Rochester NY Pizza Blog Rochester restaurants LocalEats featured blog

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Leo's Bakery and Deli, East Rochester

My wife, daughter and I had lunch on Sunday at Leo's Bakery and Deli in East Rochester. It's a local institution going back to the 1940s, but I believe this was my first visit.
My main reason for going there was to try their pizza. My understanding from news reports is that it's a reincarnation of Surace's pizza, which used to exist on West Commercial Street. Surace's, which I reported on in 2009, suffered a devastating fire in 2015.
I say that's my understanding because I haven't found any mention of it on Leo's website. And when I called Leo's some weeks back I was told, rather curtly, that no, it's not officially on the menu. I got the impression that they seemed to be de-emphasizing the pizza, or at least the Surace's connection. That's all I can tell you.
In terms of the physical layout, Leo's has a bakery/grocery side, adjoining the dining area and food counter. Both were clean, attractive and comfortable.
We entered through the bakery side, and headed for the food counter, where I spotted three pizzas available for slices: cheese, pepperoni and Buffalo chicken. I got a cheese slice.
Based on my 2009 Surace's review, it was pretty similar to what I had then. Thin, firm but not crackly underneath, with a light dusting of flour on the bottom. And as before, some oil toward the tip of the slice, i.e. the center of the pie, which probably seeped down after the pie was sliced. But it wasn't greasy, and the crust had a pleasant aroma of fresh bread.
The slice was a bit on the salty side, from the sauce, I think. I didn't especially mind it, as I like salt (probably more than I should), but it was noticeable. Overall, think more salty than sweet. The cheese struck a nice balance between melted and chewy, with some lactic-tangy flavor.
My wife and daughter opted for a wrap and sub, respectively. I didn't try either so I can't say much about those other than that everybody seemed to like what they got. 
Aside from what we had, I was struck by the breadth of Leo's offerings. The cookie display was particularly impressive, but they also had a variety of breads and pastries, cold cuts, sausage, and imported foods. You can read about all their offerings on Leo's website.
In 2009, I gave my Surace's slice a B-minus. When I assign grades these days, I try to avoid pluses and minuses, as I think that gives a sense of exactitude that is unwarranted for something this subjective, but I feel comfortable giving this slice a B. It was good, basic pizza, fresh and flavorful.

Leo's Bakery and Deli
101 Despatch Drive, East Rochester
Tel. (585) 249-1000
Fax: (585) 249-9231
Mon. - Sat. 8-8, Sun. 8-6

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fire Crust Pizza

As I mentioned on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, I noticed a new pizzeria opening on West Henrietta Road, under the name Fire Crust. I pass by there about once a week, so I've kept an eye on it. And when I saw last week that Fire Crust was open for business, I made a point to stop by for lunch, which I did, accompanied by a couple of friends.
This is another "fast casual" place, with an assembly-line type of operation. Choose your toppings, a la carte or from their list of available specialty pies, pay, and take your pizza to your table.
I decided to forgo my usual Margherita pizza, and instead opted for the Mediterranean veggie pie. The toppings of red sauce, feta cheese, tomato, red onions, banana peppers and black olives sounded too good to resist. One of my friends got a pepperoni pie and the other opted for the Aloha, a/k/a Hawaiian pizza, with red sauce, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, ham and pineapple.
Before I get to the pizza, let me say a bit about the preparation. As you can see in the photos, the crusts are prepared using a mechanical pizza dough spinner, and baked in what looks like a wood-fired oven, but which on this occasion showed no signs of fire. I should've asked, but I didn't. However I did notice that the temperature was set at, I think, about 750 degrees, which is 200 degrees hotter than most home ovens, and comparable to some wood-fired ovens.
As for the pizza itself, my pie was thin, but not super thin. The bottom showed a bit of charring and was dry to the touch. It was crisp but not crackly, and had enough interior chewiness to add some contrast. The cornicione was likewise slightly charred, not blackened, and chewy but not tough.
The toppings were pretty abundant, and tasty. For a pie that sells for $9.75 (before tax), I thought it was pretty good. There's also a $7.75 option called "Pi," but it's not clear from the menu what the difference is. I assume "pi" is just smaller, but I dunno. You can see the pizza/pi menu here.
I didn't sample either of my friends' pizzas, so all I can do on that score is pass along what they told me.  My friend who got the pepperoni pizza seemed satisfied -- at least he had no complaints to speak of -- and he agreed that for the price it wasn't a bad deal.
The friend who got the Aloha was much less happy. Her chief complaint was that the crust was soggy. I suspect that the pineapples were the main culprit. One more reason not to get pineapple on your pizza.
Besides pizza, Fire Crust has Pittsford Dairy ice cream available, and draft and bottled beer. I was going to order a soft drink, but was dissuaded by the $2.25 price, which seemed rather steep for a fountain drink. They also offer "fire roasted" wings, and panini and salads are promised to be available soon (maybe they are already, I just wasn't interested in either at the time).
So, some mixed results here. To summarize, I liked my pizza, especially for the price. Friend #1 thought his was satisfactory. Friend #2 didn't like hers and showed no inclination to go back. Given how recently Fire Crust opened and that array of opinions, I won't give it a grade, but based on my one experience, I'd say it's worth a try.

Fire Crust Artisan Pizza & Ice Cream, 4843 W. Henrietta Rd.
(585) 444-9086
Sun. - Thu. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m. - midnight

On the Web: (as of this writing, there's not much on the website)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Menezes', Revisited

Way back in 2010, I did a blog post about Menezes' Pizza on Chili Avenue.  I aptly described it as a true neighborhood pizzeria, that goes back to the 1980s.

I liked the pizza, I liked the owners, but I hadn't been back in a long time. Too long.

I recently learned that Menezes has changed ownership, and I had a chance to sit down for a half hour or so with the current owner, Greg Wolfe. Before our conversation began, I ordered a large pie, half pepperoni, bacon and sausage, half peppers and onions. Here's a summary of our conversation, and a bit about that pie.

Greg has had a lot of work experience, in an array of fields, which did not include the pizza business. But about four years ago, as Greg was looking to transition to more self-employment, on his way to eventual retirement, Menezes' came up for sale. That especially fit with Greg's desire to stay in Rochester, his native city.

At that time, the business had somewhat lost its way, due to a variety of issues. Despite his lack of experience with pizza, Greg knew that the product was good and that the business was fundamentally sound. As important, there remained a core of experienced, reliable employees, and Greg also knew from his business background that good employees are a key to success. So he took the leap.

Since then, Greg has taken strides toward righting the ship, without changing the course. The pizza is the same, and Menezes' other big seller, the steak sub, uses the same premium beef as before. That will not change. And the core team of employees remains as well. As Greg put it, he's found that in any business, "It's always about the people."

After taking over, and after consulting with his employees, Greg made some modest changes. Some items that weren't selling, like cold subs, were dropped, but others were added. Those include a "massive" salad topped with grilled chicken, and Menezes' "Messy Meal," otherwise known to Rochesterians as a "plate." You can see the full menu here.

As I was conversing with Greg, I was waiting for my pizza. I took it home in my insulated pizza bag and my family had it for dinner.

The crust was medium thick, well browned underneath with light screen marks. The cheese, sauce and toppings were in good balance. The crust was chewy but not tough, with a firm underside. Cheese was smoothly melted, and the toppings were done right. It can be tricky, I think, to balance vegetable and meat toppings, but they pulled it off here. In short, this was Menezes' pizza, which is good, Rochester-style pizza.

Since taking over the business, Greg has faced some challenges, but he is optimistic that Menezes' has a bright future ahead. I'm inclined to agree. I believe in the principle that if you sell a better product, you'll succeed, more often than not. Menezes' is making good pizza, and I expect it to remain a mainstay of its neighborhood for a long time to come.

If you'd like to learn more about Menezes' Pizzeria, go to: and

Or just go there. Menezes' is at 445 Chili Ave. and is open Mon. - Thu. 11 am - midnight, Fri. & Sat. 11 am - 1 am. and Sun. noon - midnight. It's at 445 Chili Ave. Pnone: 585-328-3010

P.S.  Next visit, I'm getting a steak sub.