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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Panzari's Italian Bistro, Exchange Blvd.

Panzari's Italian Bistro on Urbanspoon
Well, this has to rank as my most disappointing stop since I started this blog. Panzari's is advertised as offering pizzas cooked in a wood-burning brick oven. It opened in 2002, ahead of the wood-fired, brick-oven trend in these parts. So I figured these people know a thing or two about good pizza, and I was wondering how they were doing, pizzawise, now that's Panzari's has some nearby competition in the form of Tony D's in Corn Hill Landing across the street.
The answer, I'm afraid, is not well. I ordered a margherita pizza to go, at lunchtime. When I arrived to pick it up, there was the oven, but it was dark inside. Right next to the oven, however, was something emblazoned with the ominous words, "Pizza Press." It looked like a big round waffle iron. Uh-oh.
Uh-oh indeed. Upon opening the pizza box, there I saw - well, let's start from the bottom up, as I usually do. The bottom crust had a lot of cornmeal on it, and though it had a few dark brown spots, which were concentrated along one side of the pizza, it was not crisp at all, and was very pliable.
The edge of the crust was a little greasy, and the dark brown spots had more of a fried-to-the-point-of-burnt flavor than baked-to-the-point-of-charred.
There was no sauce, which is OK in itself, as margherita pizza often has only fresh tomatoes, not tomato sauce. On top of the dough was a thick layer of melted cheese, which was not browned at all, slices of fresh (but not especially good) tomato, and a sprinkling of dried (!) basil. Look, dried herbs have their place, even on pizza (like in the sauce, where some of the herbal flavor can seep into the surrounding liquid), but not just sprinkled on top.
Taking a bite, I got - well, not much. Bland. No detectable breadiness, either in flavor or in texture (the top and bottom of the dough has separated slightly but there were no yeasty air holes). Mild, melted cheese flavor, and kind of an unpleasant flavor of dry herbs. It was really more reminiscent of, if not as good as, a grilled-cheese-and-tomato sandwich.
As I tossed out the box that it came in, I couldn't help noticing the mocking words on the boxtop: "Baked Oven Fresh." Sorry, but a "pizza press" is not an oven. And "pressing" a pizza is not the same as baking it.
Panzari's doesn't just do pizza. They offer various pasta dishes and other Italian entrees, which may be quite good for all I know. They're open for lunch and dinner, and they serve beer and wine.
If I had never heard of pizza before and had no preconceptions about what it was supposed to taste like, I wouldn't say this was horrible, so I won't give it an F. But judged as a pizza, especially from a place that advertises pizza baked in a wood-fired, brick oven, I have to give it a D-.


  1. I always take your advice before trying a new place and I'm not encouraging the use of one, but a pizza press is an atrocious cooking implement where you literally huck a wad of dough on it and it simply presses two metal plates together and spreads out the dough, no baking involved. It seems like an atrocity of pizza-craft, not hand forming the dough. (I don't personally care if the dough goes airborne or not) But this begs one question: If the oven was dark, where did they cook your pizza?
    Love the reviews,

  2. You know, this was a relatively early post in the life of this blog and maybe it's time I went back. Perhaps if it was a gas / wood combo oven, they turned on the gas long enough to cook my pizza and then turned it off before I got there. I do think some places won't add wood unless they expect a steady business for a few hours. A gas flame would explain the charring. But it was still a pretty poor pizza.

  3. Have you tried it again? A comment on tripadvisor said it was the best wood fired pizza in Rochester and now I'm curious!

    1. I have been back, and still didn't like it:
      As to the review you mentioned, it may be a simple matter of personal disagreement, or the writer may have had a much better experience that I did. But I get a little suspicious when I see glowing reviews from new reviewers with no track record, especially when they're short on specifics but long on generalities, like "best pizza in Rochester!"