I'm not sure how I discovered this, but some time ago I ran across a reference to The Hole in the Wall restaurant in Perry, serving wood-fired pizza.
Now that name caught my eye, because I remember as a little kid having a meal at least one time in the Hole in the Wall, which back then was located in the two- or three-block "business district" along Main Street in Perry. I remember the name more than the place, but as I recall it, it was aptly named, small, with good food, but mostly of the diner variety: burgers, sandwiches, and so on.
So a new, relocated Hole in the Wall? With wood-fired pizza, no less? Pizza or no, I had to check this out.
And so my wife and I went one night, recently, for dinner at The Hole in the Wall. And were we glad we did.
This was a far different Hole in the Wall from what I remembered going to as a kid. The new incarnation of the HlTW is not on Main Street, but is down a side street leading to nearby Silver Lake. It's also much bigger than what I remember.
While the building itself is rather nondescript, it was clear upon entering that the owners are aiming for something higher than than the diner of my youth. The interior has an airy, comfortable feel, with high ceilings and a muted color scheme. Add a few sunburned guys in polo shirts and khaki shorts, and this could've been the clubhouse at a local country club.
I wasn't surprised to see that the owners weren't trying to replicate the atmosphere of the old HITW, since the original, as good as it was, was one of the last places I would've expected to find wood-fired pizza. Of course, back then, nobody'd even heard of wood-fired pizza. Not around here, at least. But if you're now offering wood-fired pizza and craft beers, that's a pretty good indication that you're striving to be something more than just a diner.
When a restaurant decides to go upscale, it can go well or badly. If they can pull it off, great. If they overreach, as they often do, it can be a disaster. But based on this visit to the Hole in the Wall, I'd say it's gone very well indeed.
Upon entering, we were promptly greeted and asked if we preferred the bar area near the door, or the dining room, which is entered via a ramp just off the bar. The bar area looked pleasant enough, and was pretty quiet at the time (a little after six), but we opted for the dining room.
My wife and I were ushered to a table near the window, which gave us a view of the farm fields and trees across the road. I wouldn't call it scenic, exactly, but it was eye-pleasing enough.
Even before I got the menu, I knew I was getting pizza; it was only a question of which one. The pizza bianca (olive tapenade, green olives, broccoli, mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan) was tempting, but I ended up going with my usual Margherita (as at so many other places, misspelled "Margarita" on the menu).
While we were waiting for our food, we were given a complimentary appetizer of grilled flatbread with tapenade. I love good olives, so I enjoyed this.
Next up was our salads. Often, a "side" salad is unremarkable, but I asked for crumbly blue cheese on mine, and was happy to find that it was sprinkled with smoked blue cheese, something I'd never had before. I was informed that it was Moody Blue from Wisconsin. While I like to see places use local ingredients, I couldn't complain about this out-of-state choice. The smokiness of the cheese was not overpowering, but added a layer of complexity that elevated the entire salad.
But on to the pizza. My Margherita was thin and crisp, and lightly, spottily charred. It was topped with a thick, somewhat sweet sauce, which was most noticeable near the edge. In the center of the pie, the sauce was very thin and had mostly evaporated.
Dollops of fresh mozzarella dotted the pie, and were nicely baked, neither runny nor rubbery.
The basil, often little more than a garnish, if not an afterthought, was the most interesting part. Here, it consisted of basil sprouts, tender but with long stems. They were OK, but a little bitter, and somewhat awkward to eat, as they tended to fall off the slices. I preferred them to the dried basil flakes or burnt shredded basil leaves that I've had on some pizzas, but I think I'd still rather have full-grown basil leaves, added as soon at the pie comes out of the oven.
My wife ordered the stuffed chicken breast (bacon, spinach, onions, provolone, sun-dried tomato, and cream sauce), which was very good, and we shared a tiramisu for dessert. I don't have a particularly sweet tooth, but I do love a good tiramisu, and this was a good one. A little oddly presented, parfait- style in a tall glass, but it was still among the best I've had, with a creamy but light texture and a flavor that was sweet but not cloying.
Luckily, we happened to go on a Wednesday, when pizzas are half price. So my pizza was only $5.50. Amazingly, our bill came out well under $40.
I'm not one to overemphasize price - I'd rather pay more for a good meal than pay less for a mediocre meal - but this was one of the biggest bangs for the buck that I've had. The food was uniformly good, and our total bill came to about what I've paid in the past for one person's meal, of equal quality, at some other restaurants.
Ah yes, the grade. This pizza wasn't perfect - I think I've explained why - and yet I would drive out of my way to go here. I'm giving it a B, for now, but it's not much short of an A. And that's the pizza, not the restaurant as a whole, which I would give an A. But I rate pizza, not restaurants.
Let me conclude by saying that I hope that the local community is supporting the Hole in the Wall, because it's a treasure. It's about a 30-mile drive for me, but I know I'll be back.
Hole In the Wall Restaurant
7056 Standpipe Rd, Perry, NY 14530
Wed. & Thu. 11:30 am – 8:30 pm, Fri. 11:30 am – 9:00 pm, Sat. 11:30 am – 9:00 pm
Sunday 11:30 am – 8:00 pm