After all these years, I still have mixed feelings about wood-fired pizza. What I mean is, it’s fine and all, but I think that sometimes “wood fired” is assumed to mean “excellent.”
In point of fact, in my experience, wood-fired pizza doesn’t tend to be any better, or worse, on average, than any other kind of pizza. I’ve had great ones, OK ones, and bad ones.
Plus, there’s a learning curve with a wood-fired oven. I’m not sure if it’s more or less difficult to make good pizza in a wood-fired oven than in a gas or electric oven, but it’s surely different. And I’m guessing that it’s pretty easy to screw up a wood-fired pizza, since the radiant heat involved necessitates pretty close and constant attention by the pizzaiolo.
Be that as it may, locally the wood-fired trend continues to march on. After years of growth on Rochester’s east side, wood-fired pizza is slowly spreading west of the Genesee.
The latest entrant is Six50 Black Oven Cooking, a restaurant and bar that opened in early November in Chili. I frankly have no idea what the name means; the phone number, 889-1650, includes the numbers 650, but I’m guessing that the phone number followed the name, not the other way around. And though the oven is sort of black, the term “black oven” doesn’t connote anything in particular to me.
But whatever. They could call it One80 Lavender Oven for all I care, as long as the pizza’s good.
On a recent lunch visit, my first instinct on perusing Six50's list of fourteen pizzas was to go with the Margherita, but I’m always tempted by anything spicy, so I opted for the Diavolo, which was topped with tomato sauce, sopresatta, roasted peppers, crushed red pepper flakes, and mozzarella.
The crust was super-thin, as is typical of wood-fired pizzas, but it was remarkably pale underneath. The underside was heavily floured, and firm but not really crisp. The edge displayed a little charring, but was hard and chewy.
Despite the name, this pizza was not particularly spicy. It was topped with a thick tomato sauce, sweet roasted red peppers, and thick slices of sausage, which had a mild but pleasantly meaty, slightly smoky flavor. A heavier dose of red pepper would've been welcome. I know you can always add it to the finished pizza but when it's in the sauce the heat tends to permeate the entire pizza better.
For starters, I tried the minestrone, which was fine, although it was more like a tomatoey bean soup than classic minestrone. It could’ve passed for a mild vegetarian chili.
Six50 has a full bar, with a handful of taps that lean toward local microbrews. There’s an open kitchen in the back of the room, and a single dining area occupies most of the restaurant.
Service was friendly, and generally good. It took what seemed like an unusually long time for my soup to come out, but the staff seemed to be trying hard to please.
I’m not doing a full restaurant review, but I got the impresson that Six50 is striving to achieve a level of sophistication that you might not expect to find in a small plaza next to a convenience store/gas station in North Chili. And I think they’ve got the basics in place. But the pizza could use a little work, particularly the crust. I’d like to see a quicker-baking, crisper crust with a bit of charring underneath and along the edge. This crust seemed too much as if it had been cooked at a relatively low temperature, so that it firmed up and dried out without developing a lot of flavor.
But since Six50 had been open for a very short time when I visited, I’ll hold off on grading it for now. It’s got promise, and I look forward to a return visit.
Six50, 3765 Chili Ave. 14624
11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily