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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cerame's Italian Villa

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Cerame's Italian Villa in Winton Place Plaza has been around for over 40 years now, and though I've been aware of it for some time - in fact, I've eaten there at least once before - it somehow escaped my notice, or I had forgotten, until recently that they have pizza on their menu. That oversight was easy enough to rectify, so last week I had lunch there with a couple of friends.
Cerame's is a pretty informal place, with a tiny bar near the front entrance and some tables in back and along the wall opposite the bar, from which they are separated by a partition. But with Italian restaurants in particular, there is not necessarily any correlation between the decor and the food, so that doesn't mean too much.
There are two types of pizza on Cerame's menu, regular and "gourmet." I was a little confused upon noticing that a gourmet cheese pizza with two toppings was only $7.25, while the smallest size (12-inch) regular pizza with just cheese was $8.75. The waitress explained that the gourmet pizzas are a little smaller and that the crust is thinner as well.
One of my companions ordered a Greek white pizza off the gourmet menu, so while I was tempted by some of the other gourmet offerings, for the sake of variety I selected a regular pepperoni pizza.
Unfortunately it was about at this point that I realized that I'd forgotten my camera, so I couldn't get any photos of the entire pies, but I did manage to save a few pieces for later, which I photographed as soon as I got back from lunch.
My regular pizza appeared to be pan risen, with an underside that was lightly browned in some areas. It wasn't oily, as some pan-risen crusts can be, but it wasn't very bready either; the dough had a somewhat dense texture, with very small air holes but not much evidence of rising. It was firm but not crisp, although there was a modicum of crispness along the well-browned edge.
There was a fair amount of sauce on this pizza. It had a good flavor, very tomatoey but subtly sweet as well. The cheese was very stringy when the pizza was hot, but even after it cooled and congealed a bit it still added a pleasing, cheesy chewiness.
Hidden under the cheese was the pepperoni, which frankly was almost as unnoticeable on the palate as it was to the eye. I know some places like to put the toppings underneath (are they still "toppings" if they're not on top?), to keep them from drying out, I suppose, but for pepperoni I'm not sure that's the best approach, unless perhaps you're talking about a deep dish pie. I like my pepperoni on the crisp side, but hey, life and pizza are all about variety, so I'm OK with changing it up now and then. The problem here was that the pepperoni seemed to get lost between the crust and the cheese, and though it seemed to have been applied in a reasonable quantity, I simply didn't taste it all that much. Rather than hitting my palate immediately upon my taking a bite, the pepperoni tended to just get chewed up with everything else before I became aware of its presence.
Though I mostly concentrated on my pepperoni pie, I did trade one of my slices for one of my friend's Greek slices. This was more of a personal size pizza, measuring 8" across. It had a thin, supple crust, which like the regular pie didn't seem to have risen much, save for some bubbles on top and along the edge. The underside showed some very light browning, in a blistery spotted pattern.
I liked the flavor of the Greek pizza, which blended garlic, black olives, feta cheese, and, I think, a light brushing of olive oil. If the crust had been top-notch, this would have been outstanding pizza. It was, however, a bit too dense, soft and chewy for my taste.
Cerame's offers quite a range of gourmet pizzas, including baked lasagna, bacon cheeseburger, Philly cheese steak, and a Reuben pizza with corned beef. If you'd like a regular pizza, the toppings list is relatively modest, with 12 selections, but there should be something in there for everybody.
But there's also quite a long menu of other items, from traditional Italian favorites to more American style steaks and seafood. It's well worth a visit, but unless one of the gourmet pizzas especially catches your eye, I'd probably go with pasta or another standard off the extensive menu. For the pizza alone, I'll give Cerame's a C+.
Cerame's Italian Villa,  3450 Winton Place, Rochester14623. 427-7350
Lunch Mon. - Fri. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Dinner Tue.-Thu. 4:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 4:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.

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