I had guests over recently, and we wanted pizza and wings, so I took the opportunity to head back to Nino's on Culver Road, which I hadn't been to in several months.
I felt the need to apologize to Nino for ordering a simple cheese-and-pepperoni pizza. If this had been for me only, or if my dining companions and I all saw eye-to-eye where pizza's concerned, I probably would have asked for basil, garlic, maybe some tomatoes or artichokes, perhaps olives, and Locatelli Romano cheese. Or just tell him to use his own judgment, which I trust. But sometimes you gotta give the people what they want. And Americans want processed Mozzarella and pepperoni.
Well, that's OK. You could still do a lot worse than to get a pepperoni pizza from Nino's.
Nino's does pizza with thin or thick crust, and I wouldn't steer anybody away from either one, but the thick crust is their signature, default style, so I didn't specify, just ordered a pizza.
One of the things I love about Nino's is that it is distinctive. Now there's good distinctive and bad distinctive. But this is good distinctive. It's not only good, it's not quite like any other pizza you'll find around Rochester. And that, to me, is how pizza ought to be.
This pizza was on the thick side, then, although not extremely so. I didn't measure the thickness of the crust, but I'd call it medium to thick. The underside was browned, with occasional bubbled areas indicating a slow rise on a pan.
The pizza was well balanced, with enough sauce and cheese to stand up to the relatively thick crust. The sauce was Nino's distinctive - there's that word again - slightly sweet, herbal, well-cooked sauce, with the flavor of a sauce that's been bubbling away on your grandmother's stove all afternoon. Is that the best way to make pizza sauce? No. There is no best way to make pizza sauce. Some people may prefer, and some pizzas may be better with, a quicker-cooking, minimally seasoned sauce, or even just crushed tomatoes. But Nino's sauce is right for Nino's pizza. This is not a flash-baked, cracker-thin, 2-minute pizza from a 900 degree oven, but a slower-cooking pizza, for which a slow-cooked sauce seems more appropriate.
The cheese was well-melted mozzarella, obviously good stuff, as it melted together well, pooling a bit around the bubbly mounds of the crust. Cheaper cheese tends to sit in place, with the individual shreds simply drying out and sticking to each other more than truly melting.
Nino puts his pepperoni on before spreading the cheese, which keeps it meatier and chewier. If you prefer your pepperoni bacon-crisp, better ask. For me, it's a tough call - there's something to be said for both.
Oh, and the wings were good, too. Meaty, with a homemade sauce that was a bit hotter than I expected from the mild sauce that I'd ordered (no complaints from me, but those with a low tolerance for heat might find them overly hot), and fairly crisp.
Nino's pizza menu is pretty extensive, and well worth exploring. But even something as simple as a pepperoni pizza is a thing of beauty here. It's an overworked term, but this is comfort-food pizza.
Nino's Pizzeria and Focacceria, 1330 Culver Rd. 14609
Hours: Sun. 4 - 10 p.m., Mon. - Sat. 4 p.m. - 11 p.m.