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Monday, June 30, 2014

Vermont Vacation, Part I: Pizza on Earth

After a week's vacation, and some down time before that, I feel way behind in my postings. I do have a backlog of local pizzeria posts to get to, but in the interests of getting something posted sooner rather than later, here's a post on the most recent place I visited.
While researching Vermont pizza for my upcoming trip, I ran across Pizza on Earth, and after reading about it I knew that this was the one must-visit on my Vermont pizza itinerary.
What did I find so intriguing? I'll let the owners speak for themselves:

"Pizza on Earth is located on our farm in Charlotte, Vermont twelve miles south of Burlington. In our wood oven, we make thin crust pizzas, and hand formed artisan style breads, with a unique smoky flavor and rustic appearance. In our bakery, we make a selection of desserts and breakfast pastries. During the summer months, we offer our own homemade gelato. We use local dairy products, King Arthur Flour, and produce from our own farm and other area farms when available."

PoE's hours vary throughout the year, but currently they're open Thursdays and Fridays from 4:00 to 7:30.
Now all of that could add up to nothing more than pretension, if the pizza's no good. But Pizza on Earth delivers (figuratively speaking).
From that Friday's menu, which was printed on a chalkboard above the counter, we ordered two pies, which was just about right for the three of us. One was a "Chicklet," topped with garlic oil, red onion, chicken, red peppers, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. We also got a pepperoni pie, sans cheese, for my daughter, who doesn't tolerate dairy too well.
About ten minutes after we ordered, our pies were ready. Both were terrific. The crust on both was translucently thin in the late-afternoon sun (we ate outdoors; more about that later). The underside was crackly-crisp and nicely charred but not burnt.
The toppings were excellent as well. I was particularly impressed by the mozzarella, which I was told comes from New York State. It was delightfully smooth and creamy, and made a great base for the other toppings on the Chicklet.
Despite the absence of cheese, the pepperoni pie was quite tasty as well. The pepperoni was sliced very thin and was nicely crisped. The sauce had a fresh tomatoey flavor, complemented by a sprinkling of dried herbs.
But simply to describe the pizza here would be doing a disservice both to the reader and to Pizza on Earth. While there, I realized yet again how much more there is to the experience of eating than merely consuming food. As good as the pizza was, the overall experience was greatly enhanced by the surroundings. PoE bakes its pies in a wood-fired oven, in a small structure, in a bucolic farm setting. There is no indoor seating, but diners are free to avail themselves of the several picnic tables available. You're also welcome to BYO beverages, although water and soft drinks are available for purchase. There's also a selection of gelato and baked goods to satisfy your sweet tooth.
On a warm summer afternoon, surrounded by green fields amid the rolling hills of western Vermont, this was about as pleasurable a pizza experience as I've had. I won't assign the pizza a rating, since PoE is far outside the geographical scope of this blog, but Pizza on Earth has earned a spot in my best pizza memories.

Pizza On Earth
Address: 1510 Hinesburg Rd, Charlotte, VT 05445
Phone: (802) 425-2152

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Prosecco, Farmington

Prosecco Italian Restaurant & Jazz Bar on Urbanspoon
On a recent evening when my wife had other plans, I took my daughter to dinner at Prosecco in Farmington. Located on Rt. 332, between the Thruway and Canandaigua, it's a comfortable Italian restaurant, that strikes a nice balance between high-end sophistication and a casual atmosphere.
And what's better for a pizza place than balance? As I've said before, good pizza is all about balance.
Not that Prosecco is just a pizzeria. This was one of those occasions when I wished I didn't feel compelled to eat pizza, as the menu had a lot of other tempting items on it. But that's the price you pay for writing a pizza blog.
No matter. The pizza menu looked good, too, and I was able to share an appetizer with my daughter, and to sneak a bite of her entree.
As I usually do, I went with the Margherita pizza. It's basic, it's a good measure of how good a pizza place is, and when well made, it's sublime.
My12-inch pie, cut into eight slices, was topped with shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce, and shredded basil. There was surprisingly little basil on my pie, just a few shreds in the middle, rather than the whole leaves or more widely-distributed leaves that I'm accustomed to.
Let's start underneath. The crust was very thin, pliable but firm, and the slices cracked a little along the outside edge when I folded them. Underneath, the crust had just the slightest dusting of flour.
The underside was cooked to a medium brownness, neither pale nor charred. It wasn't oily. The only issue I had, underneath, was the scattering of oven soot here and there.
Aside from the relative lack of basil, the toppings were pretty good. The mozzarella was nicely melted, with a smooth texture, and it hadn't separated into solids and liquids, as with lesser-quality cheese.
As for the sauce, it too was well balanced, with sweet, salty, and tomatoey/acidic flavors coming through. Somewhere in the mix I also picked up some herbal flavors of oregano and basil, and some garlic in the background too.
The rest of our meal, and the setting, were both enjoyable. Near the door was a pianist/vocalist performing jazz and pop standards, and there was a bar at the other end of the room, which was lively but not too raucous during our dinner-hour visit. The space was nicely decorated in muted tones, and was comfortable but not downscale. And our server was friendly and attentive, and did his best to work a busy room.
Foodwise, I enjoyed our shared appetizer of mussels arrabbiata, which were prepared in a spicy marinara sauce. The sauce on my daughter's spaghetti didn't have quite the same spicy kick, though the accompanying sausage made up for that, with noticeable hints of red pepper. My daughter pronounced it "spicylicious." (She's got a way to go to become a pepperhead like her dad, but she'll get there.) While I didn't exactly need more carbohydrates, I also appreciated the crusty complimentary bread.
Following my visit, I spoke over the phone with Natale, who's one of the owners of Prosecco. He and his co-owners, who include a cousin and two friends (who are brothers) opened the place about two and a half years ago. Their names alone are a testament to their Italian heritage, as outlined here. Each member of the foursome brought with him some prior experience in the restaurant or pizza business, and decided to give it a go when this property, which had housed an ice cream parlor, became available.
Plans for a wood-fired oven had to be scuttled due to local zoning restrictions, but that doesn't seem to have hurt the food or the business. I enjoyed my dinner, including the pizza. I wouldn't quite put it into the top tier of local pizza - the crust was good, but not quite A-level, for me - but it was certainly better than average for this area. And unlike a lot of pizza I've had locally in a restaurant setting, which all too often has seemed like an afterthought on the menu, this was an item I'd order again.
I will almost certainly have the chance to do so, since my daughter insisted that we must go back to Prosecco sometime. And I'll be happy to oblige. On my next visit, I'd probably try something else off the menu, not because I didn't like the pizza, but because, well, I'd like to try something else off the menu. As for the pizza, I'll give it a B.

Prosecco Italian Restaurant & Jazz Bar
1550 Route 332
Farmington, NY 14425

Tuesday-Thursday 4-9pm
Friday - Saturday 4-10pm
Sunday 4-9pm

Friday, June 6, 2014

Winners! Lynn, who left a comment here on May 30 at 9:15 a.m., and AL, who commented on May 30 at 9:49 a.m., are the winners of gift certificates for Tony Pepperoni in Henrietta!
Please send me your mailing address at and I'll get them out to you. Thanks to all who participated. I have no giveaway this week but I do have some interesting stuff in the works. Have a great weekend and eat some pizza!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rico's, Bath, NY

As I've mentioned before on this blog, hiking is one of my favorite pastimes. And that takes me, most of the time, south of Rochester, where you find more hills than around Monroe County.
Sometimes I take advantage of these hiking excursions to visit pizzerias. I've covered many of the pizzerias within, say, 50 miles south of Rochester, but there are a few more out there.
I just recently checked one more off my list:   Rico's, in Bath, advertises New York style pizza, which always catches my attention.
Besides Bath, Rico's has locations in Horseheads and the original in Corning, which opened in 1985. You can read a little bit about their history here.
On my visit to the Bath location, there were four pies from which to choose slices:  cheese, pepperoni, four-cheese, and "chicken wing." I got two slices, a cheese slice and a chicken wing slice. They were markedly different in size, as you can see. The cheese slice is on the right; a stray piece of pepperoni made its way onto the slice, which was fine by me.
New York style pizza? Well, the crust was appropriately thin, with a little crackling near the outer edge. They just about passed the "fold test," meaning that they could be held, folded, with just a little drooping at the tip of the larger cheese slice.
The undersides were more brown than charred, but were firm and reasonably crisp. The chicken-wing slice was a little softer and a touch oily, which is common to Buffalo chicken pizza. The cheese slice had a few floury spots, but not enough to mind.
These slices were well balanced, which refers not to their center of gravity but to the balance among the different components. The amount of cheese and sauce nicely balanced the crust. They were neither skimpy nor overloaded.
As for the toppings themselves, they were perfectly acceptable, if not particularly remarkable. The cheese was basic processed mozzarella, a little browned, and the sauce on the cheese slice was an equally standard, middle-of-the-road tomato sauce, though there was a very noticeable herb flavor; I couldn't tell if it came from the slice itself or from the addition of dried herbs. The flavor was reminiscent of rosemary, though I didn't see or feel any of the distinctive, needle-like rosemary leaves.
The Buffalo slice included chunks of breaded chicken under the cheese, and a Buffalo sauce that had just a bit of heat, as well as a hint of blue cheese. As Buffalo chicken slices go, it was OK, but a bit bland for the style.
In sum, this was a decent approximation of New York style pizza. It wouldn't quite make a transplanted New Yorker feel right at home - the crust was not quite there - but it wasn't bad.
Judged on its own terms, i.e., aside from whether how it measured up against its purported style, it was pretty enjoyable. It was reasonably crisp and well balanced, and the toppings were OK.
Rico's has a wide-ranging menu, which includes some interesting specialty pizzas, and a fairly extensive create-your-own pizza menu. Most notably, Rico's offers a choice of sauces: traditional red sauce, olive oil & garlic, Ranch sauce, BBQ sauce, basil pesto, and wing sauce (mild, medium, or hot). I'm mostly a traditionalist, where pizza's concerned, but more choice is always better, and I think that offering different sauces, as opposed to just different "dry" toppings is an idea whose time has come.
As in the past, I'm not assigning a letter grade to this pizza. I'd like to keep those limited to pizzerias in the general Rochester area. So let me just say that this was good, if not great, and that I would certainly consider getting pizza from here in the future, if I'm in the area.

Rico's Pizza

371 W Morris St. (just off Exit 38 on I-86)
Bath, NY 14810
(607) 622-6033

Store hours
Mon-Thu 11 am - 11 pm
Fri/Sat 11 am - 1 am
Sun 11 am - 11 pm