Rochester NY Pizza Blog Rochester restaurants LocalEats featured blog

Friday, November 29, 2013

Our Winner Is ...

RGL! RGL, please send me an email at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com with your name and mailing address and you'll be getting a gift certificate from 2 Ton Tony's, good for a one-topping sheet pizza and 30 wings.

Thanks to everyone who participated and keep watching for more giveaways soon! And thanks to Tony Proietti for this generous donation.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Product Review: Pretzel Perfection

Writing this blog is by no means a for-profit endeavor, but one perk is that from time to time I get offered free samples of food products. So even if they're not directly pizza-related, if they sound like they might be good, I typically accept them.
They're not all great, but I haven't yet run across a true clunker. If I did, I simply wouldn't review it. I'm not going to accept something for free and then bad-mouth it.
But this last one was good. Really good.
I got two, all-too-small samples last week from Pretzel Perfection®. The samples I received were the Salted Caramel and the Pacific Trail clusters.
The Salted Caramel clusters are pretzel sticks bound together by a mix of caramel, sea salt and dark chocolate. The Pacific Trail recipe contains dark chocolate, cranberries, blueberries, currants, cashews and sunflower seeds.
In my family, I preferred the Salted Caramel, my daughter liked the Pacific Trail better, and my wife was equally fond of both. But we liked all three.
I like sweets, but I also like salt, and although I'm not always big on certain combinations, these worked for me. The salt paired very well with the dark chocolate, and these didn't feel overly indulgent or filling.
I liked the Pacific Trail mix too, but just not as much. My daughter liked them better, I think, because she doesn't care so much for salty foods, which is probably a good thing. But imagine trail mix with pretzels and chocolate thrown into the mix and you'll have a good idea of what it's like.
One nice thing that surprised my is that Pretzel Perfection® Clusters, like all their products, are gluten free. That doesn't matter to me, personally (I do review pizza, after all) but I have a friend who genuinely cannot tolerate gluten, so I know how serious an issue gluten is for some people. I'm glad to run across truly good products that are free of gluten, and these were very good. These pretzels are made with a variety of non-wheat-based starches, and I didn't miss the wheat at all.
Check out Pretzel Perfection's website for more information about their products, including some holiday pretzel clusters. At this point, I don't believe these are available locally, but you can purchase them from their website, and on Amazon. Unless you're buying a large quantity, the shipping costs can be daunting, but for those with gluten issues, you may want to order a bunch. And I hope they start to show up in local grocery stores.

Friday, November 22, 2013

2 Ton Tony's Giveaway - FREE sheet pizza and 30 wings!

Tony Proietti, the proprietor of 2 Ton Tony's, has graciously agreed to donate a gift certificate good for a one-topping sheet pizza and 30 wings, to be given away to one lucky reader. This will be good at either the Irondequoit or Spencerport location.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment, any comment, at the end of THIS blog post (not the accompanying story or my Facebook page). One week from today, November 29, I will choose a winner at random. A nice post-Thanksgiving gift for somebody!

You don't need to leave your full name or mailing address, but if you win, I will need to be able to identify you as the winner, and to make sure the gift certificate gets to you, so you must include some identifying information in your comment--an email address, registered screen name, etc. If you don't want to post that kind of information for all to see, then email me at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com. Anonymous comments will not be accepted, and multiple comments will not increase your chances of winning.

Tony Proietti: A Life in Pizza, Part I

At the end of my recent conversation with Tony Proietti, the proprietor of 2 Ton Tony's Pizza, I realized one thing:  an hour with Tony is not enough. After talking pizza for sixty-plus minutes, we'd barely scratched the surface of all his memories, knowledge and opinions about pizza.
That's how it is, I guess, when you've spent your life in the pizza business. Tony grew up hanging around the original Proietti's pizzeria and bar on Goodman
Street in Rochester. That, I think it's fair to say, was one of the seminal pizzerias in Rochester, started by Italian native Olando Ozzimo some years earlier.
Tony's childhood memories include singing along for patrons with the jukebox, which earned him some nice tips on occasion.
Tony's singing skills are no longer in evidence, that I've witnessed, but as a child he also learned, from his grandfather, the craft of making pizza. And those skills he still uses daily.
The original Proietti's pizzeria is no longer around, sad to say. Tony described it as an extended family, and it sounds as if it was a true neighborhood institution. I wish that I had experienced it.
The good news, though, is that the Proietti's pizza legacy lives on. Based on the skills and recipe he learned from his grandfather, Tony now runs two pizzerias, in Irondequoit (where I spoke with him) and Spencerport. His uncle "Whitey" also owns and operates Proietti's restaurant in Webster, which also serves pizza based on the family recipe.
While they may lack the atmosphere of the original, these places carry on the Proietti's pizza tradition. And one of the most fascinating things in talking with Tony was listening to him share his encyclopedic knowledge of Rochester pizza history. Tony gave me a quick lesson, starting with the progenitors of Rochester pizza, and running through a succession of heirs, which he rattled off in bewilderingly quick fashion.
Tony and I both agreed that it would be a worthwhile project to create a Rochester pizza family tree, because so many of today's local pizzerias can trace back their roots to just a few forebears, or what Tony colorfully but aptly described as local pizza "tribes." I would like to do that, at some point, if I can find the time. Right now, that's way beyond the scope of this interview. But I hope I can find the time and motivation to do it. It would take some effort, albeit enjoyable effort, mostly involving sitting down for some hours with guys like Tony, his uncle Whitey, and a handful of other pizzeria proprietors.
When I asked Tony about "Ozzie" Ozzimo (is that a great name, or what?) he told me that Ozzie was from Sicily. I mentioned that many of the founders of Rochester's current, and best, pizzerias seemed to come from Sicily, and he agreed. Tony also made the point that what I've called the "Rochester style" of pizza traces its roots to Sicily. Old-school pizza in Rochester tends to have two significant characteristics:  on the thick side, with that distinctive square cut. Both of those come from the Sicilian tradition, married to American tastes for a round pie covered in mozzarella.
As for Tony, he sticks with tradition, but he's open to change. Everything is still made in-house, the way that his grandfather taught him, right down to straining out the tomatoes to create a smooth sauce. Tony's grandfather used an electric drill, believe it or not, but Tony's improved on that by utilizing an electric paint mixer, which, it turns out, is perfectly adapted to removing tomato skins and other bits from the sauce.
Interestingly to me, Tony also incorporates margarine into his dough. That too, goes back to his grandfather, and it strikes me as a distinctively American take on an Italian tradition. Some doughs are as basic as they get - flour, salt, yeast and water - but oil is also a longstanding ingredient in a lot of pizza doughs, especially pan pizzas and those using high-gluten flour. Oil, or fat of some kind, makes the dough easier to handle, adds flavor and richness, and gives a pan-baked dough a golden-brown sheen. That's exactly why my mother - who learned from my Polish grandmother - would add butter or margarine to her homemade bread dough.
In Italy, of course, olive oil would be the most common choice. But margarine (which is essentially vegetable oil in solid form) serves the same purpose, and it does not surprise me that Italian immigrants would have chosen it, as it was probably more readily available to them, decades ago.
As we discussed what goes into pizza, Tony did express a bit of, I would almost say disappointment rather than disdain, for some other local places that have dough shipped in from elsewhere, or that open a can of tomato sauce, throw in a little oregano, and call it homemade. Once again, this goes to his dedication to his craft, his pride in his product, and his commitment to tradition.
But again, Tony's not one to stand still. Both his Irondequoit and Spencerport shops are located in hotbeds of pizza competition, and he wouldn't have succeeded as well as he has by being stuck in neutral. As one example, he's changed cheese suppliers more than once, not to switch to a less expensive cheese, but to a better cheese. His current choice is Grande cheese, which is one of the best around. And a recent addition to the menu is gluten-free pizza, which is more than just a trend, as those with gluten sensitivity can attest to..
Tony's one regret about his career is that for a while, he got out of the pizza business. He spent some years in a series of jobs, although he was never far from the pizza business in one way or another, even if it was just as an unpaid consultant for friends. After a brief stint in Fairport, he opened his current shop in Irondequoit in 2010, followed by his Spencerport store.
The future may see more 2 Ton Tony's locations, though there's nothing specific on the drawing board. If that happens, Tony will have to spend a little less time at each location - there are only so many hours in a week. But I'm pretty sure he won't just hand it off to any old body. Tony assured me that if and when he expands, he'll have people in place whom he can count on to do a good job in doing honor to the Proietti family tradition. And with his upcoming wedding (followed by a honeymoon in NYC that includes a visit to Lombardi's), that's a good thing. Tony's fiancee Kathy, whom I had the pleasure to meet, has apparently been very supportive and understanding in regard to the pizza business, but family should always come first.
In the near future, I'm looking forward to Tony's Christmas Eve luncheon for his customers. This event, which I've written about before, is another Proietti's tradition that he's carried on. It's indicative of the great family legacy that he's building on.
I'm calling this post "Part I," not because there's an immediate Part II, but because there surely will be. As I said at the outset, an hour talking pizza with Tony Proietti is simply not enough, and we've already got more subjects to discuss, from wood-fired pizza to sheet pizza and more. In the meantime, Tony, enjoy your wedding and honeymoon.

NOTE:  in conjunction with this story, Tony has graciously agreed to give away a gift certificate good for a one-topping sheet pizza and 30 chicken wings. Please see the accompanying post to enter.

2 Ton Tony's Pizza

Mon - Thu: 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Irondequoit location:
266-8669
545 Titus Ave.
(same building as the DMV)

Spencerport location:
349-2222
42 Nichols Street
(route 31 behind McDonalds)

2tontonys@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SUNY College at Brockport

I've done some posts on pizza at local colleges, including the University of Rochester, Nazareth, and RIT.
I haven't seen any indication that St. John Fisher has pizza on a regular basis that's available to non-residents, so that's not on my radar screen. But the last local college I wanted to check out is SUNY Brockport.
So far, my college pizza tour has been disappointing. None have had any pizza as good as a local prep school, McQuaid Jesuit. Would I finally strike gold at Brockport?
In a word, no.
I started off at TRAX,which according to the Brockport website is "[l]ocated on the ground floor of Harrison Hall, [and] features made-to-order subs, fresh dough pizza, and Buffalo-style chicken wings. TRAX is the most popular retail operation on campus."
Most popular? Surely not for the pizza. From the three pizzas available (one of which was a cheese pie that was clearly past its prime) I chose a pepperoni slice and a specialty, Mediterranean slice. The pies were cut into very narrow slices -- sixteen to a pie, I believe. And they sell for $2.30 to $2.50 a slice. I thought you were supposed to pay less at a state school. Maybe that's just for tuition. Kind of like air fares:  you get a seemingly good deal up front, but then they nickel-and-dime you on everything else, whether it's your carry-on bag or the food.
And both slices were bad, frankly. The crust was soft and oily, and the dried-out gyro-type meat on the specialty slice did it no favors. The cheese was, well, adequate, and the sauce on the pepperoni slice had gone MIA.
Sometimes as I'm eating a slice of pizza, a word pops into mind. This time it was "horrid." I don't mean to slam them unnecessarily, but that word literally came to me as I was eating these. And I didn't finish them. The best advice I can give about TRAX is to make tracks from there, quickly.
My next stop was Carmen's at Union Square in the Seymour College Union. I got a Margherita slice.
I guess it met that description, generally. It was topped with cheese, diced tomatoes and shredded basil, which qualifies it as a Margherita. But it, too, was a disappointment.
Again, the crust was soft, and more pale than the slices I got at TRAX. It wasn't greasy, just soft and unenjoyable. Even the edge, which sometimes can salvage an otherwise bad slice, was soft and chewy. It had the texture of a leftover pizza slice that's been reheated in a microwave. Maybe some people like it that way. I don't.
The toppings were OK at best. A thick but small area of melted mozzarella was topped with some shreds of basil and a few chunks of diced tomato. There wasn't much flavor to speak of in any of it.
Fortunately for Brockport students, there are several better places in town. As with a lot of college towns, Brockport is home to a bunch of pizzerias, including Main Street, Perri's, Avanti, Mark's, Cordello's and Marvin Mozzeroni's. I'm not going to rank them here, but I'd take any of them over these on-campus places.
With good reason, colleges have tried in recent years to boost their food offerings. It's kind of like airlines. People may not choose an airline, or a college, based on the food, but it's a definite plus to serve better food. And among foods that college students don't prepare for themselves (in other words, not including ramen or box mac 'n' cheese), pizza has to rank near or at the top.
If I were a Brockport student or employee, I wouldn't be eating the pizza at either TRAX or Carmen's. There may be good food at Brockport, but this wasn't it. These get a D.
TRAX
Harrison Hall, ground floor
Noon - 1 a.m. daily

Carmen's
Seymour College Union
Mon. - Thu. 7:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., Fri. 7:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Friday, November 15, 2013

And the Winner Is ...

Stacy J., who has won a cinnamon box from World Vision Gift Catalog! Stacy, I've sent you an email on collecting your prize, which will be mailed directly to you from World Vision.

Thanks to everyone for participating and look for pizza-related giveaways soon! And don't forget to consider World Vision Gift Catalog for your holiday giving.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ficarella's, Le Roy

Ficarella's Pizzeria of Leroy on Urbanspoon
In January 2011, I did a post on two places in Batavia, one of which was Ficarella's. I gave it a C for a slice that had some good and some not-so-good points.
Recently I tried Ficarella's Le Roy location. I again got a pepperoni slice.
And it was not bad; better than the one I got in Batavia. It had a decent crust, medium thick, with some light charring underneath. There was also a bit of corn meal on the underside. The slice was reasonably crisp, and cracked a bit on the surface when I folded the slice.
The edge was relatively thick and bready, with a pleasantly chewy "crumb." It was also marked by some odd creases on one side, which you can see in the top photo. I have no idea what those were, but they didn't affect the overall enjoyability of the slice.
I liked the flavor. The slice was well balanced, with a moderate layer of medium-flavored sauce and melted mozzarella. Nothing outstanding there, but they did the job. The thin slices of pepperoni were just crisp along the edges, pretty generously laid on, and oily enough for flavor but not overly greasy.
Ficarella's has a standard but extensive menu, with pizza, wings, subs, wraps, fish fry, pasta and sides. They do regular and deep-dish pizza, with six specialty pizzas, including a "loaded fry pie" topped with ranch dressing, french fries, bacon bits, and mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. That one's not for me, but it sounds interesting.
We're just talking about one visit to each location, but based on these, I liked the pizza a little better at the Caledonia Ficarella's, as compared with the Batavia shop. I'll give this one a B.
Ficarella's, 110 W. Main St., Le Roy
768-4500
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun. noon - 11 p.m.
Delivering to Le Roy, Stafford, and parts of Pavilion, Bergen and Caledonia



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

GIVEAWAY from World Vision Gift Catalog

With the holiday season approaching, now's a good time to consider the World Vision Gift Catalog as a source for your gift-giving. Not only can you choose some truly unique, meaningful gifts for your loved ones, but your gift will benefit people in need around the globe.
Here are some suggestions from World Vision on how to make  your holiday season more meaningful: 
  • Organize a family giving night and have kids select charitable gifts from an organization such as the World Vision Gift Catalog. Talk with your children about how giving back changes lives of children and families living in poverty and that their efforts truly make a difference.

  • Host a house party for friends and family and ask your guests to contribute to a share of a group gift such as a farm animal, winter clothing or school supplies to families in need, or even a water well. Make the selection of the item, how to raise funds for that gift, and the collection of the money a collaborative, group effort.

  • After Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping, consider celebrating Giving Tuesday (12/3) and make meaningful, life-changing gift purchases such as medicine, mosquito nets or a fish pond.

  • Be active in your giving -- volunteer at your local homeless shelter or senior living center; cook a meal or bake cookies for an elderly family member or neighbor.
Whether you choose to shop from World Vision or not, I have a giveaway to offer. This box of cinnamon is carved from cinnamon bark, and contains three ounces of Vietnamese cinnamon, which is generally considered the best in the world. The lid bears an Asian symbol for prosperity.

To win, simply leave a comment at the end of this blog post. I'll select a winner at random this Friday, November 15, shortly after noon. I will need your mailing address if you win. And win or not, please take a look at the catalog and consider it as a source for your gift-giving.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Product Review: Apothic Dark Wine

I recently accepted a review bottle of "Apothic Dark," the latest selection from Apothic Wines of California. This is a very enjoyable, affordable (roughly $14) red wine that is very enjoyable on its own or paired with food.
According to the PR release, "this seasonal wine blends dark fruit flavors of blueberry and blackberry with opulent notes of coffee and dark chocolate for a rich, yet silky smooth finish."
That's not a bad description. This wine, which is fermented from a blend of varietals, is full-bodied, fruity but not overly sweet, and has a depth of flavor that would make it a good companion with meat-based dishes or dessert. I'm not a big dessert guy, but I can see this paired with chocolate very well. As for me, this would make a nice accompaniment, and finish, to a steak dinner.
For more information, go to Apothic.com




Monday, November 4, 2013

Little Sicily, Attica

My recent wanderings took me by the village of Attica, in Wyoming County, so I thought I'd see what sort of pizza I could find down that way.
I made two stops, the first of which was at Little Sicily Pizzeria. The name sounded promising, but the promise went largely unfulfilled.
I got a pepperoni slice. It was thin, and the underside was somewhat charred and crackled, overall a dark brown with a light dusting of corn meal.
So far, so good. But it was floppy. You can see for yourself from the photo. Maybe the slice I got had just sat around for too long, but this was not a good sign.
The toppings didn't help much. The cheese was of the type that doesn't so much melt as crumble. In other words, it separates into oil and solids. The point is, it wasn't very good cheese.
The pepperoni was OK, at least what there was of it. Four "cup and char" slices, nice and crisp, but more would've helped.
Little Sicily's website says that their "homemade sauce ... sets Little Sicily Pizzeria apart from its competitors." Maybe so, but there wasn't much of it on this slice, nor did it add considerably to the slice. The sauce was thin and provided little more than color.
When I had worked my way to the outer edge, or cornicione, things got better. The edge had a nice, breadlike quality, with a good balance of chewiness and outer crispness.
Little Sicily's website shows some very attractive pizzas. I'd love to try some of them. And maybe this is a place to go for a whole pie, not a slice. But this slice was not so good. I may give it another shot, sometime, and this is a bit far afield for my geographical scope, so I won't give it a grade. But this one slice, at least, wasn't very good.
Little Sicily Pizzeria, 121 Prospect St., Attica
(585) 708-5093
Hours
Mon. - Sat.11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. noon - 8 p.m.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Product Review: Aunt Nellie's Beets


Know what's hot right now in the food world? Beets. That's right, beets.
Perhaps like me you were fed beets as a kid, and hated them. But they're on the culinary upswing these days, with top chefs finding all sorts of ways to use them.
And truth be told, my tastes have grown up. I cook with beets myself now and then. So I agreed to receive a sample of Aunt Nellie's canned beets.
Even before I tasted them, I noticed that these come from Marion, NY, only about a half hour's drive from Rochester. So that was cool.
I got two samples, of simple canned beets and pickled beets. The former had a remarkably mild flavor, sweet but not cloying, and a firm texture.
The pickled beets were much closer to what I remember disliking as a kid. But as I said, my tastes have changed.
There is something both weird and intriguing about pickling a naturally sweet vegetable, especially one with as distinctive a flavor as beets. These had the same firm texture as the canned beets, but with a balance of sweet and vinegary and ... well, beety.
One nice thing about Aunt Nellie's beets is that they come packed in glass jars, so you don't get that canned aluminum taste, nor do you have to worry about the chemical linings that go into some metal cans. And while you can eat them straight up, Aunt Nellie's beets can also be used in many recipes, which you can find on their website or on your favorite recipe site.
Keep an eye out for Aunt Nellie's beets. Right now you can find them at Walmart, but I suspect you'll be seeing them on more store shelves in the near future.

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