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Friday, October 26, 2012

A Good Night at Good Luck

I maintain a personal to-do list of pizza places to try out, but I also am influenced by my readers. And a reader's recent query about when I was going to get around to trying Good Luck spurred me to action.
Well, sort of. The fact is, we finally got us a new babysitter, and hence a much-delayed, and much-needed, chance to go out to dinner, to a place that doesn't have hot dogs or mac 'n' cheese on the menu. (And yes, I know that mac 'n' cheese can now be found at upscale restaurants, dressed up with a variety of artisanal cheeses, creme fraiche, and everything from pancetta to black truffles, but that's not what I'm talking about.) But the reader's inquiry did play a role in deciding where we'd go, and since Good Luck had been on my radar screen for a while, I figured this was a good opportunity to cross it off my list.
This was my first time to Good Luck, but I hope not my last. It may not have the most well-chosen name I've ever run across, but the food was of uniformly good quality, with good service to boot.
I'm a bit schizophrenic where restaurants are concerned - I enjoy upscale places with innovative menus, but I'm also a small-town, middle-class guy at heart, and I'm innately skeptical about places that try too hard to be hip and trendy. I mean, I love New York City, but to say that a Rochester restaurant feels as it it could be in New York City is not exactly an endorsement, for me.
I knew that Good Luck was a "concept" restaurant - the concept being that plates here are meant to be shared - so that gave my admittedly pedestrian and parochial sensibilities a little pause, but as concepts go, that's not particularly contrived, so I wasn't too put off by it, either.
The place was buzzing on a Friday night, and the sight of lawyers in suits standing next to a guy at the bar wearing a wide-brimmed Asian-style hat that looked like something you'd see on a samurai warrior told me I had reached the epicenter of Rochester's cutting-edge restaurant/bar scene. But everyone was smiling, the vibe was good, and so I put aside my stodgy, curmudgeonly half for the night.
I knew going in that, whatever else I ate, I was going to try one of Good Luck's pizzas. As I usually do, when it is an option, I went with the Margherita, which for me has become a benchmark by which to compare and judge so-called artisanal pizza, much the same way that a plain cheese slice is my yardstick for New York style pizza.
My pie displayed a thick, puffy cornicione surrounding a very thin center. The underside and edge were charred, a bit unevenly, with some areas along the edge verging on burned.
When the pie was delivered to our table, I thought I detected a whiff of garlic, although that seemed to fade, possibly for the simple reason that my olfactory sense was becoming accustomed to it. As I proceeded to munch my way through it, though, I continued to pick up an aroma of dark toast, which I enjoyed. The cornicione also seemed to have been lightly brushed with olive oil, which was apparent to my fingertips, though whatever flavor it contributed blended in with the rest of the components. The crust had a chewy texture, and was crisp along the edge but very supple in the center, making a knife and fork a necessity. Aside from the toasted notes emanating from the char spots, it had no particularly distinctive flavor.
Atop the crust lay a generous coating of sauce, which was marked by a pronounced tomatoey flavor. I found it a tad salty, but since I consider salt a food group that wasn't a major problem for me, especially since the salt was balanced to some extent by the underlying sweetness of the San Marzano tomatoes.
The five thinly sliced disks of fresh mozzarella had a good, creamy texture, though as the pie cooled they tended for firm up and become a bit rubbery. A sprinkling of what I think was Parmesan cheese added a pleasantly sharp contrast in the background, and the whole thing was rounded out by the roughly torn fresh basil leaves. I could be mistaken, but I also thought I noticed a subtle spiciness, perhaps from a pinch of red pepper? If it was there, it was, as I said, subtle, but all in all this pie, for all its apparent simplicity, displayed a welcome complexity of flavors, aromas and textures.
As I was enjoying it, though, I found myself debating whether this was an "A" or a "B" pizza. I've tried to eschew pluses and minuses of late, so the question was, was this an exceptionally good, virtually flawless pizza, or "just" a very good pizza?
Some days later, I'm still torn. In general, I liked it very much, as I think should be evident from this review. But there were a few, albeit individually minor, flaws. First, the crust was blackened in spots, beyond simple charring. Second, while I liked the sauce, it nearly overwhelmed the very thin crust, and again the chef seemed to have had a heavy hand with the salt. And while the crust was fine, it didn't bowl me over either. I mean it was good and all, but it didn't quite have the sublime combination of crispness, chew and glutenous breadiness that sends me into rapture.
Admittedly, I may seem to be picking nits here, and I'm not looking to find fault with what was, on the whole, a very good pizza. But my gut told me at the time that this was close to the borderline between an A and a B, and having thought about it, I still feel that way. So with that longwinded explanation, a firm resolve to go back (perhaps for a white pizza next time) and a recommendation that you try Good Luck as well, I'll give this pie a B.
Good Luck, 50 Anderson Ave., Rochester 14607
Wed. - Sat.:  dinner 4:30 - 11, bar open till 2 a.m., late-night menu served till midnight on Fri. & Sat.

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