During my recent mini-tour of Rochester pizzerias with fellow pizza blogger "Lapp" from WorstPizza.com, one of our stops was Tony D's in Corn Hill.
I've done a couple of posts now about Tony D's, the most recent being this past April. But I knew there were more pizzas on the menu that I wanted to try, so when Lapp mentioned that somebody had recommended Tony D's to him, I happily seconded the idea.
As things turned out, I made no further progress on the menu, though. As I was perusing said menu while sitting at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, a freshly made pie was briefly placed on a tray next to me, before being whisked off to a customer's table.
Sometimes when you're eating out, you see a dish, and you think, "That's what I'm getting." (Which is far preferable to seeing it after you've already gotten your food, and you think, "That's what I should have ordered.") This was one of those times. This pie looked simple but delicious.
I was able to corral a nearby server and found out that the pizza in question was that night's special, a tomato pie with sun-dried tomatoes, Romano and basil. It had sounded promising when our own server told us about it, but seeing one up close clinched it.
Lapp chose a 10-inch pie for his dinner (check out his review of his pie here), but I went with the large, which is 14 inches in diameter. But I didn't have to fly home the next day, so I knew I could take any leftovers home without much difficulty.
My pie tasted as good as I expected. It wasn't all that much different from Tony D's Margherita pizza, perhaps a bit more tomatoey, with a sharper cheese flavor, but overall there was a good balance among the tomatoes, cheese, basil and crust.
As for that crust - visually, it bore all the hallmarks of a great, crisp crust from a super-hot oven, with charring along the edge and underneath. In fact, in some spots on the bottom, the outer surface of the crust was charred right through (see bottom photo). And it did have a certain smokiness to it.
So it was a surprise to find that the crust was really quite soft. It wasn't mushy or spongy or anything like that, it was just not at all crisp.
Now before I go criticizing Tony D's about things I don't really understand, let me say that I have read that pizzas in Naples typically have a soft, pliable crust. It mostly has to do with the flour they use, which is relatively low in protein. Clearly heat wasn't the issue here, so it seems to me that it must indeed be
the dough that resulted in this soft, pliable crust.
Technical matters aside, then, this crust may not be far off from "authentic" Neapolitan pizza. But for me there was still a bit of a disconnect between the appearance of the crust and its texture.
I must admit, though, that I prefer a crisp crust. And I guess I also expect to get a crisp crust from a place with a coal-fired oven (actually they were using both coal and wood on my visit, but no matter), which conjures up images of old-time pizzerias in New York City, with crusts that crackle a bit when you bite into them.
So that's where rating a pizza gets tough. I don't want to downgrade this pizza purely because of my subjective preferences, but it's hard to completely put those preferences aside.
I've given Tony D's an A-minus before, and I think I'll stick with that. As I've said in the past, the grades are no more than a rough guideline, and readers should focus on my descriptions to decide if they think they'd like the pizza at a given establishment. If I thought that Tony D's had been striving for something else here, but fell short of the mark, I'd lower the grade, but as far as I can tell, they simply use a dough that bakes up rather soft. I've downgraded places for soft crusts before, but generally only if the crust was greasy, spongy, or had some other defects. So with the caveat that Tony D's serves up a soft-crusted, but well-charred pizza, I'll again give it an A-minus rating.
I do have one thing to add, though.This 14-inch pie cost $18, while Lapp's 10-inch pie, with custom-ordered toppings, was less than half that amount, at $8.
If you're going by surface area, his pie was a little over half the size
of mine, and unless sun-dried tomatoes are more expensive than I
thought, mine seemed pretty pricey. Cost doesn't figure into my grades, but I think it's worth making readers aware that if cost is an issue, ordering your toppings a la carte may save you a dollar or two.
288 Exchange Blvd. 14608
Hours: Sun. 4 - 10 p.m., Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sat. 4 - 11 p.m.