was enough sauce on this one to add some flavor and balance out the other components, particularly that browned, somewhat dried-out cheese. In fact, I'd say that the sauce is what really made this slice.
Not bad, then, not great, but OK, with no major flaws, and reasonably good flavor and texture overall. While not a quantum leap forward, it was enough of an improvement on both last time and Rookies Express to bump it over to the positive side of average, and 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.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Paradiso, Lyell Ave. - CLOSED

Note: this establishment is now closed.
One of my very first blog posts was about Paradiso Pizza at RIT, in February 2009. Although my posts back then were considerably shorter than they are now, I think I accurately summed up that pizza as a "decent approximation," though not a perfect copy, of NYC-style pizza, and I gave it a B.
Paradiso very recently opened a second location in the area, in the site of a former Mark's Pizzeria on Lyell Ave.
The pizza here was indeed similar to what I got at RIT. On my lunchtime visit, they had about a half dozen varieties of slices available, and $5.40 will get you two of those, plus a 12 oz. can of pop. I got one cheese and one pepperoni.
These were clearly NY-style slices, quite thin, and easily foldable. The cheese slice was browned, and not quite charred, underneath, while the pepperoni slice was a bit more well-done, with some nice dotted char spots. Both were just slightly crisp underneath, with a chewy texture.
The slices were topped with a moderate layer of mozzarella cheese. The cheese had melted, but hadn't really melded together, and the individual strands of cheese were still easily visible. My guess is that they use part-skim mozzarella, which with its lower fat content doesn't melt as well as the whole milk variety.
The sauce was applied relatively thinly. It had a tomatoey flavor with some herbal notes.
The pepperoni was of the wide and thin variety, and rather spicy. Usually pepperoni doesn't get my attention much, but this had a very noticeable peppery kick to it.
The outer edge on these slices was pretty good. It was formed into a medium-size lip, which was crisp and toasty (particularly on the pepperoni slice), and had a slightly salty, bready flavor. Somewhere in there among the crust, cheese and sauce, I also thought I detected a hint of garlic powder, as I was left with a faint, garlicky aftertaste after finishing these slices.
Pies here come in 14", 16", and sheet sizes. There are 16 available toppings, and five specialty pizzas ("Meat Worshippers," Philly cheese steak, chicken wing, veggie, and "Mediterranean Dream," which is more or less a Greek pizza). Other items include calzones, wings, hot subs, plates, and Italian, chicken, rib, and fish fry dinners. They offer free delivery, though I'm not sure how wide their delivery area is.
This was not bad pizza at all, and like its sister operation in Henrietta, not too far off from typical NYC pizza. It may have simply been due to the fact that these slices were reheated in the pizza oven just before I got them, but I'd say that they were a smidgen more crisp and toasty than the pie I got last year at the RIT location.
Paradiso may just give Cam’s, which is just down the street, a run for its money, though at this point I'd give the edge to Cam’s for its consistently crisp, charred crust. But I wouldn't complain if you set down a Paradiso pie in front of me, and I'll give these a B+.
Paradiso Pizza, 1074 Lyell Ave., 647-6777
(hours not available as of this writing)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tony Pepperoni, Greece - CLOSED


Back in April 2009, I did a post on Tony Pepperoni in Henrietta, giving it a B for its pretty decent thin-crust pizza. Not long ago I decided to check out its sister location, on Latta Road in Greece.
Somewhat oddly, this Tony P. is located right next to a gas station, although I wouldn't call it gas-station pizza, thank god. By that I mean it's not the usual frozen/microwaved/premade crap you see sitting there under a heat lamp at convenience stores everywhere. This is a genuine pizzeria that simply happens to adjoin a gas station.
My very fresh pepperoni slice bore little resemblance to the one I got at Henrietta, which was roughly similar to a NY-style slice. This one had a thin to medium crust, with a big, puffy edge. The underside, which bore no screen or pan marks, was medium to dark brown. It was a bit crisp on the outside, but very pliable, with a softness that made it necessary to fold the slice (this slice was still pretty hot out of the oven, which I'm sure had some effect on the texture). The crust in general had a toasty, bready aroma and flavor, which again probably had something to do with its being so fresh.
That freshness also would account somewhat for the gooiness of the cheese, but even aside from its having just come out of the oven, the cheese on this one was cooked just enough to melt completely, with no browning. The pie from which this was cut appeared to be considerably less well done (as in the degree of doneness, not how well it was made) than a cheese pie that was also available. Perhaps the employee took it out of the oven a little sooner rather than later because another customer and I were both waiting for pepperoni slices.
The sauce, which had pooled a bit toward the tip, was slightly sweet, and moderately applied. A lot of sprinkled dried herbs were visible, and there was a noticeable aroma and flavor of oregano. The pepperoni was OK, though not cooked enough to get crisp along the edges.
Tony Pepperoni has a fairly extensive list of pizza toppings and specialty pizzas, nothing especially exotic, although the "Italian Assorted" is a little unusual, with ham, cappicola, and salami among its toppings (I've put salami on homemade pizza before, and it's actually quite good, provided you use good salami). Pizzas come in 12", 16", and 18" pies, and sheets. Other offerings include jumbo wings, hot and cold subs, and sides, plus a few dinners, including pasta, fish fry and chicken parm. It's a takeout and delivery place only.
This was kind of a messy slice of pizza, but kind of good too. Granted, it was pretty hot out of the oven, and hadn't really had time to set, but that big, bubbly edge pretty much guaranteed that the cheese and sauce would migrate toward the tip, and with that thin, pliable crust, this definitely required that a couple of napkins be on hand. Still, the crust was pleasantly bready and a little crisp, and the overall flavors were good. I'm going to shave a point off for the sloppiness of it, but I'll give it a B-.
Tony Pepperoni, 2044 Latta Rd. 621-0230
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Recent pizza event in Webster

Pizza taste-offs are something I'd like to see more of around here, and I was informed by a reader of such an event held recently in Webster. In this one, 40-45 teens sampled donated cheese pizzas from Rocco's, Bassetti's, Mark's, and Marvin Mozzeroni's. Here are the winners:

Best Cheese:
1. Bassetti's
2. Marvin Mozzeroni

Best Sauce:
1. Bassetti's
2. Rocco's

Best Crust:
1. Rocco's
2. Mark's

Favorite Pizza:
1. Rocco's
2. Mark's

The winners will receive certificates to hang in their pizza parlors.

If you know of any upcoming pizza-related events in your town or neighhorhood, please let me know so I can pass it on. Just drop me a line at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com

Napa, S. Clinton

Last January, I did a post on Napa, a wood-fired pizzeria in Fairport. I gave it a B-, which isn't bad, but I did find some fault with my Margherita, particularly its lack of balance. I thought that the heavy layer of sauce overwhelmed the very thin, crackly crust. But I did give them credit for making effective use of their wood-fired oven, and not turning out a pizza with a wimpy, pale crust.
Napa recently opened a second location in the city on South Clinton Avenue, right next to Boulder Coffee. I had lunch there with a couple of friends, which allowed me to check out several varieties of pizza.
For myself, I chose a "Genovese," which, as far as I can tell, doesn't seem to be on the online menu, which is either outdated or only applies to the Fairport location. The Genovese comes topped with potato, rosemary and garlic. I've seen potato pizzas on menus around here, but they're often of the "stuffed potato skin" variety. I've been curious for a while to try a more authentic, Italian-style potato pizza, and this sounded like it might come close, even though from what I've read, potato pizza is more commonly found in Rome than in Genoa.
My companions selected a couple of red (tomato-sauce-based) pizzas, a "Corleone," topped with hot capicola, roasted red peppers, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella, and a "Rustica," with Italian sausage, caramelized onions, and green peppers.
As was the pizza at the Fairport location, this pizza was very thin, so much so that the crust had virtually no interior. Though the crust was charred, the charring here was more spotty than at Fairport, and the crust was much less brittle. It was certainly crisp, with a nice "bite" to it, but it was not crackly, and had just a bit of chew.
My Genovese was subtly flavored, with paper-thin slices of potato on top, accented by the rosemary and garlic. In its simplicity, I'm guessing that it wasn't too far off from something you might find in Italy, where the pizza is not typically overloaded with toppings, as in this country.
I was a little less impressed with the Corleone. The sauce on this one seemed lighter and less cooked than at Fairport, but it, too, was laid on rather thickly. Though it tasted fine, and I enjoyed the other toppings, I thought the sauce simply overwhelmed everything else on this pizza, crust included.
The Rustica may have been my favorite of the three. It was, perhaps, the closest to an "American" pizza (could that be a reason I liked it?), with its combination of sausage, peppers and onions (can you ever go wrong with sausage, peppers and onions?), plus the nicely melted, creamy cheese and the sauce, which seemed to be in better balance with the other components on this pizza.
The South Clinton Napa is in a converted house, and although it maybe hasn't quite fully settled in to its new digs, it's a pleasing space, with a modest dining room, small bar area (no alcohol yet), and a covered deck. Service was good, and I got the impression that the staff are trying hard to deliver a good product and please their customers.
I was pretty pleased with these pizzas. Starting with the crust, as I always do, these were charred but not burnt, crisp but not brittle. Though I tend to like my crust just a tad thicker, with more of a bready interior, that's strictly my subjective preference, and I can't fault Napa too much on that one. Plus, I understand that we're talking wood-fired pizza here, which is often going to be very thin.
When the crust is that thin, though, it's easy to overdo the toppings, and I think that was the case with the Corelone. Other than that, I had no real complaints, and I'm looking forward to my next visit, and some further samplings from the menu. I'll give Napa an A-.
Napa Wood Fired Pizzeria, 537 S. Clinton Ave. 232-8558
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sat. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.

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