Rochester NY Pizza Blog Rochester restaurants LocalEats featured blog

Friday, January 22, 2016

Matthews East End Grill

I'm always on the lookout for places that serve pizza, even if they're not pizzerias as such.
One that's been on my list for a while now is Matthew's East End Grill in downtown Rochester. I stopped in recently for lunch.
Pizza is not the main focus of the menu at Matthew's, so my expectations were tempered a bit. When I order pizza at a restaurant or bar that doesn't specialize in pizza, or that doesn't have a full-fledged pizza kitchen, I'm generally just hoping that it's decent. If it turns out to be very good, so much the better.
Matthews offers seven- and ten-inch pies. The choices are relatively few, but they cover the basics - pepperoni, white pizza, veggie, and a pizza of the day. The available toppings include onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese and pesto.
I got a seven-inch pepperoni pizza. As always, I first checke out the underside.
It was crisp and dry, and marked by browned concentric rings. The cornicione (the thick part along the edge) was deeply browned on top, but white along the sides, suggestive of direct, radiant heat from above. From there, the crust tapered to a thin center. The interior was a tad dry but had some chewiness, and a faint bready aroma. With its surface crunchiness and browning, the crust can best be described as toasty. 
The toppings were rather good. The sauce was a basic red, but had a rich tomatoey flavor. Despite the deeply browned cornicione, the generously applied mozzarella was not at all browned. It was nicely melted, smooth, stretchy and a little gooey, in a good way; it struck me as high-quality stuff. The wide, thinly-sliced pepperoni was flavorful, and the pie looked to have been given a light dusting of hard, grated cheese, although I didn't detect it on my tastebuds. All in all, the components were well balanced and worked well together.
Matthews is a laid-back place that should satisfy a variety of crowds. There are enough TVs for sports fans, and I'm sure it does a brisk business during games, but it's not overly sports-oriented. The bar and dining areas are well separated, and there's some outdoor seating in warm weather. Owner Carl Falk is often on hand, chatting with patrons and occasionally pitching in behind the bar.
Beyond pizza, Matthews' menu extends to burgers, sandwiches and wraps, wings, salads, soups and other pub grub. They offer a kid's menu and a few desserts, and free refills on soft drinks.
The pizza? Overall, it was reasonably good. I can't say Matthew's is a "must" destination for local pizza lovers, but I can say that if you're dining there, the pizza is worth considering. And that Matthews is worth a visit, whether for a casual workday lunch, family dinner, or drinks and socializing at the bar.

Matthew's East End Grill, 200 East Avenue, Rochester
(585) 454-4280

11:30 - 2 a.m. daily

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro - Report and Giveaway

My daughter and I had a very enjoyable dinner a few nights ago at Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro, which opened this past November on Merchants Road in Rochester. I first spotted it last fall, before it opened, and I held off going until they'd been open for a little while, to allow them to get on their feet. Based on my visit, co-owners Stephen Costanza and Donna DiMarzo have achieved that, and then some.
First impressions. There's a comfortable-looking bar to one side, where a few patrons were gathered. The rest of the space is taken up by the dining area, which has a relaxed, casual feel. It was busy but not packed when we stopped in, with a mix of families and couples.
We soon got our menus, which included some interesting items, but I was there for the pizza. And while ordinarily, on a first visit, I would order a pizza off the regular menu, the daily special pizza sounded too good to pass up. It was a white pizza topped with arugula, red onion, fresh tomatoes, prosciutto, mozzarella and sharp Provolone.
The crust was charred - a little unevenly - along the perimeter, and spottily charred underneath. It was thin and crisp, but not brittle; despite its thinness, the pizza retained some interior chewiness. The charring of the underside also showed a good use of the wood-fired oven. What I mean is, the pizza had clearly been baked on a very hot oven deck, unlike some pizzas I've had that were pale underneath and just given a quick, direct exposure to the flames of the oven to blacken the edge.
So a good crust, to start. But it was elevated by the toppings.
This was a very tasty pizza. With a thin, fast-cooking pizza, you have to take care not to pile on too may toppings, but this pie hit the mark. The melted mozzarella and sharp Provolone played off each other quite well, and the salty prosciuto, sweet tomatoes, savory onion and slightly bitter arugula added further complexity, yet they complemented rather than competed with each other. It took a degree of self-control on my part to save two slices to take home, but they didn't survive the next 24 hours.
My daughter had pan-seared salmon with shiitake and king oyster mushrooms, which she loved. As a dedicated sushi lover, she was amazed, to paraphrase her words, that "cooked salmon could taste as good as raw." And we shared a plate of mussels in a tomato-based pan sauce, which we both enjoyed. She ate most of the mussels, while I sopped up the sauce with the complimentary bread.
You can take a look at Merchants' menu here, but it includes five pizzas and a modest but well-balanced variety of other dishes. Now that I've had a pizza, I look forward to going back to try something else (I do eat stuff other than pizza), like the Bucatini with shrimp, artichokes, and capers in a lemon-wine sauce.
The best way for you to discover what Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro has to offer is to go there yourself. And to help you do that, I've got a $10 gift card to give away to one reader. To enter, just email me your name and mailing address at by noon on Friday, January 22, and I'll pick a winner at random. Just make sure to include "Merchants 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. 

Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro, 564 Merchants Rd., Rochester, NY 14609

Tue. - Sat. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., bar service 3 p.m. - close

Friday, January 8, 2016

Workin' in the Dirt Farm

A few months ago, at Joe’s Brooklyn Pizza, I tried some chicken from Workin’ in the Dirt, an organic farm in Chili. It was very, very good. So I mentioned it on my Facebook page. That led to a contact with Workin’ in the Dirt farmer Robert Hagelberg, who offered me a chicken to try.
Last week I cooked the chicken (it was a small one, about 2.5 lbs) in my rotisserie for family dinner. I didn’t do much prep - just patted it dry, rubbed on a thin coat of vegetable oil, and patted on a BBQ spice mix - but I was well pleased with the results. The skin was crisp, the meat was moist, and above all, the chicken was flavorful. As I was eating it, I thought, this is how chicken ought to – and I assume used to – taste, before industrial farms came along. (Too late, my wife mentioned that I should’ve gotten a photo, but by then the chicken looked as if I’d dipped into a piranha tank.)
Now I’m not some organic-food zealot. And I’m sure I haven’t bought my last package of chicken at the local supermarket that’s on special for $1.49 a pound. But I do like my food to taste good, and if it’s locally grown and good for me, so much the better. So I’ll keep an eye out for chicken and other products from Workin’ in the Dirt.
You may find their products at local restaurants, especially those that focus on “farm to table” foods; Workin' in the Dirt has recently supplied Label 7 in Pittsford and West Edge Lounge in Corn Hill. (I don't want to make any guarantees, so ask your server or call ahead to be sure.) If your favorite restaurant is not offering anything from Workin’ in the Dirt, or another local supplier, it can’t hurt to mention or ask about it, just to let them know that the demand exists.
The best, or surest way to try WitD’s products is to stop by their stand at the Rochester Public Market. You'll find them at the Small Worlds Food booth. In addition to chicken, they currently offer pea shoots, raw cocoa, spices and seasonings, and other seasonally available produce, such as greens, squash and peppers. Delivery is also available for CSA signups, while the chicken supply lasts. If you do pay them a visit, please let them know that you read about them here.

Workin' in the Dirt Farms
790 Brook Road, Chili, NY 14546