Restaurants often seem to cluster together, but some literally stand alone. And for a long time, there's been a solitary restaurant on East Henrietta Road, at the corner of Garden Parkway, just south of the Thruway overpass.
For many years, this was FDR's, which was basically a suburban prime-rib and fish-fry kind of place. The location has reopened, under new ownership, as Fire Side Grill & Sports Bar.
Pizza is popping up on menus all over these days, and when I ran across a story about Fire Side, and saw that they were offering pizza, I added it to my to-do list. So I stopped in for dinner recently, and zeroed in on the pizza.
There were seven specialty pizzas to choose from, and sixteen toppings. I went with a basic pepperoni pie, which is one of my default pizzas. It's as standard a pizza as there is in the USA, so I figure it makes a good benchmark.
Before I begin to describe the pizza, I want to emphasize something I've said before, which is that it's easier to criticize than to praise. It's simply easier to start from perfection, and to say how a thing falls short, than to start from awful and say why a thing is better than that. So while I do have a list of demerits, keep them in perspective, and keep in mind my summation at the end.
The crust on this pizza was thin, overall, and the perimeter was formed into a cornicione (which is a fancy way of saying "cornice," which is a fancy way of saying "edge") that was puffed up thicker in some spots than in others. In a way, I like that lack of complete uniformity, as it tells me that this was probably not a premade shell. Somebody back there shaped this by hand.
But I did have some issues with the crust. First off, it was a little greasy underneath. I've gotten arguments before about whether there's a difference between grease and oil. "Oil," I guess, sounds better, as it may be olive oil, or just "natural" oil that exudes from the full-fat cheese on top. "Grease," on the other hand, is, well, just some unappetizing slick substance that's more suitable for working on your car than for cooking. You can read more on the topic here.
From my perspective, foodwise, oil is something you add to food. Grease is the stuff that's left over after you're done cooking. Others may disagree.
But I digress. My only point was, this crust was a little greasy underneath. Or oily. Whatever. It had some crispness, but was somewhere between an oily crunch and a dry-baked crackliness. The underside was a dark brown overall, a little blackened here and there.
There was also a little grit underneath. Not a lot, but some. It's common to use corn meal, or semolina, or ordinary flour to help a pizza slide off the peel, but it often turns into blackened soot in the oven, and the oven needs to be cleaned out regularly to avoid a buildup. There wasn't much on my pizza, just a little, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it; I could definitely detect some grittiness as I was eating this pie.
Topside, this pizza leaned toward the cheese, rather than the sauce. There was a thin layer of sauce, which had somewhat soaked into the crust. I wouldn't say that it had disappeared, but it definitely was in the background.
The cheese, though, was quite prominent. Not that the pie was overloaded with cheese, but cheese was the most dominant topping. It seemed to be processed mozzarella, nicely melted but with some oil exuding out. The cup and char pepperoni was very good and well crisped along the edges but not burnt.
The place itself was pleasant enough, and quite a change from FDR, which I'd been to once or twice. There's a gas fireplace in the dining room, which was rather brightly lit; with its white-painted walls, I'd turn down the lighting for dinner, just a bit.
The bar is in the same area as before, and is well separated from the dining room. I see from their website that Fire Side keeps quite a few local brews on tap, which is nice.
I liked it here. The pizza was OK, not beyond improvement, but not bad. I'll take it over one of those restaurant or bar pizzas that's nothing but a premade, dried-out shell with a sprinkling of toppings just before it goes in the oven. I'd like to try Fire Side in another couple of months or so, but for now I'll give their pizza a C.
Fire Side Grill, 3939 East Henrietta Road
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun. noon - midnight