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Friday, April 29, 2011

Martino's, Long Pond Road, Revisited, Part II

Martino's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
On my previous post, I reported on a thin-crust pie that I got at Martino's on Long Pond Road. It wasn't bad, but I don't think the thin crust was such a great idea.
So not long afterwards, I went back for a regular-crust pie. I went on a Monday, when Martino's offers a large pie with five toppings for only $9.99 plus tax.
I went vegetarian, getting black olives, hot and sweet peppers, onions and tomatoes. This was a very tasty combination, and Martino's (and other pizzerias) may want to think about adding it to their menu. I won't even ask for a royalty payment.
The crust was still fairly thin, less than a quarter inch near the center of the pie, and it gradually thickened to about three-quarters of an inch near the edge. The underside was dry and crisp, and evenly browned. Although it wasn't charred, I did pick up some toasty overtones in the aroma and flavor. The edge was formed into a narrow lip that had a pleasant crunch. Overall, the crust had a certain breadiness to it, though I found it a tad dry, and there wasn't a lot of internal chewiness.
The sauce, cheese and toppings were added in good proportion to the crust, and the pizza as a whole was well balanced. The sauce had a mild flavor, which tended to blend in to that of the other toppings. This was not a particularly cheesy pizza, but that was OK with me, as I generally prefer a light hand on the cheese, unless it's a thick-crust pizza. The added toppings might've benefited from the use of fresh olives, but I did enjoy my chosen combination, so I can't complain, especially at this price.
I certainly liked this pizza, and the one before it, more than the slices I got back in September 2009. The crust still fell a little short of greatness, but all in all these were better than average pizzas. So between the two of them I'll give Martino's a better than average grade, a B.
Martino's, 1742 Long Pond Rd., 14606, 247-5030
Mon. - Thu. 8 a.m. - midnight, Fri. 8 a.m. - 1 a.m., Sat. 10 a.m., - 1 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Martino's, Long Pond Road, Revisited, Part I: thin-crust pie

Martino's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Way back in September 2009, I did a review of Martino's on Long Pond Road. Based on the one slice that I got that day, I gave them a C-minus.
Well, I knew that Martino's was better than that, so I determined to go back. I'm sorry it took this long, but I have been back twice relatively recently, and got a different type of pie each time. Here's my first report.
On my first visit, I ordered a large pie, half plain, half pepperoni, with a thin crust. Any pizzeria ought to be able to make your crust to order, thickness-wise, but Martino's specifies that option on their menu, and I generally like thin crusts, so I got it thin.
Well ... this wasn't bad. Let me say that up front. But it points up something I've thought for a while now, which is that you should generally get a pizza the way that the pizzeria normally makes it. In other words, if a place specializes in New York style pizza, don't ask for it thick, and if they specialize in Sicilian, don't ask for it thin. There are exceptions (like Nino's, which does both well), but generally, let them do what they do best.
And at Martino's, as at most pizzerias, I think it's best to get it "regular." This crust was indeed thin (or "skinny," as the menu describes it), but very floppy. It just didn't have much of a backbone.
Partly that's because it was so thin. The crust on this pie was literally translucent in spots. It was also not particulary well done. New York style thin crust is so good, in part because it gets good and crisp, from baking for just a few minutes at very high temperatures.
This pie, on the other hand, seemed to have baked at a relatively low temperature. It certainly wasn't raw or anything like that, it's just that the crust never really firmed up too much, and more time in the oven probably would've just overcooked the toppings.
That makes some sense, if Martino's regular pizza is thicker than this. A thicker crust will generally call for a "lower, slower" approach, to allow it to cook completely through. A super-hot oven would just singe the outside and leave the interior like raw dough.
So while I wasn't a huge fan of this crust, I can't fault Martino's too much for that one. Next time I'll know better than to ask for a crust that's thinner or thicker than "regular."
But again, this wasn't bad pizza. At the very least, it was good enough to make me think that it would've been really good with a thicker crust.
As it was, the crust had a dry bottom, with a dusting of cornmeal. The thin lip was slightly charred in a few spots, suggesting some radiant or convective heat, but the relatively pale bottom indicated that the baking surface (conductive heat) wasn't particularly hot (perhaps it was baked in a pan?). I'm sure some more knowledgeable people could offer an explanation.
There was a fair amount of grease in the bottom of the pizza box, but the bottom of the pizza itself wasn't really greasy, so I presume this was oil that had seeped down from the top side of the pizza, after oozing out of the cheese and pepperoni as the pizza baked. The finely shredded mozzarella had congealed together, covering the entire pie except for an inch-or-so-wide margin along the edge. The pie was also lightly dusted with a grated cheese (Romano?), although I couldn't pick out its flavor.
This was a fairly saucy pizza, particularly considering how thin the crust was, but the sauce was in pretty good balance with the cheese. It had a straightforward, tomatoey flavor. The pizza as a whole seemed just a bit salty to me, but I wasn't sure if that was coming from the sauce or the cheese.
I'm not going to complain about generous toppings, but the sauce and cheese here, though in balance with each other, were almost too heavy for such a thin crust. The overall flavor was good, though, so again, with a thicker crust I think this might've been a real winner.
Not that it was a loser, by any means. I had no trouble downing several slices in one sitting. But I did make a mental note to order my next one "regular."
And there indeed was a next one. But that's a review for another day. It'll be posted soon.
Oh yes, the grade. Well, since I've got another Martino's review in the pipeline, I'll hold off on a grade for now, and assign a grade when I do the next post.
Martino's, 1742 Long Pond Rd., 14606, 247-5030
Mon. - Thu. 8 a.m. - midnight, Fri. 8 a.m. - 1 a.m., Sat. 10 a.m., - 1 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Return to Tony D's - Vongole Pizza

Tony D's on Urbanspoon
It's been a long time since I reviewed Tony D's in Corn Hill Landing. Over two years, in fact (have I really been doing this for that long?).
It's certainly not because I didn't like it - I gave it an A-minus, after all. But I've had a lot of pizzerias to investigate since then, and Tony D's isn't exactly the kind of place where you can just go in and grab a slice.
No, Tony D's is a full-service restaurant and bar, and it doesn't serve slices. Its signature item is its pizza, which remains Rochester's only commercially available pizza cooked in a coal-fired oven.
That oven, by the way, I've learned was manufactured by Doughpro, which sells commercial ovens to restaurants nationwide. According to the map on their website, Doughpro is also the maker of the ovens you'll find at RIT, Hooligans in Webster (check this blog for an upcoming review of that establishment), and Bocaccini's in Perinton. Tony D's is "gas assisted," which means that it does use coal, but they're not exactly building a fire from scratch. The gas flame helps to start it up and maintain a more or less constant temperature.
Purists may consider that cheating, I suppose, but I'm not so much interested in the technical side of things as in the finished product. If the pizza's good, I don't care if it came out of an Easy Bake Oven.
This time around, I thought I'd try something a little different, and Tony D's vongole (clam) pizza caught my eye. It's topped with clams, sausage, parsley, oregano, chilies, Asiago and Parmesan cheeses.
Before my pizza came out, I was served a small basket of very good bread with dipping oil, which is always a nice touch, even if it did seem a bit superfluous with pizza.
The danger with bread, of course, is that you'll fill up on it before your entree arrives, but I didn't have to wait long for my pizza. It arrived on a wooden peel, hot and fresh out of the oven.
The crust was very thin - so thin that I was able to fold the slices twice. It was charred but except in a spot or two, I wouldn't call it burned, and it displayed a good balance between charring and pliability. There was one spot along the edge where the crust had bubbled up and was more burned through than charred, but it didn't detract from the pizza overall. Mostly the charring consisted of some small, spotty black blisters underneath, and it was a little less charred than last time. The crust was not dried out, and it remained pliable and bready tasting. It wasn't particularly crisp, but it was firm.
As for the toppings, clams and sausage wouldn't have struck me as a natural combination, but they worked surprisingly well together, with the distinctive, savory clam flavor playing off that of the spicy, peppery sausage. The addition of chilies added a little more kick, but it was not overdone; this was a spicy pizza, but not so much as to leave you panting for relief.
The sausage, I thought, tended to predominate over the clams, but all in all the flavors here were pretty well balanced. The herbs and cheeses blended into the background, but everything together melded into a very flavorful, satisfying pie. And while this wasn't overly spicy, I was surprised at how the chilies and the pepper in the sausage enhanced the flavor of the clams.
There was a little oil on top of this pizza, but it was by no means greasy. A little oil can be a good thing, as fat helps transmit flavor to your tastebuds. Kudos on the crust as well. The cheese on this pizza went right up to the edge of the pie, and combined with the slightly salty, bready flavor of the dough, this was a crust worth finishing.
Tony D's recently expanded into some adjoining space, adding a new seating area and a second bar. They've also gotten a full liquor license. With outdoor seating in the summer, Tony D's is clearly out to offer people multiple reasons and occasions to stop in, whether for a business lunch, drinks before or after a downtown show or event, or a leisurely dinner.
As for this pizza, it was very, very good. In terms of a rating, here's where subjectivity comes in. This was a very enjoyable crust, but it was not very crisp on the outside. The texture was reminiscent of a freshly-baked pita - firm and chewy, but not crisp.
In general, I like my crusts crisp, meaning that there's just a bit of crunch on the outside when you take a bite. I know that's a personal preference, and some people may not share it. But particularly with a thin crust pizza, I think that the added dimension of that exterior crispness, contrasting with the interior chewiness, elevates a pizza to sublime levels. That was missing here.
So while I really liked this pizza, and I think Tony D's deserves a spot on any local pizza lover's to-do list, I'm going to stick with my previous grade, and give it a just-short-of-perfection A-minus.
Tony D's, 288 Exchange Blvd. 14608, 340-6200
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sat. 4 p.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

All Star Pizza Buffalo Chicken Pizza

All Star Pizza on Urbanspoon
Early on in the course of this blog, I was particularly keen to search out purveyors, actual or claimed, of New York style pizza. That led me to visit All Star Pizza in Penfield back in March 2009. The cheese pizza that I had on that occasion wasn't spectacular, but it was good enough to rate an above-average B-minus.
Lately I've been trying to sample Buffalo chicken pizzas, mostly because it's a very popular style in these parts. I'm not a huge fan of the style - I like wings, but I'd rather eat them separately from my pizza - but it's enjoyable now and again, and it is interesting to see different pizzerias' takes on this type of pizza.
Recently, I went back to All Star to check out their version. I ordered a small Buffalo chicken pie.
The crust was very thin, and as before, it was screen baked. The underside was dark brown overall, with some light char spots near the center, and paler near the edge. The bottom was slightly oily, nothing too bad though. The edge was considerably thicker, nice and bready, and nearly blackened in a few places.
The pie was topped with what appeared to be  ground chicken, rather than the chunks of chicken I've found at most other places. Naturally, then, the chicken wasn't breaded. The pizza had a vague aroma of frying oil, which is not such a bad thing in this case, since we are talking about Buffalo chicken.
The thin layer of sauce was spicy and a little oily. Visually, it could've passed for tomato sauce, and in fact I'd wager that there was some tomato sauce in there. I could be wrong, but it struck me as either a blend of hot and tomato sauces, or possibly tomato sauce topped with hot-sauce-laden chicken. There was some definite heat, but it tended to lurk in the background rather than assault the senses. (Interestingly, I seemed to notice the heat, and the distinctive Buffalo wing sauce flavor, more the next day when eating the cold leftover pizza.)
The mozzarella was also applied somewhat thinly, but in proportion to the crust; in fact, the cheese layer was probably about as thick as the crust itself. It, too, was on the oily side (you can see the oily sheen in the bottom photo), but that's typical of this style.
I didn't notice any blue cheese, making this more akin to a spicy chicken pizza than what I would expect of a Buffalo chicken pizza. Again, I'm guessing a bit here, but it seemed to me that a thin layer of tomato sauce had been applied, then the cheese, and finally sauteed ground chicken that had been tossed in wing sauce.
I'll reiterate that I am not rating Buffalo chicken pizzas. Ratings are only useful if the things being rated are at least broadly comparable, and there's such a wide variation among Buffalo chicken pizzas that I can't see how it would be of much help to rate them. I wouldn't just be rating the execution, but the concept, based inevitably on my subjective preferences (who's to say what's better - a pizza with a hot-sauce base, like this one, or with a blue cheese base, like Brandani's?).
But I will say that for what this was, it wasn't bad. You might prefer chunkier chicken, or the addition of blue cheese to give you a more authentic "wing" flavor, but that's a matter of taste. From as objective a standpoint as I can muster, this pizza was reasonably good, with no particular flaws to speak of. So if the idea of a spicy pizza topped with ground chicken appeals to you, this one's for you.
All Star Pizza, 1628 Penfield Rd. (across from Panorama Plaza) 385-2244
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m.- 9 p.m.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Original New York Pizza, Empire Boulevard, Revisited

Note, Aug. 15, 2011: this establishment was formerly a second location of the downtown pizzeria, The Pizza Stop. It is no longer associated with the Pizza Stop and is now operating under a different name, although ownership and management remains (partly) the same as when it opened. The following review was written while this pizzeria was still operating under the name "The Pizza Stop" and remains here as a historial record. 
Last June, I did a post about the then-new, second location of The Pizza Stop, on Empire Boulevard in Penfield. Based on the two slices I had gotten, I wrote that "Pizza Stop seems to have pulled it off - opening a second location that's as good as the original. So once again, a solid A rating from me."
Well, I later learned that there had been some sort of split or schism between the owners and managers of the original Pizza Stop on State Street, and of the new location on Empire. I added a note to my original post to that effect in December of last year.
Since then, I've seen various postings about whether the quality had declined at Pizza Stop 2 ("Pizza Stop 2" is my terminology, by the way, just for the sake of convenience; both locations go by the same name). I meant to go back to check it out, but of course there are a lot of other places I wanted to visit too, so I never seemed to get around to it.
Well, about a week ago, a reader left a comment on my Pizza Stop 2 post stating that in reliance on my "A" rating, he went to Pizza Stop 2, and ended up with some of the worst pizza he'd ever had. That prompted a response from the owner of Pizza Stop 2, and some comments from other readers as well, both good and bad.
So that got me off my butt and back up to Pizza Stop 2, to see for myself. I've been there twice now in the past week, and gotten four slices in that time. Here's what I found.
On my first visit,I got a grandma's slice, and a white garlic slice with peppers and onions, which is almost the same as what I had the previous time, when my white slice didn't include the peppers and onions. I picked them out of a pretty wide variety of lunchtime slices.
The undersides were brown and very slightly charred. They were maybe a tad less charred that on my previous visit, but the crusts were good, with a very light dusting of cornmeal, and a crisp exterior with some surface crackling.
The white slice was a little greasy, but that's not uncommon with white pizza, which usually involves a brushing or swirling of olive oil, plus there's no red sauce to absorb any oil from the cheese as it melts.
Otherwise, both slices had good flavor and balance, and were close to what I had last time.
On my second visit, I got a Sicilian slice and a Buffalo chicken slice. The pepperoni slices looked especially good, but two slices are about my limit for lunch, and I really wanted to try these two varieties.
On both occasions, service was good, and this time around the server (who may have been the owner) let me select my Sicilian slice, which allowed me to choose a big side slice. It was appropriately quite thick, with a dry, firm bottom, a crunchy edge, and a somewhat dense texture with countless tiny air holes in the crust. The crust was just very slightly gummy on top where it met the thick, herbal sauce. Overall, again quite good, even if Sicilian's not generally my thing when it comes to pizza.
I think this was the first time I've ever tried a Buffalo chicken pizza from either location of The Pizza Stop, so in that regard I can't compare it to past examples. The crust on this one was very thin, even paper thin toward the tip of the slice. It was a bit thicker, with some breadiness, toward the outer edge, and the dough had good flavor. The tip was too thin to really have any interior, but near the edge there was some internal "airiness," if that's a word (well, it is now). It was topped with chunks of breaded chicken in coated with hot sauce, which was, well, pretty hot. There was no blue cheese, celery or tomato sauce, so the overall flavor here was of spicy chicken and mozzarella.
After reading some of the comments, I really wasn't sure what to expect on these visits to Pizza Stop 2. Would it be good, terrible, the same as before, radically different?
Well, in general, it was about the same as what I remembered, and close to the original. Was it exactly the same? Does it still deserve the A rating I gave it before?
That's a harder question. It may not have been quite the same, maybe not even quite as good. Then again, given the circumstances, I think I was approaching this one in a hypercritical way, looking for any subtly different nuance.
But in point of fact, if I hadn't had any reason to expect anything to be different, I don't think I would've noticed any difference, at least no significant difference. And the fact is that if you go get a slice of pizza at a particular pizzeria ten times, you're going to get ten unique slices. They may, and should, be pretty similar, but given the vagaries of yeast, temperature, humidity, etc., each one will be subtly different from the others.
So what I decided to do is approach this the way that football referees do on instant replay. Unless it's clear to me that the quality's changed, I'm going to stick with the same rating. That's not to say that each slice shouldn't be graded on its own merits, but if I'm going to change the grade, I need to be sure that I'm not doing it just because of things I've heard, or read, or because I'm subconsciously applying a stricter standard than I ordinarily would, based on what other people have said.
And again, this pizza was about the same as what I had before. I can't speak for others, and I have no firsthand knowledge of others' experiences. So if your experience with this or any other pizzeria differs from mine, feel free to leave a comment, preferably with some factual detail to back up your opinions. But based on these two recent visits, I'm again giving Pizza Stop 2 an A rating.
The Pizza Stop, 1773 Empire Blvd., Penfield 347-4050
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 8 p.m.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Paradiso Mediterranean Dream

One of the first pizzas I reviewed on this blog was from Paradiso Pizza at RIT's Park Point development. I'm not sure why, I think I just happened to go there right about then.
Since then, Paradiso opened a second location on Lyell Avenue, which has in the meantime closed and reopened as Dom's Pizzeria, leaving the RIT location as the only Paradiso around (Paradiso's website needs some updating in that regard).
While I've seen mixed reviews on the web, I've thought that Paradiso made decent enough NY-style pizza, and their "Mediterranean Dream" sounded really good to me - feta cheese, fresh spinach, tomatoes and black olives, over a bed of garlic and oil.
When I went to pick it up, I also thought I might solve what had been a mystery to me, which is why Paradiso's website says that they've been "in the pizza business for 35 years."
In that regard, though, I was disappointed. I asked the person behind the counter if she knew why the website would say that, since Paradiso only opened at RIT within the past couple of years, but I got a very curt, "No" in response, in a way that did not seem to invite further inquiry, so I left if at that. So the mystery continues.
My quest for a good pizza was more successful. This was a tasty pie.
The menu offers a choice of thickness for the crust. I didn't specify, but this was a pretty thin crust. If this was "regular," then "thin" must be really thin.
The underside was dark brown, with some surface crackling. It was crunchy underneath and along the edge, though it lacked the slightly charred quality of classic NY style pizza. The crunchiness along the lip was reminiscent of the "fried" crunch you get with some pizzas, though this was not a particularly greasy pie. Still, I think there was a bit of oil in there somewhere to give the crust this kind of crunch. The overall texture and flavor were all right, if not quite as bready as I would've liked.
As I'd hoped from the description, I enjoyed the flavor of this pie. It was not overly cheese-laden, like some white pizzas, but the mix of feta and mozzarella (not listed on the menu description, but I took it to be mozzarella) contrasted well with each other, and provided a good background for the other toppings. My biggest complaints are that the tomatoes were pale and flavorless (which is not unusual, when they're out of season) and that the olives were of the canned variety. They were OK, just not as flavorful as the "fresh" kind (I'm not sure if "fresh" is the right word, since all olives are cured in some way, but you get what I mean. The kind of olives you get at the olive bar in the supermarket.)
Still, all in all this was a pretty decent pizza, on a pretty decent crust. There was room for improvement, but I had no major complaints. I'm still wondering about that "35 years" claim, but this was good enough to get a B from me.
Paradiso Pizza,  200 Park Point Drive, Suite #105, Henrietta 14623
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. - Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight, Sun. noon - 9 p.m.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Parkside Pizza & Sub, Bloomfield

Parkside Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Having recently reviewed Hometown Pizza in Bloomfield, I got to looking around for other pizzerias in that area, which led me to Parkside Pizza & Sub, which is about three quarters of a mile down the road from Hometown. Parkside is a little mom 'n' pop shop that's been in business since 1999.
I ordered a large pie, half pepperoni, half sweet peppers. It had a very soft crust with a browned underside. Even the outer edge was soft, and that's often the one part of a pizza that will get crisp, even if the rest of the crust is soft.
Although the crust was medium thick, it didn't appear to have risen very much. The interior had a touch of sweetness, but a doughy flavor and not much breadiness.
On the plus side, the red sauce had a bright tomatoey flavor, and the cheese was applied in good balance with the other components. The sauce and cheese were both prominent, but not overdone, and with the pepperoni and peppers they gave the pizza a good flavor overall.
Unfortunately, though, they couldn't completely make up for the crust, which was just too soft for me. Some people may like it that way, but I'm not one of them. I know some pizzerias will attempt to accommodate you if you're like me and prefer a crisp crust, and next time I think I'd ask at Parkside.
Parkside does have an impressive lineup of specialty pizzas, including a cheeseburger pizza (red sauce, ketchup, ground beef, onion, tomato, pickles and American cheese), Buffalo chicken, Philly steak, and even a spaghetti pizza. At the time of my visit, they also had a Reuben pizza on the menu for only 10 bucks. Other items include wings, which are available breaded or sauced, hot and cold subs, and "broaster" chicken.
I wanted to like this pizza, as I love little mom 'n' pop pizzerias, but this crust just didn't do it for me. For what it's worth, my seven-year-old pronounced this pizza "delicious," but I'm beginning to suspect that her palate is less than discriminating where pizza's concerned.
Then again, maybe it's just me, that is to say, maybe it comes down to a matter of personal taste. I've been to a few pizza tasting events where I was amazed to see how some people genuinely seem to like, or at least don't mind, a soft crust. If you're one of them, you might really like Parkside; as I said, it tasted fine. But for me, soft crusts are hard for me to get past, no matter how good the toppings are. So while this wasn't among the worst pizzas I've had around here, I have to put it below average, and I'll give it a C-.
Parkside Pizza, 15 South Ave., Bloomfield 657-4440
Located one block off Rt. 5 & 20, just behind Elton Park
Sun. noon – 9:30 p.m., Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pepperoni Patent

I ran across this patent application online for a "process for making a pepperoni sausage." That in itself is not so remarkable, I guess, but I noticed that the application states that "Subjecting the sausage to high temperatures during drying or other processing steps may also adversely affect the suitability of the finished product for certain applications. For example, pepperoni slices used as pizza toppings should not cup or curl at the edges during cooking of the pizza because of the tendency for liquid to pool in the cupped slices and the likelihood that the edges will burn or dry out."
Say what? I guess this guy never had - or doesn't like - "cup and curl," a/k/a "cup and char" pepperoni on his pizza. Personally I like it - it gets nice and crisp along the edges, and has a more substantial texture. It does tend to result in little grease-filled pepperoni cups, but you can always mop that up with a napkin. The alternative, with regular thin-sliced pepperoni, is having the melted fat spread all over the surface of the pizza.
I will agree, though, that for true NY style pizza, the thin stuff is what you need. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Corn Hill Exchange Market

In December 2009, I reviewed the pizza sold by Corn Hill Market, which was in the plaza across from Corn Hill Landing on Exchange Boulevard. It wasn't that great, but the market closed some time ago, and a new grocery store/deli, the Corn Hill Exchange Market, has opened in its place.
Initially, the new market didn't offer pizza, but recently I noticed a handmade sign out in front with "PIZZA" prominently featured. The sign indicated that pizza was only available during lunch hours, so a few days ago I stopped by to check it out.
For now, at least, Corn Hill (I was going to go with the acronym "CHEM", but that seemed rather unappetizing) offers either full or half pies, in what amounts to a "medium" size. They're baked in a conveyor oven, and the whole operation is right there behind the counter for customers to behold.
Maybe somewhere in the world, great pizzas are emerging out of conveyor ovens, but I have yet to find one. I'm not going to come down on Corn Hill, I mean they're just starting out with pizza, but I think a conveyor oven limits what you can achieve with pizza.
This one - a half-pie "slice" - was super thin, but not very crisp, with a lightly browned underside. With a fairly generous helping of cheese and sauce, it made for pretty sloppy eating. The overall flavor was good, though, as the rich tomatoey sauce combined with the gooey, melted mozzarella and the thin, greasy slices of pepperoni adhering to the cheese.
Corn Hill is not primarily a pizzeria, it's a neighborhood grocery store that happens to serve pizza. It's also in the process of expanding its offerings; on a recent visit, minestrone soup, burritos and tacos were available, and a deli case stood waiting for what at some point should be a selection of meats.
A new pizza place is always welcome news, particularly in a neighborhood that, like Corn Hill, inexplicably has lacked many choices in that department. True, there's excellent pizza to be had at Tony D's in Corn Hill Landing, but that's more of an eat-in place. Sometimes you want a quick slice or a pie to go, and the Corn Hill Exchange Market is well positioned to fill that need.
And so far, so good. Again, this was not a tremendous crust, by my standards, but the pizza tasted good, and there's real potential here. Because Corn Hill has only been doing pizza for a very brief time, I'm going to refrain from assigning it a grade at this point - I think it's fair to give a place a little time to work on things before I do that - but I will say that Corn Hill residents and local office workers in need of a pizza fix should check it out.
Corn Hill Exchange Market, 315 Exchange Blvd. 14608. 454-6333
Open daily 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. (for now, pizza is only available at lunchtime)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Brandani's Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Brandani's Pizza on Urbanspoon
I've been making a point lately of trying Buffalo chicken pizza at various places, not so much because I love it - I like wings, and I love pizza, but I generally prefer to eat them separately - but because it seems to be such a popular variety around here. And there are some interesting variations in this style from one place to another.
It was only a matter of time before I tried the version served up by Brandani's on West Henrietta Road, which is one of my favorite local pizzerias, mostly for its consistently delicious, thick, bready crust.
I was especially intrigued when I was perusing Brandani's menu one day and saw that their Buffalo chicken pizza included celery - according to the menu, the pizza is layered with a blue cheese base, marinated chicken and mozzarella, topped off with celery, so it includes "everything but the bones!" It's not that I'm such a huge fan of celery, but this sounded unlike any other Buffalo chicken pizza I'd had before.
And it was, even if it wasn't quite what I expected. The slice was indeed covered with a blue cheese sauce. That alone differentiated this from the other Buffalo chicken pizzas I've tried, which have come with either tomato or hot sauce. In fact, a lot of Buffalo chicken pizzas don't seem to have any blue cheese at all.
There was, however, no celery that I could detect. Maybe if you order a whole pie, they add some diced or sliced celery after it comes out of the oven, and maybe the thinking is that celery wouldn't hold up well on a lunchtime pie, which has to sit out for some time. But I was a little disappointed by that.
This was a pretty greasy slice of pizza. There was an oil slick at the bottom of the box, and some pooled grease on the top of the slice as well. But hey, whaddaya want with Buffalo chicken? We're not talking salad here.
The crust, though not oil-soaked, was also a little more greasy than I've come to expect from Brandani's. But again that's not a total shocker when you consider the toppings. Not only will the bits of fried chicken add some grease, but you've got that blue cheese sauce to contend with as well.
The sauce was like a thick dressing in consistency, though it may have thinned out a little, or separated into its oil- and water-based components in the heat of the oven. It was not just a blue cheese-flavored sauce, as there were small chunks of blue cheese noticeable throughout.
They were interspersed with larger chunks of breaded chicken, and of course, there was some hot sauce present. Unlike some Buffalo chicken pizzas, though, the hot sauce provided more of a flavor accent than a dominant theme, making the overall flavor profiled something like a lightly-sauced wing doused in blue cheese sauce. All that was missing, then, were the bones and the celery. I'm not sure that I would've liked this any better with celery - maybe not, actually - but it would've been nice to find out.
Of course, unlike when eating actual wings, here you've got the addition of Brandani's crust. Though not as wonderfully crisp and flavorful as on some of Brandani's pizzas, this one still had a bit of crispness, and it remained nice and breadlike inside - beautifully risen dough with large air holes, giving it the great internal structure (or "crumb," in breadspeak) that is a hallmark of Brandani's pizza.
For my second slice, I could've opted for another, new-to-me variety from among Brandani's impressive lunchtime lineup, but the primavera slices, which I've reviewed before, looked too good to resist. It had a crisper crust, topped with finely chopped tomatoes, herbs and grated Romano. Simple but delicious.
I'll stick with my plan of not rating these Buffalo chicken pizzas. Not enough personal experience of them, plus they differ so widely from each other that I'm not at all sure a rating would be much help. I'll just say that if you like a lot of blue cheese with your wings, then Brandani's version is for you. If you're more into the hot sauce than the blue cheese, then this might not be your best bet, though you could always order wings from Brandani's along with one of their other pizzas. Either way, Brandani's should be on local pizza lovers' radar.
Brandani's Pizza, 2595 W. Henrietta Rd. 272-7180
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sun. 12 noon - 7 p.m.