Lying on the outskirts of Rochester's East End, Richmond's is one of those bars that seems to have been, and will be, around forever.
In fact, though, it was closed for much of last year, but reopened in early 2012 under new ownership. As a former habitué of Richmond's myself, I was perusing some web page or other about the "new" Richmond's when I noticed that pizza had been added to the menu. So off I went.
I wasn't sure what to expect, in more ways than one. I had the impression that the current owner was going for something more upscale than Richmond's had been in the past, which was either comfortably worn or downright seedy, depending on your point of view.
Physically, the interior has been given a facelift, though the basic setup remains the same. There's a new tiled bar, and a few more TVs than I remember, but they seemed to have done a good job of preserving the essential neighborhood-tavern feel of the place.
The menu hadn't changed as much as I expected (or feared) either. Richmond's had always had a classic bar-and-grill menu, doing just a few things but, for the most part doing them well. And those basics - wings, burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches - remain the core of the menu, with just a few new additions.
Like pizza. Now I didn't see any pizza ovens, so I can't say I was expecting much from my Margherita pizza, and, well, frankly, my expectations were fulfilled. This clearly used a premade crust, which had a golden-brown surface that was slightly oily to the touch. The underside was marked by concentric circles (just visible on the left of the second photo), which I suppose were created during the manufacturing process. The crust was medium thick, and while not unpleasant, it was not very bready, and it lacked the aroma and lively quality of freshly baked pizza dough.
Aside from the inherent qualities of the crust itself, one of the problems with premade crusts is that the toppings tend to simply lie on top of it, whereas a pizza made with fresh dough typically displays a better integration of the crust and the toppings. Because the toppings are applied to the unbaked dough, the sauce and cheese tend to fuse a bit with the top surface of the crust, so the finished pizza emerges from the oven as an integrated whole, not just an assemblage of disparate components.
Not so here. The mozzarella easily peeled off from the crust, and you can see the result in the third photo.
Appropriately for a Margherita, there was no sauce on this pizza - just the aforementioned cheese, some thick sliced but flavorless "slicing" tomatoes, a dusting of Parmesan or Romano, and a light sprinkling of dried herbs.
On a happier note, my two companions were both quite pleased with their burgers, which did look very good - thick, meaty and juicy, as seen in the bottom photo. I would've happily traded with them, but neither was willing.
Though I am giving this pizza a D+, let me emphasize that I'm rating the pizza, not Richmond's. Again, I think they've done a good job of preserving its essential physical character while giving the interior some much needed TLC, and from this one brief experience, Richmond's still turns out a mean burger. If the wings are as good as they used to be, then all the more reason to go.
But I'd stick with the tried and true basics, foodwise. Richmond's has a lot going for it, but sometimes places try to do more than they're capable of doing well, and this was one example. Given the physical limitations of the space, which as far as I can see preclude a full kitchen, Richmond's culinary future probably lies rooted in its origins: wings, burgers, and various fried edibles. I'd drop the pizza from the menu, or at the very least drop the price ($9.95), which, with a $2.50 pint of Diet Coke on ice, yielded a pretty hefty lunch bill for what I got. With a good atmosphere, and good bar food, Richmond's should continue to be Rochester's favorite "neighborhood bar without a neighborhood," but I don't think it'll ever be a pizza destination.
Richmond's, 21 Richmond St.
11 a.m. - 2 a.m. daily