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Friday, March 28, 2014

Our Winners Are ...

Pontillo's Pizzerias - Since 1947sschum and Paul Milhausen, who left comments here on March 25 at 3:20 and on March 28 at 11:12, respectively, have each won a $25 gift certificate to Pontillo's in Penfield. Congratulations to you both!

All I need from you now is your mailing address. Send it to me at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com and I'll get your certificate out to you ASAP.

Thanks to all who participated and thanks again to Jon and everyone at Pontillo's for making these available to readers of The Rochester NY Pizza Blog, and for making fine pizza, wings and more.

If you didn't win, don't despair. I'm working on a new interview and giveaway that I hope to have up next week. Stay tuned!

Pontillo's, 1811 Penfield Rd., Penfield

(585) 385-4848
Store Hours:
Mon-Thu 10AM-11PM
Fri-Sat 10AM-12AM
Sunday 12PM-10PM

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cordello's, Irondequoit

Cordello's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Cordello's is one of those places that's been around for a long time, but not always in the same place. It seems to have had an odd kind of existence, with Cordello's locations opening and closing, here and there, over the years. There always seem to be a few around, but it's never quite taken off as a chain.
At the moment, as far as I know, there are Cordello's locations in Irondequoit, Webster, and Chili. I did a post on the Chili location back in 2010, which apparently is still going strong.
Recently I stopped at the Irondequoit Cordello's. (I still need to get to the Webster location).
I often go for a simple cheese slice, but on this occasion the veggie slice looked good to me.
This slice had a very thick cornicione (a fancy Italian word for the edge), but was otherwise on the thin side. The underside was more browned than charred, but displayed some slight exterior crackling, and had a bit of exterior crunch. It was better than I expected, frankly, and better than the photo shows.
Up top, the toppings were, overall, decent. The melted mozzarella was pretty good, nothing out of the ordinary, but nicely melted, without that separation into solids and orange-colored oil you get at some places.
The vegetable toppingss were OK. The black olives were canned, which I used to use myself on homemade pizzas until I realized how much better the uncanned variety is. (I would say "fresh," but that wouldn't be accurate, since all olives that you buy for immediate consumption have been cured in some way, but you get my meaning, I think.)
The slice was also topped with a few small shreds of spinach, chunks of tomato, and artichoke. They were all, again, pretty good, and this was a good combination. If you're going to go the veggie route, you want to use vegetables with relatively assertive flavors, and these were good choices.
I finished off the slice - which was quite hefty, as I think you can see from the top photo - with the cornicione. There are slices where I leave the "bones" behind, but the edge of this slice was like a good breadstick. It didn't get left behind.
So, all in all, a good slice of pizza. Not so far ahead of the pack that I would put it in my top tier, but better than average. And so I'll give it a B.

Cordello's Pizzeria, 117 Pattonwood Dr, Rochester, NY 14617
(585) 266-6620
Open daily 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., till midnight on Fri. & Sat.
http://cordellospizza.com/

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Giveaway: Pontillo's, Penfield

http://www.pontillospizza.com/Images/PontillosPizzerias2.gifIt's Friday, and that means it's time for a giveaway! This time I have two $25 gift certificates for Pontillo's in Penfield, which makes fine pizza, wings and subs. Read mre about them in this accompanying blog post.
I'll pick two winners one week from today, Friday, March 28, a little after noon. To enter, just leave a comment here. Any comment will do, but if you win I'll need to verify your identity as the winner, and I'll need your full mailing address. So purely anonymous comments will not suffice (a screen name is OK). Thanks for reading and thank you to Jon at Pontillo's!

Friday Feature: Pontillo's, Penfield

Pontillo's Pizza on Urbanspoon
In the midst of a recent snowstorm, I stopped by Pontillo's in Penfield. It was open, despite the weather, and I got a cheese slice to go.
I was happy with my slice, which was on the thick side of medium, with a medium-brown underside that was dry to the touch, with a light dusting of cornmeal visible. There were no screen marks, and it had a fresh-bread aroma.
The interior of the dough was nicely breadlike as well: a little chewy, but not dry or tough to chew. It was well complemented by the melted mozzarella and thin layer of tomato sauce, as well as some distinct notes of oregano. All in all, a very satisfying slice of pizza for a cold winter's day.
Afterwards, I spoke on the phone with Jon, the manager at the Penfield Pontillo's. I asked him about the perception - which I've gotten from readers, in addition to my own experience - that some Pontillo's are better than, or at least different from others. He agreed that Pontillo's runs a pretty decentralized organization, but said that from his perspective, that means he can tailor his pizza to his customers. I can see his point, and I guess that's both a weakness and a strength. The more you tailor your pizza to suit local tastes, the less the brand name means. But it seems to be working for this link in the loosely-knit Pontillo's chain, as there's been a Pontillo's in Penfield for three decades, and fifteen years in this particular location. And I have to say again, this was good pizza. So if this is tailored to local tastes, then the locals must know their pizza.
Jon himself has been there for about as long as the pizzeria itself, so that continuity doesn't hurt either. Nor does the fact that the dough is made fresh daily, onsite. This is not stuff that's been shipped in from some central bakery in Indiana.
Pontillo's does more than just pizza, but they keep it pretty simple:  pizza, wings, subs. And a single order of wings here still means a dozen, not ten, as at so many other places these days. For pizza, I'd go with their regular crust, since they do it so well, but they also offer a thin crust option.
If you live in the area, or are out that way, there are plenty of pizzerias to pick from, but Pontillo's is a good one. But why not see for yourself? I have two $25 gift cards to give away to two lucky readers. I'll do a separate blog post for the giveaway - here's the link - but whether you enter or not, Pontillo's in Penfield is well worth a stop.

Pontillo's, 1811 Penfield Rd., Penfield

(585) 385-4848
Store Hours:
Mon-Thu 10AM-11PM
Fri-Sat 10AM-12AM
Sunday 12PM-10PM

Our Winner Is ...

Bob Farrell, who left a comment on March 14, 2014 at 7:30 PM, has won the gift certificate to Cosimo's at Marketplace Mall! Bob, send your mailing address to me at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com, and I'll get your certificate out to you ASAP. Thanks to all who participated
and look for another giveaway very soon!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

NYC (Brooklyn) Roundup Cont'd: 99¢ Pizza

Pizza in New York City is generally very good. I think we can all agree on that.
But in NYC or elsewhere, slices that sell for 99 cents are generally not that good, at least on a purely qualitative level, i.e., without taking the price into account.
So what about a 99-cent slice in NYC? How does it stack up against other slices in the city, and against other cheap slices elsewhere?
Based on my limited experience, I'd say if you get a 99-cent slice in New York - which has become something of a phenomenon in recent years -
it's about what you would expect. Not awful, but not great, and, well, probably worth about 99 cents.
I wouldn't ordinarily be eating 99-cent slices in New York City, but there was a 99-cent pizza shop (and as far as I could tell, that was the name - "99¢ Fresh Hot Pizza") a half block from my B&B in Brooklyn (which I highly recommend, by the way). And the second-nearest pizzeria was some blocks away. When you're hungry and you want pizza, you do what you have to.
This was, outwardly, a NY-style slice, to be sure, but on closer inspectiion it was a poor representative of the style. The underside was heavily screen-marked,and unevenly browned.
The cheese was skimpy, but decent, and the sauce was pretty basic tomato sauce. I detected a hint of dried herbs.
Why bother writing about this? Well, you, like me, may go to the City every now and then, and in the course of your travels you may run across one or more of these 99-cent places. And if you're like me, you may wonder, is this really just as good as the place down the block, that's selling slices for $2.50 or more? You can't always tell just by looking at the slices on the trays.
I would say, based on this, no, it's not as good as your average NYC slice joint. Whether it's worth it is up to you. Lots of factors will figure into the equation: your budget, what else is nearby, whether you really want pizza as opposed to something else, how hungry you are, and so on.
This was far from the worst slice of pizza I've ever eaten. It was a less-good version of a typical NYC slice, and that's not necessarily bad. But if you have the time and the money (and if you don't have the money, you probably shouldn't be going to NYC), find a different pizzeria, or just get a dirty water dog.
99¢ Fresh Hot Pizza,
51D Willoughby St., Brooklyn
718-797-3841


Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Giveaway: Cosimo's Pizza, Marketplace Mall

If you don't think good pizza can come from a mall, then you need to check out Cosimo's in Marketplace Mall. If you don't believe me, enter "Cosimo's" in the search box on this blog and read my reviews, including this accompanying review.
To help you see for yourself, I'll be awarding one gift certificate for $15.88 (the price of a large one-topping pizza, though how you use it is up to you) to one lucky winner, compliments of Cosimo's, one week from today, Friday, March 21, a little after noon. Just leave a comment at the end of this blog post. If you win, I will need your mailing address, which you can send me at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com. You don't need to leave your full name or address now, but you must include some identifying information, such as a screen name. Purely anonymous comments will not be accepted.

Friday Spotlight: Cosimo's, Marketplace Mall

Cosimo Pizza on Urbanspoon
I've written before about Cosimo's, which I consider a hidden treasure, in spite of, or because of, its location in the Marketplace Mall food court. I guess you could say that Cosimo's is a great pizzeria hiding in plain sight.
Go to any mall, any Thruway rest stop, any airport, anywhere there's a food court, and you'll find pizza. To be honest, the pizza at these places is probably better than it used to be. But I don't go to such places expecting it to be all that good either.
Cosimo's is an exception. I can't say it's the proverbial exception that proves the rule; it's just an exception, pure and simple. It's really good pizza where you'd least expect it, in a mall food court. So I guess it's an exception that seemingly breaks the rule, the rule being that you can't find good pizza in a shopping mall.
There's a reason, or at least a cause, for everything, and the reason why you can get excellent pizza at Marketplace Mall is that many years ago, the proprietor, Nick, arrived in the U.S. from Bari, Italy.
Well, that's the start. Nick started off in Brooklyn as a dishwasher at a pizzeria in Brooklyn. From there, he went to Long Island.
After that, he ended up at a chain restaurant. But along the way, he learned how to make pizza. Boy, did he learn.
Eventually, an opportunity came up to run a pizzeria at a mall in Henrietta, and he grabbed it. And so Cosimo's was born.
I'm guessing there aren't too many malls where you can get authentic New York style pizza, created by an experienced pizzaiolo from Italy, by way of Brooklyn. For that, I'm grateful that Cosimo's is here, and it makes trips to the mall, fighting Henrietta traffic, a little easier to deal with.
Cosimo's offers more than just pizza - they do wings too - but pizza accounts for, by Nick's estimate, around 80% of their business. And probably 80% of that is slices. But there's no reason not to stop by for a whole pie, whether at the end of a shopping trip or on your way home from work.
I love Cosimo's for its thin, NY-style pizza. But Nick wanted me to try his thick-crust, pan-risen pizza, and I'm glad I stuck around long enough to do so.
This pizza is made from the same dough as the thin-crust, but is simply allowed to rise longer on a pan.
I got a single veggie slice, and it was damn good. The underside was crunchy and well browned, but not oily. The interior was airy but not insubstantial, with enough chewiness to keep my interest and balance out the toppings. And the overall balance was good, with contrasting textures and a pleasant bready flavor. The toppings were added in proportion to the crust, with chunks of tomato, shredded spinach, a mild but fresh tomato sauce and nicely melted mozzarella.
But why take my word for it? Nick has given me a gift certificate in the amount of $15.88, which will cover a large one-topping pizza. Of course it's up to you how to use it, so you could put it toward a medium with a side of wings, or Cosimo's other offerings, which include calzones, panini, salads and more. But I highly recommend a stop, with or without a gift certificate, and whether you're shopping at the mall or not. This pizza is too good to be relegated to occasional visits to the food court.
(To be eligible to win the gift certificate, please go to the accompanying blog post and leave a comment. You may leave a comment here, concerning Cosimo's generally, but that will not qualify you to win.)
Cosimo's, 611 Miracle Mile Dr. (Marketplace Mall)
(585) 424-6444
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Sun. noon - 5:00 p.m.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Winner Is ...

Krysten, who left comment #4 on March 5 at 9:56 a.m. Krysten, you have won a $20 gift certificate from Chester Cab Pizza. Congratulations!
chester-cab-pizza-logo.png
Krysten, I'm sending you an email too, but please send me your postal mailing address at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com, and I'll get your gift certificate in the mail.
Thank you to everyone who participated, and to Dess at Chester Cab for this generous donation. Look for more giveaways soon and whether you win or not, please support your local pizzeria!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Table 87, Brooklyn

Table 87 on Urbanspoon
It's rare that I do a blog post about a pizzeria hundreds of miles from Rochester, but on a recent weekend visit to New York City I visited a place in Brooklyn that's worth writing about.
I was staying in Brooklyn at 3B, which itself is worth a review; it's a B&B in a third-floor walkup, in a good location, with a friendly staff and fantastic breakfasts (I actually departed from my pizza-only diet to enjoy their breakfast food, and I'm not even typically a breakfast eater).
I had, of course, done some advance research, and so I knew about Table 87 on Atlantic Avenue. It's one of the few places in the City where you can get coal-fired slices (as opposed to a whole pie).
At this point I should mention that, as NYC pizza aficionados will know, and someone would likely point out if I didn't say it first, a few blocks away, you can get what is reputed to be one of the City's best slices at Di Fara's. Di Fara's is widely regarded as among the finest pizzerias in the City.
Had I been staying longer, or had my hotel been closer, I might've gone there. But as it was, I had limited time, it would've been a long walk (or an inconvenient subway ride, which also would've added to the cost of Di Fara's $5 slices), and after reading about hour-long, or longer, waits at Di Fara's, I just wasn't inclined to make the trek up there.
So I am not comparing Table 87's slices with Di Fara's. I have no basis for comparison. What I can say is that Table 87 serves terrific coal-fired slices without a long wait, at a lower price than Di Fara's.
I stopped in on a Friday night, and was able to get a Margherita slice right away, no waiting at all, except for the slice to be reheated. It was $4, pricey compared to the average slice joint, even in NYC, but not bad for coal-fired pizza; buying and maintaining a coal oven isn't cheap, so I expect to pay some premium.
I'm sure you can make bad pizza in a coal-fired oven as easily as in a gas or electric oven, but this slice lived up to the promise of coal-fired, NY-style pizza. It was spottily charred and crackly underneath, with a slightly smoky, toasty aroma. The fresh mozzarella was nicely melted, and the tomatoes and basil were heated through but not overcooked.
And far from the Seinfeld soup-Nazi stories I've read about some pizza places in NYC, the staff here was very friendly and accommodating, even before they found out that I was a food blogger. Check out this video to get a sense of their light-hearted yet serious approach to pizza.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert on New York City pizza. It's a vast pizza universe, and although I've had plenty of slices, and shared a few pies, in the City, I know that I've only scratched the surface.
But I do think that I've had enough pizza to have a pretty solid basis for knowing what's good. And Table 87 is good. Better than good. I don't know when my travels will take me downstate next, but Table 87 has been added to my go-to list, and if you're planning a trip to NYC, it should be on yours as well.
Table 87, 87 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
(718) 797-9300
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chester Cab Pizzeria

Chester Cab Pizza on Urbanspoon
I was rather surprised last year by the amount of news coverage about the supposed closing of Chester Cab Pizzeria. True, it's been around since the 1970s, but I didn't think it was that much of a local institution, outside the Park Avenue area, to warrant such extensive coverage.
Then I found out that it wasn't closing, after all. It was going to continue in business, under a new owner, who had been an employee.
At that point, I thought the whole thing was a scam. There had been some fake closing, I thought, just to generate publicity for the miraculous rebirth.
I was wrong. There was no scam, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Chester Cab's demise were greatly exaggerated.
Instead, ownership and operation were seamlessly assumed by Dessislav ("Dess") Ivanov, a native of Bulgaria who had been a long-time employee of Chester Cab.
I stopped in the other day, and got a couple of slices at lunchtime. While there, I chatted with Dess.
He started working here around 2000, so he knows the business well. When the former owner decided to get out of the business, Dess and he reached a deal for Dess to assume ownership.
Dess tells me that he was quite surprised to see the news stories about Chester Cab closing. Far from generating interest, Dess tells me that those reports have hurt, and that he is still trying to overcome the perception that Chester Cab has shut its doors.
But he's getting there, and he's clearly dedicated to making the operation better. He's made some physical changes, such as expanded outdoor seating, and he's working on expanding indoor seating as well, although as you can imagine, doing so requires jumping through a number of bureaucratic hoops.
Another thing Dess has tried to change is Chester Cab's reputation, in one respect at least. For whatever reason, the pizzeria had a certain reputation for rude service. That's not my judgment - take a look at some online reviews and you'll see for yourself.
Dess has set out to change that. As a native of Bulgaria, he frankly is quite familiar with poor customer service. And having lived here long enough to see what good customer service is all about, he's under no illusions that surly service adds to the "charm" of the place. (Again, I'm not saying that the service here was surly in the past, but I've seen complaints to that effect.)
And so it is that every day, Dess reminds his employees that customer service is the most important aspect of the business. Even if the pizza's good, if somebody gets turned off by bad service, they likely won't be back. So the message is, provide good service, and if the customer's not happy, address the problem.
At the same time, good customer service only goes so far. The pizza's got to be good too. Chester Cab still offers the meal-in-itself stuffed pizza that it's best known for, as well as its "regular" pizza and a newer, thin New York style pie.
I tried a slice of the regular (a/k/a "original") and NY style. They were similar, both thin, but the parbaked original was a little more browned underneath and slightly crisper. The NY style is a tad thinner and more foldable. I enjoyed both and found the subtle differences interesting, though on purely stylistic grounds I don't think I can say that the NY style was entirely authentic; a true NY slice should be more charred underneath, and both pliable and crisp. But semantics aside, both were tasty, with nicely melted mozzarella and a slightly sweet, tomatoey sauce. The essential difference came down to pliability vs. crispness.
While Dess continues to work to raise public awareness, he does say that he's gotten great support from the people in his neighborhood. I saw evidence of that during my visit when a customer, obviously a regular, stopped in with his dog in tow (which he got here, by the way).
I've been writing this blog for about five years, and Dess is as dedicated an owner as I've seen. He clearly wants to make his pizza as good as it can be, and to make his customers happy.
Dess told me that when his mother (who also lives here now) goes back to the old country, she doesn't hesitate to complain about the pizza, and to harangue the staff with complaints that they should go to America and try her son's pizza, to see what good pizza and good service are all about.
And I don't doubt it. Chester Cab offers good pizza, and good service.
In conjunction with this blog post, Dess graciously agreed to offer a $20 gift certificate for me to give away to a reader. If you'd like a chance to win, leave a comment at the end of the accompanying blog post. (You can leave general comments here, but they won't get you entered.) I'll pick a winner next week.
Chester Cab Pizza, 707 Park Ave
Rochester, NY 14607
(585) 244-8211

HOURS
Mon-Wed 11:00am - 10:00pm
Thurs 11:00am - 11:00pm
Fri-Sat 11:00am - Midnight
Sun Noon - 10:00pm

Giveaway: $20 Gift Certificate for Chester Cab Pizzeria

As mentioned in the accompanying blog post, I have a $20 gift certificate to give away, good for anything on the menu at Chester Cab Pizzeria on Park Avenue in Rochester. With five pizza styles to choose from, subs, and wings, you're sure to find something you'll like.
To enter to win, just leave a comment at the end of this blog post. Any comment will do. You don't have to include it now, but if you win I will need your full name and mailing address, which you can email to me at rochesternypizzaguy@gmail.com.
I'll pick a winner one week from today, Wed., March 12, a little after noon. The winner will be picked at random.

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