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Friday, January 18, 2013

Brick, Monroe Avenue

Having tried nearly every pizzeria around, I'm more interested than ever in finding new places. So ever since doing a double-take a few weeks ago when I drove past its "Coming Soon" sign, I've been looking forward to trying Brick, a new wood-fired pizzeria on Monroe Avenue in Brighton. I recently had lunch there with two friends, one of whom also got a pizza.
I ordered the Margherita, which is topped with house-made red sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil. I like to get a Margherita, when I can, for its simplicity and to allow a fair, apples-to-apples comparison from one pizzeria to another. My pizza-eating companion went more exotic, with a Hawaiian pizza (red sauce, ham, pineapple, banana pepper and mozzarella cheese, drizzled with BBQ sauce).
Shortly after we placed our orders, we were served a large "family style" bowl of Caesar salad, along with a plate of focaccia (the name given it on the menu - I would've called it ciabatta, but we're splitting hairs here. It was a good, relatively flat, airy bread). The bread came with a tomato-based dipping sauce that had a peppery kick. I enjoyed it, although those with more timid palates or stomachs may find it a bit too fiery for their tastes.
Our orders arrived relatively promptly, but not too quickly to allow us to enjoy our salad and bread. My Margherita had a thin crust, with some charred spots underneath. It was crisp, though it lacked the exterior crackle of the best wood-fired pizzas that I've had. The underside didn't show any visible flour or cornmeal, but the crust had a certain crunch that led me to wonder if the dough might've had a bit of cornmeal mixed into it.
The pie was topped by a generous dose of thick, sweetish tomato sauce, which had a cooked-down flavor - not bad, but not typical of a classic Margherita, a hallmark of which is freshness:  fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, and fresh (or at least crushed, canned but uncooked) tomatoes. The overall flavor was enjoyable enough, but the sauce tended to overshadow the other components. That said, I did like the islands of fresh, nicely melted mozzarella, though the fresh basil leaves were overbrowned, to the point where they'd lost much of their flavor. The addition of an uncooked basil leaf at the finish would've been a welcome addition, for added aroma.
As expected, the toppings on my companion's Hawaiian pizza were much more assertive. In particular, this pizza was dominated by the thick, sweet sauce. Though the menu describes the pizza as "drizzled" with BBQ sauce, the sweet/tangy flavor of the BBQ sauce really took center stage here. It was not unpleasant, but a little overwhelming. The pineapple came next, with the ham and banana peppers playing supporting roles. Not a bad pizza, but a little out of balance, for my taste.
Oh yeah - my other companion ordered a burger and a side of potato wedges. He was very happy with his burger, which was thick and juicy, and the potato wedges were OK, if not as crisp as I would've liked.
It's been a while since I was at this spot, which has been home to several restaurants in recent years. The basic layout doesn't seem to have changed much from that of the old Mundo Grill, with a bar along one side and tables occupying most of the space. From what I could see, the bar was serving wine and beer only, with a small tap selection.
The pizza oven sits in the back of the room, and I could see what I assumed was the digital thermometer registering a bit over 700 degrees. Not bad, and the heat of the oven is reflected in that slightly blackened underside of the pizza. But it also appeared to me that the flame inside the oven was, on this occasion, entirely a gas flame. There were some artificial logs visible, but no wood, nor did I detect any smokiness in the air or in my pizza.
Brick's menu is pizza-centric, with 17 specialty pizzas, and though the toppings aren't separately set out, the menu advises you to "ask your server how you can create your own custom pizza." As a hothead, my eye is drawn to the pepper pie (red sauce and mozzarella, with green, jalapeno, banana and red peppers), and for more exotic fare, there's the Szechwan, with "Szechwan sauce, fire roasted chicken, shredded carrots, green peppers, scallions, peanuts and mozzarella cheese."
Aside from pizza, Brick offers a "make your own" pasta menu (your choice of pasta, topping and sauce, for $10), half-pound burgers, and several entrees including steak, salmon, chicken, lasagna, and eggplant. And wings, don't forget the wings.
This pizza wasn't bad, but it wasn't a standout. Perhaps as more and more wood-fired places open around town, my expectations have risen, but that's not a bad thing, I guess. It just means that things are getting better around here.
But I have generally avoided assigning grades to places shortly after they've opened. It often takes a while for a place to settle in and develop a consistent pizza. So while I'll say that this was about average for a wood-fired pizza, I'll hold off labeling it at this point. But there are enough intriguing menu choices to make me want to go back, which I'll try to do sometime, for an update.
Brick Wood-Fired Pizza & Pasta, 2833 Monroe Ave., Brighton
225-BRCK (2725)
Mon - Thu. 11 am - 10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am - midnight,Sun. noon - 9 pm

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