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Monday, February 28, 2011

Greece Pizza Tasting Event Tomorrow, Another Event in Henrietta Wednesday

I mentioned this before, but here's a reminder that next Tuesday, March 1, Petra Place Counseling Services will be holding a "People's Choice Pizza Taste Testing" at Messiah Lutheran Church, 4301 Mt. Read Blvd., from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.  I'm told that last year's event was a big success, and that this will be "HUUUGE-IA!" As many as ten pizzerias are expected to participate. Tickets are available in advance online for $7 per adult and $5 per child, and at the door for $8.50 per adult.
If you own a pizzeria and would like to participate, there's still time - contact John J. Ciccolone at 797-4599 or john@nvtitleusa.com.
I've also learned that the third annual Henrietta Pizza Challenge will take place at the Church of the Good Shepherd school gym this Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. Tickets are$5 for adults, $3 for children and $15 for a family. The church is located at 3318 East Henrietta Rd. Contact Judy Marcello at 334-2069 for more information.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dom's Pizzeria, Lyell Ave.

Sometimes when a pizzeria changes names, it's just a name change, and the pizza pretty much stays the same. Sometimes a name change represents something more substantial, and that's the case with Dom's, which recently opened in what had been Paradiso Pizza on Lyell Avenue. (The Paradiso at RIT is still open, though they need to update their website to reflect the closing of the Lyell location.)
I stopped by recently for a couple of slices. Well, actually, I stopped by for one slice, but two slices and a drink were only five bucks, so I splurged.
The first change I notice from Paradiso was that the front doors were locked; I had to get buzzed in. That's sad, but more a reflection of life in Rochester than of the pizzeria. (I wouldn't consider this an unsafe neighborhood, but the way, particularly in the daytime. But the pizzeria may have reason to keep some control over who comes in.)
Second change, only two types of slices available, cheese and pepperoni. The latter are 50 cents extra, but the pizzaiolo, who I took to be the owner, gave me a break.
OK, so the slices - these were thin, but not New York style, as Paradiso's had been. They were rather heavy, for their thinness, more of a cross between New York style and a typical Rochester style slice, with a fairly heavy layer of cheese.
The owner told me that the cheese slices had just come out of the oven and didn't need to be reheated, but he graciously offered me a reheating of the pepperoni slice, which I accepted.
Despite the brief reheating, the bottom on the pepperoni slice, like that of the cheese slice, was on the pale side. It was dry, not oily, but not very crisp. The top of the crust on both slices was also just a bit gummy, as if some liquid, perhaps from the sauce, had soaked into it.
There wasn't a lot of sauce, but it was added in reasonably good propotion to the crust. I noticed some herb flavors (oregano, basil?), and found the sauce just a little on the sweet side.
Atop that lay a blanket of melted, congealed mozzarella. It was a little dry, making me think that perhaps it was part-skim cheese, which doesn't have the fat to ooze out become either stringy or oily. (Which makes me wonder, why do some cheeses become soft and stretchy in the oven, while others simply exude their oil? Any experts out there?)
The medium-thick edge was crunchy and bready, and in fact quite good, like a fresh-cut slice of Italian bread. If the rest of the crust had shared those qualities, this would've been a top-notch slice of pizza.
Dom's pizza menu lists 13 toppings and eight "gourmet" pizzas, including the "Mom's pizza," which is topped with spinach, artichoke hearts, alfredo sauce, roasted garlic, a hint of nutmeg, and quattro formaggi (four cheeses). They also have the "Old World style," with "a crispy crust, topped with fresh herbs & spices in a traditional red sauce and grated parmesan." Other items include calzones and strombolis, wings, hot and cold subs, pasta, salads, sides, and desserts.
For now, I'm not going to rate Dom's. Not that it would get a bad rating, I just think it's too early. And I intend to go back before very long to check out that Old World pizza. These slices were tasty, with a very nice bready lip along the edge, though I would've liked a little more crispness underneath, and a little less gumminess on top. But I have a good feeling about this one. Look for another report in the next few weeks.
Dom's Pizzeria, 1074 Lyell Ave., 647-6777
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Free delivery within a 3-mile radius

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shooters, Fairport

Sorry if you're reading this expecting a review of Shooters' wood-fired pizza, but at least that will give you an idea of how I felt when I went there for lunch today. After deciding on a Margherita from among Shooters' tempting pizza menu, I noticed that the oven appeared to be dormant. Sure enough, when I was ready to order, I was told that pizzas were not being served today because "there's nobody here to make them."
Well, I know that not just anybody can make a pizza, much less in a wood-fired oven, but if you're going to advertise wood-fired pizza, you should do your damnedest to make sure that there's a pizzaiolo on hand to make them. And if some extraordinary circumstances arise that prevent that from happening, then instruct the wait staff to explain that to the customers, preferably before they've looked at the menu.
Otherwise, my companions' and my food was OK, some hits, some misses. Assuming Shooters eventually begins actually serving pizza on a regular basis, I will go back to try it, but probably not anytime soon, and not without calling ahead.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ken's Pizza Corner, Henrietta

Pizza Corner on Urbanspoon
Until recently, I had only visited Ken's Pizza Corner once, back in July 2009, for a single slice, which you can read about in this post. I liked it enough to give it a B, though I found the crust remarkably crunchy. I like a crisp crust, but crunchy is different from crisp, and that one was more crunchy than crisp.
But I had the feeling that that slice was perhaps atypical of Pizza Corner's pizza, so I made a mental note to go back sometime for a pie, which I did recently.
I decided to get a large cheese pie. I like other toppings, at times, but plain cheese is always the best test of a pizzieria's pizza, since it can't hide behind a bunch of other ingredients.
This pie had a thin to medium crust, which was screen baked. Immediately it was apparent that this pizza differed from the slice I had last time, which had a pebbly underside. This one was a more typical screen-baked crust. It was dry underneath, with some toasty overtones and some breadiness as well.
The crust was topped with a moderately applied helping of cheese, which had browned a bit and congealed into a single layer. It seemed a bit salty to me, although my wife didn't seem to think it was particularly salty.
The pie was pretty light on the sauce. I don't like an overdose of sauce on my pizza, but I thought this could've used a little more sauce to add some moisture and to balance out the cheese and crust.
Finally along the outer edge of each slice, I got some crunch, reminiscent of the crackly slice I got before.
I ran down some of the details of Ken's menu in my previous post, and I won't repeat myself here, except to note again their long list of specialty pizzas. The potato pizza caught my eye, as that's a style of pizza you'll find in Italy (around Rome, I believe), but Ken's version is strictly American, with mozzarella and cheddar, bacon and sour cream. 
This was not bad pizza, though it didn't wow me either. My daughter pronounced it "very yummy," but her palate seems to be a little less discriminating than mine, at least where pizza is concerned (vegetables, now that's another story). The crust was all right but not too crisp, and it seemed just a tad out of balance, but it was still enjoyable. So I'd put it at just a little above average, and it gets a B- from me. 
Ken's Pizza Corner, 5665 W. Henrietta Rd., 334-0090
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight; Sun. noon - 10 p.m.(hours unverified - call to check)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Amico Pizza: "The #1"

Amico's Pizza on Urbanspoon
There are certain pizzerias I find myself going back to, partly because I like their pizza, and partly because there are particular items on their menus that I want to try. One of those is Amico on East Ridge Road.
I've tried Amico's regular pizza, and their white pizza, but their "#1" caught my eye - it's described on the menu as "[a]n Amico tradition since the beginning. Our homemade sauce covered with fresh ground Pecorino-Romano."
Now a pizza with nothing but red sauce and Romano cheese might not sound that interesting, but it is to me. I've come to think that in the early days of Rochester pizza, before the chains moved in and before pizza became homogenized into the standard American pizza of today, pizza, where it could be found, tended to be a very simple affair, with little more than, well, the aforementioned red sauce and Romano cheese. The more bland, but better-melting mozzarella seems to have come along later.

I've tried some other examples of this older style, such as Gallo's "Old World" pizza, Guida's "sauce pie," and Giuseppe's "Old Timer," which, with the addition of anchovies and cherry peppers is a little more complicated, but which is still based on the same foundation of red sauce and Romano. Despite their simplicity, these pizzas may be a little more challenging to the modern American palate, primarily because of the heavy dose of Romano, which nowadays is more often used as a sprinkled-on condiment - an afterthought, even - than a prominent, integral component.
Amico will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, putting it in the senior class of Rochester pizzerias, and no survey of this local style would be complete without a visit to Amico. So, when I picked up a medium #1 pie from Amico last week, I was eager to try their version of this old-school pizza.
The first thing that struck me about this pizza was its mouthwatering aroma in my car. The steam emanating from the pizza box carried with it the scent of freshly baked dough, tomato sauce and Romano cheese, making it difficult not to pull over and devour a slice or two before I got it home.
I was able to maintain my willpower, though, and waited until I got indoors before opening the box. I was a little surprised, though not disappointed, to see that the crust was considerably thinner than the pizzas I've gotten from Amico in the past. Amico's menu notes that you can get thick or thin crust on request, and while I didn't specify any particular thickness for this one, I think this would have to be considered a thin crust. I'm not sure if that's standard for the #1, but it might be. With such simple toppings, a thick crust might tend to overwhelm the sauce and cheese. This crust was thin enough to allow the full flavor and texture of the toppings to come through.
Similarly, the underside on this one wasn't as dark as on the pizzas I've gotten from Amico before. Now that could just be a random thing, or it might be by design too. Again, the Romano doesn't melt the way that mozzarella does, and this cheese was already turning a little brown in the center of the pie. Much longer in the oven and the cheese could easily have gotten overdone.
The thin crust still had the breadiness I've come to associate with Amico's pizza, but it was easily foldable. A napkin or two was called for here, as the sauce tended to ooze out the back end as I worked my way through each slice.
A little sloppiness was a small price to pay, though, for the flavor of this pizza. How good can a pizza be with nothing but sauce and Romano cheese? Very good, indeed. The thin but bready crust made a fine base for the contrasting yet complementary flavors of the sauce and cheese.
That cheese was laid on in some abundance, so much so that you might think its sharp flavor would simply be overpowering, but it wasn't. The comparatively sweet, vibrant flavor of the tomato sauce acted as a counterweight to the lactic tang of the cheese, and the time that the pie spent in the oven may also have taken a bit of the edge off the Romano as well. I didn't notice much herb flavor, but it was hardly needed here.
What was also striking about this pizza was its texture, particularly that of the cheese. While it was missing the chewy-gooey stringiness of processed mozzarella that most of us have come to expect, the Romano had something of its own to offer. Baking atop the sauce, the cheese here had developed a crumbly, almost cakelike texture that gave it an unusual but very interesting mouthfeel.
Having tried several of these "old timer" style pizzas now, I've formed some opinions about them. On the one hand, I can see why today's style of American pizza eventually supplanted these. In this land of supersized meals, it's not surprising that people came to prefer pizzas covered with thick blankets of mozzarella, loaded with toppings. And I have to admit that there's a certain richness that you get with melted mozzarella that you can't get from a grating cheese like Romano.
But I can also see why people fell in love with pizza in the first place, back when pies like this were closer to the norm. I'm guessing that even this style of pizza is more Italian-American that native Italian, yet it clearly owes a good deal to the pizzas of the Old World, which I think tend to be far simpler, more subtle affairs than their bold, brash American cousins.
And what a pizza like this shows is that simple doesn't have to mean boring, bland or insipid. For all its seeming austerity, this pizza had abundant flavor, and a beautiful harmonic balance of bright sauce, tangy cheese and bready crust.
This pizza may not be for everybody, and even for me, it probably wouldn't be an everyday kind of thing. As much as I enjoyed and appreciated it, my tastes in pizza were shaped by the dominant pizza culture of late-20th-century America, where processed mozzarella is king. But this is definitely a pizza I would go back to now and then.
If your idea of a good pizza is one piled high with pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese, this may not be to your liking, frankly. On the other hand, if you enjoy diving into a plate of pasta drenched in tomato sauce, with a healthy dose of Parmesan or Romano on top, this one's for you. Me, I'm giving it an A-.
Amico Pizza, 859 E.Ridge Rd. 544-8380
Sun. 1 p.m. - 9 p.m., Tue. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 am - 11:30 p.m.

Monday, February 14, 2011

And the $55 Gift Certificate Winner Is ...

Ron, who left the second comment on the blog post about the giveaway. Nine people left comments and random.org picked #2.
Ron, I will be sending you the coupon code by email. Congratulations, Ron, and thanks to everyone who left a comment. I hope to have more giveaways (maybe more pizza-related) in the future.
Pizza Guy Update, 2/14/11:  live and learn - next time I will require an email address with everyone's entry. My efforts to contact Ron have been unsuccessful. Ron, if I don't get a response (either by email to RochesterPizzaGuy@gmail.com or by leaving a comment on this post) with your email address by 3:00 today I will pick another winner. Sorry for the confusion but as I said, I'm learning this as I go.
Pizza Guy Update, Part 2:  I never heard from Ron, so I picked another winner at random, and the prize went to Domestic Diva. Thanks again to everybody who participated!

Bernunzio's Deli, Penfield

Bernunzio Deli on Urbanspoon
When the new Yellow Pages come out, I always check the pizza listings, to see if there's anything new in there. There are always a number of places that have been out of business for years (how do they stay listed so long?), but often I also discover one or two places that are new or that I hadn't been aware of before.
This year's discovery was Bernunzio's, a deli just off Penfield Road. This is a very easy place to miss, as it's not that visible from Penfield Road, and until I saw the Yellow Pages listing I'd never heard of it, nor would I have expected it to serve pizza, had I driven by it. But the menu on their website says that they serve pizza, so I had to check it out.
On my weekday lunchtime visit, there were some plain cheese and pepperoni slices available, sitting in a warmer. I got one pepperoni slice, which was pretty good sized, a quarter of a pie, measuring about six and a half inches along the side.
The slice had a soft crust with a golden brown underside. It was well risen, with big air holes inside, and the dough was reminiscent of a soft dinner roll.
There wasn't much sauce on top, although it's possible that it simply seemed that way because some of the moisture in the sauce had evaporated or soaked into the crust. But there wasn't much cheese either, which can only mean that there wasn't much to begin with. Of all the toppings, it was the pepperoni that really stood out, not because there was so much of it or because it had a particularly strong flavor, but because of the relative absence of sauce and cheese. Paying close attention, I could detect some some concentrated tomatoey notes in the background, along with a faint touch of herbs, but the pepperoni was really front and center.
Finishing off the slice was the outer edge, which was formed into a thick, puffy lip. It too was pretty soft-textured, although it did have a little outer chewiness, if not crispness.
Bernunzio's is a deli, of course, and it offers a full range of hot and cold subs, salads, and baked goods, as well as some pasta, basic groceries, and ice cream in season. They also do catering.
As for the pizza, well, I really wanted to like this one, I mean I love running across these little mom-and-pop places, but this didn't really do it for me. I don't know what a fresh, made-to-order pie from Bernunzio's would be like, but on the basis of this one slice, I wouldn't be inclined to go back there for pizza. A sub, some pasta, or an ice cream cone? Sure. In fact a couple of their specialty subs (the "Alex's" and "Michele's") sound downright mouth-watering, and I'm a sucker for Perry's ice cream too. But this slice of pizza was just too soft for me, and it also needed more sauce and cheese to counterbalance the thick, doughy crust. It wasn't bad, mind you, but I'd say it was a notch below average, so I'm giving it a C-.
Bernunzio's Deli, 745 Penfield Road, Penfield 14625
(entrance is on Colonial Village Road - look for the sign with the American flag on Penfield Road)
248-0310
Mon. - Fri.: 7:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., Sat. 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Sun. 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Changes at Jitters?

The New Businesses section of the D&C has a listing for "Jistters Brick Oven Pizza," which I take to mean Jitters, at 3333 W. Henrietta Rd. (Southtown Plaza). Not sure if that means that they're installing a brick oven and changing the name, or what the significance might be. Although I wasn't too fond of their pizza the one time I tried it, I'll try to stop in sometime and check it out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mozzeroni's, Park Ave.: Buffalo Chicken Pizza

A few months ago, Piatza's on Park Avenue closed, and was replaced by the newest member of the growing Mozzeroni's family. Since I've tried a couple of Mozzeroni's (when they were known as Starvin' Marvin's, and then Marvin Mozzeroni's), I wasn't in a particular hurry to get over there, but I did recently check it out, as part of my ongoing quest to sample local Buffalo chicken pizzas.
There seemed to be some confusion when I was ordering this pizza. I ordered a medium Buffalo chicken pie, and at the end of the phone call, the guy, fortunately, said to confirm, "barbeque chicken, right?" I corrected him, and in fact I did get a Buffalo chicken pizza, but it turned out to be a small, not a medium. Oh well.
The medium thick crust on this pie was medium to dark brown underneath. The edge had some exterior crunch and good flavor, but unfortunately that didn't carry through to the rest of the crust, which was rather soft, with well-defined screen marks underneath.
The crust was topped with mozzarella and cheddar cheese, and small chunks of diced, breaded chicken. It was pretty mild tasting, with some faint peppery spiciness in the background. I didn't really taste a lot of Buffalo chicken flavor, frankly. This was in fact more like a white pizza with diced, spicy chicken than what I would expect from a Buffalo chicken pizza. I also did not detect any blue cheese; the menu said that blue cheese would be served on the side, but I was given none.
Having tried a few Buffalo chicken pizzas now, I'm frankly finding it difficult to give them a letter grade. Am I rating the pizza overall, or am I deciding how it stacks up specifically as a Buffalo chicken pizza?
For that matter, I'm not sure what makes a good Buffalo chicken pizza, and I think there's a wide range for opinion there. Should it have blue cheese on it? Should the chicken be breaded? Should there be tomato sauce, Buffalo sauce, or just spices? Is ground chicken acceptable?
My grades are based, ultimately, on my opinions and preferences, and I just don't have any strong feelings where Buffalo chicken pizza is concerned. So I'm going to just leave it at a description of the pizza, which should be enough for readers to decide whether they'd like it or not. (Sometimes I think I should've done that all along, with all pizzas, so I wouldn't get these nasty comments and emails every time I give a pizzeria a less than stellar review, but it's too late to change that now.) As for this pizza, I'll say that overall, it wasn't bad, kind of tasty, although the crust was a little too sofr for my taste, but it wasn't very reminiscent of Buffalo chicken wings. A few squirts of Frank's Red Hot sauce and some blue cheese dressing for dipping would do the trick, though. Mozzeroni's, 360 Park Ave. 241-0002 Mon. - Thu. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri 10 a.m. - 11 a.m., Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

$55 Gift Certificate Giveaway

If you're looking for some modern furniture, there is, I'm told, a $55 gift certificate waiting for some lucky reader who clicks on the above link. As far as I can tell this is a legit offer from a reputable merchant, so I'm passing it on to you. If you try it, I'd appreciate some feedback, in case these kinds of offers come up again. Thanks and I hope one of you turns out to be a winner!
OK, here's how it works. I've been given the code which can be used to get the $55 online discount. I will run the contest through next Friday at 3:00 p.m. To enter the contest, you must leave a comment, any comment, after this blog post. When the contest ends, I will use random.org to pick a winner, and announce the winner on this blog. If you win, you will need to send me an email and I'll send you the code. The code must be used by March 31, 2011.
Leave all the comments you like, but more comments will not increase your chances of winning. OK, comment away!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Shells', Macedon

Shell's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
I used to see Shells' Pizzeria on Rt. 332 every time I'd go to Canandaigua, but I never stopped in. Dean's Pizzeria now occupies that spot, but on a recent Saturday I did have the chance to stop at Shells' in Macedon, where I happened to be for a family occasion.
When I told my wife I wanted to stop at Shells' for a slice of pizza she was a bit taken aback, thinking that I was talking about a gas station. But Shell's is a legitimate pizzeria, not a Shell station (is Shell gas still around, by the way? I never see them anymore).
Maybe 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon is not the best time to stop at any pizzeria for a slice, but all that was available were two sorry looking pepperoni slices sitting under a heat lamp.
My wife declined, but having come that far, I soldiered on and asked for one slice. As the employee was sliding my slice out, part of the slice near the tip detached and stayed behind on the warming rack, along with a large globule of cheese and one slice of pepperoni. Not that it looked especially appetizing, but I thought he might fetch that stray remnant and toss it in with the rest of the slice, or perhaps simply give me the other slice. But he didn't.
For a good 2/3 of the length of this slice, the thin crust was quite wet, as if the slice had been sitting in liquid. It wasn't greasy, more watery, so I'm not sure if the liquid came from the sauce, cheese, or some other source. Obviously that portion of the crust was quite soft and floppy, and it almost dissolved in my mouth when I took a bite.
Atop that "crust" (which doesn't seem like the right word for it, as it was not in the least crusty) lay some gloppy melted cheese, a thin layer of sauce, and a solitary slice of pepperoni. The toppings had migrated toward the tip of the slice, i.e., the center of the pie, thanks to the large air bubbles that had formed near the edge of the pie.
Ironically, though, by pushing the toppings, and the water that had been contained within them, toward the center of the pie, those bubbles may have been this slice's one saving grace, as the outer-edge half of the slice was still dry underneath, and I was able to discern a glimmer of a potentially good crust. It had some internal breadiness, and even a bit of exterior crunch.
Shells' pizza menu lists 18 toppings, and nine specialty pizzas and calzones. There are also cold and hot subs, wraps, wings, finger foods, and salads. There's a small seating area.
As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these:  'It might have been!'" I don't know if Whittier liked pizza, but his words are apt here, as this could've been a good pizza. And if I'd come on a different day, or at a different time of day, maybe I would've gotten a good slice. So no, I'm not judging Shells' based on only one slice, but I am judging the slice I was given, and frankly, I might've been better off going to a gas station for a slice of pizza. Despite what seemed like pretty good dough, this pizza suffered from poor preparation, preservation, and presentation, and for that I give it a D+.
Shell's Pizzeria, Rt. 31 (near 31F/350), Macedon. 315-986-3008.
(Hours unknown)
Delivery available to Palmyra, Farmington, Gananda and Macedon ($10 minimum).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mendon Woman Wins Award for Cheese Steak Pizza

Congratulations to Sherry Ricci of Mendon, who took top prize in last month's pizza challenge sponsored by the New York Beef Industry Council, with her recipe for a Philly - oops, make that New York - Cheese Steak Pizza. Way to go Sherry! I think a deal with a local pizzeria to pick up the recipe would be a great move.

New York Times Article on Pepperoni

The Times ran this article the other day about pepperoni as a pizza topping. Apparently some high-end, "artisinal" pizzerias have been scoffing at pepperoni as some sort of American bastardization of Italian sausage. Well, sorry, but you're in America. And here, people like pepperoni on their pizza.
Honestly, I don't think I'd say that pepperoni is my favorite pizza topping. Often I like a plain cheese pizza, or maybe fresh chopped garlic, or green peppers and onions. If I want some heat, I'll go for banana peppers, or if I'm feeling carnivorous, Italian-style sausage. But as the chef at one restaurant in the Times article is quoted as saying, "Give the people what they want." And people in America want pepperoni.

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