Note: Mama Rosa's Express is closed. Currently the site is occupied by Bada Bing's.
Last June, I did a post on the Perri's location on Norton Street. Although I think Perri's makes some good pizza, my slice there wasn't the best, and the location seemed to be a poor relation to its sisters on Lyell Ave. and Stone Road.
Well, the Norton Street Perri's apparently did wither on the vine, and is now history. In its place comes Mama Rosa's Express, so named because it is associated with Mama Rosa Restaurant next door. I stopped by recently to check it out and picked up a pepperoni slice.
It was obvious that more than the name has changed here, since this was certainly different from the slice I got at the erstwhile Perri's. Though both were big, this one was truly huge, measuring 14 inches along the side. Forget trying to hold this with one hand. It was also fresher, and unlike the slices I got at Perri's, this one had the pepperoni baked on, not added to a cheese slice and rewarmed (I should note here that at the other Perri's locations I've been to, like this one, they don't do that.)
It was, however, screen baked, which is not much of a surprise, since a pizza this big wouldn't fit on any pizza peel I've ever seen. That doesn't necessarily mean a bad crust, but in fact the thin crust here was little more than a base for the toppings, rather than a significant component in its own right, with a soft texture and little breadiness. Only along the edge did the crust yield some good flavor and texture, with an outer crispness and some toasty notes.
This was a well integrated pizza, making it difficult to separate out the different components. Frankly, the sauce, cheese and pepperoni were all pretty unremarkable, but they worked well together, elevating this slice a bit above the typical megaslice.
The sauce was applied in proportion to the thin crust, adding some moisture and a bit of background tomatoey flavor. The moderate layer of mozzarella was a little browned and a little chewy, and the pepperoni was noticeably present but not a standout, with decent flavor but not much crispness.
It doesn't sound all that good, writing about it, and yet I found myself liking this slice. It was big, it was greasy, it was cheesy, it was saucy. With the paper plate as a tool, I was able to fold the whole thing into one big gloppy, huge, glorious mess.
If you like Mama Rosa's slices, you can also order one of the 28-inch pies from which they're cut. That's a lot of pizza - a little more than you would get from a 2x2' square pizza - but the guy behind the counter told me they sell a lot of them.
One of those 28-inch pies, with pepperoni, will set you back $24.95 (one slice is $2.99, and only $1.99 with cheese only). If you're not that hungry, or aren't feeding your son's entire basketball team, they also do standard sizes as well. Other offerings include wings, plates, hot sandwiches, sides and Friday seafood specials.
In some ways, this slice represented everything - well, a lot of things - I'm against: quantity over qualiity, a dull, soft crust, greasiness - yet somehow it all worked. In that respect, I guess it was something like a garbage plate - it shouldn't taste good, and yet somehow it achieves a certain transcendent greatness. If a pizzeria is going to do mega slices, this is a good way to do them.
So that makes this a tough one to grade, I mean it was certainly not world-class pizza, and yet the whole thing was greater than the sum of its parts. So I'll call it above average, and give it a B.
Mama Rosa's Express, 1733 Norton St., Rochester 14609, 355-4432
Mon. - Thu. 1 p.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 1 p.m - 10 p.m., Sund. 2 p.m. - 9 p.m.