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Friday, October 11, 2013

Cafe Sorelle at Nazareth College

Not long ago, I published a post about the pizza at the University of Rochester's "Pizza Pi" operation. I wasn't too impressed, and gave it a D.
But I figured that the U of R couldn't be the only local college trying to boost its pizza offerings (I did review RIT back in 2010, but I haven't been back since), so I started looking around local college websites. And I discovered that Nazareth College's Cafe Sorelle features Portabella's, which offers "handmade wood-fired pizza and panini."
Hmm. Wood-fired pizza? At Nazareth? Really? I was a little skeptical, but this was obviously worth investigating.
I hate to say it, but my skepticism was justified. First off, take a look at that oven. Do you see any wood in there? Neither did I. Maybe the oven is capable of handling wood, and maybe, at times, it does house a wood fire, but on this visit, it was nothing but a gas fire.
OK, well, I'm willing to overlook that if the pizza's good. False advertising issues aside, a gas oven is certainly capable of turning out excellent pizza.
But this pizza was far from excellent. There were three slice pies available. One of them was a pepperoni pie (pictured), but although I often go for a pepperoni slice, this one didn't look so good. It resembled a typical convenience-store pizza, kind of thick, with dried-out cheese along the edge, and, well, just not very appealing.
So I got a plain cheese slice and a "Greek" slice, both of which seemed fresher, as well as thinner. The "thinner" part wasn't decisive for me, but they did look thinner than the rather stale-looking pepperoni pie.
The top side of these slices didn't look half bad, but the bottom was a different story. They had that oily look and medium-brown color that signals to me that this is not going to be a great slice of pizza. It's the difference between dough that has baked on a hot surface, and dough that has almost fried in the presence of oil. Maybe some people like it the latter way. I don't. Especially with a thin-crust pie.
The underside showed that the crust had been docked, i.e., punctured with small holes to prevent big bubbles from forming. The crust varied in thickness, from very thin near the tip to medium-to-thick closer to the edge.
Things didn't get better on top, I'm afraid. The cheese was leathery. It had melted and congealed, and lost whatever melty smoothness it previously had. The cheese slice had a thin layer of tomato sauce underneath the cheese, but it added little other than some red color.
On the positive side, the toppings on the Greek slice were quite good, with tangy feta cheese and salty kalamata olives. But this was a case of good toppings on a bad crust. And good toppings can never save a bad crust. Contrary to what you would expect from so-called wood-fired pizza, even the edge on this slice was underdone; no charring, crackling or crispness whatsoever.
One of the sad aspects of this pie is that even without a true wood-fired oven, they should be able to turn out a better pizza than this. I've had better slices from convenience stores. I give this a D.
Oh, and while I was there, I stopped by another food location at Nazareth, The Roost, which advertises "focaccia pizza." Their website states that the Roost is "most renowned for their pizza."
On walking in, I didn't see any pizza available, until I noticed  a few cold squares sitting on a counter off to one side. They looked even less appetizing than what I'd just had, so I passed. Maybe they were left over from the day before, although it's hard to believe that they wouldn't toss them at the end of the day. The Nazareth website does state that the Roost is "a great place to stop by in the evening," but it opens at 11:30 a.m.; if pizza isn't made until later in the day, they should say so.
For students, Lourdes Dining Hall also has the Hearth Stone Oven, offering "homemade pizza," but obviously I couldn't try that. I wouldn't expect much, though.
Understandably, colleges are trying to boost their food offerings. I suspect that students today are more likely to have transportation and to live off-campus, and that there are more and better eateries around college campuses these days. And pizza is a must. So I get that colleges want to offer better pizza.
The problem is, it seems like some colleges are just offering better-sounding pizza. "Wood fired," "artisanal," "gourmet," "handmade," "homemade," and so on ... how about just good, basic pizza?
If you're in between classes, and you've only got a half hour to grab something to eat, you're pretty much stuck with what's available on campus. That's probably enough to keep these kinds of operations in business. But if you've got the time and the transportation, there's better pizza to be had, not far away.
Cafe Sorelle, Golisano Academic Center, Nazareth College
Mon. - Thu. 7:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Fri. 7:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Closed weekends.

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