Rochester NY Pizza Blog Rochester restaurants LocalEats featured blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rohrbach, Railroad Street

Rohrbach Brewing Company is best known as the granddaddy of Rochester's craft brewers, dating back to its original location in the German House, but their food is not to be overlooked. Their brewpub on Buffalo Road offers a full menu highlighted by beer-friendly German specialties, and it's also one of the few places in the Rochester area where you can get a decent beef on weck.
This past spring, Rohrbach opened its new Railroad Street Beer Hall at its primary production facility near the Rochester Public Market. The food menu at the Beer Hall is different from (and for now, at least, considerably shorter than) the brewpub's menu, but it does offer one thing you won't find at the brewpub:  wood-fired pizza.
I recently joined a friend there for dinner, and we each got a pizza. Our choices were:  the Rohrbach Classic, with red sauce, a three-cheese blend, and pepperoni; Sausage & Pepper (red sauce, sausage, pepper, red onion, and shredded mozzarella); Caprese (basil pesto sauce, fresh mozzarella, and sliced tomato); Jalapeno Bacon (garlic-Parmesan sauce, sliced jalapeno, bacon, and shredded mozzarella); and that evening's special, which had an Asian-sounding theme involving Sriracha and oranges. It sounded like it might be good, but I was looking for something a little more traditional, so I ordered the Sausage & Pepper, while my companion got the Classic.
Our dinner-plate-size pizzas had a very thin crust.  Mine was a little puffier around the edge. The undersides were browned in spots, but not charred, and the surface was uniformly smooth, with little sign of any bubbling in the dough.
The dough didn't seem to have risen much, and the crust, while not bad, was not terribly interesting either. It was on the chewy side, not particularly crisp, nor breadlike. It also lacked the toasty, smoky notes that I look for in a wood-fired crust. Just a guess, but I suspect that the oven wasn't quite as hot as it could've been. The pies were considerably browner along the edge than underneath, which further suggests that the oven deck wasn't terribly hot.
On the plus side, my Sausage and Pepper pie had good flavor overall, with a slightly sweet red sauce accented by small chunks of mild Italian sausage and peperoncini slices. The mozzarella cheese was browned but still appropriately gooey.
I tried a slice of my companion's pie, and it was indeed a classic pepperoni pizza, with a uniform blanket of cheese and crisp, spicy cup & char pepperoni slices. I liked my pizza well enough, but I actually preferred the Classic, which was a basic but tasty "bar" pie.
The food menu at the Beer Hall comprises four pizzas, three salads, warm pretzels, and wood-fired cookies (which sounds intriguing), as well as nightly specials. Aside from their extensive lineup of craft beer, Rohrbach also offers house-brewed root beer and orange cream soda, and Pepsi products. The space is attractive, with high ceilings, brick walls, and long communal tables; think German bierstube, but with an industrial-chic look.
Getting back to the pizza, I found a lot to like about these, but I wasn't crazy about the crust. It served well enough as a base for the toppings, which were quite good, and in general I enjoyed the pizza. With a little work on that crust, these could be truly outstanding pizzas. These, I'll give a B, on the strength of their overall flavor.

Rohrbach Railroad Street Beer Hall

97 Railroad St, Rochester

(585) 546-8020

Wed. & Thu. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Fri. 2 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Closed Sun. - Tue.

Brewery tours on Saturdays hourly from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Alley, Rochester

While the number of local pizzerias seems to be holding fairly steady, pizza as a menu item is popping up all the time. One recent example is The Alley, a restaurant/bar/nightclub in Rochester's East End.
The Alley, which opened in December 2015, is . It's at 1 Ryan Alley, near the corner of East and Alexander. After I spotted an ad for The Alley trumpeting its pizza, I made a mental note to get there, which I did a few weeks ago with my daughter.
We went on a Wednesday, arriving around 6 p.m. That's kind of early in the week, and early in the evening, for the East End, so unsurprisingly, things were pretty quiet when we walked in. In fact, it was empty, save for one employee behind the bar. But he assured me that they were open, and yes, they were serving food, including pizza. So we got a table near the window.
After handing us our menus, he explained that they were unexpectedly shorthanded that night, so at the moment, he constituted the entire staff -- bartender, waiter, and chef. Since we were the only customers, I didn't mind; if nothing else, this would truly be personalized service.
Pizzas at The Alley come in three sizes:  personal, regular and large. I got a regular Margherita, and my daughter ordered a personal meat lovers.
While we waited for our pizzas to arrive, we shared an appetizer of arancini. At The Alley, these fried rice balls are filled with Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese, and served with a side of marinara sauce. They were crisp on the outside, moist inside, tasty and enjoyable. So far, so good.
Our pizzas arrived in due course, and as I usually do, I first checked the underside. It was quite pale. Not a good sign.
Further inspection confirmed that the crust was rather underdone. Not raw, but flabby and a little gummy. "Lifeless" might best describe it.
I could've sent it back to bake a while longer, but the cheese was already well browned, so that didn't seem like a viable option. And I could've just sent it back, period. But I didn't, partly because I was intending to review it, so I figured I'd stick with what I had, and partly because it passed my "good enough to eat" threshold.
The overall flavor wasn't bad. This was really more of a cheese pizza than a Margherita, but as such, it was decent. The sauce had a thin consistency, but the chunks of tomato provided some acidity, sweetness and moisture. The cheese was ample, albeit rather browned, as I mentioned. My pie had also been given a sprinkling of what I'm guessing was Parmesan (the powdery kind you get from a cheese shaker, not freshly grated). Alas, the basil was of the dry variety, and didn't add much flavor, which is why I say this was more of a simple cheese pizza than a true Margherita.
The crust on my daughter's meat lover's pie was relatively thick, which is one reason I generally don't order personal-size pizza. Because of its smaller diameter, the cornicione on a personal pizza takes up a greater proportion of the overall pie than it would on a larger pie. I enjoy a good cornicione, but I like the thinner crust in the center of the pie too, and you often don't get much of that with a small pizza. This isn't a universal rule, by any means, but I've often found it to be the case, and it was here.
The crust on my daughter's pie was also on the underdone side, but that seemed less noticeable with hers, perhaps because of its more abundant toppings, which were pretty good. The pepperoni was crisp along the edges, and the meatball and sausage bits were thick and chunky. In contrast to my pizza, the mozzarella on hers was not browned, but was well melted and stretchy.
A few minutes after bringing out our pizzas, the waiter came by to check on us. I am sometimes susceptible in that situation to the American practice of smiling, nodding, and saying that everything's fine, even when it isn't, and I might've fallen prey to that this time, except that he specifically asked about the crusts on our pizza. So we did let him know that they were underdone. He seemed to have suspected as much, and after apologizing, he told us that he was taking 15% off our bill.
We didn't finish either pizza at this sitting, but I did take the leftovers home. I was able to salvage them for lunch, reheating individual slices in a toaster oven, with a layer of foil on top to prevent the cheese from getting overdone. That at least crisped up the bottoms a bit.
Obviously, something went wrong here. I'm no expert, but it seems likely to me that these were baked in an oven that was too cool on the bottom, but hot up above. I'm guessing the oven hadn't been on for very long, and was not sufficiently preheated.
So no, this was not very good pizza. But having said that, I did appreciate our waiter's concern. In hindsight, it might have been better if he had told us at the start that they weren't quite prepared to do pizza, but maybe he honestly didn't realize. I think he tried to do the best he could, under the circumstances.
Frankly, I debated with myself and a couple of other people, whose opinions I value, about whether to post this review, or whether to go back a second time, or to contact the establishment. Ultimately, I decided just to post the review, as is. In the end, this blog remains a record of my pizza experiences. If I describe those experiences accurately and objectively--and I think I have--the reader can decide what to make of it.
So I end this post with that caveat. This is a review of two pizzas, and one visit. Maybe on a different occasion--a different day of the week, or a different time of day, or with more people on staff--the pizza would have proved much better. But this was not too good. I have no complaints about our service, but I think I need to give this pizza a D.

The Alley,1 Ryan Alley, Rochester
(585) 546-1010

Tue. - Sat. 4 p.m. til ?

Friday, August 5, 2016


We have a winner! Dave B., who sent me an email on July 29, is the winner of a $25 gift card from Empire Pizza. Dave, I'll need your mailing address, so please send that to me at and I'll see that your card gets out to you soon. Thank you to everyone who responded and to Ken at Empire Pizza for this donation.