Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Slowly but surely, pizza seems to be catching on as an addition to bar food menus around town. Some places do it on the cheap, with preformed crusts they simply add toppings to and throw in the oven. But other bars have gone the extra mile, with hand-stretched dough (which may be made off premises) and serious pizza ovens.
Count Hooligans in Webster among the latter group. I ran across a reference to its wood-fired oven some time ago, and decided to check it out.
I noticed, by the way, that the Hooligans in Greece - which I haven't reviewed yet - also serves pizza, but does not have a wood-fired oven. Also, the Greece Hooligans website doesn't even mention the place in Webster. So I'm not sure how much of a connection there is between the two.
I visited the Webster Hooligans on a Monday at lunch time. The place was pretty dead, and I was the only patron when I arrived, although a handful of guys showed up before I left.
Be that as it may, I ordered a Margherita pizza. I thought about getting a basic pepperoni pizza, but Margheritas have become my benchmark for wood-fired pizzas.
Had I noticed it sooner, I would've taken a seat near Hooligans' oven. I had thought this was a Doughpro oven, based on Hooligans' listing on the Doughpro website, but I'm informed that it's not (see the comments below).
At any rate, I sat some distance from the oven, and I was too lazy to move closer, but I did take a look at it on my way out. Somewhat to my surprise, I did not see any wood in the oven. (I say "somewhat" because I didn't smell any wood smoke either, so I wasn't totally surprised.) There was nothing but a gas flame emanating from inside the oven.
Well, I don't get too worked up over the equipment, it's the final product that counts, so I wasn't particularly miffed about that. At least the dough here is hand-stretched - no frozen shells - although my guess is that it's actually made off premises, as few restaurants or bars have the means to prepare large batches of pizza dough. Again, I really should have sat near the oven, so I could've peppered the pizzaiolo with these questions, but I didn't think of them until later, I'm afraid.
But back to the pizza - it arrived hot, with a thin crust that was fairly crisp and well browned underneath, with a few small charred spots. The coating of corn meal on the bottom was a bit of a surprise, as I just haven't seen that much on wood-fired pizzas, but it was not objectionable (and of course, this was not truly a wood-fired pizza). The crust had a decent texture, not exceptionally crisp but with a bit of bite, and some internal breadinesess, particularly in the thin but puffy lip, or cornicione, along the edge.
The pie had an unmistakable aroma of garlic, and visually was dominated by a thin layer of creamy, almost liquid fresh mozzarella. A few shreds of fresh basil added some flavor, and the slices of pale bland tomatoes - which I've unfortunately come to expect around here - provided some color but not much else.
This may not have been the best Margherita I've ever eaten, but it was reasonably good. The pie as a whole wasn't on a par with top-notch wood-fired pizzas, but the gas-powered oven did a pretty good job, and for a pizza at a sports bar, this was better than you might expect. I wouldn't mind trying Hooligans' pizza again sometime, and I wonder whether on a busy weekend night they might actually throw some wood in the oven, which could give the pizza a slightly smoky edge and perhaps a bit more crispy, charred crust. Right now, I wouldn't say that the pizza is a clear choice over more traditional bar food like wings, but this was good enough to pique my curiosity about some of Hooligans' other pizza varieties. I'll give it a B.
TC Hooligan's, 809 Rdge Rd., Webster 671-7180
11 a.m. - 2 a.m. daily