Wednesday, February 20, 2013
It's taken a long time, but I finally made it to jojo (that's how they spell it, no caps) in Pittsford. Jojo opened in 2003 or '04 (their logo reads "Est. 2004," but I found a 2003 review of jojo in the D&C online).
When it opened, jojo latched onto two trends: wood-fired ovens and bistros. In France, a bistro is a very specific type of establishment, and I'm not sure that a Frenchman would recognize jojo as a bistro.
But over here these kinds of labels seem to be so loosely defined, in practice, as to render them almost meaningless. Perhaps as a result, you don't see so many places jumping on the "bistro" bandwagon these days.
But restaurants with wood-fired ovens seem to be here to stay, with new entrants continuing to pop up now and then. And I was pleased to see that jojo does it right, with a real wood fire, not just a gas oven that can accommodate a log or two for looks. Every so often jojo's pizzaiolo would check on the fire, occasionally stoking it with more fuel from the stack of firewood below.
While I usually go with a Margherita pizza at these sorts of places, I opted this time for the "pepperoni" pie. The quotation marks are theirs, not mine, and I assume that they are meant to reflect the fact that the term "pepperoni," as applied to sausage at least, is virtually unknown in Italy, although hordes of American tourists asking for it may change that over time.
Jojo's menu describes the "pepperoni" pizza as topped with soppressata, mozzarella and tomato sauce, and there's basil on there as well, so I figured it was essentially a Margherita with sausage, and I was curious to see if jojo's soppressata was noticeably different from what you and I know as pepperoni. When I placed my order, my server asked if I wanted big or small pepperoni, which I wasn't expecting, and I asked for small, figuring that small might mean a denser sausage with more intense flavor. Maybe.
I was able to watch my pizza's preparation, and was surprised to see the pizzaiolo roll out the dough. A lot of experts (actual, presumed, or self-appointed) will tell you never to roll out your pizza dough, lest you squeeze out all the air bubbles that give the crust a good texture. I've always wondered whether there's anything to that, but it did surprise me to see a rolling pin being used here.
The pizza spent about five minutes (I didn't time it, that's just my estimate) in the oven, and the pizzaiolo was pretty attentive, turning it a couple of times and moving it as necessary to achieve the desired level of doneness.
When finished, the pizza was sliced and quickly served, mouth-burningly hot. It was visually attractive, with a thin crust, a narrow cornicione, and an eye-pleasing combination of cheese, sauce, basil and pepperoni.
Yes, pepperoni. It was good, but nomenclature aside, it was what any average American pizza eater would call pepperoni. Meaty, chewy, with some peppery kick, and some exuded oil from its melted fat.
The crust was very pliable, so much so that the slices could not only be folded, they could be rolled. The bottom was rather pale - bit of a disappointment there - and a tad floury.
The edge was browned, crackly and a little puffy. Away from the edge, though, the crust did not display much in the way of interior yeast activity, perhaps lending some credence to the notion that a rolling pin is not the best way to stretch out a pizza.
On the plus side, the pizza tasted good. The components were well balanced, with a straightforward tomato sauce and aged mozzarella added in good proportion to each other and the thin crust. The basil was as it should be - just wilted enough to bring out its flavor, but not burnt. And as I mentioned, the pepperoni was fine, giving this the overall flavor of a classic American pie, done in a more "artisanal" style.
Jojo has some other pizzas on the menu that I wouldn't mind trying, including a sausage pie with chorizo and banana peppers, and a wide variety of other tempting entrees, from steaks to seafood. (I'd particularly like to try their beef shortribs, which is a cut of meat that I have yet to master at home).
I liked this pizza, and polished it off quite easily. But I can't give it especially high marks on the crust, and if there's one area in which wood-fired pizza ought to shine, it's the crust. This one was OK, but flawed. It was pale and limp, with a bit of raw-flour flavor underneath, and not much happening in the interior. As wood-fired pizzerias proliferate, the bar has been raised, and though this pizza was perfectly acceptable, I'd have to place it in the "average" category for its style. So it gets a C from me.
Jojo Bistro & Wine Bar, 60 N. Main St., Pittsford 14534
Sun. - Wed. 4:00 – 10:00, Thu. 4:00 – 11:00, Friday & Saturday 4:00 – 12:00