Friday, June 28, 2013
Label 7, Pittsford
Grilled pizza seems to be popping up on restaurant menus everywhere these days, and it's easy to see why. People like pizza, and grilled pizza gives a restaurant a relatively simple, easy to prepare way of offering pizza. It's also got the added cachet of being trendy, at the moment.
To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the style. I find that grilled pizza - which is generally made by putting the dough, or maybe premade crust, on a grill, flipping it and adding toppings - lacks what I would call the integration of a traditionally baked pizza. When you stretch raw dough, add toppings, and put them in the oven together, they tend to meld together as they bake. With grilled pizza, the crust and toppings tend to be more separate and distinct - it's a grilled piece of flatbread, with stuff on top.
Which is not to say that it can't be good. But I generally just don't like it as much as a good regular pizza. So I try to approach a grilled pizza with an awareness of that, and not to judge it unfairly. I mean if I liked apples better than oranges, I wouldn't rate an orange by saying, "Well, it's OK, but it's not as good as an apple." I'd ask myself whether it was good, as an orange. And I try to do the same with grilled pizza.
So with all that prologue out of the way, I'll tell you about a dinner I had last month at Label 7, a self-described "Napa style eatery and bar" in Pittsford. Label 7 has an eclectic menu offering everything from fried chicken and waffles to the unusually spelled ssäm, which features cured pork belly as the main ingredient.
And, at the time of my visit, the menu also included "Napa Crispy Pizza," a grilled pizza topped with salametti (which, as the name implies, is very similar to salami), mozzarella, basil, San Marzano tomatoes, and red onion. The current online menu lists a "Pizza Margherita" topped with fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, sweet onion, and basil, with the option of adding "one of our various Daily-Cured Meats for $5."
The underside of this oblong pizza, which was sliced into thin triangles, crossways, bore some deeply indented grill marks, and it was initially crisp underneath, though over time the moisture that had exuded from the toppings led the long, narrow slices to get a little soggy underneath, and to sag under the weight of the toppings.
And the toppings were on the heavy side, but tasty. The mozzarella was thick, smooth and well melted, and lay atop a thin layer of well cooked, deep-red tomato sauce flecked with dried herbs.
The tomatoes were a highlight - juicy and sweet. They fully lived up to the reputation of San Marzano tomatoes, which are the gold standard for pizza.
Protein was supplied by the salametti, which was meaty, not too fatty, and finely ground, with a smooth texture. I like pepperoni (which is largely an American invention), but there are so many other options when it comes to sausage, and it's always good to try something a little different.
Shredded basil rounded out the toppings on this pizza. It was wilted but still had enough freshness to add an extra dimension to the overall flavor profile.
There was a lot to like about this pizza, the toppings particularly. They worked together well, were flavorful, and of high quality.
The crust? Well, that takes us back to some of my issues with grilled pizza. It was OK, but even making allowances for this having been grilled rather than baked, it wasn't great. Naturally the texture was very different from a traditional oven-baked pizza, particularly on the inside, where I missed the chewiness of a fresh-baked crust. And as has happened before, in my experience with grilled pizza, the crust was a little too wet, bordering on sogginess. In short, it was an acceptable base for the toppings, but not so great in its own right.
I did like the restaurant itself. The menu was an intriguing mix of the creative and the familiar, and I'd like to try several of their other dishes. Our server was friendly and attentive, and the surroundings were pleasant, with the bar - which was busy - well enough separated from the dining room to allow my wife and me to carry on a conversation without shouting.
In keeping with my past practice, I won't assign a letter grade to this pizza. Again, it gets back to the apples-and-oranges thing. My grades are geared toward more traditional pizza, and it's simply too difficult to match this against that style. I'll just say that I did enjoy this pizza, even if it didn't exactly make me a grilled-pizza convert.
Label Seven, 50 State Street, Pittsford, NY 14534
Tue. - Thu. 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Fri. & Sat. 11:30 - 2. 5 - 10 p.m.
Closed Sun. & Mon.