I don't know what the breakdown is in terms of what sort of establishments sell pizza in Monroe County -- full-fledged pizzerias, convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants and bars, and whatever other vendors are out there -- but there are more bars and restaurants offering pizza than you might think. It's not as commonplace as, say, chicken wings or burgers, but you can find pizza on quite a few menus around town.
Which brings us to Blu, a restaurant and bar that opened about three years ago on Pixley Road in Gates, not far from the Buffalo Road exit off 490. They offer several varieties of pizza, and I went there recently for lunch with two companions.
One of my friends got a burger - which looked, and according to him, was very good - and the other got a basic pepperoni pizza. I opted for the "Westside Margherita," which was topped with garlic oil, red sauce, tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, with a drizzle of a reduced balsamic-vinegar sauce.
First, the good news. Where they had toppings, the pizzas were fairly tasty. More on that later. Now the bad news. The crust wasn't so good.
Both the menu and our server made a point of emphasizing that the dough for Blu's pizza is made in house, but you could've fooled me. I'm not sure what the explanation is, but the one adjective we agreed upon for these crusts was "dry," and the interiors lacked the puffiness that I like to see with freshly made dough. I don't know if Blu is making their own dough and then freezing it, but that's a possibility, to judge from these.
Now I'm not saying that the crust was godawful, or that it was bone-dry, to the point of being crumbly; the crust just lacked the aroma and liveliness of freshly made dough. It was serviceable, but no better than that.
The pies did taste good. The pepperoni pie was appropriately simple, with nicely melted mozzarella and crisp, meaty, spicy cup-and-char pepperoni. If only the toppings had been spread more fully around the pie, which had in some areas a wide area of naked crust along the perimeter. A little thicker application of the basic, tomatoey sauce might also to some extent have offset the dryness of the crust.
As for my Margherita, it was atypical but enjoyable. This isn't the first time I've had a pizza with a balsamic vinegar sauce, and I'm not complaining about it, since I knew from the menu that the pizza was drizzled with balsamic vinegar, but it's not traditionally associated with classic Margherita pizza. It did add an interesting flavor twist to the pie, with its sweet-yet-acidic tang playing off the other toppings, and the added liquid was particularly welcome atop this crust.
Flavorwise, the other dominant feature of the Margherita was the garlic oil. I love garlic, and the flavor here was prominent, but not harsh.
The red sauce and mozzarella were, I believe, the same as on the pepperoni pie, although the cheese seemed a bit more scattered than on the pepperoni pizza.
The sliced tomatoes were nothing special, but in fairness, one can't expect terrific fresh tomatoes around here in December. But if I might make so bold as to offer a suggestion to pizzeria owners, consider skipping both the sauce and the fresh tomatoes, and substituting canned tomatoes, of high quality. Crushed, drained and lightly seasoned, they'll more than make up for the absence of both the sauce and the fresh but flavorless sliced tomatoes.
That leaves the basil. This pie was dusted with tiny bits of basil. I think it was fresh basil, but it was chopped very finely. It did add a little background flavor, but I would've preferred some larger bits of shredded basil, added at the end.
Blu offers a few other specialty pizzas, including a beef on weck pie and the "J.M.G.," topped with garlic oil, banana peppers, spinach, asiago, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella. They also have an interesting selection of mac & cheese, from bacon cheeseburger to lobster.
Having written this review, it may appear to be more scathing than it should. I don't want to slam Blu too much. While based on this visit, I can't advise going there for the pizza, my friend's burger was good, and I can't speak to the rest of the menu.
Maybe, if anything, this points up the issue of places that don't specialize in pizza adding pizza to their menus. Good pizza takes time, effort, and expertise, in a way that some other menu items may not. So while I would be fine going back to Blu sometime for one of those meaty, half-pound burgers, the pizza was a disappointment. Perhaps with some tweaking, they can get it right.
In terms of a rating, well, it's always easier to point out a pizza's flaws than its strengths. And again, these pizzas tasted pretty good; the flavor wasn't really the issue. The biggest problem was the crust, which was not so great, but not so bad as to ruin the pizza either. So while I can't say these were average, a "D" seems a little too severe. Let's call these a C-minus.
Blu, 250 Pixley Rd., Gates
Tue. - Thu. 11 a.m. - midnight
Fri. 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.
Sat. 4:30 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Closed Sun. & Mon.