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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sully's Pub: Buffalo Chicken Pizza

NOTE: Sully's Pub is now closed.
Back in April 2010, I posted a review of Sully's Pub downtown. I really liked all three of the wood-fired pizzas I tried on that occasion, and gave them a collective A-minus.
Recently I went back to Sully's, and though this time around I just had one pie, I did venture further into their pizza menu, with Sully's Buffalo chicken pizza.
This pie had a thin crust, with a crisp bottom that was lightly charred. There wasn't much of an interior crust to speak of, except along the thicker outer edge; this is not what I would call a bready crust - it's just too thin for that.
The edge was also crisp and charred, though in one spot it was blackened to the point of being what I would call burnt, meaning that it extended past the surface into the interior of the cornicione. The top side was well cooked, and the cheese was browned, but still chewy and not dried out.
Sully's take on Buffalo chicken pizza uses a combination of tomato sauce and hot sauce, resulting in a pizza that's something of a cross between a traditional red pizza and the Buffalo-chicken-on-a-crust that you find at a lot of pizzerias. It had a medium level of heat, but some tomatoey sweetness in the background.
Also differentiating this pizza from other Buffalo chicken pizzas that I've had around here were the additional toppings. The mozzarella was dotted here and there with small chunks of blue cheese, which, interestingly, seemed to be more noticeable the next day eating the cold leftovers. Big chunks of diced chicken were spread over the entire surface, and it looked to me as if Sully's had taken breaded chicken, fried it, and then cut it up before putting the pie in the oven.
Also unusual was the addition of vegetables. Although they were few and very small, this was the first Buffalo chicken pizza I've seen with celery slices. More prominent were the carrot slices, which contributed some crunch but little in the way of flavor, relative to the other toppings.
Since I've previously given the rundown on Sully's menu, hours, etc., I won't repeat myself here. You can also see a copy of their menu on their website.
I was a fan of Sully's pizza after my prior visit, and I remain one. I haven't been rating Buffalo chicken pizzas, just because they're so dissimilar from each other that it's hard to compare them, so I won't start now. I will say that the overall preparation and quality of this pizza was very much in line with my prior experience. As for this particular example of Buffalo chicken pizza, it was not one of the more "wing-like" pizzas I've had, despite the presence of carrots, celery and blue cheese. I think the use of tomato sauce pushed it closer to traditional pizza than some versions that only use hot sauce, or a mix of hot sauce and blue cheese. But I found it very enjoyable in spite of, or perhaps because of, that. I'd order it again, which is, after all, the basic test for any menu item.
Sully's Pub, 240 South Ave. (Woodbury Blvd.), Rochester 14604
(877) 805-3570
Their hours seem to change with some frequency, so check before you go, but -
Wed. - Fri.: 11 a.m. to close, Sat. 4 p.m. - close

Friday, August 26, 2011

Best of Rochester - Cast Your Ballot!

City Newspaper is doing their annual Best of Rochester survey. Of particular interest to readers of this blog might be the categories for Best Pizza Slice (#6), Best Specialty Pizza (#7) and Best Local Blog (#62).
I know my choice for best slice, but I'm keeping that to myself, although it shouldn't be hard to figure it out. Best specialty pizza is a tougher call; I have to think about that one. And best local blog, well ... I'll leave that up to you.
On that note, though, after The Rochester NY Pizza Blog won last year, I promised to try to get even better in the year ahead. I hope I've done that, but I would welcome your comments about how I can improve the blog. Is there anything you'd like to see changed? Anything you'd like to see more, or less of? More giveaways, maybe? Features on local pizzerias? Recipes? I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bada Bings, Norton St. - CLOSED

 Bada Bings opened a few weeks ago, in the space formery occupied by Perri's and Piatza's on Norton St. Is it a cursed space for a pizzeria, or will the third time be the charm? Time will tell.
I stopped by last week and got two slices, one pepperoni and one plain. I guess I should've asked how big they were first, because these were huge, and two slices was way more than I wanted. Oh well.
It seems to me that "big slice" pizza is almost a style unto itself. There are some places, like Pontillo's, that offer big slices that don't fit the mold, but most of these places offer a style of pizza that's thin, screen baked, and floppy. I can't really call it New York style, because it lacks the crispness of NY pizza, and because NY pizza generally never touches a screen, in my experience.
There are probably logical reasons for this. Maybe if you're making a truly enormous pizza you almost have to use a screen, since the pie might be wider than the average pizza peel, and I suppose it makes sense to make it thin, for reasons of cost and convenience. But I can't see why the crust has to be so pale and soft.
As with any style of pizza, though, some big slices are better than others. These fell somewhere in the middle. The underside was screen baked and pale (*sigh*), but it was at least a little crisp after rewarming in the oven. And it seemed to have the basic makings of a good crust, with some bready flavor and a chewy texture.
The sauce and cheese were added in proportion to the crust, making these well balanced pizzas. The sauce was tomatoey and slightly sweet, and the mozzarella was well melted and chewy. It was a little more browned on the cheese slice, and seemed to have been unevenly distributed, or perhaps migrated a bit on the pepperoni slice. (Oddly, it migrated away from the tip - ususally it seems to head for the center of the pie, which is usually thinner. I was pretty careful to keep the slices horizontal, so I don't think it was anything I did. But no biggie.)
Bada Bings offers pizzas in sizes ranging from small (8 inches) to the 28-inch-diameter "King," which I assume was the source of my slices, as well as sheet pizzas. They have 20 toppings and four specialty pizzas, plus calzones, wings (8 sauces, if you count the various gradations of heat with the Buffalo sauce), hot subs, burgers and dogs, pasta, a Friday fish fry, and sides. It's pretty much a takeout place.
Well, this was OK pizza. It wasn't greasy, and the flavor was pretty good overall. I can't give it a rave review as the crust was just a little too lifeless for me, but you could do worse for three bucks. I'll put it right at average, for a grade of C.
Bada Bings Pizzeria, 1733 Norton St. 14609. 323-BING (2464)
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 3 a.m.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading

I recently received a review copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading by Sundari Elizabeth Kraft. This is the second "Idiot's" book I've gotten, having read and reviewed TCIG to Easy Freezer Meals back in June. Despite my philosophical objection to the "Idiot" label, I found that to be a pretty helpful, well written volume, even for non-idiots.
Now urban homesteading is not something I ever expected to be reading or writing about; I'd never even heard of the concept until a few months ago, when we adopted a cat from a self-described homesteader. And now, as fate would have it, my wife has developed a serious interest in homesteading, so this book came along at an opportune time.
In case you're as unfamiliar with it as I was, homesteading, in general, is about self sufficiency, especially where food is concerned. Some people go all in, growing all or nearly all their own food, getting off the grid by producing their own energy, and so on. We haven't gone that far - yet - and personally I don't see myself giving up the pleasures of consumerism, but I'm not averse to eating homegrown produce, especially if it might save us a few bucks.
So while I've looked through Kraft's book, I'm also relying on my wife's opinion of it, and she has had nothing but good things to say about the book. The "Idiot" label notwithstanding, this is not merely a cursory introduction to the topic of homesteading, nor is it narrowly focused on one or two aspects like vegetable gardening. Kraft, who has a decade's worth of experience homesteading in Denver, covers everything from the basics of gardening to raising animals, beekeeping, composting, dealing with neighbors, zoning issues and more. There's also material on solar power, recipes for making everything from cheese (how cool would that be to serve your friends a pizza with homemade cheese?) to eco-friendly cleaning products, and, for those of you who are really serious about keeping your costs down, a brief discussion of the ins and outs of dumpster diving.
As the title suggests, Kraft's focus is on urban homesteading, with special emphasis on how to get the most out of a very small plot of land, or even an apartment. But much of her advice is applicable or easily transferable to suburban and rural settings as well. Also included are some useful suggestions for further (often free) resources.
If your idea of growing your own food is confined to a couple of Topsy Turvy tomato planters on the patio, this book may contain a lot more information than you're looking for. But that doesn't mean that you have to be living a latter-day version of Little House on the Prairie to get something out of it, either. It should appeal to anybody with much interest in home gardening, becoming more self-sufficient, or living a "greener," more sustainable lifestyle. With or without dumpster diving.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Urban Homesteading by Sundari Elizabeth Kraft. 353 pages (Alpha 2011).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Vincenzo's, Lakeville

Vincenzo's Pizza on Urbanspoon
A took a little drive south not long ago to Lakeville, at the northern tip of Conesus Lake, where I picked up a small pepperoni pizza at Vincenzo's. Vincenzo's is on Big Tree Road, a/k/a Rts. 15 and 20A, which is the main drag of Lakeville, right across from the lake.
My pie had a thin to medium crust, with a dry underside. It was not a bad looking pizza, with a well-formed lip along the edge, and an evenly distributed, thickish layer of melted mozzarella cheese.
The crust was not exactly crisp but it was firm; if it were pasta, I'd call it al dente. The interior showed some yeast-created air holes, and it had a pleasantly bready flavor. A bit of oven soot underneath was one minor detraction, though it wasn't too bad.
That cheese layer I mentioned had a certain tanginess to it, which was well balanced by the tomatoey, slightly herbal sauce; oregano seemed a definite component.  The wide and thin slices of pepperoni were distributed a bit unevenly, but tasted fine.
Vincenzo's offers 19 pizza toppings, and red or white-garlic sauce, plus seven specialty pizzas. They also do calzones, wings, subs, pasta, wraps, salads and sides. Takeout orders may be placed at the front counter, and there is a separate dining area. They deliver, though there is a delivery charge, and a $10 minimum.
This was some pretty decent pizza, not outstanding, but fairly distinctive, which is generally a good thing. I think it would've benefited from another minute or two in the oven, or even better, from a higher oven temperature, but as it was, it was pretty good. I'll give it a B.
Vincenzo's, 5909 Big Tree Rd., Lakeville. (585) 346-2030
April - Oct.:  Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Nov. - Mar.: Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scotland Yard, Revisited

Last October, I posted a review of Scotland Yard, a St. Paul Street pub with a variety of wood-fired pizzas on its menu. On that visit, my pizza was good, although the crust wasn't quite as crisp as I expected from a place with a wood-fired oven.
Some time after that post, I was invited back by owner Sam Paniccia, who wanted me to try some of Scotland Yard's other pizza varieties. I finally got around to accepting that invitation a few weeks ago, accompanied by my wife. We were able to sample three pizzas, as well as Scotland Yard's "Dragon's Breath" chicken wings.
This was not my usual anonymous visit, then, and the pizzas were on the house. So I won't be rating them here, given those circumstances. But having tried these pizzas, I do think it would be of some value to my readers for me to relate our experiences on this visit, so here's a rundown.
First up were the Dragon's Breath wings, which the menu describes as "Asian inspired spicy garlic wings served with our Scotland Yard Sauce." I had thought that these might've been roasted in Scotland Yard's wood-burning oven, but they were deep-fried, which was fine by me. I've had baked, roasted and grilled wings, and none of them beats a well-fried wing, as far as I'm concerned.If you don't like your wings especially wet, then let them know when you place your order, because these were doused in Scotland Yard's eponymous sauce. With a tangy-sweet flavor, it fell broadly within the category of "Rochester style" sauce, but the sweetness of the sauce was restrained enough not to be cloying, and was nicely balanced by a vinegary tartness and a touch of background heat. Numerous thin slices of cooked garlic contributed additional flavor, as well as textural contrast. At the bottom of it all lay a single slice of white bread, soaked with sauce - I'd never seen this done before, but it was a nice touch (and yes, I ate it. What can I say? I liked the sauce). The wings were meaty, and done to a medium crispness; fans of super-crisp wings should ask for extra crispy when ordering.
With all that sauce, the wings hardly needed the dipping sauce that came on the side, but it was welcome nonetheless. From its pinkish-orange hue and slightly spicy kick, I'm guessing it was a blue-cheese dip blended with a bit of Scotland Yard sauce. And kudos for the inclusion of celery sticks - a lot of places skip those now, but to me, they're still a must, partly because it's traditional, plus a few sticks of celery makes you feel better about eating all those little saturated-fat bombs.
Right on cue, as the last wing was being stripped to the bone, our pizzas began to arrive. We shared three, the Dragon's Breath, Scotland Yard, and Classic.
I was afraid, given the name, that the Dragon's Breath pie was simply going to be a pizza version of the wings, but it had a far more complex flavor profile. Yes, the pie was topped with that same Scotland Yard sauce that coated the wings, but added to that was the sharp edge of Asiago cheese, as well as that of cheddar, red onions, chicken, and "dragon sauce," which apparently is not the same as Scotland Yard sauce. I still haven't figured out what the difference is between the two sauces, but all the toppings combined to make this one very tasty pizza.
The crust was also markedly crisper than last time. The underside displayed some moderate charring, and was reasonably crisp, but those qualities were most pronounced along the edge, which was blackened in spots and crackly.
Next up was the Scotland Yard pizza, a white pie topped with goat cheese, artichoke hearts, and prosciutto. Now goat cheese is not for everybody, and it did have an assertive presence on this pizza, but I liked it. Somewhere in there, there must have been some garlic as well, because its unmistakable flavor contrasted nicely with the sharp, lactic tang of the goat cheese and the salty/sour slices of artichoke (which is a very interesting vegetable, by the way).
For our third pizza, we got back to basics with the Classic, a red-sauce pie topped with processed mozzarella, pepperoni and Italian sausage. There were some other intriguing pies on the menu, but I wanted to try one simple, straightforward, American style pizza, and this fit the bill..
This was a very saucy pizza, with a super-thin crust. While it was nicely charred along the edge, the combination of thin crust and ample sauce meant that the crust was rather soft in the center of the pie, making a knife and fork a good idea, at least for the tip of each slice.
Though the overall flavor was good, after the Dragon's Breath and Scotland Yard pies, the Classic seemed less interesting by comparison. I think that was more attributable to my palate having become dulled by the strong flavors of the other pies than to any lack of flavor in the Classic, though, and I probably should've started with this one first.
Having said that, I had no real complaints about this pie. The flavor was good, with an herb-tinged tomato sauce, well-melted cheese, and crisp slices of pepperoni and bits of sausage.
All three of these pizzas were nice and crisp along their edges, which displayed some significant charring and crackling. They were baked in Scotland Yard's Wood Stone oven, a gas/wood combo oven which, I was surprised to see, had an internal temperature of only about 500º F, well below that of some commercial pizza ovens. Brian, who was manning the oven that night, informed me that he can get the temp a little higher, but keeping it around 500 is more practical for preparing diners' various orders, and the pizzas still bake up nicely in just a few minutes.
What puzzled me for a moment was that most home ovens, mine included, can reach 550º, yet many home pizza bakers struggle to achieve a crust that's charred along the edges, like Scotland Yard's. What gives?
The answer, of course, is that Scotland Yard's oven has an open flame at the back (the only time my home oven had a flame in it was when I accidentally let a piece of parchment paper come into contact with the heating element). The average temperature at the oven floor may be around 500, but obviously it's a lot higher than that close to the flame. So by getting the pizza just close enough, and turning it at the right intervals, a skilled pizzaiolo can get a nice, crisp, charred edge at a relatively low oven temperature.
In addition to a Wood Stone oven, by the way, Scotland Yard also uses a Wood Stone pizza dough recipe, specifically Wood Stone's "West Coast Dough" formula (available here), which calls for General Mills Superlative Flour (a relatively, though not super high-gluten flour) as well as a proportion of General Mills Semolina #1. I'm not sure if Scotland Yard actually uses General Mills brand flour, but those ingredients would, I think, tend to yield a pretty stretchable dough with a bit of bite and chewiness.
I liked all three of these pizzas. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Dragon's Breath, which had a complex, well balanced profile and a lot of flavor. I can see why it's a customer favorite.
I also really enjoyed the Scotland Yard pizza, though I don't think it would be for everyone. I know some people who won't go near goat cheese, but I thought it played off the artichokes and other toppings very nicely.
And I liked the Classic. It had a solid, satisfying combination of toppings, and if I had eaten nothing but that pie I would've been quite satisfied. After the other two pizzas, though, it didn't make quite the impression on my palate that it otherwise might have.
And as I mentioned, the crusts were noticeably crisper this time around. They were all very crackly, with some good charring along the edge. Particularly where the toppings were very heavy or wet, as with the sauce-laden Classic, the crusts were less crisp, and a bit floppy - though not soggy - in the middle. That's not surprising, given their thinness, and the fact that the center of the pizza is cooked more from the conductive heat of the oven floor than from the radiant heat (and higher temperature) of the flame at the back of the oven.
That aside, these were three very good pizzas. I'd gladly have any of them again, but there were also a few other pizzas that caught my eye on Scotland Yard's menu, including a barbecue chicken pie and a Greek pizza, as well as the design-your-own option. I'll be back.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

TGI Friday's New Value Offers

Note:  This sponsorship is brought to you by Friday's® who we have partnered with for this promotion. 
This is not a review, or pizza-related, but it helps pay the bills.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wegmans Tomato Pie

Not a full-blown review here, but just a quick note. A few weeks ago in Wegmans I saw a stack of boxes of "tomato pie," which is a kind of pizza that seems to be commonly associated with the Utica, NY and Trenton, NJ/Philadelphia areas. It's basically a thick, pan-baked pizza covered with tomato sauce and Romano cheese.
Other than having read a little about them, I know very little about tomato pies, so I don't think I'm in a position to pass judgment on this one. I mean, I have very little idea how it would stack up against a "classic" tomato pie. So that's one reason I'm not going to rate this.
That, and the fact that when I bought it, I threw it in the freezer, where it stayed until last night. Apparently, tomato pies are often served fresh, but at room temperature, and either eaten that way or reheated in the oven. So this wasn't intended to be frozen, and I don't know how that might've affected its flavor and texture.
Having said that, I thought this was actually pretty good.
Now I like a good, simple pizza with just sauce and Romano, and you can find several varieties of that style around here, like Amico's "#1". Nevertheless, I took the liberty of adding some shredded mozzarella and pepperoni to half of this pie, just for the sake of variety and because I had them on hand.
After about 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven, this came out with a crisp, slightly crunchy crust that was not oily or greasy. The interior was a bit dry, almost brittle, but that could easily be due to sitting in my freezer for a few weeks. The sauce was added in moderation and had a straightforward tomatoey flavor. A likewise moderate sprinkling of Romano added flavor, but it wasn't overly assertive.
This was, then, something like the old-fashioned style of pizza you'll find at places like Amico and Guida's, but on a Sicilian-style crust. I actually liked it better than some of the fresh, regular pizza I've had from Wegmans, and certainly better than just about any frozen pizza I've tried. And while it was fine as is, with just the sauce and Romano, it also made a good base for additional toppings.
While it's no substitute for a pizza fresh from your local pizzeria's oven, or made from scratch at home, this would make a good option for a quick and easy dinner or as a side with an entree. I have no idea what Uticans or Trentonians would think of Wegmans' tomato pie, but I liked it well enough.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quarry Tiles - the Way to Go in Your Home Oven

I made three pizzas last Friday night, and they may have been the best I've done at home, ever. I say that not to blow my own horn but because this was the first time I've made pizzas on the quarry tiles that I bought some time ago at The Tile Shop on Jefferson Rd. I'd used them for bread, but not pizza up until now. Much cheaper than pizza stones, and the crusts came out great, better than I've gotten from pizza stones.
I put the tiles on the middle rack, and also added four bricks on the lower rack to act as "thermal mass" to help maintain a constant temperature. That may have made a difference too, because the third pizza came out as good as the first, whereas in the past I've noticed that the crust wouldn't cook quite as quickly or as well after one or two pizzas, I think because the oven and the pizza stone itself would start to lose heat when I opened the oven door, and in transferring heat to the raw dough.
A pizza's only as good as the dough it's made with, and so I'd be remiss if I didn't also give props to my wife for a good job on making the dough. The recipe was Peter Reinhart's recipe for New York Style Pizza in American Pie, which I highly recommend for any serious home pizza bakers. The dough was easy to handle, stretchable (I even managed a few tosses without incident), and baked up beautifully.
If you've got a pizza stone you're happy with, then by all means continue to use it, but if you'd like to try an alternative, a few quarry tiles will only set you back a few bucks. I've had mine lead tested and they're safe. Oh, and if you want to use bricks too, make sure they're clay bricks, not concrete.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Livonia Shurfine

Following up on a reader's recommendation, I recently picked up a small pizza the Shurfine supermarket in Livonia. Grocery stores aren't typically known for having great pizza, but when I get a recommendation, I generally follow up on it sooner or later.
Since this was just for me, and there were no slices available, I got a small pepperoni pie. It was ready in about 15 minutes.
Shurfine advertises its fresh-made dough, which is certainly preferable to frozen dough or premade shells, but this wasn't a great crust, frankly. It was medium thick, with a golden brown, fried-looking bottom with bubbly concavities. The edge was a little crisp, but not particularly crusty or bready.
The components were well balanced, with a healthy dose of both sauce and cheese. The former had a very tomatoey flavor that was neither particularly sweet nor salty, just a basic, middle-of-the-road tomato sauce. The uniform layer of cheese, which seemed to be all mozzarella, was well melted and slightly browned. It had a good texture and seemed to be of high quality.
melted, slightly browned mozzarella. The wide and thin slices of pepperoni were just slightly crisp along the edge, but were otherwise unremarkable.
This was OK pizza, but frankly it didn't do a whole lot for me. Pizzas with that soft, slightly oily bottom generally are not to my liking, and the other components, though reasonably good, were pretty basic, and the overall flavor profile was rather on the bland side. So while I had no major complaints, I'll peg this one at just below average, for a C-minus.
West's Shurfine Market, 1 Main St., Livonia. (585) 346-3023
Market open 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily (not sure about the pizzeria hours)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stafford Trading Post

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may have wondered how I find all these pizzerias. Or maybe you haven't.
At any rate, it's not quite as simple as it might seem. Sure, there are obvious sources like the Yellow Pages and the internet, but there is no single place you can go to, to find a comprehensive list of area pizzerias.
So I rely on a combination of sources, including personal observation when I'm driving around, recommendations from readers, and scanning publications like Freetime, City, and the Penny Saver for ads and articles.
Somewhere along the line, I heard about the Stafford Trading Post in Stafford, which is a little east of Batavia. So I marked that on my mental radar screen as a place to check out sometime. Well, sometime finally came, and I stopped by as I was driving through the area.
This is a typical small town mom 'n' pop store (in other words, it's not a prefab chain minimart), and is worth a stop for that reason alone, if you, like me, like these little slices of Americana. There were a couple of sliced pizzas available when I arrived, one with pepperoni, and a white veggie pizza. Both looked pretty fresh. I got a pepperoni slice.
The thin to medium crust was golden brown underneath, and rather soft. It had a doughy texture and aroma. The crust was topped with a somewhat gloppy layer of melted mozzarella, over a slightly sweet, herbal red sauce. The wide and thin slices of pepperoni were OK, though not particularly crisp.
This pizza was, well, decent, but it left me scratching my head a bit wondering why the STP had been so heartily endorsed by whomever it was whose recommendation led me here. It was freshly made, I'll grant it that - no cardboard-like, premade crust here - and it had a certain enjoyable flavor and balance of components. But it was nothing too special, either. I'll give it a C.
Stafford Trading Post, 6177 E. Main St. Rd., Stafford. (585) 343-5658
Hours not available, but open daily.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ferrara's Potato Pizza

Pizza Guy Note: sad to say, Ferrara's appears to have closed. Mr. Sam's Pizza Kitchen is now in this location.
It's not exactly uncommon to see potato pizza on local menus, but usually that means an "American" version, typically a "stuffed" potato pizza that's overloaded with cheese, bacon, sour cream and other artery cloggers.
The basic concept, though, goes back to Italy, where potato pizza is - so I've read, at least - well known, particularly in Rome. (I first ran across a reference to it in Local Breads by Daniel Leader, which is a great book for bread bakers who would like to recreate various European-style breads at home).The Italian version is sparser and more subtle than the American, with no sauce, often no cheese, and typically includes a brushing or drizzle of olive oil and a sprinking of rosemary.
Fortunately, there are a few examples of the style around here that stay closer to their Italian forebears. Napa has a good one, and Pizzeria Americana in Greece used to; I don't see it on their online menu, but they might be able to do it for you on request. Local Breads The version you'll find at Vinny's in Fairport is a little different, but since Vinny learned his craft in Sicily, I am not about to call it inauthentic; maybe it's simply indicative of regional variations on the style within Italy itself.
Still, it's not something you see a lot of around here, so it was a welcome sight to see potato pizza on the menu at Ferrara's in Gates. I've posted before about my fondness for Ferrara's Margherita pizza, so I was keen to try their potato pie as well.
I've found that in general, good pizzerias make good pizza. That sounds silly, I know, but what I mean is that if a pizzeria does a good job on one style, it probably does a good job on others. And that was true here. This was a very enjoyable pizza.
The crust was fairly crisp, not crackly crisp like a classic New York slice, but firm on the outside, with some interior chewiness. It was simply topped, with a little olive oil, thin potato slices, finely chopped garlic, a smattering of Rosemary, and a little grated Romano. If that doesn't sound good to you, then you may as well stop reading this now, because to me that's a mouthwatering combination.
One of the things I liked about this pizza was that not only did the various components complement each other well, they also provided a range of contrasting flavors and textures. The potato slices were cooked enough to be soft, but not mushy; al dente is probably the most apt descriptor. The garlic, rosemary and Romano formed a winning trinity of flavor and aroma, all conveyed to the palate by just enough olive oil to bring everything together without turning the pizza greasy. The rosemary in particular was judiciously applied; with its assertive flavor and pine needle-like texture, it's easy to overdo, but in the right proportion - as here - it's a terrific partner for potatoes.
Although there are five separate toppings on this pizza, it's still the antithesis of the typical American "loaded" pizza. The toppings were flavorful yet subtle, were well balanced, and complemented each other without losing their individuality. All in all, this pizza was a study in restraint and balance, rather than in excess, like so many overloaded specialty pizzas today.
That, of course, does not make it better than a 10-topping meat-lovers' pizza with the works. That comes down to a matter of individual preference. If your tastes run toward pepperoni, sausage and hot peppers with extra cheese, you might find this pizza a little bland or boring. But for me, this was a delight. I couldn't see myself eating this day in and day out, but as an occasional change of pace, I thought it was terrific. I'll give it an A-.
Ferrara's Pizza, 485 Spencerport Rd., Gates 14606. 247-6777
Tue. - Thu. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 4 p.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. Closed Mondays.