Thursday, March 21, 2013
Fairfield's. The name comes from its location near the border of Fairport and Penfield.
Fairfield's is a casual restaurant with a small bar. The menu is split roughly between Italian American mainstays (e.g. chicken french, linguine with clam sauce) and bar food staples like burgers and wings.
And pizza, which straddles both those culinary worlds. So I stopped by recently to check it out.
While you can "build your own" pizza from Fairfield's list of 25 available toppings, they also have 11 specialty pizzas available, and I went with my usual Margherita (which was correctly spelled on the menu, I might add). Margherita pizza was named for an Italian queen, and the pizza created in her honor displays the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag. So Margheritas typically involve some combination of tomatoes, cheese and basil.
Fairfield's Margherita is described on the menu as topped with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, Romano, basil and olive oil. And that proved to be an accurate description, particularly where the oil is concerned.
In short, I have never seen such an oily pizza. Even before I took a slice, I could see a pool of oil surrounding the pizza on the plate. Oil on top, oil on the bottom - it was amazing.
I briefly considered sending it back, but I figured my job is to review what I'm given, so I forged ahead and started eating.
Now here's the thing. Yes, it was kind of gross seeing so much oil on one pizza, but it actually tasted pretty good. Maybe I was just hungry, but I don't think that completely explains it.
The fact is, oil can make food taste better, especially when it's picked up some of the flavor of other ingredients during the cooking process. Fat conveys flavor to your taste buds, or so I've read. That's why vegetables taste better with butter, and why a fried onion tastes better than a boiled onion. Food memories are strong, and I also remember as a kid sopping up the oily sauce from my dad's chicken stew with a hunk of Italian bread. If I made that dish today I'd probably skim off most of the oil, and then wonder why mine didn't taste as good as dad's. And it's not unusual for a pizzaiolo to give a pizza a quick swirl of olive oil, either before or after going in the oven.
So yeah, this tasted good, in a guilty-pleasure kind of way. Problem was, the crust had all the texture of a maple-syrup-soaked pancake. The bottom was nicely browned, but I couldn't properly assess the texture of the crust, because it was so coated and infused with oil. Only along some parts of the edge, which displayed some nice blistering from the oven, did I get a sense of its underlying bready qualities.
Aside from that, the pizza was topped with a smooth, even layer of melted mozzarella cheese. It seemed to be good cheese, in the sense that it had taken on an almost liquid quality, and was not overly chewy or rubbery. The red sauce and bits of chopped basil stayed very much in the background, but added some subtle counterpoints to the richness of the cheese and the oily but tasty crust.
Fairfield's does offer some tempting specialty pizzas, and gluten-free pizza as well. There's a lot on the menu that I like, and rather than me go through it, you can take a look at it here.
Now we get to the hard part. How to grade this pizza? Subtract that oil, and it could easily rate a B, at least. With all the oil, I've been leaning toward a D. I know people have different likes and dislikes in pizza, but I don't think anybody would like this much oil on, in and under their pizza.
Not to duck the issue, but I'm not going to grade this pizza. A single letter grade would oversimplify matters. If I had separate grades for the crust, cheese, overall flavor, etc., it would be different. But from the start I've been giving pizzas one overall grade, and I plan to stick with that. And even if I were to rate the crust separately, I'm not sure what I'd do, because I think it was fundamentally good - it just got doused with oil.
I don't know if this was typical of Fairfield's pizza. Maybe the chef accidentally gave this a way-too-heavy dousing of olive oil. But if so, I would think some of it could've been poured off the plate before it was served to me. If this was typical of their pizza, then I'd recommend cutting way back on the oil. Oil has its place, but more is not always better, and this is a perfect example of that.
Fairfield's Bar & Grill, 2600 Baird Road, Penfield 14526
Monday and Tuesday 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am to 11:00 pm
Thursday 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 11:00 am to 11:00 pm
Sunday 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm.