I swear, I saw this coming.
Food trucks, that is. I remember reading about them, in the New York Times, I think, a few years ago, and how they were popping up everywhere from New York to Austin to San Francisco. I thought that, like a lot of trends, this one's coming to Rochester, probably in a year or two. And that a smart person, who was so inclined, would get into the game right then and there, to get ahead of the curve. I wasn't that person, but I did see it coming.
Well, now the trend is here, big time. And it includes pizza.
We've got Tuscan Wood Fired Pizza & Catering, which, according to their Facebook page, moves around quite a bit, well into the Greater Rochester area and into the Finger Lakes. From my discussion with the owner, its chief purpose, originally at least, has been to advertise his wood-fired oven sales and installations. So you may find it around Rochester some days, or you may not.
And we've now got Papa Gig's, Rochester's "Italian Kitchen on Wheels." As I was on foot downtown the other day, I passed by Papa Gig's truck, and noticed tomato pie on the menu. Though a sign emphatically insisted that tomato pie "is not pizza!," I figured it was close enough to check out.
As I've reported before, tomato pie is "commonly associated with the Utica,
NY and Trenton, NJ/Philadelphia areas. It's basically a thick,
pan-baked pizza covered with tomato sauce and Romano cheese." And while I mean no disrespect to Papa Gig, as far as I'm concerned, yes, it's pizza.
But I'm not here to argue semantics. However you want to classify it, here's my review of Papa Gig's tomato pie.
These slices were square-cut from a rectangular, pan-baked pie. The crust was thick but light and airy, almost like a pizza version of angel food cake. The underside was very light in color, with just a little browning.
Up top, the slice was coated with a heavy layer of distinctly sweet tomato sauce, sprinkled with some dried herbs and powdery grated cheese (Romano, I'd say).
And that's about it. I could launch into a dissertation about the roots of this style of pizza (or whatever you want to call it). It has antecedents in Italy and locally, even aside from its Utica connections. And at the same time it's new, for this area, in a retro kind of way.
I couldn't fault this slice of tomato pie, but I wasn't sure how much I liked it, either. I don't necessarily want a heavy layer of mozzarella on all my pizza, but I could've done with a bit more grated cheese, to add some tanginess and to counterbalance the sweet sauce. And though I'd rather have a light and airy pan-baked crust than an oil-infused, dense, heavy, fried crust, for me this crust could've used a bit more oomph.
But I don't think I'm qualified to judge a Utica-style tomato pie, so I won't grade this. Maybe this is exactly what it's supposed to be. Again, it's not even claimed to be pizza.
And the fact is, I did like it. At a dollar a slice, I have no complaints, and if I'm passing by and hungry, I'd get one again. Maybe even two.
Oh, and Papa Gig? If you want to add some mozzarella to your pies sometime, or do whatever else you need to, in order to make them true pizzas in your eyes, I'd be glad to try those too. Just a thought.
Papa Gig's food truck
Check website for dates and locations