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Friday, April 15, 2011

Original New York Pizza, Empire Boulevard, Revisited

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 remains (partly) the same as when it opened. The following review was written while this pizzeria was still operating under the name "The Pizza Stop" and remains here as a historial record. 
Last June, I did a post about the then-new, second location of The Pizza Stop, on Empire Boulevard in Penfield. Based on the two slices I had gotten, I wrote that "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."
Well, I later learned that there had been some sort of split or schism between the owners and managers of the original Pizza Stop on State Street, and of the new location on Empire. I added a note to my original post to that effect in December of last year.
Since then, I've seen various postings about whether the quality had declined at Pizza Stop 2 ("Pizza Stop 2" is my terminology, by the way, just for the sake of convenience; both locations go by the same name). I meant to go back to check it out, but of course there are a lot of other places I wanted to visit too, so I never seemed to get around to it.
Well, about a week ago, a reader left a comment on my Pizza Stop 2 post stating that in reliance on my "A" rating, he went to Pizza Stop 2, and ended up with some of the worst pizza he'd ever had. That prompted a response from the owner of Pizza Stop 2, and some comments from other readers as well, both good and bad.
So that got me off my butt and back up to Pizza Stop 2, to see for myself. I've been there twice now in the past week, and gotten four slices in that time. Here's what I found.
On my first visit,I got a grandma's slice, and a white garlic slice with peppers and onions, which is almost the same as what I had the previous time, when my white slice didn't include the peppers and onions. I picked them out of a pretty wide variety of lunchtime slices.
The undersides were brown and very slightly charred. They were maybe a tad less charred that on my previous visit, but the crusts were good, with a very light dusting of cornmeal, and a crisp exterior with some surface crackling.
The white slice was a little greasy, but that's not uncommon with white pizza, which usually involves a brushing or swirling of olive oil, plus there's no red sauce to absorb any oil from the cheese as it melts.
Otherwise, both slices had good flavor and balance, and were close to what I had last time.
On my second visit, I got a Sicilian slice and a Buffalo chicken slice. The pepperoni slices looked especially good, but two slices are about my limit for lunch, and I really wanted to try these two varieties.
On both occasions, service was good, and this time around the server (who may have been the owner) let me select my Sicilian slice, which allowed me to choose a big side slice. It was appropriately quite thick, with a dry, firm bottom, a crunchy edge, and a somewhat dense texture with countless tiny air holes in the crust. The crust was just very slightly gummy on top where it met the thick, herbal sauce. Overall, again quite good, even if Sicilian's not generally my thing when it comes to pizza.
I think this was the first time I've ever tried a Buffalo chicken pizza from either location of The Pizza Stop, so in that regard I can't compare it to past examples. The crust on this one was very thin, even paper thin toward the tip of the slice. It was a bit thicker, with some breadiness, toward the outer edge, and the dough had good flavor. The tip was too thin to really have any interior, but near the edge there was some internal "airiness," if that's a word (well, it is now). It was topped with chunks of breaded chicken in coated with hot sauce, which was, well, pretty hot. There was no blue cheese, celery or tomato sauce, so the overall flavor here was of spicy chicken and mozzarella.
After reading some of the comments, I really wasn't sure what to expect on these visits to Pizza Stop 2. Would it be good, terrible, the same as before, radically different?
Well, in general, it was about the same as what I remembered, and close to the original. Was it exactly the same? Does it still deserve the A rating I gave it before?
That's a harder question. It may not have been quite the same, maybe not even quite as good. Then again, given the circumstances, I think I was approaching this one in a hypercritical way, looking for any subtly different nuance.
But in point of fact, if I hadn't had any reason to expect anything to be different, I don't think I would've noticed any difference, at least no significant difference. And the fact is that if you go get a slice of pizza at a particular pizzeria ten times, you're going to get ten unique slices. They may, and should, be pretty similar, but given the vagaries of yeast, temperature, humidity, etc., each one will be subtly different from the others.
So what I decided to do is approach this the way that football referees do on instant replay. Unless it's clear to me that the quality's changed, I'm going to stick with the same rating. That's not to say that each slice shouldn't be graded on its own merits, but if I'm going to change the grade, I need to be sure that I'm not doing it just because of things I've heard, or read, or because I'm subconsciously applying a stricter standard than I ordinarily would, based on what other people have said.
And again, this pizza was about the same as what I had before. I can't speak for others, and I have no firsthand knowledge of others' experiences. So if your experience with this or any other pizzeria differs from mine, feel free to leave a comment, preferably with some factual detail to back up your opinions. But based on these two recent visits, I'm again giving Pizza Stop 2 an A rating.
The 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.

3 comments:

  1. This pizza was not good? I wonder of it is still the same place? Ordered tonight based on this blog and was really disappointed. Flavorless card boardish pizza.

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  2. Recently got pizza here again, it is consistently among the best pizza in Rochester. I have also never had a bad pie in the dozens of times I've been here. My guess is that the people who review it negatively like the bigger doughier pizzas such as Marks or Salvatore's that is more prevalent in WNY and don't like the thin style.

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