Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Finns Inn, Palmyra/Marion
On the eastern outskirts of what I consider the Rochester metro area, Finns Inn is a small roadside tavern with pizza on the menu. Bars with pizza are not always even on my to-do list, because often they simply rely on premade crusts, or shells, that they sprinkle with toppings and stick in an oven. Not worth writing home about, or blogging about.
Often you can tell those places because of the limited options on their menu. If a place only offers 12" pizzas, there's a good chance that they're using premade crusts. And pizza made with premade crusts generally sucks.
But when I looked at Finns Inn's menu, and saw three sizes of pizza, I figured they must make it more or less from scratch. They could buy their dough from elsewhere, but that's not so bad. As long as the pizza dough is raw when it goes into the oven, it could yield a very good pizza.
So on a recent eastward trek, I stopped in and ordered a medium pepperoni pie. A small would've been enough for me, but I think that a small is sometimes too small to give you a really good idea of what a pizzeria's crust is like - for that you need a pizza that's wide enough to have room both for a thicker cornicione along the edge, and a thinner middle. And I figured what I didn't eat right away I could save for later.
When it arrived, I could see that this pizza indeed was not made with a shell. A "shell" crust is typically so dried out that you can hold a slice by the edge and the point will stick straight out. This was much more pliable, with some surface cracking and a golden brown underside.
The crust had a biscuitlike texture, suggesting that the dough had a relatively low gluten content. (Which in itself is neither an inherently good or bad thing - from what I've read, many Italian pizzerias use relatively low-protein flour, which means less gluten.)
Although the individual components of this pizza didn't meld together particularly well, this pizza nonetheless is best described as a whole. And I can best describe it by saying that this pizza was a big sloppy mess, but I liked it.
There was lots of everything on this pizza - thick, gooey cheese, a liberal amount of pepperoni slices, and plenty of sauce to boot. But this was also not a knife-and-fork kind of pizza. It was made to be eaten with one's hands, which meant that a nearby handful of napkins was required.
The sauce had a bright, tomatoey flavor, and provided a liquid base for the well melted, stringy cheese. The thin slices of pepperoni were not remarkable in themselves, but were so abundant as to add considerable flavor and a chewy textural contrast to the rest of the pie.
The pizzas at Finns Inn come in small, medium and large sizes, and the modest list of toppings runs to just seven items. The rest of the menu is solid, bar-food fare like wings, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. Nightly specials include $1 tacos on Wednesday nights and wings for $5 a dozen on Monday nights. On Sundays, a large one-topping pizza and a pitcher of Bud or Bud Light will set you back just $14.
The roadside tavern is a uniquely American institution, as witnessed by the countless historical markers along our highways and roads. Finns Inn, which dates back to 1947, is a good current example. It's old enough to have gained some character, but I think it's no mere relic, and continues to serve as a meeting place for folks in the area.
Finns Inn also has one thing going for it that the taverns of our forefathers lacked: pizza. This was a little sloppy to eat, but it tasted good, and you know, I think I just have a soft spot in my heart (or stomach) for these kinds of distinctive bar pies. If a "B" means that it's memorable, and worth going a little out of your way for, then I'm giving this a B.
Finns Inn, 3181 Rt. 21, between Palmyra and Marion
Hours unknown, but I'm guessing it's open daily from lunchtime on. Call ahead to be sure.