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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nima's, Palmyra

Nima's Pizza on Urbanspoon
In scanning about for pizzerias within a reasonable driving distance from Rochester, my eye fell on a listing for Nima's in Palmyra. It's a bit of a trek, but not too bad, so off I went.
I sometimes just get a slice or two, but on this occasion I ordered a medium (14 inch) pepperoni pie. Its thin-to-medium thick crust was a medium shade of brown, and crisscrossed by screen marks. Despite the screen marks, which often indicate a soft crust, this crust was reasonably crisp, with a slight exterior crunch. It was also dry on the bottom, not oily. There was some flour on the surface, but not enough to detract significantly from what was otherwise a pretty decent crust. The edge was also crisp and pleasantly breadlike.
This pie was generally well-balanced, with an even layer of melted, slightly browned mozzarella cheese, complemented by a moderate application of thick, slightly sweet tomato sauce. The pepperoni slices were thin and just a bit crisp along the edges. All in all, not a bad pie.
Nima's offers 12-, 14-, and 16-inch round pizzas, sheet pizzas, slices, and a deep dish pie. There are 15 toppings available, and calzones as well. They also do chicken wings and fingers, various fried sides, salads, hot and cold subs, dinners, and assorted other items. It's a pretty big menu.
This was not a bad pizza. I'm not sure that I would drive this distance to get it very often, but if I lived in or near Palmyra, I'd be happy with Nima's as my hometown pizzeria. The crust was reasonably bready and crisp, the overall flavor was good, the pie was well-balanced, and there were no flaws to speak of. On the strength of that, I'd have to say that this was at least a little above average for this area, and so I'll give it a B.
Nima's Pizzeria, Italian Restaurant, and Catering. 165 E. Main St., Palmyra, 14522
(315) 597-5399
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. noon - 9 p.m. $1 delivery within 5 miles, $2 delivery outside of 5 miles, within delivery area (I don't know what their delivery area covers).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: The Complete Gluten-Free Whole-Grains Cookbook

Gluten-free eating has become something of a trend, but there are certainly those for whom it's necessary. I'm glad I'm not one of them, but sufferers of celiac disease would do themselves a favor by picking up a copy of The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook: 125 Delicious Recipes from Amaranth to Quinoa to Wild Rice, by Judith Finlayson. This 224-page book opens with a primer on what gluten is, why it matters (to some people), and the various alternative grains that are out there.
The bulk of the book consists of recipes, arranged according to to the type of dish in question, from breads and brakfast foods to main dishes, soups, sides and desserts. An appendix of diabetes food values and a thorough index round out the volume.
The recipes are well thought out, from basics like fritters and arroz con pollo to quinoa-based stews and jambalaya made with Job's tears, a grain you're sure to be seeing more of soon. Although Finlayson explains why she chose particular grains for the individual recipes, it seems to me that other grains could be substituted in many of them with equally successful results.
To her credit, Finlayson doesn't devote much space to recipes that try to imitate wheat; there is one recipe for gluten-free pizza crust, but for the most part, the recipes put the grains called for to best use, by taking advantage of their unique flavors and textures rather than trying to come up with a wheat substitute. The book is also well illustrated with full-page color photos, and helpful tips and nutritional info accompany each recipe.
I know a family friend with celiac disease, and I'll be passing along my copy of this book to her. If you or anyone you know suffers from this condition, this is a great, information-packed volume with plenty of ideas for gluten-free, flavorful dishes.
The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook: 125 Delicious Recipes from Amaranth to Quinoa to Wild Rice [Paperback] by Judith Finlayson. Pub. by Robert Rose (January 17, 2013)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

jojo, Pittsford

Jojo on Urbanspoon
It's taken a long time, but I finally made it to jojo (that's how they spell it, no caps) in Pittsford. Jojo opened in 2003 or '04 (their logo reads "Est. 2004," but I found a 2003 review of jojo in the D&C online).
When it opened, jojo latched onto two trends:  wood-fired ovens and bistros. In France, a bistro is a very specific type of establishment, and I'm not sure that a Frenchman would recognize jojo as a bistro.
But over here these kinds of labels seem to be so loosely defined, in practice, as to render them almost meaningless. Perhaps as a result, you don't see so many places jumping on the "bistro" bandwagon these days.
But restaurants with wood-fired ovens seem to be here to stay, with new entrants continuing to pop up now and then. And I was pleased to see that jojo does it right, with a real wood fire, not just a gas oven that can accommodate a log or two for looks. Every so often jojo's pizzaiolo would check on the fire, occasionally stoking it with more fuel from the stack of firewood below.
While I usually go with a Margherita pizza at these sorts of places, I opted this time for the "pepperoni" pie. The quotation marks are theirs, not mine, and I assume that they are meant to reflect the fact that the term "pepperoni," as applied to sausage at least, is virtually unknown in Italy, although hordes of American tourists asking for it may change that over time.
Jojo's menu describes the "pepperoni" pizza as topped with soppressata, mozzarella and tomato sauce, and there's basil on there as well, so I figured it was essentially a Margherita with sausage, and I was curious to see if jojo's soppressata was noticeably different from what you and I know as pepperoni. When I placed my order, my server asked if I wanted big or small pepperoni, which I wasn't expecting, and I asked for small, figuring that small might mean a denser sausage with more intense flavor. Maybe.
I was able to watch my pizza's preparation, and was surprised to see the pizzaiolo roll out the dough. A lot of experts (actual, presumed, or self-appointed) will tell you never to roll out your pizza dough, lest you squeeze out all the air bubbles that give the crust a good texture. I've always wondered whether there's anything to that, but it did surprise me to see a rolling pin being used here.
The pizza spent about five minutes (I didn't time it, that's just my estimate) in the oven, and the pizzaiolo was pretty attentive, turning it a couple of times and moving it as necessary to achieve the desired level of doneness.
When finished, the pizza was sliced and quickly served, mouth-burningly hot. It was visually attractive, with a thin crust, a narrow cornicione, and an eye-pleasing combination of cheese, sauce, basil and pepperoni.
Yes, pepperoni. It was good, but nomenclature aside, it was what any average American pizza eater would call pepperoni. Meaty, chewy, with some peppery kick, and some exuded oil from its melted fat.
The crust was very pliable, so much so that the slices could not only be folded, they could be rolled. The bottom was rather pale - bit of a disappointment there - and a tad floury.
The edge was browned, crackly and a little puffy. Away from the edge, though, the crust did not display much in the way of interior yeast activity, perhaps lending some credence to the notion that a rolling pin is not the best way to stretch out a pizza.
On the plus side, the pizza tasted good. The components were well balanced, with a straightforward tomato sauce and aged mozzarella added in good proportion to each other and the thin crust. The basil was as it should be - just wilted enough to bring out its flavor, but not burnt. And as I mentioned, the pepperoni was fine, giving this the overall flavor of a classic American pie, done in a more "artisanal" style.
Jojo has some other pizzas on the menu that I wouldn't mind trying, including a sausage pie with chorizo and banana peppers, and a wide variety of other tempting entrees, from steaks to seafood. (I'd particularly like to try their beef shortribs, which is a cut of meat that I have yet to master at home).
I liked this pizza, and polished it off quite easily. But I can't give it especially high marks on the crust, and if there's one area in which wood-fired pizza ought to shine, it's the crust. This one was OK, but flawed. It was pale and limp, with a bit of raw-flour flavor underneath, and not much happening in the interior. As wood-fired pizzerias proliferate, the bar has been raised, and though this pizza was perfectly acceptable, I'd have to place it in the "average" category for its style. So it gets a C from me.
Jojo Bistro & Wine Bar, 60 N. Main St., Pittsford 14534
Sun. - Wed. 4:00 – 10:00, Thu. 4:00 – 11:00, Friday & Saturday 4:00 – 12:00

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sully's Brickyard Pub: Sully's Plate Pizza

NOTE: Sully's Pub is now closed.
I recently had lunch at Sully's, where I shared a "Brickyard plate" pie with a companion. This is a pizza topped with the makings of what most of us refer to generically as a garbage plate, but since Nick Tahou's owns the trademark for that term (which officially describes "prepared entrees consisting primarily of one of the following, hot dogs without buns, hamburgers without buns, steak, pork chops, sausage, ham, fish or eggs and processed potatoes and processed beans"), the word "plate" has come to be known around here as shorthand for something along those lines.
This isn't something I would typically order - it was actually my friend's choice - though now and then I do like to try something out of the ordinary, just for fun.
Sully's Brickyard pie comes topped with, according to the menu, ground beef, oven roasted potatoes, mozzarella, meat hot sauce, and mac salad. But let's start with the crust.
Thin in the middle, puffy along the edge. Blistered from the heat of the wood-fired oven, but unevenly, with some areas blackened, and the opposite side pale, this could've used a turn, or at least a sooner turn, in the oven. Still an enjoyable crust, but I've seen better execution.
The toppings were good, I guess, though I'm no connoisseur of "plates." The presentation was as artful as could be expected, with a substantial mound of seasoned ground beef in the center, topped with an ice-cream-scoopful of mayonnaise-laden pasta salad.
That left a wide ring of the unadorned cornicione of the crust, which was pretty good if not outstanding. The crust had a good, breadlike flavor, but the unevenness of the cooking detracted from it a bit. The underside was also heavily blackened in some areas, but still pale in others.
As for the toppings, well, again I'm no expert in this area, but I could've used more seasoning. The ground beef was generously laid on, but I didn't get a lot of the flavor of traditional Rochester "hot sauce" (a term that's always puzzled me, as it's not particularly spicy - does it refer to the temperature at which it's usually served, to distinguish it from relatively cold condiments?). The mac salad was OK, but the smattering of potatoes was barely noticeable, as was the cheese. They were simply overwhelmed by the meat. Thankfully, "processed beans" (to quote the trademark document) were absent.
I'm not going to assign a grade to this pizza, because it's simply too unlike traditional pizza to make a grade very meaningful. Nor do I have enough experience with "plates" to assess the quality of the toppings, as compared to others of this ilk. Purely from my own subjective standpoint, I will say that this kind of pizza falls into that category that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, in that, if I want a "plate," I'll get a plate, and if I want a pizza, I'll get a pizza. Combining them just doesn't work for me.
But I don't hold that against Sully's. To do so would be like ordering a mushroom pizza and then giving it a bad review because I hate mushrooms.
What I can say is that this pizza pretty much lived up to its name and description. Think g___ plate on a flatbread, and you'll have a good idea of what it was like. If I could've changed anything about it, I would've liked a more evenly baked crust. And, in hindsight, I would've asked for ketchup. If ever a pizza would benefit from ketchup, this was the one.
Sully's Brickyard Pub, 240 South Ave., Rochester 14604
Open Tue. - Sat. 3 p.m. - close

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Jump Club

OK, this is a joke, right? I'm reviewing pizza from Jump Club, a kids' indoor playground-cum-game arcade? Is is April Fools Day already?
Well, look. I went there, and I had pizza, so why not review it? Maybe I can help some other parents facing a decision of whether and what to eat while their child literally bounces off the walls at Jump Club.
I had off from work on Martin Luther King Day, so my wife and I took our 9-year-old daughter to Jump Club.We joined a few other parents in the small dining area adjacent to the "cafe," while our daughter and the other kids climbed, jumped, and bounced off the walls and each other in the play area.
Eventually I started to get hungry, so I sauntered over to the food counter, where I could choose from the usual suspects at these kinds of places:  nachos, burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, and, yes, pizza.
Hunger will drive just about any animal to eat that which he would ordinarily pass up, and so it was with me. You're not allowed to bring outside food or drink into Jump Club, and, if you want pizza at least, that's with good reason. Otherwise, you'd probably grab a slice at Mark's next door. I'm not the biggest fan of Mark's, but I would've much preferred a slice from there.
Not that this was awful. But it wasn't great, and it was overpriced. I frankly don't recall the exact price, but I believe it was over $3. What I do remember is thinking, right after I bought it, that I would never buy a slice of pizza here again.
One thing that annoyed me, too, was that the person behind the counter simply took the next slice from the pie, which also happened to be the smallest slice. Ideally, of course, all the slices will be the same size, but it doesn't always work that way. To me, it's an unwritten rule that if I get a single slice, and some slices are noticeably bigger than others, the person serving me should choose a larger slice. It may mean that somebody's going to get stuck with the smallest slice in the end, but my corollary to that rule is that by the time you get down to the last slice, a new, fresh pie should be available, and you start serving from that pie. That last, little slice from the earlier pie doesn't get served. That goes to the staff's lunch. That may be a completely unreasonable idea that's only a rule in my mind, but what can I say? That's how I feel about it.
So between the price and the diminutive size of my slice, I probably wasn't in the best mood by the time I took my first bite. But I'd like to think that I still had an open mind, as far as the pizza was concerned.
The crust was not terrible, but it wasn't terribly good, either. The underside was dry, which was good - in other words, it wasn't oily - and it had noticeably risen along the edge. But the dimpled bottom (clearly it had been baked on a perforated pan) wasn't crisp at all, and it was very unevenly stretched. Near the tip, the crust was quite thin, and toward the edge it ballooned into a very thick, and wide, band of dough, which was bubbly despite the "docking" (tiny perforations) and which caused the cheese to migrate toward the center of the pie.
That in turn caused the sauce on the denuded outer half of the slice to evaporate, which left behind some color and a dehydrated, tomatoey flavor but almost no moisture. The cheese, meanwhile, was basic aged mozzarella, but it was well browned and had lost its suppleness and stringiness.
Having said all that, well, this wasn't an awful slice of pizza. Maybe it's a testament to how hard it is to truly screw up the combination of dough, tomato sauce and cheese, which as near-perfect a culinary combination as mankind has yet devised. But this was flawed in several respects, and certainly below average for a Rochester-area slice of pizza. It gets a D from me.
Jump Club, 3450 Winton Place, Rochester, NY 14623 — (585) 730-8900
Open Daily 10 am - 8 pm (closed many holidays - check their website for details)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Review: Back of the House

While the concept of selling prepared food to customers probably dates back at least as far as the ancient Romans, the modern restaurant is generally thought to have originated in late 18th-century France. Over the ensuing centuries, the restaurant has mutated into many different forms, from the humble "family" restaurant to the world-class places that most of us will never set foot in.
Somewhere along the line, the chef went from being merely "a skilled cook who manages the kitchen" - Webster's definition - to a celebrity in his or her own right, who rarely gets involved anymore in the act of cooking. 
Television and other mass media undoubtedly contributed to this trend, inasmuch as they have caused an explosion of our consumerist and celebrity culture. Undoubtedly, most Americans remain unaffected by this phenomenon, and don't care who's doing the cooking as long as the fries are hot and crisp. For some of us, though (and I don't count myself among them) it's no longer enough to go to a great restaurant - you have to see, if not have your meal prepared by, the chef, who's the real star of the show. Those of us who can't afford it, but who are still intrigued by the celebrity-chef culture, will make do with TV shows featuring said chefs, frozen meals bearing their names, and perhaps an occasional visit to restaurants nominally run by them in vacation spots like Orlando and Las Vegas.
The apotheosis of the chef has had the ironic effect of distancing many chefs from the ostensible reason for their fame:  the food. It's hard to get much cooking done when you're busy running a restaurant empire. And it's also led to the elevation to chef status of people who probably don't know much more about cooking than you or I do, but whose looks and personalities are more telegenic than ours (or mine, anyway).
But there are still great, dedicated chefs out there, and one of them is the focus of Back of the House:  The Secret Life of a Restaurant, by Scott Haas. Haas, who, interestingly, is both a food writer and a clinical psychologist, spent a year and a half in the kitchen - or wherever else he wanted to go - of Craigie on Main, a Boston restaurant headed by James Beard Award-winner Tony Maws. Maws gave Haas virtually unlimited access to all areas and employees of the restaurant, allowing him to observe the dynamics of running a successful, high-end restaurant, and to get to know the employees both as individuals and as part of a team.
At least, the ideal is that they would operate as a team. Haas repeatedly comments upon the dysfunctional nature of the staff at Craigie on Main, a problem that he lays at the feet of Chef Maws. As Haas sees it, Maws is a culinary visionary, with his own, unique concepts about food, but Maws never seems able to transmit those ideas to his staff, or willing to trust them with executing what he has in mind. The result is high turnover, frustrated employees, and frequent outbursts of anger from Maws, interspersed with periods - or at least moments - when the kitchen is hitting on all cylinders, like a well-oiled machine. In the end, despite all the difficulties, it's clear that for many of the players in this drama, Craigie on Main is a de facto family, albeit an exceptionally screwed-up one. 
Back of the House was a quick, and mostly entertaining read, but at times I found myself wondering what the point of it all was. I can't say that it's an insider's guide about what "really" goes on in a restaurant kitchen, because the idiosyncratic nature of Craigie on Main means that what went on during the year and a half that Haas spent there was to a great extent unique to that restaurant. As Haas himself notes, he realized early on that "Tony's story was unique."
But looking at Back of the House as simply the story of one particular restaurant, during one particular stretch of time, I'm not sure that the story was compelling enough to carry the book. I ended up with a good sense of what life and work were like at this one restaurant, but I wasn't sure why I was supposed to care. 
The one thing that seemed to propel Haas was his quest to understand what motivated Maws. Maybe that's a product of Haas's background in psychology, but he seemed driven to figure out what makes Maws tick, why he chose to become a chef, and why he runs the restaurant the way that he does. I found Haas's analysis generally interesting, but again, I never quite became as fully invested in the subject as Haas himself obviously was.
One thing I did take away from the book was a sense of how intense and serious the restaurant business can be. I've never read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, but I've read enough about it to know that it contains passages of drugs, sex and general debauchery. You'll find none - well, almost none - of that here; at one point in the book, an employee struggles with a heroin addiction, and sex comes up only tangentially, when two of the employees become romantically involved, which does not sit well with Maws. But the business of the kitchen, as recorded in Back of the House, is all business, which tells us something, I suppose, about the changed culture of today compared with the drug-soaked era in which Bourdain came of age, as well as the highly competitive, money-driven nature of the restaurant business, at the stratospheric level at which a place like Craigie on Main operates. When customers are routinely dropping hundreds of dollars for a single meal, which they expect to be among the finest available on the planet, there's no room and no tolerance for back-room shenanigans, of any kind.
While I love good food, I can't call myself a true "foodie," and at times Maas's chef- and restaurant-namedropping (Wylie Dufresne, Heston Blumenthal, L'Espalier, Chez Panisse, to name a few), and his casual use of esoteric food terms (yuzu, cotechino) left me feeling like one of the clueless diners at Craigie on Main who are there because they've heard it's good, but who frankly don't get it, and who reflexivlely order the one thing on the menu they've heard of and feel comfortable with - the hamburger (which drives Chef Maws to such distraction that he ends up taking it off the main menu). 
But the mark of a good book is that you want to keep reading it, and I did. I got to know, vicariously, Maws and several members of his staff, and I wanted to know where things would end up. Would Maws's autocratic, unpredictable ways prove his undoing, or would the staff finally learn how to work together? And while I didn't learn any great, hitherto secret bits of arcane knowledge about the restaurant business, I did come away with more respect and appreciation for the sheer work that goes on to put an attractive, palate-pleasing plate of food on my table when I dine out.

Friday, February 1, 2013

New York City!

I was in New York City for two nights this week, and though it may be needless to say, I lived on nothing but pizza the entire time. (Well, OK, I did have a muffin one morning at the hotel's free continental breakfast, and a bag of potato chips. But otherwise, pizza.) I didn't go to any of the city's legendary pizzerias, like Patsy's, Grimaldi's, or DiFara, nor did I hit any of the new wave of artisanal pizzerias, like Co. (which according to its website is pronounced "company" - that's how you know it's cool and hip), Keste, or Motorino. Partly that's because many of them only sell whole pies, and being alone and wanting to try as many places as I could, that just wouldn't work. I can only eat so much pizza in one stretch. Patsy's, which I love, sells slices, but it's way up at 118th St., which is a long way to go for a slice or two. And I just didn't feel like enduring an hour or more wait for a $5 slice at DiFara in Brooklyn.
But I did try to hit some places that I'd read good stuff about. I'm not going to do a full review of every slice I had - there are other good sites out there covering NYC pizza, and I couldn't even scratch the surface of the city's offerings - but I'll give a quick rundown of some of what I had. The order of the photos coincides with that of the written descriptions.
Bleecker Street Pizza, 69 7th Ave. - a wall-full of celebrity photos don't necessarily guarantee good food, but these were very fine slices, crisp and flavorful. And with their browned but not blackened crusts, they showed that even classic NY style pizza doesn't have to be charred to be good.
Saluggi's, 325 Church St. - the best slice I had the whole trip. This is a restaurant, not a slice joint, and my slice took at least 5 minutes, maybe 10, after my order, to come out. I was getting impatient and thinking that if I'd known how long it was going to take, I would've skipped it. But that would've been a big mistake. This was outstanding pizza.
I did get an idea that I might be in for a treat while waiting for my slice, watching fresh pies emerge from the oven, literally steaming. That's thanks to the house-made fresh mozzarella, which was incredibly smooth and creamy.
Saluggi's is not a name I've seen mentioned a lot on pizza websites (though there's a good description here), which maybe speaks to the overall level of quality of NY pizza, but it deserves a spot on your go-to list if you're in the Tribeca neighborhood. The silky cheese was beautifully balanced by the rich tomato sauce and just-heated basil leaves. The underside was charred and crackly. Near perfection. And all I'd asked for was a cheese slice. I'd love to go back, with family or friends, for a full pie or two.
Big Al's Chicago Style Pizza, 9 Thames St. - I had to walk through some construction to get here, but I'd read a positive review here. Despite the name, this place sells a wide variety of NY style, thin crust pizza, although they do offer Chicago style pan pizza slices as well. (I should mention here that although some of the pizzerias I went to had thick-crust, Sicilian pizza available, which is actually pretty common in NYC, I stuck with the thin stuff. I like Sicilian, but on this trip I wanted to stay as much as I could with basic, NY (or neo-Neapolitan, if you prefer) thin-crust pizza. This was OK, but not exceptional. My cheese slice had a visible layer of orange oil on top, which I let drip off as much as I could. The bottom was crisscrossed by scrren marks, but was pretty crisp, although the flakes of burnt cheese and the overly blackened edge detracted from it somewhat.
Hungry for a slice on Wednesday night, I passed up two pizzerias that had no customers, and went into the third, Artichoke, which had a short line. That may or may not be indicative of a place's quality, but this was good pizza, with a slightly thicker crust than many other NYC pizzerias', and that again-heavenly blend of sauce, islands of melted fresh mozzarella, and basil. The underside was dark brown, not quite charred, but crisped from its brief reheating in the oven.
The last photo comes from Joe's, another celebrity-photo place; pics of Conan O'Brien and Val Kilmer with the owner stared down at me as I ate my slice.
Having enjoyed that fresh mozzarella-tomato sauce combination at other places, I opted for that here as well, but that was a mistake, in hindsight. The pie my slice came from was down to its last two or three slices, indicating that it had been sitting there for a while, and I would've been better off getting a regular (processed mozzarella) cheese slice from the pie of that type that had just emerged from the oven. My slice was OK, but a bit too thin for my taste. It also made me realize that fresh mozzarella is best eaten freshly baked - the reheating turned this cheese slightly brown, and it lacked the semiliquid texture that sets fresh mozzarella apart from the processed stuff.
Although I have no photos, I want to mention the last pizza I ate on my trip. As I mentioned, I don't care to pay $5 for a slice at DiFara (although I'd do it if I were in the neighborhood and the line was reasonably short), but I did end up buying a $5 slice - two, in fact. Where? At LaGuardia Airport. Airports are kind of like sports stadiums - you're part of a captive audience, so if you're hungry or thirsty enough, you'll shell out ridiculous amounts of money for your food and drink. My slices were OK, but the crusts were too floppy. After I got them, at a walk-up counter, I spotted a sit-down place called Crust, which is, sort of, associated with bread guru (and Co. owner) Jim Lahey. But I already had two slices, and they only sell whole pies, and I figured they probably weren't world-class anyway, so I skipped it.
It's possible to get mediocre, even bad pizza in New York City. (I spotted several $1-slice places, none of which looked worth stopping at, from what I saw of their pies.) And there are pizzerias in and around Rochester that can hold their own anywhere. But New York is a true mecca for pizza. Maybe it's the pizza culture there, stemming from its history of Italian immigration, and maybe it's partly the sheer amount of pizza competition, but the bar is very high. Again, the places I stopped at would not be on many Top 10 lists of NYC pizzerias, although they did generally come well recommended by somebody. But there wasn't a bad slice in the bunch. It's probably a good thing I don't live there, as I think I would feel overwhelmed by the abundance of pizza riches around me. But it's great living within striking distance of the city, for an occasional foray.