Friday, January 24, 2014
Mario's, you may have noticed that they tend to run with ads for another Italian restaurant, Bazil. That's because they're both part of the same local restaurant group owned by the Daniele family. My impression has always been that Mario's is the more "formal" of the two, while Bazil is more casual.
In late 2011, I did a post about Mario's, and while I liked the restaurant and the food generally, I gave the pizza a C-minus, primarily because the crust was not so good; in fact, I wondered if it was a frozen crust.
So I must admit that I didn't walk into Bazil's with terribly high hopes. And - I'm talking about the pizza here, not the restaurant or the other food - even so, I was disappointed.
Before I get to the pizza, let me mention this. My wife and I were both struck by how similar it was to Olive Garden. Similar decor, same endless salad bowl -- if you'd taken me there blindfolded, then taken off the blindfold and told me I was in an Olive Garden restaurant, I'd have believed it, easily.
My wife wondered why they wouldn't try to distinguish themselves more from a competitor. I figured that Bazil is just following the basic formula for a casual Italian restaurant, and it seems to be working for them, since the place was packed.
OK, on to the pizza. I ordered a "traditional Margherita" with the addition of artichokes. Not everybody likes artichokes, but I've grown to enjoy their salty tanginess on a pizza.
Again, the crust was reminiscent of - and maybe was - a frozen crust. In fact, the whole pizza seemed like a store-bought frozen pizza The crust was thin and dry, with a too-perfectly formed, dry lip around the perimeter. The underside was generally pale but marked here and there by darker spots.
Appearances aside, the proof is in the eating, and this was not good. Dry and flavorless, the crust was like a frozen pizza that's sat in your freezer for too long. If this wasn't frozen, then they must be doing something very wrong in the kitchen, to get it to come out this way.
The toppings didn't help much. The cheese was not so much burnt as dried out, like cheese that's been sitting for so long that much of the liquid has evaporated. Even many of the artichoke bits seemed dry. Sometimes places put on the tough outer layers of the artichokes, but that wasn't the issue here. These were just dried out. A sprinkling of chopped tomatoes and dried basil didn't help much either. Though this isn't that important, the toppings were also unevenly distributed, more toward one side of the pizza than the other.
The sad thing was that the other food we ordered was good. This was another example of a place that makes generally good food, but then adds pizza to the menu, thinking, I guess, that's it easy to make pizza.
Well, it is easy to make pizza. It's just not that easy to make good pizza. It's not the most difficult thing you'd ever do in a kitchen, either, but it takes more than just adding a few toppings to a frozen crust and popping it in the oven.
Is it possible to expect to be disappointed? That might make a good Buddhist Kōan. But I did, and I was.
I liked Bazil, in general. Our other food was good, and the service was very good. We had a good time.
And truth be told, if I hadn't been there specifically for blog purposes, I never would've ordered pizza. Unless a place specializes in pizza or has a reputation for great pizza, when I go to an Italian restaurant I'm generally going with pasta. That's one of the drawbacks of writing this blog - I often feel stuck with ordering pizza, even though my natural inclination might be to get something else.
So I will re-emphasize that my letter grade is not a judgment on the restaurant, but only on this pizza. And this pizza was not too good. It wasn't even average, and I have to give it a D.
Bazil Restaurant, 1384 Empire Blvd, Rochester, NY 14609
Mon. - Thu.4:30 - 9:30, Fri. 4:30 - 10:00, Sat. noon -10:00, Sun. noon - 9:00