I stopped the other day for lunch, with a couple friends, at Root 31 Cafe & Eatery in Pittsford Plaza. It's in what used to be a location of Colie's Cafe, whose Park Avenue location I reviewed in 2012. (There's now just one Colie's, in Eastview Mall, which apparently does not offer pizza. Read the details here.)
According to its website, "Root 31 has partnered with farms that feature pasture raised & grass-fed animals that produce premium dairy, meats, cheeses in addition handcrafted sundries, condiments , jams and jellies. Produce, fruits, and berries all from family farms in the countryside Counties of western NY. The finest ice cream, sorbets, chocolates, vanillas, fruit purees available. Whenever possible we use local, organic ingredients guided by principles of sustainability."
All well and good. I applaud them for that. So how's the food?
This is a "fast casual" place, where you order at the counter and have your food delivered to the table. Root 31 is not a pizzeria as such, but it does feature pizza on the menu. Pizzas here come in two sizes, "petite" and "personal." I was hungry, so I got a personal cheese pizza, which was about the size of a dinner plate.
Before getting on to the pizza, I have to say, I found the prices rather curious. A personal cheese pizza was $8.25. Specialty pizzas ranged from $8.95 to $9.95. But individual toppings on a personal pizza were either $2.50 or $2.90. So if I got a white pizza with one veggie topping, that would come to $10.75. But I could get a "Chef's Style" white pizza, with bacon, onions and other toppings for $8.95. Maybe there's some logic behind that, but if so, I'm missing it.
So I got a plain cheese pizza. At first glance, it didn't look too bad. The cheese seemed a little overbrowned, but the pie looked OK overall.
But things went downhill from there. The underside was rather pale, and the crust was thin, limp, and floppy. When I tried to pick up a slice, it flopped over, and the toppings slid off.
I have given great reviews to pizzas whose slices might justly be characterized as floppy. Some are best eaten with a knife and fork, as I ended up doing here.
But those pizzas had crusts that were slightly charred, aromatic and flavorful. The crusts were good enough to eat on their own. This crust was just dull and lifeless. It seemed undercooked, and it didn't have much to recommend it. This was one of the few times that I have left some of the crust on my plate, and discarded it.
Sometimes good toppings can partially save a bad crust, but not this time. The cheese was rather overbrowned, as I've said. It wasn't hard, but neither was it smooth, and the oil that it exuded had settled into a few pools here and there.
I wasn't too thrilled about the sauce, either. I probably notice the sauce mostly when I don't like it.
As here. As I was eating this pizza, "SpaghettiOs" popped into my mind. The sauce reminded me of SpaghettiOs sauce.
Make no mistake, I have fond memories of SpaghettiOs. But I don't necessarily want my pizza sauce to taste like something that came out of a can of Franco American pasta.
I'm not saying this sauce came out of a can. For all I know, it was made from organic, locally produced ingredients. I'm just saying that the flavor reminded me of SpaghettiOs, with that distinctive tanginess of salt and Parmesan cheese, and not much tomato flavor. Maybe if I'd liked the crust, I would have been more predisposed to like the sauce, I don't know. I didn't exactly dislike the sauce, but it just didn't seem to help the pizza much. A little more tomatoey sweetness and some herbal accents would've been welcome.
One of my companions got a pepperoni pizza. To put it briefly, it was about the same, and she wasn't too happy with it.
Not to pile on, but it also took a loong time after I got my pizza, for her pizza to come out, and I think it was pretty obvious when we ordered that we were together. It would've been nice to get our pizzas at around the same time.
I wish I could say that my other companion's hamburger (which arrived with the pepperoni pizza) partially saved the day. But it didn't. He wasn't asked how he wanted it cooked, and this was well done. A thin patty, with no trace of pink inside, and from his account, as dry as it looked. That's why there's ketchup. I know some places won't do burgers less than well done, for health reasons, but if that's Root 31's policy, it should've been disclosed.
I don't enjoy giving bad reviews. But I have to be honest. If I thought we'd just caught Root 31 on a bad day, I'd hold off. But I don't. So I have to be honest and give the pizza a D.
Root 31 Cafe & Eatery
3349 Monroe Ave., Pittsford
(585) 383-5660 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Mon-Sat 9am - 9pm, Sun 9am - 8pm