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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fullerino's, Byron

Fullerino's on Urbanspoon
Following in the footsteps of our pioneer forefathers, I've been pushing the western boundary of my pizza travels lately, in search of new discoveries. My latest venture took me to Byron, which sits about halfway between Brockport and Batavia.
The town of Byron is mostly agricultural, but at the crossroads of Routes 262 and 237, you'll find the essentials:  the fire hall, church, garage, tavern, and, yes, pizzeria. Fullerino's occupies the northeast corner of the intersection, with a taxidermy sign out near the curb and locals looking on from the porch of the 160-year-old Byron Hotel across the street.
I ordered a large pie from Fullerino's, half pepperoni. I was asked if I wanted regular or sweet sauce, and after a moment of indecision, went with regular, though I'm told that the sweet sauce - which I guess is regular sauce with added white and brown sugar - is pretty popular. Sweet sauce seems to be something of a local phenomenon, as I've also seen it (and tried it) at Ralph & Rosie's in nearby Bergen.
This pizza was based on a thin-to-medium crust, which had a dry, screen-baked bottom that was not as crisp as I would've liked. The crust was reasonably bready on the inside, with a narrow, crisp and crunchy edge.
On top, the cheese was well baked and browned, to the point of being a tad overdone on the cheese-only side (in fairness, I've found that ordering extra toppings like pepperoni on only half the pie generally results in browned cheese on the other half, since the half with the extra toppings requires a little more baking time). The cheese separated easily from the crust, although the pizza did spend maybe 20 to 30 minutes in the box (in an insulated pizza bag) before I got it home, so the cheese might've congealed and hardened a bit in that time.
Between the crust and the cheese lay the sauce, which had a thick consistency and a slightly salty, concentrated tomatoey flavor. The pepperoni was tasty, with a baconlike flavor and crisp edges.

Aside from the sweet-sauce option, Fullerino's pizza menu is pretty basic, with the only specialty pizzas being a white pizza and a "Lesonja" pizza, with no less than eight toppings. They also serve chicken wings (breading optional), hot and cold subs, fried seafood, calzones, sides, burgers, and salads. There's limited seating, and they do deliver.
This pizza wasn't bad, and although I wasn't blown away by it, I had no major complaints. I mentioned Ralph & Rosie's, and this did remind me a lot of the pizza I had from there. Like R&R's, this was maybe a cut above average, and I'll give it a C+.
Fullerino's, Corner Rt. 237 and Rt. 262, Byron. 548-2727
Store hours:  Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Delivery hours:  Wed. & Thu. 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 5 p.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dustin's, Holley

Dustin's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
At the outer reaches of the Rochester area, we find Dustin's in Holley. a few miles west of Brockport. I recently picked up a couple of pepperoni slices at lunchtime.
These had a thin to medium crust, which was a little soft and a little oily underneath. They were topped with a thick layer of melted mozzarella, which lay atop a relatively thin layer of sauce. The sauce had a tomatoey flavor, with faint herbal notes, and a medium-thick consistency.
The slice ended with a thick, bready lip. This was another pizza where I wished that the breadiness of the edge would’ve been found more in the rest of the crust, which didn't have a great deal of character.
Dustin's is your basic small-town pizzeria, with a standard lineup of pizzas, subs, wings, and grilled foods. There's some seating, and they offer free delivery within the village of Holley. It looks like there's also ice cream in season. On my visit, the service wasn't particularly friendly; I wouldn't call it rude, but the vibe I got was that I and the other customer in the shop at the time were more like annoyances than guests. Oh well.
This was OK pizza. Just OK. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing great either. The flavor was all right, the crust so-so. It was, in fact, pretty average, and so I'll give it an average grade, a C.
Dustin's Pizzeria, 50 Public Square, Holley 14470.
(585) 638-5440

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Union St. Bakery, Public Market

Sicilian pizza is not something you see a whole lot of around here, particularly sold by the slice. It's not impossible to find, certainly, but at most pizzerias the closest you're apt to find is "sheet pizza," which is usually just a thicker, pan-risen, and not-as-good version of the pizzeria's regular pizza. Sheet pizza is usually only available in half or full sheets, which is a lot of pizza. So I don't eat it too often.
But if Sicilian pizza were available by the slice at more places, I'd probably get it more often. One place where you can find it is at the Union Street Bakery in Rochester's Public Market. In fact, this is the only kind of pizza they sell, along with their breads, pastries and other baked goods.
I got two slices the other day, which measured about one and a quarter inches thick. The smooth bottom had a uniform golden color, giving it an appearance similar to that of cornbread. There was a faint trace of oil detectable on the surface, though this wasn't at all what I would call greasy.
The interior of the crusts was very interesting. Obviously the dough had risen, but the air holes were quite small, and the crust had a very puffy feel. In thinking about how to describe the texture, the word "cottony" came to mind, and that's about as apt a description as I can come up with. I don't think I've ever had a pizza with a texture quite like it.
The best thing about these was the aroma and flavor of the toppings. This pizza had a wonderful, enticing aroma, a heady mix of garlic, cooked tomatoes, herbs and cheese. The thick tomatoey sauce was topped with a generous helping of mixed dried herbs, chopped garlic, and a smattering of shredded processed cheese and granules of, I think, Romano.
The relatively sparse cheese on this pizza is one reason I would consider this more of a Sicilian slice than simply another sheet pizza. A heavy layer of cheese, I think, is more of an American than an Italian thing. The cheese here was a nice mix of softer, "melting" cheese and sharp grated cheese.
Union Street Bakery is located near the main entrance to the Public Market, in the same building as Fare Game Food Co. and Monterrey Mexican Tacos. It's a convenient stop if you're alone or with others, since there are several vendors to choose from, and pretty ample seating, except at peak times on Saturday (but seating turnover is quick, so you won't have to wait too long for a seat).
This pizza was kind of a mixed bag. It had excellent flavor and aroma, but I really didn't care much for the crust. It was just a very strange texture, not dense exactly, but chewy, and again I come back to cottony as the most apt adjective I can think of. The flavor and crust just about balance each other out in terms of good/bad, and at just $1 a slice, I'll bump this up to one notch above average, for a C+.
Union Street Bakery, 4 Public Market, Union St. 14609, 232-8110
Not sure of the bakery hours, but the market is open Tue. and Thu. 6 a.m. - 1 p.m., and Sat. 5 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pizza Stone Article

There's plenty of stuff on the internet about pizza stones, but this recent article was passed on to me the other day, and it has some sound advice, so I'll pass it on to you. My pizza stone cracked a while ago and I may just go the quarry-tile route myself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rhino's Revisited

Here's another revisit to pick up a pie at a place where I'd previously gotten a slice. This one brings us to Rhino's on Humboldt Street.
Last March, I gave Rhino's a C for a pepperoni slice that was OK but no better than average. Not long ago, I went back, this time getting a small pie with sausage. (I'm starting to like sausage on my pizza - I think there's more variability with sausage compared to pepperoni, perhaps because some places make their own, or maybe I'm just not as used to it as I am to pepperoni).
On that note, I'll break with my usual format here and start with the sausage. This was mildly spicy, and meaty but not greasy or gristly. Good sausage.
Rhino's menu notes that you can order your crust thin, thick or regular. My "regular" crust measured about a half to three quarters of an inch, with the cheese, which adhered well to the crust, making it difficult to tell where the crust ended and the cheese began. The underside was dry to the touch, and not exactly charred, but nicely darkened, showing good, high, conductive heat from the oven. Topside, the crust had bubbled in a number of spots, though not to such an extent as to detract from the pizza as a whole.
The sauce was amply applied, and had a medium-thick consistency. There were some dried herbs visible throughout the sauce, and they made themselves known on the palate as well, with an occasional burst of oregano or basil that imparted an almost minty counterpart to the overall tomatoey flavor of the sauce.
The moderately applied cheese had melted nicely, settling in around the bubbles in the crust, giving them the appearance of tiny islands poking up out of a mozzarella sea.
Each slice ended in a fairly thick, bready lip. It was a tad softer than I'd expected, suggesting perhaps a light brushing with oil before going into the oven, or maybe it was just that it stayed moist from the sauce, which was applied nearly to the edge of the pie. But it was nicely risen and had a pleasant, breadlike flavor and texture.
As I mentioned the other day, sometimes there is a big difference between getting a slice and getting a fresh pie. It was certainly the case here. This pizza was considerably better than the slice I had in March, which was topped with clumps of not-quite-melted shredded cheese and some lifeless pepperoni slices, and which frankly seemed a tad stale. This time around, everything worked, with a good (if not quite great) crust, well melted cheese, full-flavored sauce and meaty chunks of sausage. The only minor downsides were that the crust was not quite as crisp underneath as I like, the bubbles were a slight, mostly cosmetic blemish, and the sauce was maybe a bit too strongly seasoned for my taste. But all in all, this was a solid pizza, and good enough to rate a B+ from me.
Rhino's Pizzeria, 391 Humboldt St., Rochester 14609, 288-7492
Mon. - Thu. 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun.noon - 8:30 p.m.
(The Webster location at 85 Donovan St. has the same hours, phone is 872-3150.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Naked Pizza Open House this Saturday

I'm not sure if the arrival of another pizza chain is exciting news, but Naked Pizza has opened in - where else - Victor, and as reported by the Rochester Business Journal, they'll be holding an open house this Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. Attendees will be able to sample Naked Pizza's food and receive promotional items for free. The New Orleans-based chain stresses nutrition, including a pizza crust made from a blend of ten grains, "prebiotic fiber," whatever the hell that is, and probiotics. Yum.
Naked Pizza is located at 202 High Point Dr. in Victor. Phone: (585) 223-0088.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Irondequoit Pizza Challenge Winners

Here are the winners from last weekend's Irondequoit Pizza Challenge, in which attendees got to vote for their favorites among Cam's, 2 Ton Tony's, Mark's, Salvatore's, Cordello's, and Pontillo's.

Best Crust: Cam's
Best Sauce: 2 Ton Tony's
Best Specialty Pizza: (tie) Mark's and Cam's
Overall Favorite: 2 Ton Tony's

Mark's, I think, had a chicken, bacon and ranch specialty pizza, and Cam's had a "sweet and tangy" chicken bacon pizza. It was a well attended, well run event and I hope it becomes an annual one. It would also be nice to see similar events spring up in other suburbs and neighborhoods. With a chance to try six different pizzerias for five bucks, it was a heckuva deal.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Krony's Spencerport: pepperoni and sausage pie

Krony's Pizza Etc on Urbanspoon
Lately I've been catching up on some places I visited previously for a slice or two, and going back to try a full pie. One of those is Krony's in Spencerport. Last January, I gave them a B based on a pepperoni slice and a cheese slice. Recently I went back and got a large pie with pepperoni and sausage.
The crust on this pie was pretty thin, with a dark brown, dry underside. It was just faintly charred and had a bit of exterior crunch. The slices were rather floppy, but that was partly because this pie had been cut into 12 slices, resulting in relatively narrow slices; wider slices, I think, tend not to be as floppy because you can bend or fold them a little in the middle, which gives the slice a little more rigidity.
These slices were also weighted down a little by the toppings, which were generously applied. This pizza was rather saucy, with a medium-thick, tomatoey sauce. I wouldn't call it a sweet sauce, but it wasn't as sharply tangy as some, so there may have been a little sugar in there to take the edge off the acidity of the tomatoes.
The mozzarella was applied in good balance with the sauce, forming a nearly uniform blanket of stringy, well-melted cheese. The pepperoni and sausage were not particularly remarkable, though again, they were quite generously applied, covering every square inch of the pizza's surface.
Only the outer edge of this pizza was thick enough to really get much of a sense of the crust's flavor and texture. It was crunchy, with a pleasant, white-bread flavor. Although I'm mostly a thin-crust guy, I think I actually would've preferred a slightly thicker crust on this pizza, just to stand up to, and balance out the abundant toppings.
Not too much has changed since my prior visit to Krony's. I'll direct you to their website for a look at their menu. One thing I will mention is that they're one of the few pizzerias I've seen serving draft beer, and although there are only a handful of taps, they included Rohrbach Scotch Ale and Sam Adams Octoberfest.
At some pizzerias, ordering by the slice is the way to go. For example, although many of the more famous New York City pizzerias only sell whole pies, I've always thought that your average New York style pizza improves when it's put back in the oven for reheating. It comes out crisper that way.
And at some pizzerias, it's best to get a fresh pie. I think Krony's may be one such place. Although the slices I got last time were OK, this pie was better. That may have something to do with the relatively heavy toppings, which are best eaten fresh out of the oven, while the cheese is still gooey, and before the sauce has had a chance to dry out or seep into the crust. So I'm bumping this one up a notch over last time, and giving it a B+.
Krony’s Pizza Etc., 2139 N. Union St., Spencerport 14559 (in Barefoot Landing Plaza, next to Pineway Ponds Park) 352-1199 Mon. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. (closes at 10 p.m. Mon. - Thu. in winter) Hamlin location: 500 Hamlin-Clarkson Townline Rd. 964-7111

Friday, November 12, 2010

Giuseppe's "Old Timer"

Giuseppe's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Picking up on the theme of a recent post in which I wrote about seeking out simple, old-style pizzas, today brings us to a variation on that theme. Giuseppe's "Old Timer" pizza is not exactly what you would call basic, but it does hark back to earlier times.
Some years ago, the pizzas at Giuseppe's - which can trace its local history back to 1927 - were considerably different from what they are today, at least as far as the toppings are concerned. Until relatively recently, their pizzas came with a sprinkling of grated pecorino Romano, with mozzarella available only as an optional add-on. And going back even further, in the early days anchovies and onions were pretty much it, if you wanted more than cheese on your pizza. This was some serious old-school Italian.
That's all changed now, and Giuseppe's pizza lineup today is not much different from other pizzerias'. But as something of a tribute to the older generation of customers, Giuseppe's came up with the Old Timer, topped with sauce, Romano, anchovies, and hot cherry pepper slices. (The Old Timer, by the way, appears only on the restaurant menu - you will not see it on the to-go menu, though you can order it to go, as I did.)
I was never a fan of anchovies, so I approached this pizza with some trepidation, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good the overall flavor was. I was expecting a strong, even overpowering anchovy flavor, but they blended in quite well with the other components.
That's not to say that the flavors weren't strong. A single bite yielded a complex burst of flavors, including the salty anchovies, sharp Romano, thick, sweet tomato sauce, and of course the cherry peppers. If anything threatened to overwhelm the pizza, in fact, it was the peppers, which were quite hot and vinegary.
Interestingly, the Romano was added generously enough to add not just flavor and aroma, but texture as well. I don't think I've ever eaten a pizza with this much Romano on it. More than just a sprinkling, this was actually a bed of Romano, which in the oven created an almost breadcrumb-like layer between the sauce and the other toppings. It had also browned along the outer edge of the pizza, which only added to the complexity of the flavors and textures of this pie.
Given all that sensory input at work here, the crust was almost an afterthought. But it was good enough, medium thick, just a bit gummy on top (not a big surprise there, given the heavy toppings), with a firm, not-quite-crisp bottom.
The Old Timer is, I'm told, still ordered by a lot of, well, old timers. But it's a pizza worth keeping around, and I'd hate to see it pass into history as one generation gives way to another. It seems to me to be a first- or second-generation American descendant of Italian pizza, a sort of hybrid between the products of the world's two great pizza cultures. If you're at least a little adventurous, foodwise, consider it sometime. And if you really want to get back to basics, Giuseppe's offers just Romano- and sauce-topped mini pizzas in the dry case at the front counter.
I don't often do this, but I'm not going to give this one a grade. It defies grading. If the thought of anchovies and cherry peppers on a pizza makes you gag, you'd hate this pizza. But if you're into trying new (or perhaps I should say old - really old) things, you may find this a real treat. For me, this was not an everyday pizza, but I do think it's one I'll order again.
Giuseppe’s, 40 Spencerport Rd. (Rt. 31), 14606, 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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thank You!!!

To all the readers who voted for The Rochester NY Pizza Blog in City's Best of Rochester 2010 poll, a huge thank you! The Pizza Blog won in the "Best Local Blog" category. While this has no immediate effect other than to inflate my ego, I genuinely appreciate your support. Knowing that there's a substantial readership out there helps me stay committed to making this site as good as it can be. Thanks again, and thanks for all your feedback. Now go have some pizza!

Caraglio's, Hilton

Caraglios Pizza on Urbanspoon
I've previously written about Caraglio's on Dewey Avenue in Greece. I thought that the slice I had there wasn't bad, but could've been much better, and gave it a C+.
There are two other Caraglio's, one on North Greece Road and one in Hilton, at the former site of a Piatza's pizza shop. I stopped at the latter, and again, I got a pepperoni slice.
One other note about the location - the Hilton Caraglio's is just around the corner from a Carbone's location. I almost have to wonder if there's a law that says that Caraglio’s and Carbone’s have to locate near each other? There's a Carbone's across the street from the Dewey Ave. Caraglio's, and another Carbone's on - guess what? - North Greece Road.
While this shared some characteristics with the slice I got on Dewey Ave., it also had some things in common with the former occupant of this site, Piatza's. It was another huge, mega, jumbo, whatever you want to call it slice, quite thin, and, not surprisingly, quite floppy. The bottom was lightly singed, with distinct screen marks, and a slightly doughy aroma exuded from the crust.
The surface of the slice was rather greasy, more than I would have expected from the relatively modest amount of cheese and pepperoni. I was able to saturate most of a napkin soaking up the orangey oil.
The moderately applied sauce had a straightforward, middle-of-the-road flavor; it was neither particularly salty, sweet, nor herbal. But it had pretty good flavor and blended well with the slightly tangy, nicely melted mozzarella. Topping it all off were small slices of cup-and-char pepperoni, which were crisp but few in number; I'm of the opinion that on a pepperoni pizza, every bite should include some pepperoni, but here there were some relatively large, pepperoniless areas.
Eventually I worked my way to the outer edge, which would only be worth finishing if you're still hungry after consuming the rest of the slice. Like the rest of the crust, it was rather bland, with what I would describe as a dull flavor. But at least it was dry and a little crisp; the underside was a little wet in spots, making it even softer than it otherwise would have been. I don't think it was oil, but rather water that I assume had condensed from the slice itself. I removed the slice from its sleeve within a minute or two after getting it, so my only guess is that the pizza was put onto a tray right after coming out of the oven, and that some steam from the bottom condensed underneath. It certainly wasn't what this already floppy slice needed, and the soft, somewhat undercooked crust really couldn't hold up even to the moderate amount of toppings on this slice.
, edge not bad, kind of chewy but dull flavor
decent flavor but bad texture, wet and soft, undercooked crust couldn’t hold up to even moderate toppings
Caraglio's menu is available on their website, so I won't go into detail describing it. Perhaps most noteworthy is the "Big Tony," which measures a full 28 inches in diameter. (I assume this slice was taken from a Big Tony.)
As with the slice I got on Dewey Ave., I was disappointed with this pizza, yet there's still something about it that I liked. Maybe there's just something inherently good, or satisfying, or enjoyable, about a big, floppy, slice of pizza. But the crust just brought this one down. A better, crisper crust would probably vault this pizza up a full grade or more, but I'm giving this one a C-.
Caraglios Pizza, 7 Main St., Hilton, 392-9000
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

KC's gone, Mac's on the way

The "new businesses" section of the D&C lists Mac's Pizzeria & Grill coming to 2346 Lyell Ave. That is, or was, the address of KC's pizzeria. Several pizzerias have come and gone in that location, which is tucked into a not-very-visible corner of a plaza across from Wegmans, in an area with several other pizzerias nearby. I'll be checking out Mac's and I wish them luck, but more than one pizzeria has tried and failed in that spot, so they will need to distinguish themselves if they're going to make it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guida's Sauce Pie

Guida's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
I've been intrigued for some time now by the basic, tomato-sauce-based pies that appear on the menus of some pizzerias around here. Often these are found at well-established places with deep local roots, and it seems to me that these pizzas come from an older tradition, before today's emphasis on heavy toppings took hold. Whether they go by the name or not, these pizzas, I think, are related to the "grandma's pizza" often found downstate. Though the specifics vary, this style of pizza generally deemphasizes the cheese, with a tomato sauce providing the dominant base for a few simple toppings, which frequently include a sprinkling of Romano.
One such pizza is found at Guida's. While Guida's does make a "Gramma's" pizza, they also offer something similar that goes by the simple name of "sauce pie." While that might sound like nothing more than a pizza with sauce but no cheese, this is in fact a little more than that. Any doubts on that score were removed when I opened the box, as my nostrils were greeted by an intoxicating aroma of tomato sauce, Romano and garlic, which is about as winning a combination of ingredients as there is.
That heavenly aroma again got me thinking about the term "grandma's pizza." I can imagine a lot of Italian grandmothers' kitchens smelling exactly like this, with a pot of sauce simmering on the stove. The name makes perfect sense now. And it's the addition of garlic that, I think, chiefly differentiated this pie from the Gramma's I'd had before at Guida's.
But what an addition it is. You could put this stuff over ice cream and I think I'd like it. Over pasta, it would be divine.
And aside from pasta, what goes with a good tomato-based sauce better than bread? And what is a pizza crust but a disk-shaped bread? (For that matter, bread and pasta are pretty close culinary cousins, apart from the inclusion of yeast in the former.)
Of course, not just any bread will do; ideally you want a nice, chewy Italian-style bread, and on that score Guida's delivers, with a crust that's firm on the outside yet chewy on the inside, with good bready flavor. That also differed from the Gramma's, which had a softer crust that seemed to have risen and been baked in a pan. Personally I love a very crisp, crackly exterior, which this didn't quite have, but it's hard to fault it nonetheless, as it was still firm, and had a mouth-pleasing chewy texture and good bread flavor.
The bottom of the crust was lightly dusted with corn meal, and there was a bit of oil underneath as well. While eating this, my lips and tongue picked up a faint hint of oil too, suggesting that perhaps the dough got a light swirl or brushing with olive oil before going into the oven, or maybe the oil came from the sauce or the garlic, I don't know. Whatever its source, that might also account for the crust being a little less crisp than some, as oil will typically tenderize bread dough. But it certainly wasn't what I'd call a greasy crust, and with its breadlike flavor and texture, it was more than just a vehicle for the toppings.
Speaking of which, the sauce was of course the star here, and, consistent with the overall simplicity of this pie, it had a straightforward character, with enough herbs to add some flavor accents but not enough to get in the way of the bright flavor of the tomatoes.
The same held true with the Romano cheese. With its sharp flavor, a little Romano goes a long way, and Guida's wisely avoided overdosing this pie; again, a plate of pasta comes to mind, with a sprinkling, but not a dousing, of Romano on top.
Frankly, I would've been happy with just the sauce and Romano, but things get even better with the addition of garlic. The garlic stood well out from the background, completing the trinity of toppings, and was assertive without being harsh; there wasn't the unpleasant aftertaste that raw garlic or garlic powder can leave behind. Finish all that off with the thick, bready outer crust and you've got one very good pizza indeed.
Having said that, this pizza might not be for everyone. If your ideal pizza is one that's covered with thick, gooey cheese, or loaded with toppings, well, this isn't it. But if you're one of those people who likes to sop up your pasta sauce with a thick slice of chewy Italian bread, then you'll love this pizza. It proves once again that for all the pizza ads you see trumpeting topping-heavy pizzas, with pizza sometimes less really is more. I'll give this one an A-.
Guida's Pizzeria, 440 Empire Blvd., Rochester 14609. 288-0590
Mon-Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. noon - 10 p.m.
Other locations at 1837 Penfield Rd. in Penfield, 166 W. Main St. in Honeoye Falls, 964 Ridge Rd. in Webster, and 736 Elmgrove Rd. in Gates.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pontillo's, Batavia

Pontillo's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon
My wife and I recently had occasion to travel to Batavia, so while I was there I made a point of stopping by Pontillo's for lunch. This is site of the original Pontillo's, and that makes it one of the oldest pizzerias, in the same location, in Western New York. These days, there is no direct connection between this Pontillo's and any of the Pontillo's that most of us are familiar with in the Rochester area, but that's a whole soap opera unto itself. But in short, the Pontillo's in and around Rochester are part of a loosely knit chain, while the Batavia Pontillo's is a stand-alone location. Some might question whether the Batavia Pontillo's can really claim a direct lineage to the original, but it's the same place at least, and there is one Pontillo brother involved in the Batavia business.
I was curious, then, to see how the pizza here would compare with  what I've had at various Pontillo's in Monroe County. Although I've seen a number of comments to the effect that the pizza varies widely from one Pontillo's location to another, I've found a definite consistency within the Pontillo's chain, in certain respects, particularly with regard to the crust, which tends to have a somewhat charred underside, sometimes nearly black in some areas but browned elsewhere.
We each ordered a small pizza. I ordered a small with "Sicilian sauce," which was supposed to be just crushed tomatoes, garlic, herbs and Romano, but I was given a regular cheese pie instead, with "regular" red sauce. In the waiter's defense, I may have confused him because I first ordered a plain cheese pizza, but then asked for Sicilian sauce. Maybe I should've just ordered a Sicilian to begin with. But on our check, there was no mention of Sicilian anything, so I think the order just went in as a plain cheese pizza.
My wife got a "Siena," which was topped with Gorgonzola, balsamic vinegar, mozzarella, grilled chicken and eggplant.
The crust on both was similar, on the thin side, nice and crisp though not charred underneath at all. The crust on the Siena was a little oily, probably from the toppings, particularly the eggplant, which had been deep fried.
Nonetheless, both undersides had a nice combination of chewiness and crunchiness, and the undersides were lightly dusted with cornmeal. The edge was thick, bready and chewy.
The cheese on my pizza was laid on a bit heavily, and was rather stringy when the still-hot pizza arrived at our table. The cheese contributed not just texture, but a pleasant, mild melted-mozzarella flavor.
The sauce was added in moderation, and had a simple tomatoey flavor, with a few bits here and there of what looked like fresh shredded basil, but they were so tiny that I was unsure if they were fresh or dried. It was a perfectly acceptable sauce, though it left me wondering what the Sicilian would've been like.
Although my wife was a little disappointed that her eggplant was breaded and deep fried (I can't stand eggplant in any form, although deep-fried is probably least offensive to me), she was otherwise was very happy with the pie. It was a little oily, as I mentioned, but the flavor was good. I never would have come up with that particular combination of toppings, but they worked quite well together, especially with the sharp Gorgonzola playing off the sweet acidity of the balsamic vinegar.
As a full-service restaurant, the Batavia Pontillo's has an extensive menu. The takeout menu I grabbed on the way out doesn't mention it, but I'm positive I saw clam pizza on the menu at my table, and there are a handful of other specialty pizzas available. They also offer a range of pasta dishes, salads, soups, subs, wing, and sides, as well as beef on weck, which I also love. The $8.99 lunch buffet includes unlimited salad, soup, pizza, baked ziti, dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage.
Speaking of beverages, there's a bar overlooking the kitchen area, though I don't recall if it's a full bar or just beer and wine. The ample seating is divided between the bar area and the adjoining dining room.
This pizza was certainly different from what I've gotten at Pontillo's in and around Rochester, at least as to the crust, which was not charred underneath. But it was nonetheless crisp and bready, and good enough to polish off the outer crust. The overall flavor on both pizzas was good too, and I'd like to go back sometime to try both the Sicilian and the clam pizzas.
I wonder if any oldtimers out there remember what Pontillo's pizza was like back in the late '40s or '50s. And I'd love to see a menu from the original place back then. I can't tell you who can better claim to represent the pizza of the original Pontillo's, but the Batavia location turns out a very nice pie, indeed, and I'll give it a B+.
Pontillo's Pizzeria Restaurant, 500 E. Main St., Batavia, 343-3333
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight

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