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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Goodman Hots & Pizzeria

Way back when, there was a place called Al's Green Pizzeria, on North Goodman Street in Rochester. It was connected, literally, physically, to Al's Green Tavern next door.
I used to think it was Al Green's Tavern, but no, it was Al's Green Tavern. I'd love to uncover the history behind it, but as far as I know, it was so called because the building was painted green. And apparently it went back a long way, as evidenced by some photos I've found.
I stopped into Al's Green Tavern many years ago, maybe around 2000, give or take a few. I remember it being about as divey as a dive bar can get. Not a modern, pretend dive, with hipsters drinking cheap cans of PBR. I mean a true dive, the kind of place where old drunks go to drink themselves into oblivion and to rot out what remains of their livers, and where it looks like midnight even at noon.
At the time, which must have been long after the bar's heyday, there was also a vague sense of menace. It felt like one of those saloons you see in Western movies, the kind of place where John Wayne or Clint Eastwood couldn't finish one drink before trouble erupted, which usually ended up with somebody lying on the floor with a bullet in him.
Now maybe some of my memory of that visit has become a bit colored over time. But apparently I wasn't totally off base in feeling that way. Let me explain.
Eventually, one of the owners of Al's was charged with crimes, and ended up pleading guilty. According to this story, the bar itself was the site of some related illegal activity. In short, it wasn't a place you wanted to be.
And it wasn't a place I wanted to go back to. That said, it was sad to imagine the bar's descent from what I imagine it used to be, in the days when one of its biggest attractions was "Those Original Baked Virginia Ham Sandwiches."
At any rate, this all occurred well before I started this blog. I don't recall if I got any pizza -- I may have -- but if I did, I didn't keep a record of it. My general impression, as I recall it, was of an old-time, once-thriving neighborhood Italian restaurant, pizzeria and bar, that was dying a slow death amid a changing neighborhood, like an island submerging under a rising sea.
Probably due to those criminal charges, the bar closed. I believe that Al's Green Pizzeria hung on for a while. I think it may have moved or morphed once or twice, but now it's gone, for good.
But every now and then, I've checked on the former site of Al's, because I know that where there once was a pizzeria, a new one will often open up. Some places just seem meant to house a pizzeria.
A few months ago, I discovered that the former site of Al's Green Pizzeria is now home to Goodman Hots & Pizzeria.
I stopped in for a slice a few weeks ago, but none were available. On a more recent visit, they had cheese and pepperoni slices available. I got a pepperoni slice. It was, well, about what I expected, which was not much. It was like basic convenience store pizza, the kind of pizza you see in those warmers on the counter.
Thin crust, a little browned underneath, slightly oily to the touch. The cornicione was well formed but dry. Nothing particularly wrong with the crust, but nothing very good about it either.
The cheese was not skimpy, but it was well browned, and consequently a little dried out. The pepperoni was OK, but unremarkable, and a little skimpy.
The sauce was evenly applied, and again, OK but ordinary. It was a slightly sweet tomato sauce, and did balance out the other components.
And that's about it. Not the worst pizza I've had, by any means, but nothing special. And a far cry, I imagine, from what one might've gotten at Al's Green Pizzeria back in the day.
Or maybe that's just misplaced nostalgia. Who knows? Maybe Al's pizza never was that good to begin with. Inflation aside, if it was worth keeping a five-cent token for a drink, maybe the pizza was little more than a cheap stomach filler. And maybe, in that sense, Goodman Hots has reached full circle.
I debated whether to give this pizza a grade. I know this is a depressed neighborhood, where few people are going to spend much on food, so I wasn't expecting world-class pizza. And the pizza was no worse than a lot of what you'll find nearby, or in similar neighborhoods. And I don't want to hurt the guy's business.
But I also doubt that a lot of potential patrons of Goodman Hots are reading, or care about this blog, so I don't think a bad grade is going to hurt this business one bit. My honest evaluation is that this pizza, considered against Rochester-area pizza in general, rates a D.

Goodman Hots & Pizzeria, 1160 N. Goodman St., Rochester

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