Friday, April 22, 2011
Return to Tony D's - Vongole Pizza
Tony D's in Corn Hill Landing. Over two years, in fact (have I really been doing this for that long?).
It's certainly not because I didn't like it - I gave it an A-minus, after all. But I've had a lot of pizzerias to investigate since then, and Tony D's isn't exactly the kind of place where you can just go in and grab a slice.
No, Tony D's is a full-service restaurant and bar, and it doesn't serve slices. Its signature item is its pizza, which remains Rochester's only commercially available pizza cooked in a coal-fired oven.
That oven, by the way, I've learned was manufactured by Doughpro, which sells commercial ovens to restaurants nationwide. According to the map on their website, Doughpro is also the maker of the ovens you'll find at RIT, Hooligans in Webster (check this blog for an upcoming review of that establishment), and Bocaccini's in Perinton. Tony D's is "gas assisted," which means that it does use coal, but they're not exactly building a fire from scratch. The gas flame helps to start it up and maintain a more or less constant temperature.
Purists may consider that cheating, I suppose, but I'm not so much interested in the technical side of things as in the finished product. If the pizza's good, I don't care if it came out of an Easy Bake Oven.
This time around, I thought I'd try something a little different, and Tony D's vongole (clam) pizza caught my eye. It's topped with clams, sausage, parsley, oregano, chilies, Asiago and Parmesan cheeses.
Before my pizza came out, I was served a small basket of very good bread with dipping oil, which is always a nice touch, even if it did seem a bit superfluous with pizza.
The danger with bread, of course, is that you'll fill up on it before your entree arrives, but I didn't have to wait long for my pizza. It arrived on a wooden peel, hot and fresh out of the oven.
The crust was very thin - so thin that I was able to fold the slices twice. It was charred but except in a spot or two, I wouldn't call it burned, and it displayed a good balance between charring and pliability. There was one spot along the edge where the crust had bubbled up and was more burned through than charred, but it didn't detract from the pizza overall. Mostly the charring consisted of some small, spotty black blisters underneath, and it was a little less charred than last time. The crust was not dried out, and it remained pliable and bready tasting. It wasn't particularly crisp, but it was firm.
As for the toppings, clams and sausage wouldn't have struck me as a natural combination, but they worked surprisingly well together, with the distinctive, savory clam flavor playing off that of the spicy, peppery sausage. The addition of chilies added a little more kick, but it was not overdone; this was a spicy pizza, but not so much as to leave you panting for relief.
The sausage, I thought, tended to predominate over the clams, but all in all the flavors here were pretty well balanced. The herbs and cheeses blended into the background, but everything together melded into a very flavorful, satisfying pie. And while this wasn't overly spicy, I was surprised at how the chilies and the pepper in the sausage enhanced the flavor of the clams.
There was a little oil on top of this pizza, but it was by no means greasy. A little oil can be a good thing, as fat helps transmit flavor to your tastebuds. Kudos on the crust as well. The cheese on this pizza went right up to the edge of the pie, and combined with the slightly salty, bready flavor of the dough, this was a crust worth finishing.
Tony D's recently expanded into some adjoining space, adding a new seating area and a second bar. They've also gotten a full liquor license. With outdoor seating in the summer, Tony D's is clearly out to offer people multiple reasons and occasions to stop in, whether for a business lunch, drinks before or after a downtown show or event, or a leisurely dinner.
As for this pizza, it was very, very good. In terms of a rating, here's where subjectivity comes in. This was a very enjoyable crust, but it was not very crisp on the outside. The texture was reminiscent of a freshly-baked pita - firm and chewy, but not crisp.
In general, I like my crusts crisp, meaning that there's just a bit of crunch on the outside when you take a bite. I know that's a personal preference, and some people may not share it. But particularly with a thin crust pizza, I think that the added dimension of that exterior crispness, contrasting with the interior chewiness, elevates a pizza to sublime levels. That was missing here.
So while I really liked this pizza, and I think Tony D's deserves a spot on any local pizza lover's to-do list, I'm going to stick with my previous grade, and give it a just-short-of-perfection A-minus.
Tony D's, 288 Exchange Blvd. 14608, 340-6200
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sat. 4 p.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.