Thursday, May 24, 2012
Compané Bistro, Fairport
As I've explained before, it takes me a while to get to certain places, particularly restaurants that serve pizza, but are only open for dinner. I've got a family, and it's not we're going out to dinner that often. And when we do, it's apt to be a kid-friendly place with hot dogs or mac 'n' cheese on the menu.
So as much as I've been wanting to check it out, it was bound to take me some time to get to Compané Bistro in Fairport. You could take a kid there, but it was worth the wait until my wife and I could go on our own.
It was a warm, sunny, late afternoon, so we asked to be seated outdoors on Compané's patio. The surrounding area is not exactly picturesque, just a couple of parking lots and the back sides of some buildings in downtown Fairport, but they've done a nice job of creating a pleasant dining area enclosed by wooden fencing and two walls of Compané's own building, which with a little imagination (and maybe a few glasses of Chianti) could almost be somewhere in Italy.
Compané has a full menu that includes steaks, chicken, fish and pasta, but the centerpiece, both literally and figuratively, is its wood-fired pizza oven. There are eleven pizzas and fourteen toppings to choose from, but I went with my old standby, the Margherita, which here goes by the name "Main Street."
This super-thin pizza was quite crisp along the edge, and got softer and more supple toward the center. There was some charring around the perimeter, and spotty charring underneath.
In that respect, this crust fit the profile of a lot of wood-fired pizzas I've seen. The radiant heat from the fire tends to char the edge of the pizza, which, with the help of some skillful manipulation by the pizzaiolo, will be more or less even along the edge. But the deck of the oven is not hot enough to give the underside the same degree of crispness, especially when the thin crust is topped with tomato sauce and maybe other moisture-laden toppings.
This is where it gets tough to separate my personal preferences from a purely objective viewpoint. From some things that I've read (like this), wood-fired pizza in Italy is often so supple and "wet" that it needs to be eaten with a knife and fork. So despite my fondness for pizza that's crisp on the outside and chewy on the outside, this may come pretty close to the original, Neapolitan mark.
I'll get back to that thought, but first let me mention some other aspects of this pizza. It was fairly saucy, especially for its thin crust, and the sauce was dominated by a bright, tomatoey flavor. Though this was a sauce, not simply crushed tomatoes, as on some Margheritas, it did not have the "cooked" flavor that you get on a typical American-style pizza.
The cheese was nicely melted mozzarella, with some stringiness, topped with a sprinkling of Romano. The fresh mozzarella here was not the thick-sliced rounds that you see on some pies, but a creamy, well-melted layer that was just a bit browned on top. A few wilted basil leaves added the final touch of authentic Margherita flavor.
One thing I appreciated about Compané's pizza menu was that there were no overloaded pies on there - no meat lovers' pizza, no "trash plate" pizza - just well-chosen combinations, like the Fourth Avenue, topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto, olives, and artichokes, or the Galusha, a white pizza topped with garlic, mozzarella, arugula, red peppers, and goat cheese. There are also more unusual, creative options, like the Potter Place, with house-made arugula pesto and walnuts, and you can always come up with your own combinations.
This was also one of those places where it was difficult to limit myself to the pizza menu. A number of entrees sounded tempting, but I was there to try the pizza. I'd like to go back so I can sample some of Compané's pasta and meat dishes, which you can peruse here.
Compané closed for a while due to a fire, but I'm thankful it reopened. This was good pizza, and a very pleasant dining experience.
I'm in the process of simplifying my rating system - just A through F, no pluses or minuses - and I've been on the fence about this one, trying to decide on an A or a B. Nothing wrong with a B, but was this really among the top tier of local pizza?
My biggest issue with this pizza was that the center wasn't very crisp. But I think that comes down to my own particular tastes. And I've read enough about pizza in Italy - Naples, in particular - to conclude that Italian wood-fired pizza is typically soft, wet or floppy in the center. The Neapolitan style is what they're going for here, I think, and it wouldn't be fair for me to judge them by a standard that's more in line with New York-style pizza, which is descended, but significantly different, from Neapolitan pizza.
So without the benefit of having been to Italy, I think Compané has done a very good job of producing pizza in the Neapolitan style. And it was pretty doggone good, no matter what you call it. So it gets an A from me.
Compané Brick Oven Bistro, 80 N. Main St., Fairport
Mon. - Sat. 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.