Fiorella, which opened this past August at the Public Market.
John, as many local foodies will already know, is the author of Food and Stories, which partly documents his history as proprietor of O'Bagelo's and Baked and Carved, two fondly, and deservedly missed downtown restaurants. His site also provides recipes for some of his most-missed offerings, like his legendary chocolate chip cookies.
Suburbanite that I am, I found it most convenient to go right after work, so we got there around 5:30, and had the joint to ourselves. By the time I left an hour and a half later, most of the tables were full. So word has obviously gotten around about Fiorella.
I was there to try Fiorella's pizza. Fiorella's is the newest (I think - it's getting hard to keep up) pizzeria in our area using a wood-fired oven. I would've wanted to try it eventually in any event, but what especially intrigued me was Fiorella's statement that it uses "naturally leavened" dough. I quote from their website: "our dough is made with organic flour, water and sea salt only and naturally leavened for better health."
I'm not convinced that those ingredients lead to better health, but as a home baker of sourdough bread, I was intrigued by the "naturally leavened" aspect. From what our server told me, I gathered that Fiorella uses something along the lines of pâte fermentée, which basically involves saving a bit of dough from each batch, every time you bake, to get the next batch started. That's a little different from a traditional sourdough, where you keep a starter on hand, "feed" it on a regular basis, and take some as needed. At some point, I'd like to talk to the baker to clarify how they make their dough.
I ordered a "Rosso" pizza, topped with San Marzano tomatoes, oregano, basil, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh mozzarella. Aside from the oregano, that's a Margherita to me.
It was good, but flawed. The crust was very thin, with a puffy cornicione. The crust was pliable.
One of the first things I noticed was how blackened the underside of the crust was, in some areas. I know that some people who aren't used to wood-fired pizza may complain that the crust is "burnt," but sometimes that adjective does apply.
Along the edge, there was some "leopard spotting" on one half, and some black stretches in others. Underneath, there were areas that were quite blackened, to the point where the surface had carbonized and was completely blackened, resulting in a tar-like surface.
That didn't ruin the pizza. Other areas of the bottom were browned or pale, due partly to the bubbly underside, where the crust was not in direct contact with the oven deck. This was good, well-made dough, but it seemed to have been left a little too long in one spot on a very hot oven deck.
The dough was thin but had risen somewhat, and had a pleasant chewiness. Again, my biggest problem with it was that it was either blackened, or pale, or browned. I would've liked a more uniformly-baked bottom.
In spite of that, the pie was enjoyable. It was coated with a uniform layer of tomato sauce, which had a "medium" texture and flavor. Pretty basic, but where pizza's concerned, nothing wrong with basic. The rounds of fresh mozzarella, which covered most of the surface, were melted just to the edge of browning. They weren't creamy-smooth, but they weren't over-baked or rubbery.
The pie was topped with a few shreds of fresh basil. They were good, but I would've liked a few more, to round out the flavor of the pie.
Fiorella's other pizzas include a bianca (white) pizza with: fresh garlic, smoked mozzarella, pecorino, and market greens, and a daily "market" pizza with a selection of seasonal toppings (I regret that I didn't take note of that day's market pizza). Organic salame or mushrooms may be added to any pizza as well.
The menu extends beyond pizza, to pasta (John got the tagliatelle, which despite my antipathy for mushrooms looked good), and daily specials. On this Wednesday night, Fiorella offered a "brick steak," meaning cooked under a brick. Sounded good, but I was there for pizza.
Despite its shortcomings, I liked my pizza. There were no leftovers. I could only speculate if the blackening of the crust was related to this being the first pizza of the night, so I won't speculate about that. If the execution improves and can stay consistent, this could be some top-notch pizza.
For now, I'll consider the pizza here a work in progress. But I also consider Fiorella well worth checking out.
Restaurant Fiorella, 5 Rochester Public Market
Rochester, NY 14609
Wed. 11 am - 2 pm, 5 pm - 10 pm
Thu. 10 - 2, 5 - 10
Fri. 11 - 2, 5 - 10
Sat. 8 - 2, 5 - 10
Sun. - Tue. closed