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Thursday, December 31, 2015

East of Chicago, W. Henrietta Road

On a recent weekend, my wife, daughter and I, along with a friend of my daughter, stopped in to East of Chicago Pizzeria, which recently opened on West Henrietta Road in Brighton.
As I reported on my Facebook page, I had become aware of this pizzeria before it opened, so before we went there, I learned that East of Chicago is a chain, based in Ohio. Most of their locations are in or near Ohio. There are a couple in South Carolina and the Rochester location is their first in New York.
East of Chicago offers six crusts, which set off some red flags with me. I tend to think that a pizzeria that is trying to do too many things can't do them all well. But the proof is in the pizza, so I tried to keep an open mind.
East of Chicago offers the following crusts, the descriptions of which I quote from their website:

Pan - Our Signature Crust. Light and airy with a Crunch! "Best pan Pizza East of Chicago".
Crispy - A very thin crust with a distinctive crunch 12" & 14" only.
Thin - Hand tossed with a golden brown crust.
Square - Thin crust - 16" only.
Authentic Chicago Style - Seasoned pie crust filled with your favorite toppings, a generous layer of our blended cheese. Medium only.
Loaded Crust - Thin center with cheese & Pepperoni baked inside a folded edge.

Pizzas come in no less than seven sizes, from a six-inch "flash pan" pizza to a 32-slice sheet.  There are fifteen available toppings, not including extra cheese.
I figured, go with what they claim to do best, so we got a pan pizza. Sausage won the vote as a topping.
This is a "fast casual" place, where you order at the counter and they bring the food to the table, but it was a quiet day, so we were waited on at our table. The service was efficient, informative (we asked some questions about the different crusts) and friendly.
When the pizza came out, it looked good, with a medium-brown, well-formed cornicione, and nicely melted cheese. The underside was pockmarked with a bubbly pattern. It was dry to the touch, with just a trace of oil.
And all in all, it was enjoyable, if not exceptional. The underside of the medium-to-thick crust was crisp underneath but the slice was pliable. The interior had a mouth-pleasing chew and a faint breadlike aroma. The mozzarella cheese was well melted, slightly browned and gooey, but a bit bland. Thicker pizza tends, in my mind, for a little more assertive cheese, so the inclusion of some Provolone or Parmesan would've been welcome here.
Between the crust and cheese lay a basic, mildly seasoned tomato sauce, which was applied in good proportion to the other components. T chunks of sausage were thick and meaty, also mildly seasoned.
Besides pizza, East of Chicago  does wings, oven-baked subs, salads, sides, and a few sweets. There's a daily lunch buffet from 11 to 3, and a dinner buffet on Wednesdays from 6 to 9. Buffet prices vary (e.g. a kid's lunch buffet is $4.99, an adult's dinner buffet is $9.99).

This location has housed numerous restaurants over the years - Sai Gon, Thai Time, Portobello, Portofino, and I imagine some others. Frankly, if I were opening a restaurant, that would make me a little nervous. But maybe East of Chicago will prove to be a good fit.
As for the pizza, it was, as I mentioned, reasonably good if not outstanding. So don't take the following as an indictment, but just an explanation. 
I hope I'm not just being subconsciously influenced by my knowledge that East of Chicago is part of a chain, but I do think there was something "chain-like" about this pizza. That's not meant to be damning; there's no reason a chain pizzeria or other restaurant can't turn out top-notch food. But the pie seemed a little formulaic. The individual components were good, if a bit bland, but they didn't quite all meld together, nor did I pick up any of the subtle aromas, flavors or textures that mark first-rate pizza. For what it was, it was OK. It just didn't wow me.
I would like to try some of East of Chicago's other varieties sometime, though it does concern me a little when a place tries to do too many things. It's like when you go to a Chinese restaurant and they've got 500 items on the menu, from every culture in Asia. Now East of Chicago is certainly not in that category, but again I think it's somewhat typical of a certain chain-restaurant or corporate mentality to try to bowl over the American consumer with an array of choices.
Having said that, that marketing strategy must pay off, or so many companies wouldn't be doing it. And it must work with me too, because I will go back eventually to try one or more of East of Chicago's other crusts. I'll hold off on a grade until I've had a chance to sample some of those other pies, but consider this one on the high side of average.

East of Chicago Pizza, 2171 W. Henrietta Rd., Rochester 14623

Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Scotch House Pub Report and Giveaway

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Paul Smith, one owner of The Scotch House Pub on Goodman Street in Rochester.
Over the years, this location has housed several establishments, but the Scotch House just passed its two-year anniversary, which I think puts it over the hump in the bar and restaurant business, where most businesses fail 
But The Scotch House also had just passed what for me was a more significant anniversary:  two weeks of serving pizza.
The drink side of things seems pretty well established at this point. When I arrived at around 5 p.m., shortly after they opened, the place was quiet, but I was told that the Thursday crowd would begin to arrive soon for the "Mug Night" special ($1 beers, $2 wells).
But Paul, who's something of a foodie, would like to get more into the food side of things. And that's where the pizza comes in.
When I got there, Paul had just put a pepperoni pizza in the oven. After we chatted for a few minutes, he brought out the pie, which I was happy to sample.
The first thing I noticed, aside from its general appearance, was the fresh-bread aroma of the crust. The crust was on the thin side of medium in thickness, and a little browned underneath with some screen marks.
The underside was browned in spots, but a little pale. To his credit, though, before I could offer an opinion, Paul opined that he should've left the pie in the oven a minute or two later. As an avid home baker who's my own worst critic, this told me that he's striving never to be simply satisfied.
And truth be told, the crust was pretty good. When I folded my slice, it cracked on the surface, underneath, but did not break clean through, which to me is a good sign. Surface crackling, chewy interior - that, to me, is a hallmark of good pizza.
I could also tell from our conversation that Paul has, and continues to, put a lot of effort into the business. Prior to opening The Scotch House, Paul worked in the computer field, but eventually decided to get into business for himself. That led to The Scotch House, which he owns with a silent partner.
Having become pretty well established, Paul wanted to expand his scope and he settled on pizza as a focus of the menu. Local pizza lovers should be glad he did.
Again, I could see that he was not one to plunge into something casually or without putting in the time and effort.  I got a look at the kitchen, which houses a stainless steel-topped prep table and a Blodgett pizza oven.
They also make their own dough at The Scotch House, unlike a lot of bars and restaurants that buy their dough elsewhere or use premade pizza shells. Not that you can't make good pizza that way, but making it in-house shows a certain dedication to the craft of making pizza. And this is good dough.
After settling on pizza as a major addition to the menu, Paul went through a bunch of dough recipes before settling on what he uses now. The dough goes through cold-temperature retardation to bring out its flavor, before going into the oven. And Paul, who's very much a hands-on owner, is learning all about his oven, including how to deal with "hot spots." That's why our conversation was interrupted a couple of times, as he excused himself to go check on and rotate the pizza.
I asked Paul if he'd considered doing wood-fired pizza. I know, certainly, that wood-fired pizza is not inherently better than pizza made in a gas or electric oven. But wood-fired ovens are "hot" right now - pun intended - so I wondered if he'd given it any thought.
He had, but decided he wasn't ready to go that route, at least not yet. I was happy to hear that. It's all too tempting for an owner to jump on the wood-fired bandwagon without doing one's homework. And frankly, I think the local market for wood-fired pizza is pretty close to the saturation point. 
It had been a long time since I was inside this building - I think I came in once for lunch when it was an Asian noodle restaurant, and years before that, when it was a bar - but it was obvious that there'd been a lot of work done inside. Dark wood paneling, a well-appointed bar and dining area, and plenty of TVs make for an attractive, comfortable setting. Again, I got there shortly after they opened, but it seemed to me that the bar area was well set off from the tables, providing some separation between diners and the bar crowd.
Now back to that pizza ... it was well balanced, and topped with a straightforward red sauce, nicely melted mozzarella, and just-crisp slices of pepperoni. The sauce is not made in-house, although they do tweak the sauce a bit to customize it.
The Scotch House's pizza menu includes ten toppings, two sauces (red or white), and seven specialty pizzas, including Buffalo chicken, a "Scotch House Plate" pie, Philly cheesesteak, and mac 'n' cheese pizza. They also serve slices, as any bar/pizzeria should. Other menu items include wings, sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, salads and sides.
If you'd like to check out The Scotch House for yourself, what better way to do it than with $25 to spend, on the house? I have a $25 gift certificate to give away to one lucky reader, courtesy of The Scotch House. This is good for anything they offer, food or drinks.
Because of the upcoming holidays, I'll run this a little longer than usual.  Email me your name and mailing address at by noon on Monday, January 4, and I'll pick a winner at random. Just make sure to include "Scotch House giveaway" in the subject line. As always, rest assured that I will not use your personal information for any other purposes, or give it to anyone else.

The Scotch House Pub, 373 S. Goodman St., Rochester 14607

Mon - Wed: 5 PM - 2 AM
Thurs & Fri: 4 PM - 2 AM
Sat & Sun: Noon - 2 AM

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Root 31 Cafe, Pittsford

I stopped the other day for lunch, with a couple friends, at Root 31 Cafe & Eatery in Pittsford Plaza. It's in what used to be a location of Colie's Cafe, whose Park Avenue location I reviewed in 2012. (There's now just one Colie's, in Eastview Mall, which apparently does not offer pizza. Read the details here.)
According to its website, "Root 31 has partnered with farms that feature pasture raised & grass-fed animals that produce premium dairy, meats, cheeses in addition handcrafted sundries, condiments , jams and jellies. Produce, fruits, and berries all from family farms in the countryside Counties of western NY. The finest ice cream, sorbets, chocolates, vanillas, fruit purees available. Whenever possible we use local, organic ingredients guided by principles of sustainability."
All well and good. I applaud them for that. So how's the food?
This is a "fast casual" place, where you order at the counter and have your food delivered to the table. Root 31 is not a pizzeria as such, but it does feature pizza on the menu. Pizzas here come in two sizes, "petite" and "personal." I was hungry, so I got a personal cheese pizza, which was about the size of a dinner plate.
Before getting on to the pizza, I have to say, I found the prices rather curious. A personal cheese pizza was $8.25. Specialty pizzas ranged from $8.95 to $9.95. But individual toppings on a personal pizza were either $2.50 or $2.90. So if I got a white pizza with one veggie topping, that would come to $10.75. But I could get a "Chef's Style" white pizza, with bacon, onions and other toppings for $8.95. Maybe there's some logic behind that, but if so, I'm missing it.
So I got a plain cheese pizza. At first glance, it didn't look too bad. The cheese seemed a little overbrowned, but the pie looked OK overall.
But things went downhill from there. The underside was rather pale, and the crust was thin, limp, and floppy. When I tried to pick up a slice, it flopped over, and the toppings slid off.
I have given great reviews to pizzas whose slices might justly be characterized as floppy. Some are best eaten with a knife and fork, as I ended up doing here.
But those pizzas had crusts that were slightly charred, aromatic and flavorful. The crusts were good enough to eat on their own. This crust was just dull and lifeless. It seemed undercooked, and it didn't have much to recommend it. This was one of the few times that I have left some of the crust on my plate, and discarded it.
Sometimes good toppings can partially save a bad crust, but not this time. The cheese was rather overbrowned, as I've said. It wasn't hard, but neither was it smooth, and the oil that it exuded had settled into a few pools here and there.
I wasn't too thrilled about the sauce, either. I probably notice the sauce mostly when I don't like it.
As here. As I was eating this pizza, "SpaghettiOs" popped into my mind. The sauce reminded me of SpaghettiOs sauce.
Make no mistake, I have fond memories of SpaghettiOs. But I don't necessarily want my pizza sauce to taste like something that came out of a can of Franco American pasta.
I'm not saying this sauce came out of a can. For all I know, it was made from organic, locally produced ingredients. I'm just saying that the flavor reminded me of SpaghettiOs, with that distinctive tanginess of salt and Parmesan cheese, and not much tomato flavor. Maybe if I'd liked the crust, I would have been more predisposed to like the sauce, I don't know. I didn't exactly dislike the sauce, but it just didn't seem to help the pizza much. A little more tomatoey sweetness and some herbal accents would've been welcome.
One of my companions got a pepperoni pizza. To put it briefly, it was about the same, and she wasn't too happy with it.
Not to pile on, but it also took a loong time after I got my pizza, for her pizza to come out, and I think it was pretty obvious when we ordered that we were together. It would've been nice to get our pizzas at around the same time.
I wish I could say that my other companion's hamburger (which arrived with the pepperoni pizza) partially saved the day. But it didn't. He wasn't asked how he wanted it cooked, and this was well done. A thin patty, with no trace of pink inside, and from his account, as dry as it looked. That's why there's ketchup. I know some places won't do burgers less than well done, for health reasons, but if that's Root 31's policy, it should've been disclosed.
I don't enjoy giving bad reviews. But I have to be honest. If I thought we'd just caught Root 31 on a bad day, I'd hold off. But I don't. So I have to be honest and give the pizza a D.

Root 31 Cafe & Eatery
3349 Monroe Ave., Pittsford
(585) 383-5660 -

Mon-Sat 9am - 9pm, Sun 9am - 8pm

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ruck's Pizza Kitchen, Lima: Sheet Pizza

Pizza aficionados may tend to discount "sheet" pizza, as little more than a quick, cheap way to feed a bunch of people. With an individual pie, we imagine the pizzaiolo tossing the dough, hand-crafting the pie, and tending to it the oven. A sheet pizza seems too ... easy. You spread the dough on the sheet, top it, stick it in the oven, and pull it out. Done.
While there is a lot of bad sheet pizza out there, there's no reason it can't be good. So-called sheet pizza is an American descendant, or perhaps cousin, of Sicilian-style pizza, and nobody ever accused the Sicilians of not knowing how to make good pizza (well, perhaps some Neapolitans have, but I'm not aware of it).
All that's a lead-up to this. At my wife's behest, I was recently tasked with picking up a sheet pizza for an event she was running, and I went with Ruck's Pizza Kitchen in Lima.
I reported on Ruck's last May,when I got two slices. They were good enough to rate a "B". But I know that a pizzeria's slices are often not a good indicator of how good their sheet pizza will be, and vice versa.
Not so here; this was good pizza. I'm afraid I neglected to take any photos of the underside or the sides of the individual slices, partly because within seconds of my opening the box, the pizza was set upon by a horde of hungry teenagers.
In contrast to some sheet pizzas, this was not oily, nor did it have the fried-dough-like crunch that is all too prevalent with that style. The crust was firm underneath, and the interior had a faint aroma of fresh bread, with a good chew.
The pizza was topped with a medium-thick sauce, which had a basic tomatoey flavor accented by dried herbs. I generally don't like heavily cheese-laden pizza, and this was just about right for me. The cheese seemed to be straight mozzarella, nicely melted, just enough to play off the crust and the cup-and-char pepperoni, which was crisp but chewy.
So no, sheet pizza need not mean bad pizza. This was a very nice job by Ruck's. I gave their slices a B, and I'll give this a B as well. It was an above-average example of an underappreciated style.

Ruck's Pizza Kitchen

7294 W. Main St., Lima, NY

Mon. - Thu. 11 - 9, Fri. & Sat. 11 - 10, Sun. noon - 8

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

1872 Cafe, West Main Street

I stopped the other day at the 1872 Cafe on West Main Street. If you don't know the story, earlier this year Sam Fantauzzo, the owner of Salvatore's, bought this place, which had housed a cafe owned by Spiritus Christi Church. The site, if not the building, is historic, as it's where Susan B. Anthony famously tried to vote in 1872.
I interviewed "Soccer Sam" Fantauzzo in October 2013, and he impressed me not only as a nice guy, but with his dedication to with his commitment to this area. He bought and kept going the Donuts Delite building on Empire Boulevard, a local treasure. He also bought and reopened the Garage Door on East Ridge Road. So for all the suburban locations that he's opened, Sam seems to want to maintain a presence in the city, and he seems to have a particular fondness for historic locations and local institutions (eventually I need to try his resurrected Arthur Treacher's fish and chips, which I fondly remember from years ago).
Sure, pizza slices are not hard to find in Rochester. Nearly every convenience store sells them. But in poorer neighborhoods, most of it sucks. Premade pizza shells, topped with cheap ingredients. I don't mean to tar them all with the same brush. But, most of it sucks. And it's rare to find a place where you can sit down and eat your slice, at all, much less in pleasant surroundings.
So going into the 1872 Cafe was like taking a breath of fresh air. The space was airy and bright. A few customers were gathered around some of the tables facing East Main Street.
1872 Cafe offers a "Speedy Slice," as opposed, I guess, to Salvatore's usual "Super Slice." They had several sliced pies available, and I got a pepperoni, banana pepper and red onion slice.  It was thin and wide. I didn't measure it, but I'd say it was about a quarter of a large pie. A plain cheese slice is $2; this was $3.
The underside was browned, with just a faint trace of surface oil. It was supple but not limp, and firm to the touch. The edge was well formed and breadlike.
The toppings were moderately added, but not skimpy, and they were added in good proportion to the thin crust. The basic tomato sauce was topped with a uniform but thin layer of mozzarella. The cup and char pepperoni was crisp, and the scattered peppers and red onion added some complementary notes.
I won't run through the whole menu, which you can find online, but in addition to various permutations of pizza, 1872 Cafe offers specialty coffee and doughnuts. They also serve "boneless wings" and soup.
So how do I rate this pizza? Objectively, looking at the pizza in a vacuum, I'd rate it a C. That's not a bad grade, it just means it was average pizza, overall. If you're looking for a big, thick, heavy slice of pizza, loaded with toppings, this wasn't it. But it was enjoyable, and I'd have it again.
Beyond that, I like what they're doing here. Good pizza at a reasonable price, in a comfortable and attractive setting. I'd like to see 1872 Cafe become an anchor and gathering spot for residents and workers in the neighborhood, and I hope you'll check it out for yourself.

1872 Cafe, 431 W. Main St. Rochester
(585) 323-1872
Open daily 7 - 7

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pizza Pantry, Corfu

I was recently in the Batavia area, and made a short detour to hit The Pizza Pantry in Corfu, which is about 16 miles from downtown Batavia.

On arrival, around noon on a Friday, I found a small takeout area, adjacent to the main restaurant/bar area. Surprisingly, the only slices available were pepperoni slices. So I got a pepperoni slice.
The crust was relatively thick, and browned underneath, with some bubbling. There were no screen marks. The underside was firm and dry to the touch. The interior had a pleasantly chewy texture.
The slice was well balanced, with enough sauce to play off the crust. I detected some oregano in the background. The sauce was more sweet than salty or acidic, but not overly sweet.
The cheese was generously applied. It seemed to be all mozzarella, and was well melted, though it had congealed a bit. The pepperoni was fine, but unremarkable. Not quite crisp, but not too greasy either.

Pizza Pantry's pizza menu comprises five sizes, from a "mini" to a 24-piece "party size." There are twelve toppings to pick from, and four specialty pizzas:  taco, chicken finger, white, and BBQ chicken.
As I mentioned, Pizza Pantry has a full-service restaurant, so they also offer a full to-go menu of pasta, burgers, subs, salads, wings, and fried fish and shrimp.
This was reasonably good pizza, with no obvious shortcomings, but neither was it outstandingly good. It was good, serviceable, but average pizza. So I'll give it a C.

Pizza Pantry, 9468 Alleghany Rd.
Corfu, NY 14036


Tue. - Thu. 10:30 - 10:00, Fri. & Sat. 10:30 - 11:00, Sun. 11:00 - 10:00, Mon. closed

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Little Park Ave - CLOSED

(This establishment is now closed)
Park Avenue in Rochester is home to several pizzerias. One of the more recent entrants is Little Park Ave Pizzeria, near the corner of Park and Oxford. It is in fact a little place, and the diminutive name has a certain symbiosis with the Half Pint Pub a couple of doors down. And since the Half Pint doesn't serve food, that symbiosis might extend beyond the names.
On a recent lunchtime visit to LPA, I got a cheese slice and a Buffalo chicken slice. (The other option was pepperoni.)
Both were thin, with a dark brown underside, criss-crossed by screen marks. The bottom was not crisp, but firm, and the slices were foldable, i.e., not floppy. The crust wasn't great, but it was serviceable, in other words, it was not bad and was a good-enough base for the toppings.
I usually love a basic cheese slice, but in this instance I preferred the Buffalo chicken slice. The cheese slice was OK at best. The cheese was a little browned, and sprinkled with dried herbs, among which the oregano stood out.
Some oil had exuded from the cheese. The sauce was thinly applied, which was reasonable given the thinness of the crust, but I found the sauce rather bland. This slice just seemed to be missing something. I would've liked a little more flavor or complexity from the crust, or cheese, or sauce. Aside from the dried herbs, there just wasn't much going on here.
Not surprisingly, the Buffalo chicken slice was more flavorful. It was topped with wing sauce, which was mild but had a little kick, and a distinctive flavor. A little less vinegary than your typical wing sauce, with the herbs playing a role too. Intriguing, and not bad.
Atop the sauce was scattered mozzarella and bits of breaded chicken. A spiral of blue cheese dressing added the right accent. The slice wasn't heavily laden with toppings, but the toppings were in balance with the thin crust. 
Little Park Ave offers pizza in 10- and 16-inch sizes, with two dozen available toppings and ten specialty pizzas, including a mac-and-cheese pie and a signature house pie with red sauce, capicola, ham, mozzarella, Asiago, and fresh spinach. They also do an Italian-bread pizza, which is a foot-long sliced loaf of Italian bread topped with red sauce and cheese, and a flatbread Mexican pizza. Subs, soups and salads are also on the menu.
I've never graded Buffalo chicken slices, because it comes in so many ways that there is no benchmark for the style. I couldn't give this cheese slice a very good grade, but I don't want to just average the two slices out and slap a bad grade on Little Park Ave., because that might dissuade people from trying it. I liked the Buffalo chicken slice, and I'd like to try some of their other pizzas. So I'll just say that, for my taste, the cheese slice was not the greatest, but the Buffalo chicken slice was good enough to make me want to come back for more of LPA's other offerings. I'd encourage you to try it for yourself and let me and other readers know what you think.

Little Park Ave Pizzeria
371 Park Ave.

Mon. - Fri. noon - 11 p.m.
Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fiorella, Rochester Public Market

On a recent Wednesday evening, I met my friend John Vito for dinner at Fiorella, which opened this past August at the Public Market.
John, as many local foodies will already know, is the author of Food and Stories, which partly documents his history as proprietor of O'Bagelo's and Baked and Carved, two fondly, and deservedly missed downtown restaurants. His site also provides recipes for some of his most-missed offerings, like his legendary chocolate chip cookies.
Suburbanite that I am, I found it most convenient to go right after work, so we got there around 5:30, and had the joint to ourselves. By the time I left an hour and a half later, most of the tables were full. So word has obviously gotten around about Fiorella.
I was there to try Fiorella's pizza. Fiorella's is the newest (I think - it's getting hard to keep up) pizzeria in our area using a wood-fired oven. I would've wanted to try it eventually in any event, but what especially intrigued me was Fiorella's statement that it uses "naturally leavened" dough. I quote from their website:  "our dough is made with organic flour, water and sea salt only and naturally leavened for better health."
I'm not convinced that those ingredients lead to better health, but as a home baker of sourdough bread, I was intrigued by the "naturally leavened" aspect. From what our server told me, I gathered that Fiorella uses something along the lines of pâte fermentée, which basically involves saving a bit of dough from each batch, every time you bake, to get the next batch started. That's a little different from a traditional sourdough, where you keep a starter on hand, "feed" it on a regular basis, and take some as needed. At some point, I'd like to talk to the baker to clarify how they make their dough.
I ordered a "Rosso" pizza, topped with San Marzano tomatoes, oregano, basil, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh mozzarella. Aside from the oregano, that's a Margherita to me.
It was good, but flawed. The crust was very thin, with a puffy cornicione. The crust was pliable.
One of the first things I noticed was how blackened the underside of the crust was, in some areas. I know that some people who aren't used to wood-fired pizza may complain that the crust is "burnt," but sometimes that adjective does apply.
Along the edge, there was some "leopard spotting" on one half, and some black stretches in others. Underneath, there were areas that were quite blackened, to the point where the surface had  carbonized and was completely blackened, resulting in a tar-like surface.
That didn't ruin the pizza. Other areas of the bottom were browned or pale, due partly to the bubbly underside, where the crust was not in direct contact with the oven deck. This was good, well-made dough, but it seemed to have been left a little too long in one spot on a very hot oven deck.
The dough was thin but had risen somewhat, and had a pleasant chewiness. Again, my biggest problem with it was that it was either blackened, or pale, or browned. I would've liked a more uniformly-baked bottom.
In spite of that, the pie was enjoyable. It was coated with a uniform layer of tomato sauce, which had a "medium" texture and flavor. Pretty basic, but where pizza's concerned, nothing wrong with basic. The rounds of fresh mozzarella, which covered most of the surface, were melted just to the edge of browning. They weren't creamy-smooth, but they weren't over-baked or rubbery.
The pie was topped with a few shreds of fresh basil. They were good, but I would've liked a few more, to round out the flavor of the pie.
Fiorella's other pizzas include a bianca (white) pizza with: fresh garlic, smoked mozzarella, pecorino, and market greens, and a daily "market" pizza with a selection of seasonal toppings (I regret that I didn't take note of that day's market pizza). Organic salame or mushrooms may be added to any pizza as well.
The menu extends beyond pizza, to pasta (John got the tagliatelle, which despite my antipathy for mushrooms looked good), and daily specials. On this Wednesday night, Fiorella offered a "brick steak," meaning cooked under a brick. Sounded good, but I was there for pizza.
Despite its shortcomings, I liked my pizza. There were no leftovers. I could only speculate if the blackening of the crust was related to this being the first pizza of the night, so I won't speculate about that. If the execution improves and can stay consistent, this could be some top-notch pizza.
For now, I'll consider the pizza here a work in progress. But I also consider Fiorella well worth checking out.

Restaurant Fiorella, 5 Rochester Public Market
Rochester, NY 14609

Wed. 11 am - 2 pm, 5 pm - 10 pm
Thu. 10 - 2, 5 - 10
Fri. 11 - 2, 5 - 10
Sat. 8 - 2, 5 - 10
Sun. - Tue. closed

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ciccino's, Geneva

As I mentioned in a post last week, I was in Geneva, NY recently, and used the occasion to hit a couple of pizzerias.
One of which was Ciccino's, which for Rochester-area visitors is conveniently located on Rt. 14 (Exchange St.) just as you get to downtown Geneva.
Ciccino's is a full-service restaurant, but there's a separate counter area if you want something to go, with a decent selection of pizza slices.
Since I'd just gotten a cheese slice at Uncle Joe's, I went with the same here. A reader once complained that I so often order and review "plain cheese," but (1) I like it, and (2) it provides a good universal standard to compare pizzerias. And this thin, triangular slice made for an interesting contrast with the thicker, square-cut slice I'd gotten from Uncle Joe's.
I opted to have my slice rewarmed. I've found that's generally a good idea, even if you don't plan to eat it immediately, as it makes the underside more crisp. I noticed that while Ciccino's pies were baked in some large deck ovens, my slice was reheated in a small, stand-alone side oven.
I was impressed with the result. The slice was nicely charred underneath, with some surface crackling. The charring added some toasty notes, and the crust had a pleasant chewiness.
Ciccino's doesn't call its pizza New York style, but it generally fits into that category. I gave my slice the "fold test" for New York style pizza - can you hold the slice, folded, horizontally, without the tip flopping down? I found that if I held my folded slice at a slight upward angle, the tip would droop down just a little. I don't mention that to pass judgment on the slice, but only to give you an idea of its relative pliability vs. rigidity. On the scale of floppy vs. brittle, it was a shade closer to the former.
One of the things I like about cheese pizza is its simplicity, and the trinity of crust, sauce and cheese was well balanced here. The crust was topped with modest but adequate layers of basic tomato sauce - not too salty, not too sweet - and well melted mozzarella, which was just a bit blistered and browned, with a bubbly spot of dough bulging up here and there.
On my visit, Ciccino's had a few other sliced pies available, including one with standard, thin-sliced pepperoni, a white pie, Buffalo chicken, and a sausage-and-peppers pie. If you're ordering a whole pizza, Ciccino's offers a traditional Margherita with crushed plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, and a selection of other pies, including thick-crust Sicilian pizza; the family behind Ciccino's is of Sicilian origin, so I imagine they do a good job on that. For further exploration of their pizza offerings, I refer you to their menu, where you'll also find their meat and seafood dishes, pasta, salads and sandwiches. There's a full bar as well.
For a number of reasons, I have been assigning fewer letter grades of late. That's a topic for another day. But one factor is a pizzeria's proximity to Rochester. Geneva's a bit of a drive from Rochester, and I don't expect to become fully familiar with the pizza choices out that way anytime soon. So I'll pass on giving a letter grade to this slice. But I will say that I enjoyed it. I'd recommend a stop if you're in the area.

Ciccino's Pizzeria & Restaurant, 401 Exchange St., Geneva
(315) 789-4613

22 East Main St., Waterloo
(315) 539-1064

Both locations hours: Mon. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Tue. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 - 11, Sun. noon - 9 p.m.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shooters, Revisited

It was back in March 2011 that I last reviewed Shooters, a bar and restaurant in Fairport, or Perinton, depending on how you look at the map, or go by postal designations. Either way, it's at the corner of Fairport Road (31F) and Baird Road. But it was overdue for a revisit.
With that in mind, I recently stopped at Shooters with my beautiful wife for lunch. She opted for a salad (ah, women, what can I say) while I got a Margherita pizza.
It was thin, as expected,  with an underside that was generally golden brown, with a light dusting of flour. There were a few charred spots along the edge, but not underneath.
It was tasty, with a thick layer of bright-tasting tomato sauce and several well-melted dollops of fresh mozzarella, and some fresh basil that had been added at the end. The pie had also been dusted with a grated hard cheese, probably Parmesan.
Although the underside wasn't shatteringly crisp, it was firm. As you can see in the photo, I was able to fold and hold a slice up, horizontally, even as the well-melted cheese stretched out.
There was a genuine wood fire in the oven; it wasn't just a gas fire, as I've seen in some places. From a brief conversation with the pizzaiolo, though, I learned that the fire typically gets cranked up, and the oven temperature is typically higher, in the evening, resulting in a shorter baking time.
That's understandable; the lunch crowd was relatively sparse, and I can see not wanting to go through a lot of fuel during low-volume hours. I suspect, then, that a pizza ordered during the dinner hour would likely come out a little more charred and/or crisp underneath.
But this pie was not underdone, even if it was a little different from what I would've gotten had I ordered the same pie that evening. It was not blistered or charred underneath, but it was firm. If your ideal pizza is "leopard spotted" underneath, try coming here for dinner rather than lunch.
Shooters offers twelve pizzas, and while I went with my default Margherita, I'd like to try their clams Casino pizza and their andouille sausage pizza. They also have an extensive burger menu, as well as sandwiches, panini, salads, wings, and other sides and appetizers. There's a full bar, and a lot of TVs around to keep sports fans happy.
I liked this pizza, and I liked the place itself. The service was attentive, and the pizzaiolo was obviously dedicated to his craft. This particular pie wasn't among the very best I've had, in my opinion, but it was good overall, and good enough to make me want to go back. So a B seems about right.

Shooters, 1226 Fairport Road
Fairport, NY 14454

Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 2 a.m., Sun. noon - midnight
Pizza available till 11 p.m.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Uncle Joe's, Geneva

I recently went to Geneva, NY, to attend an event at the Smith Opera House. In addition to pizza, I love crosswords and word puzzles in general, and NY Times crossword editor (and NPR puzzlemaster) Will Shortz was the featured speaker at this event. I got to meet Will, and it was a very enjoyable evening, as he told us a bit about his background and then led the audience through several word games.
While it's not that far away, I don't get out to Geneva all that often, so naturally I had to take advantage of this trip to hit a couple of local pizzerias.
First up, and the sole subject of this blog post, was Uncle Joe's. I was predisposed to like this place from the start, given its location in an old building in a residential neighborhood. Read about its history here.
On my 5 p.m. visit, there were just two kinds of slices available, cheese or pepperoni. Both were thick and square cut, in trays in a display case at the front counter.
I ordered a cheese slice, which was given a brief rewarming in the oven. This was a big, hefty slice, and despite the minimal toppings, it would've been a meal in itself, except that I saved some for later, since I wanted to hit one more pizzeria.
The crust was thick, browned underneath, with one large burst bubble, and was reasonably dry to the touch - in other words, not overly oily. The bottom was firm, and the interior was OK. A little chewy, not especially breadlike, and a bit bland. The outer edge, or cornicione, was a little dry.
Topside, a scattered layer of melted mozzarella sat atop a coating of tomato sauce, which had a bright tomatoey flavor. Flavorwise, this was a pretty simple, if well made slice.
I did take note of the pepperoni slices, which were topped with cup and char pepperoni. Oddly, the pepperoni only seemed to cover half the slices; maybe it hadn't been carefully applied, or the pizza wasn't carefully sliced after coming out of the oven. But as both the cheese and pepperoni slices were the same price - $2.50 - I guess there wouldn't be much cause for complaint.
If you want an individual, made-to-order pizza, Uncle Joe's offers 10- and 14-inch pies, with 19 toppings. There aren't many specialty pizzas as such, but they do offer a white pizza with fresh garlic, a "poor man's" pie with red sauce, pepperoni and Romano (which ironically costs more than a regular cheese pie), and gluten-free pizza. They also do subs and sandwiches, fried haddock, pasta, soups and salads. Beer and wine are available as well, which you can enjoy in the dining room, just off the front counter area.
Not a bad slice of pizza, this, but not exceptional either. At the very least, it was better than the generic stuff offered by many places today, and all in all I liked it. I won't give it a label as such, but for the Rochester area, I'd put this in the roughly average category.

Uncle Joe's, 99 N. Genesee St., Geneva
(315) 781-1199

Mon. 11 am - 10 pm, Tues. closed, Wed. & Thu. 11 am - 11 pm, Fri. 11 am - midnight, Sat. 4:30 - midnight, Sun. 4:30 - 10 pm


Friday, September 25, 2015

Buffalo: Jacobi's and Riva's

I don't get to Buffalo too often, so I make no claim to be able to cover the Buffalo pizza scene. But when I do get pizza in Buffalo, I figure it's close enough to Rochester to warrant a blog post. If you live in the Rochester area, you probably make it out to Buffalo from time to time, and if you are reading this blog, you'll want to know where to find good pizza when you get there.
In July, I hit two places in the Buffalo area. I was on my way to the Ralph for a Stones concert, so I didn't have a lot of time to pick and choose. My first choice, Two Guys, had no slices available. So I just drove down the road, and ran across Jacobi's on Walden Avenue.
I think they opened here relatively recently. Apparently this address used to be the site of a now-closed, "R J's" pizzeria. I would strongly suggest to Jacobi's that they work on their web page, since the "About Us" page now consists of a fill-in-the-blank form that hasn't been completed yet. Their home page says they've been making pizza since 1989, but clearly not in this location, so I'm not sure what the history is.
I got a big pepperoni slice. The crust was medium to thin, and the underside showed that it had been baked in a pan. There was a clear delineation between the cornicione and the well browned, bubbly underside. It was flavorful and well balanced, with a uniform layer of melted cheese, crisp pepperoni, and a straightforward sauce, with a tomatoey flavor and salty/sweet accents. I like a crisp crust, and this wasn't that, but aside from that I enjoyed it.
Just down and across the road was Riva's Pizza, where I got a giant pepperoni slice, cut down the middle. It was thinner than Jacobi's, with an underside that was a lighter shade of brown, not so much bubbly as striped. Again, it was pliable, not crisp or crackly, and clearly some oil must have been present when it was baked, although it wasn't oily or greasy to the touch or on the palate. But the crust clearly took a supporting role here, on a slice that was dominated by the cheese.
The pie had just come out of the oven, so I didn't get it rewarmed (obviously that would have some effect on the color and crispness of the underside). The cheese was still hot, so it was a bit sloppy, but in a good way - nicely melted and gooey. It had a mild, slightly salty flavor, and it seemed to be straight mozzarella.
The pepperoni slices were a bit sparse, but what there was, was browned and crisped along the edge. The sauce was added in good proportion to the other components, and had a simple tomatoey flavor.

To look beyond these particular slices, let me mention that Jacobi's has an extensive menu, with numerous specialty pizzas, wings, subs, pasta, sandwiches and ribs. Riva's menu is a little less comprehensive, but still covers all the basics - pizza, subs, wings and salads. (Most pizzerias seem to offer salads, so I assume somebody's ordering them, but for the life of me I don't know who.)
So, two interesting takes on Buffalo-style pizza, not quite as thick as what I expect around Buffalo, but both pretty heavy on the cheese, and with good overall flavor. I can't say I was crazy about the crust on either, but all in all, I enjoyed them well enough.

Jacobi's Pizzeria, 3575 Walden Ave., Lancaster, NY
(716) 685-0000
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. noon - 9 p.m.

Riva's Pizza, Subs and Wings, 3488 Walden Ave., Depew, NY
(716) 681-2021
Mon. - Thu. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. noon - 10 p.m.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Baker Street Bakery, Park Ave.

Anybody who loves pizza almost certainly likes bread, and I'm exhibit A, there. I've been to most of the bread bakeries around town - in fact, I've toyed with the idea of expanding this blog's scope to include bread - but it was only very recently that I finally made it to Baker Street Bakery on Park Avenue.
Baker Street opened, I believe, in 2007. There's a combination of reasons why it's taken me this long to get there, but I did stop in recently.
BSB doesn't offer pizza as such (which is one reason it's taken me this long), but they do offer focaccia, which to most of us would be indistinguishable from thick-crust, pan-baked pizza.The difference is more semantic than real.
I got a veggie slice, topped with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, black olives, caramelized onions, and jalapenos.
At first glance, this would seem not to be something I'd go for. If I could only eat one kind of pizza for the rest of my life, it would probably be a thin-crust, foldable, New York style cheese slice.
This was the diametric opposite of that. It was enormous, and heavy. I ended up cutting it in half, for lunch, and saving the rest for the next day.
But despite my general preferences, I've always taken a catholic approach to pizza. Thick, thin, cheese-only or multiple toppings, any pizza can be good, if it's well made.
And this was good, whether you call it pizza or foccacia. The underside was evenly browned and dry to the touch. The interior was bubbly and nicely risen, and the crust was flavorful.
It was also well balanced. Despite its heft, this was not simply an overloaded slice of pizza. The toppings were added in proportion to the thick crust. I don't think I'll ever get over my distaste for mushrooms, but they blended in with the other toppings, which made for a flavorful medley. Slightly sweet, salty and savory, with a bit of kick in the background.
I will nitpick a bit, for the use of what seemed to be canned black olives. I'm OK with canned olives, but they don't quite match up with the non-canned, cured variety. The dusting of grated cheese also added little if any flavor or aroma; it had a powdery texture similar to ground bread crumbs.
Those quibbles aside, this made for an enjoyable lunch. A good base of bread dough, and a well-chosen blend of toppings.
Beyond foccacia, Baker Street offers a wide range of breads, including sourdough and whole-grain breads, as well as delectable pastries. In a perfect world, every town and neighborhood would have its own bakery, and in the central Park Avenue neighborhood, Baker Street fills that niche very nicely.

Baker Street Bakery
745 Park Ave.
Sun. - Mon. 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Tue. - Sat. 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Florida trip, and some thoughts about Rochester pizza

I just got back from a 10-day vacation in the Orlando, Florida area. As I do every time I go away, I did some pizza research ahead of time.
As it turned out, I only had pizza once, from Bruno's in Kissimmee. It came very highly rated online, for its NY style pizza.
My family, our hosts and I shared a cheese pizza and a meat lovers' pie. They were good, but not exceptionally good. I'm not going to review Bruno's pizza, because this is a Rochester pizza blog. But it got me thinking.
Many areas of the country don't have much if any of an indigenous pizza culture. I can't say that I even scratched the surface of Florida, or for that matter Orlando-area pizza, after just this one experience, but from what I saw, most of the pizza around there seemed to be an attempted version of an established style. New York style was especially prevalent, which is hardly surprising, considering the number of transplants and tourists that make up the local customer base. And there were the now-usual wood-fired places, and generic American pizza, a la Papa DominoHut.
Again, no surprise. Much of Florida's economy is based on tourism, and the tourists aren't coming to see or experience anything authentically Floridian. They're coming to see fake Bavarian castles, fake lagoons, and fake movie sets. (I was particularly bemused by the Harry Potter section of Universal Studios, part of which is supposed to look like London, as it appears in the HP movies. It was, then, an imitation of an imitation.)
And - based on my extremely limited experience - so it is, mostly, with pizza. I didn't run across any place in Florida, either through my online research or my travels, that made me want to go there to find some hidden nugget of genuinely local pizza.
I'm not saying that such places in Florida don't exist. Maybe they do. My point is, this trip made me appreciate our local pizza culture. Yes, I often report on the latest wood-fired pizzeria, and I return time and again to our local New York-style pizzerias (which benefit from our relative proximity to NYC), but what I love most about the pizza around here is its diversity, and the fact that we do have a local style of pizza, with roots going back many decades. I'll keep that in mind next time I bite into a nice thick, chewy slice of local pizza. It's good to be home.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dobber's, Canandaigua

I don't get to Canandaigua too often, but I consider it to be in the Rochester area, so I try to stay current on the Canandaigua pizza scene.
With that in mind, I recently got a pizza from Dobber's. It's on Lakeshore Drive, just east of the lake.
Dobber's bills itself as a sports bar and grill, rather than a pizzeria as such, but pizza is on the menu. I wasn't sure what to expect, since they only offer one size, which generally suggests the use of premade crusts. And I think that's what I got, but more on that later.
Dobber's offers three pizzas: the "classic cheese and pepperoni," with a garlic base, marinara, pizza spice, tomatoes, peppers, and Parmesan; the "veggie lover's," with a garlic base, mozzarella, pizza spice, tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, banana peppers, black olives and jalapenos; and a Buffalo chicken pie, with a garlic base, mozzarella, pizza spice, diced chicken tossed in the sauce of your choice.
I got the veggie lover's, sans mushrooms. I don't have many dietary taboos, but I don't do mushrooms. I don't eat anything that grows in caves, or that's a fungus, or that has the texture of rubber. Or that tastes like mushrooms.
In a nutshell, the toppings were pretty good; the crust, not so much. It was medium thick, generally pale, and somewhat dry. It could've been hand formed - the underside didn't have a machine-made look to it - but it did not have a freshly-baked aroma or texture. It wasn't crumbly or brittle, it simply was not much more than a base for the toppings.
And the toppings were good, as far as they went, but they literally didn't go very far. There was quite a gap between the toppings and the edge of the pie. Had the crust been exceptionally good, that wouldn't have mattered so much, but it wasn't.
On the plus side, where the toppings were applied, they were pretty good. The olives were canned, but I've always been OK with canned olives. The conglomeration of sliced and chopped veggies, atop a layer of well-melted mozzarella, was rather tasty, with a nice interplay of flavors - salty olives, hot, vinegary pepperoncini, milder green bell pepper, and decent chopped tomatoes, atop a bed of smooth melted cheese.
But it just wasn't quite enough to elevate the pizza as a whole. Some people (I'm not one of them, in case you hadn't guessed) are more concerned with the toppings on their pizza than with the crust. If that's you, then you want the toppings spread close to the edge of the crust. And these weren't.
I care about the toppings, certainly. It's the combination of the crust and toppings that makes pizza more than just bread. But for me the crust is where it all starts. And my test is, when I've finished the "topped" part of a slice, to I want to eat what's left - the "pizza bone"? The answer here was no.
I genuinely dislike giving a place a bad review, especially when it's not just a pizzeria.. So again I will emphasize that I am rating Dobber's pizza, not Dobber's as a whole. Dobber's offers way more than just pizza. As I waited for my pizza, I saw a plate of chicken wings go by, and they looked and smelled heavenly. The menu covers all the bar basics, and then some. They occasionally do a "pizza soup," which I would love to try. And there's a wide selection of beers, including their own house brand, Three Huskies.
Pizza aside, I came away with a good impression of Dobber's, overall. The place was clean and well maintained, the service was good, the patrons were friendly, and my impression was of a local bar and grill, in the best sense of that term. I think you could feel equally comfortable going there for a drink, or for a casual dinner with family or friends. (There is no physical divider between the bar and the dining area, and I imagine things may get a little more raucous as the evening goes on, so keep that in mind.)
So, bottom line. I'm giving the pizza a D. This was below-average pizza.
But I hasten to add that if I were in the area, looking for a place to stop into for a drink, meal or both, alone or with my family, I'd have no problem stopping at Dobber's. I just wouldn't order a pizza.

Dobbers Sports Bar & Grill, 401 Lakeshore Drive, Canandaigua, NY 14424

Monday - Friday 11 am - midnight
Saturday 11 am - 1 am
Sunday noon - 10 pm

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Old Italy, Latta Road

I recently learned that Old Italy Pizza opened on Latta Road in Greece. This spot in a small strip plaza has seen several pizzerias come and go over the years, including Paulie's, Grande Amore, and apparently one that I missed entirely, Fosterino's. When a certain type of business keeps failing in the same place, I start to wonder if it's just a bad location, but we'll see.
I stopped into Old Italy recently at lunchtime for a couple of slices. It was a good deal - two slices and a can of pop for $4.50.
The slices were decent, if unspectacular. The crust was medium thick, with an underside that was lightly browned and crisscrossed by screen marks. The edge was formed into a thin cornicione, and its texture seemed a bit "tough," suggesting that it was made from high-gluten flour. That's commonly used in pizza, and it has its advantages, but it can yield a somewhat tough, chewy texture.
The slices were well balanced, with a layer of melted, just-browned mozzarella, and some small cheeseless spots. The moderately applied sauce was pretty basic, with some tomatoey sweetness, a bit of salt, and a faint herbal background. The thin, wide slices of pepperoni were average.
To quote from its menu, Old Italy "take[s] pride in [its] daily made fresh dough, house made sauces, hand battered chicken fingers, fresh cut French fries and [its] fresh ingredients." They offer ten specialty pizzas, and all their regular comes in small, medium, large and sheet sizes. They also do wings, available in no less than 15 varieties (!), calzones, hot subs, "plates," salads and sides.
A reader reported that a pizza he got from Old Italy was one of the best he's had in the area. I don't doubt it, although I'm not prepared to put these slices in that category. They were reasonably good, basic, Rochester-style pizza slices, but I wasn't bowled over by them. I remain intrigued enough to go back, but for now I'll hold off on assigning a grade, and leave this post as just a report on what I had at this still-new pizzeria. But please, if you're in the area, check it out for yourself and share your experience with me and other readers, either in the "Comments" section after this post, or on my Facebook page.

Old Italy Pizza, 1250 Latta Road
(585) 445-8782

Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - midnight
Sun. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Brandani's sheet pizza

For my daughter's birthday party last month, we needed to feed about 12 kids and the occasional adult, so a sheet pizza seemed like a good, economical option.
We went with Brandani's. It's among my local favorites, for its consistently good, traditional Rochester-style pizza: medium thick crust with generous but well-balanced sauce and cheese.
I usually stop into Brandani's at lunch, to take advantage of their array of slices. I also do the occasional takeout pie for dinner.
But I don't often have a reason to get a full sheet pizza, from Brandani's or anywhere else. When I've had sheet pizza, too often it's disappointing, with bottoms that are soggy, spongy or overly oily. Sheet pizzas also are often not at all representative of what you'd get with a pie from the same place.
Not so with Brandani's. This was good pizza, and essentially a sheet-size version of their pies.
Now I'm not saying that a pizzeria shouldn't offer two different styles of pizza, pies and sheets, or thin and thick, or Neapolitan and Sicilian, or whatever you want to call them. Nor am I saying that a pizzeria's "sheet" version ought to be nothing more than a larger, rectangular version of its smaller pie. I'm only saying that a lot of places that make pretty good pie pizza also make pretty lousy sheet pizza. At Brandani's, they're both good, and aside from their size and shape, they're not all that different in style.
I got a sheet with half pepperoni and half double cheese. My thinking was, some kids don't want pepperoni, so half and half seemed good. But I know it can be tricky to bake a pizza with added toppings on only half; either the cheese-only side gets too brown, or the toppings don't cook enough, or the toppings shield the cheese from cooking properly. So I thought double cheese on half would be a good way to go, to keep things more or less even.
And it did work well. The cheese side was spottily browned, but the cheese was still well melted and not dried out. On the other half, the thin slices of pepperoni were fully cooked, and slightly crisp, while the cheese was nicely melted, with a good balance of stringy and chewy. The slightly sweet, tomatoey sauce served well as the third leg of the crust-cheese-sauce triad.
I was very pleased with the crust, which was well browned underneath, lightly charred, and dry to the touch. Again, too often with sheet pizza, the crust is oily, fried and overly crunchy. But Brandani's makes its sheet pizzas the same way it makes its pies, right on the oven deck. The result is a crust that's dry underneath, with a bit of surface bite and a bready, chewy interior.
I arrived early to pick up my pizza, and had a chance to chat with proprietor Joe Cenzi. There may be some future developments in the works for Brandani's, but nothing official yet. I'll pass on any news as soon as I get it. But rest assured, Brandani's will continue to turn out what I consider to be among the best pizza in our area. It's a local classic.
And by the way - the kids liked it too. There wasn't much left at the end of the party.

Brandani's, 2595 W. Henrietta Rd.
(585) 272-7180

Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sun. noon - 7 p.m.