I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Paul Smith, one owner of The Scotch House Pub on Goodman Street in Rochester.
Over the years, this location has housed several establishments, but the Scotch House just passed its two-year anniversary, which I think puts it over the hump in the bar and restaurant business, where most businesses fail
But The Scotch House also had just passed what for me was a more significant anniversary: two weeks of serving pizza.
The drink side of things seems pretty well established at this point. When I arrived at around 5 p.m., shortly after they opened, the place was quiet, but I was told that the Thursday crowd would begin to arrive soon for the "Mug Night" special ($1 beers, $2 wells).
But Paul, who's something of a foodie, would like to get more into the food side of things. And that's where the pizza comes in.
When I got there, Paul had just put a pepperoni pizza in the oven. After we chatted for a few minutes, he brought out the pie, which I was happy to sample.
The first thing I noticed, aside from its general appearance, was the fresh-bread aroma of the crust. The crust was on the thin side of medium in thickness, and a little browned underneath with some screen marks.
The underside was browned in spots, but a little pale. To his credit, though, before I could offer an opinion, Paul opined that he should've left the pie in the oven a minute or two later. As an avid home baker who's my own worst critic, this told me that he's striving never to be simply satisfied.
And truth be told, the crust was pretty good. When I folded my slice, it cracked on the surface, underneath, but did not break clean through, which to me is a good sign. Surface crackling, chewy interior - that, to me, is a hallmark of good pizza.
I could also tell from our conversation that Paul has, and continues to, put a lot of effort into the business. Prior to opening The Scotch House, Paul worked in the computer field, but eventually decided to get into business for himself. That led to The Scotch House, which he owns with a silent partner.
Having become pretty well established, Paul wanted to expand his scope and he settled on pizza as a focus of the menu. Local pizza lovers should be glad he did.
Again, I could see that he was not one to plunge into something casually or without putting in the time and effort. I got a look at the kitchen, which houses a stainless steel-topped prep table and a Blodgett pizza oven.
They also make their own dough at The Scotch House, unlike a lot of bars and restaurants that buy their dough elsewhere or use premade pizza shells. Not that you can't make good pizza that way, but making it in-house shows a certain dedication to the craft of making pizza. And this is good dough.
After settling on pizza as a major addition to the menu, Paul went through a bunch of dough recipes before settling on what he uses now. The dough goes through cold-temperature retardation to bring out its flavor, before going into the oven. And Paul, who's very much a hands-on owner, is learning all about his oven, including how to deal with "hot spots." That's why our conversation was interrupted a couple of times, as he excused himself to go check on and rotate the pizza.
I asked Paul if he'd considered doing wood-fired pizza. I know, certainly, that wood-fired pizza is not inherently better than pizza made in a gas or electric oven. But wood-fired ovens are "hot" right now - pun intended - so I wondered if he'd given it any thought.
He had, but decided he wasn't ready to go that route, at least not yet. I was happy to hear that. It's all too tempting for an owner to jump on the wood-fired bandwagon without doing one's homework. And frankly, I think the local market for wood-fired pizza is pretty close to the saturation point.
It had been a long time since I was inside this building - I think I came in once for lunch when it was an Asian noodle restaurant, and years before that, when it was a bar - but it was obvious that there'd been a lot of work done inside. Dark wood paneling, a well-appointed bar and dining area, and plenty of TVs make for an attractive, comfortable setting. Again, I got there shortly after they opened, but it seemed to me that the bar area was well set off from the tables, providing some separation between diners and the bar crowd.
Now back to that pizza ... it was well balanced, and topped with a straightforward red sauce, nicely melted mozzarella, and just-crisp slices of pepperoni. The sauce is not made in-house, although they do tweak the sauce a bit to customize it.
The Scotch House's pizza menu includes ten toppings, two sauces (red or white), and seven specialty pizzas, including Buffalo chicken, a "Scotch House Plate" pie, Philly cheesesteak, and mac 'n' cheese pizza. They also serve slices, as any bar/pizzeria should. Other menu items include wings, sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, salads and sides.
If you'd like to check out The Scotch House for yourself, what better way to do it than with $25 to spend, on the house? I have a $25 gift certificate to give away to one lucky reader, courtesy of The Scotch House. This is good for anything they offer, food or drinks.
Because of the upcoming holidays, I'll run this a little longer than usual. Email me your name and mailing address at ROCPizzaGuy@gmail.com by noon on Monday, January 4, and I'll pick a winner at random. Just make sure to include "Scotch House giveaway" in the subject line. As always, rest assured that I will not use your personal information for any other purposes, or give it to anyone else.
The Scotch House Pub, 373 S. Goodman St., Rochester 14607
Mon - Wed: 5 PM - 2 AM
Thurs & Fri: 4 PM - 2 AM
Sat & Sun: Noon - 2 AM