My daughter and I had a very enjoyable dinner a few nights ago at Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro, which opened this past November on Merchants Road in Rochester. I first spotted it last fall, before it opened, and I held off going until they'd been open for a little while, to allow them to get on their feet. Based on my visit, co-owners Stephen Costanza and Donna DiMarzo have achieved that, and then some.
First impressions. There's a comfortable-looking bar to one side, where a few patrons were gathered. The rest of the space is taken up by the dining area, which has a relaxed, casual feel. It was busy but not packed when we stopped in, with a mix of families and couples.
We soon got our menus, which included some interesting items, but I was there for the pizza. And while ordinarily, on a first visit, I would order a pizza off the regular menu, the daily special pizza sounded too good to pass up. It was a white pizza topped with arugula, red onion, fresh tomatoes, prosciutto, mozzarella and sharp Provolone.
The crust was charred - a little unevenly - along the perimeter, and spottily charred underneath. It was thin and crisp, but not brittle; despite its thinness, the pizza retained some interior chewiness. The charring of the underside also showed a good use of the wood-fired oven. What I mean is, the pizza had clearly been baked on a very hot oven deck, unlike some pizzas I've had that were pale underneath and just given a quick, direct exposure to the flames of the oven to blacken the edge.
So a good crust, to start. But it was elevated by the toppings.
This was a very tasty pizza. With a thin, fast-cooking pizza, you have to take care not to pile on too may toppings, but this pie hit the mark. The melted mozzarella and sharp Provolone played off each other quite well, and the salty prosciuto, sweet tomatoes, savory onion and slightly bitter arugula added further complexity, yet they complemented rather than competed with each other. It took a degree of self-control on my part to save two slices to take home, but they didn't survive the next 24 hours.
My daughter had pan-seared salmon with shiitake and king oyster mushrooms, which she loved. As a dedicated sushi lover, she was amazed, to paraphrase her words, that "cooked salmon could taste as good as raw." And we shared a plate of mussels in a tomato-based pan sauce, which we both enjoyed. She ate most of the mussels, while I sopped up the sauce with the complimentary bread.
You can take a look at Merchants' menu here, but it includes five pizzas and a modest but well-balanced variety of other dishes. Now that I've had a pizza, I look forward to going back to try something else (I do eat stuff other than pizza), like the Bucatini with shrimp, artichokes, and capers in a lemon-wine sauce.
The best way for you to discover what Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro has to offer is to go there yourself. And to help you do that, I've got a $10 gift card to give away to one reader. To enter, just email me your name and mailing address at ROCPizzaGuy@gmail.com by noon
on Friday, January 22, and I'll pick a winner at random. Just make sure
to include "Merchants 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.
Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro, 564 Merchants Rd., Rochester, NY 14609
Tue. - Sat. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., bar service 3 p.m. - close