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Friday, January 13, 2012

Vinny's Twofer

I've posted about Vinny's Bakery & Deli in Fairport twice before, in August 2010 and in March 2011. I've consistently been pleased and impressed with their pizza, particularly the Sicilian pizza. That's no great surprise, considering that the owners are from Sicily.
And I frankly just love these kinds of places. If the pizza was bad, I'd say so, but in my experience, pizzerias that are run by Italian immigrants, or that have stayed in the families of Italian immigrants, make good pizza. And Vinny's is no exception.
I recently split a Sicilian sheet pizza with someone, which gave me more than enough to feed my family of three.
Unfortunately, thick-crust pizza with no mozzarella is a tough sell in my house, so I also got a "regular" pizza, half plain, half pepper and onions. And I got half of my Sicilian with mozzarella, again to please my family (what can I say - they're not pizza purists). The other half was the "true" Sicilian pizza, with just tomato sauce, garlic and grated Romano (there are two slices in the upper right of the top photo with no cheese - that's due to the mozzarella sticking to the inside cover of the box, which probably has more to do with my driving than anything else.
So let's get right to the star of the show, the Sicilian pizza. A reader who's a big fan of Vinny's urged me to try a traditional Sicilian, partly because the use of grated cheese, rather than a blanket of sliced or shredded cheese, allows the moisture in the dough to evaporate, resulting in a crisper crust.
This is one that I've had to think about. Now it stands to reason that a thicker layer of dough will contain more moisture than a thin crust. And some of that moisture has to evaporate in order to get a crisp crust.
A solid blanket of cheese would certainly seem to impede the evaporation of moisture from inside the crust. Does that mean that a pizza with a sprinkling of grated cheese will have a crisper crust?
At first blush, that might seem to make some sense, but I'm not so sure, even after eating this pizza. I didn't see any big difference between the slices with the sliced mozzarella and those without. In thinkinig about it, I also think that the sauce itself would be the primary impediment to moisture evaporating from the crust. And this was saucy pizza. I think where the cheese matters most is probably on the top side - if the sauce is exposed to the hot air inside the oven, some of its water will evaporate, concentrating the flavor of the sauce, and avoiding the gumminess that can result when water from the sauce leaches back into the top layer of the crust. But I don't think it probably makes much difference as to the underside, especially if you eat the pizza while it's still hot.
Having said all that, I really liked this pizza. The underside of Vinny's pizza is not quite like that of any other pizzeria around here that I've tried (and I've tried nearly all of them). It literally shines, with a glossy surface that's crisp and smooth, yet not at all greasy. The interior of the crust is light and airy but not overly soft. It doesn't quite have the complexity of flavor that I would expect from a slow-rising dough - but it makes a very good base for the toppings.
Ah yes, the toppings. I love a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs, but sometimes the best part is mopping up the sauce with a thick slice of Italian bread. This was very much like that experience, only a few notches higher. Each slice was topped with a thick, tomatoey sauce, infused with chunks of garlic, and a generous sprinkling of pungent, grated Romano cheese. There are lots of good food combinations out there, but none better than tomatoes, garlic, and Romano.
Given the relative lack of cheese, as compared with a typical, mozzarella-topped American pizza, the sauce was added in good balance with the thick crust, enough to provide moisture and flavor without overwhelming the crust or making it soggy. The slices with mozzarella (thin sliced, not shredded - this was clearly good mozzarella, hand-sliced off a block) were equally good, although the mozzarella seemed superfluous to me, even if it did make the pizza more acceptable to my young daughter, as it conformed more to her conception of what pizza should look like.
But both she and my wife were more interested in the "regular" pizza - a standard pie, with tomato sauce and mozzarella, which I got half-topped with peppers and onions. What can I say? It was very good, though to me it took a back seat to the Sicilian. The thin-to-medium crust was lightly charred underneath, with a dry, firm underside. What I noticed most about this pizza was the cheese, which was very nicely melted, and which was clearly top-shelf stuff - no dried-out shreds here, or orangey oil exuding from the cheese, just a smooth, creamy blanket of mozzarella.
If you really prefer standard, American-style pizza, then you should be more than happy with Vinny's version. It's got a nice crust and tasty toppings, and easily rates a B+. But it would be a shame to go to Vinny's for a pizza and not get a Sicilian. I've never been to Sicily, but I have to think this is as close as it gets, in these parts. It gets an A from me.


  1. So is this the Sicilian version of Amico's "#1 pizza" that you reviewed a while back? I was not a big fan of the #1 pizza, so maybe i'll try this pizza with mozzerella instead of just romano.

  2. I guess that's an approximate way of putting it. But if you weren't a big fan of the #1 I'm not sure that this is the pizza for you, even with the addition of mozzarella. I love the flavor and I think (without having been to Sicily) that this is an outstanding example of an authentic Sicilian pizza, but even with added mozzarella, it's dominated by the sauce, Romano and garlic. So if you like a cheesy pizza this may not thrill you.

  3. The Sicilian Pizza was pan baked in an oven set at an 'estimated' 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This seemingly low temperature will allow a thick pizza a reasonably slow, measured cook. The bottom of the Sicilian Pizza, with it’s crispy, dark, glossy, yet not at all greasy ‘look’ is a result of the pizza being taken out of the pan and placed directly on the surface of the deck oven for a few short minutes to allow the underside to ‘firm up’. The heat of the oven surface also does a nifty little trick of dissipating oil residue, often associated with the underside of pan-baked pizzas. What you end of with is a crisp, darker underside, void of oil or greasy residue.


  4. Vinnie should focus primarily on his pizza making skills. With no real coffee bar in the area, maybe some fine espresso drinks as well. Clear out the shelves of Italian imports, put in some seating, and use the glass display cases to showcase his many unique pizzas found no where else in Rochester. I'm sure Vinnie and his wife could whip up some mean meatballs. Some of those Sicilian aranchinis too. From briefly speaking with Vinnie, I understand his passion for quality food. His pillowy, perfectly seasoned Sicilian pizza can't be beat. Who cares if a large pizza chain is across the street? That's why there are gas stations across the street from one another. Vinnie's screams Deli/imports, not pizza. A bit of constructive criticism may be all this place needs to be one of the best places to eat in Rochester.

  5. They could use some better signage on the building. You can see it in my 2010 post:
    And since the building is set back a bit from the road, and Vinny's shares it with some other business (a day care or something), you could very easily drive by and not notice that there's a pizza place in there.

  6. I'm lucky enough to live very close to Vinny's so his pizzas end up at our house quite often. Don't know if you tried his white Sicilian yet, but it is also a must-try! My wife and I tried the Potato pizza based on your review of some time ago and it has become one of our favorite pizzas of all time.
    (Good idea about the seating from Anonymous)

  7. Glad you liked the potato pizza! I will definitely have to try the white Sicilian sometime.