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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Leo's Bakery and Deli, East Rochester

My wife, daughter and I had lunch on Sunday at Leo's Bakery and Deli in East Rochester. It's a local institution going back to the 1940s, but I believe this was my first visit.
My main reason for going there was to try their pizza. My understanding from news reports is that it's a reincarnation of Surace's pizza, which used to exist on West Commercial Street. Surace's, which I reported on in 2009, suffered a devastating fire in 2015.
I say that's my understanding because I haven't found any mention of it on Leo's website. And when I called Leo's some weeks back I was told, rather curtly, that no, it's not officially on the menu. I got the impression that they seemed to be de-emphasizing the pizza, or at least the Surace's connection. That's all I can tell you.
In terms of the physical layout, Leo's has a bakery/grocery side, adjoining the dining area and food counter. Both were clean, attractive and comfortable.
We entered through the bakery side, and headed for the food counter, where I spotted three pizzas available for slices: cheese, pepperoni and Buffalo chicken. I got a cheese slice.
Based on my 2009 Surace's review, it was pretty similar to what I had then. Thin, firm but not crackly underneath, with a light dusting of flour on the bottom. And as before, some oil toward the tip of the slice, i.e. the center of the pie, which probably seeped down after the pie was sliced. But it wasn't greasy, and the crust had a pleasant aroma of fresh bread.
The slice was a bit on the salty side, from the sauce, I think. I didn't especially mind it, as I like salt (probably more than I should), but it was noticeable. Overall, think more salty than sweet. The cheese struck a nice balance between melted and chewy, with some lactic-tangy flavor.
My wife and daughter opted for a wrap and sub, respectively. I didn't try either so I can't say much about those other than that everybody seemed to like what they got. 
Aside from what we had, I was struck by the breadth of Leo's offerings. The cookie display was particularly impressive, but they also had a variety of breads and pastries, cold cuts, sausage, and imported foods. You can read about all their offerings on Leo's website.
In 2009, I gave my Surace's slice a B-minus. When I assign grades these days, I try to avoid pluses and minuses, as I think that gives a sense of exactitude that is unwarranted for something this subjective, but I feel comfortable giving this slice a B. It was good, basic pizza, fresh and flavorful.

Leo's Bakery and Deli
101 Despatch Drive, East Rochester
Tel. (585) 249-1000
Fax: (585) 249-9231
Mon. - Sat. 8-8, Sun. 8-6

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fire Crust Pizza

As I mentioned on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, I noticed a new pizzeria opening on West Henrietta Road, under the name Fire Crust. I pass by there about once a week, so I've kept an eye on it. And when I saw last week that Fire Crust was open for business, I made a point to stop by for lunch, which I did, accompanied by a couple of friends.
This is another "fast casual" place, with an assembly-line type of operation. Choose your toppings, a la carte or from their list of available specialty pies, pay, and take your pizza to your table.
I decided to forgo my usual Margherita pizza, and instead opted for the Mediterranean veggie pie. The toppings of red sauce, feta cheese, tomato, red onions, banana peppers and black olives sounded too good to resist. One of my friends got a pepperoni pie and the other opted for the Aloha, a/k/a Hawaiian pizza, with red sauce, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, ham and pineapple.
Before I get to the pizza, let me say a bit about the preparation. As you can see in the photos, the crusts are prepared using a mechanical pizza dough spinner, and baked in what looks like a wood-fired oven, but which on this occasion showed no signs of fire. I should've asked, but I didn't. However I did notice that the temperature was set at, I think, about 750 degrees, which is 200 degrees hotter than most home ovens, and comparable to some wood-fired ovens.
As for the pizza itself, my pie was thin, but not super thin. The bottom showed a bit of charring and was dry to the touch. It was crisp but not crackly, and had enough interior chewiness to add some contrast. The cornicione was likewise slightly charred, not blackened, and chewy but not tough.
The toppings were pretty abundant, and tasty. For a pie that sells for $9.75 (before tax), I thought it was pretty good. There's also a $7.75 option called "Pi," but it's not clear from the menu what the difference is. I assume "pi" is just smaller, but I dunno. You can see the pizza/pi menu here.
I didn't sample either of my friends' pizzas, so all I can do on that score is pass along what they told me.  My friend who got the pepperoni pizza seemed satisfied -- at least he had no complaints to speak of -- and he agreed that for the price it wasn't a bad deal.
The friend who got the Aloha was much less happy. Her chief complaint was that the crust was soggy. I suspect that the pineapples were the main culprit. One more reason not to get pineapple on your pizza.
Besides pizza, Fire Crust has Pittsford Dairy ice cream available, and draft and bottled beer. I was going to order a soft drink, but was dissuaded by the $2.25 price, which seemed rather steep for a fountain drink. They also offer "fire roasted" wings, and panini and salads are promised to be available soon (maybe they are already, I just wasn't interested in either at the time).
So, some mixed results here. To summarize, I liked my pizza, especially for the price. Friend #1 thought his was satisfactory. Friend #2 didn't like hers and showed no inclination to go back. Given how recently Fire Crust opened and that array of opinions, I won't give it a grade, but based on my one experience, I'd say it's worth a try.

Fire Crust Artisan Pizza & Ice Cream, 4843 W. Henrietta Rd.
(585) 444-9086
Sun. - Thu. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m. - midnight

On the Web: (as of this writing, there's not much on the website)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Menezes', Revisited

Way back in 2010, I did a blog post about Menezes' Pizza on Chili Avenue.  I aptly described it as a true neighborhood pizzeria, that goes back to the 1980s.

I liked the pizza, I liked the owners, but I hadn't been back in a long time. Too long.

I recently learned that Menezes has changed ownership, and I had a chance to sit down for a half hour or so with the current owner, Greg Wolfe. Before our conversation began, I ordered a large pie, half pepperoni, bacon and sausage, half peppers and onions. Here's a summary of our conversation, and a bit about that pie.

Greg has had a lot of work experience, in an array of fields, which did not include the pizza business. But about four years ago, as Greg was looking to transition to more self-employment, on his way to eventual retirement, Menezes' came up for sale. That especially fit with Greg's desire to stay in Rochester, his native city.

At that time, the business had somewhat lost its way, due to a variety of issues. Despite his lack of experience with pizza, Greg knew that the product was good and that the business was fundamentally sound. As important, there remained a core of experienced, reliable employees, and Greg also knew from his business background that good employees are a key to success. So he took the leap.

Since then, Greg has taken strides toward righting the ship, without changing the course. The pizza is the same, and Menezes' other big seller, the steak sub, uses the same premium beef as before. That will not change. And the core team of employees remains as well. As Greg put it, he's found that in any business, "It's always about the people."

After taking over, and after consulting with his employees, Greg made some modest changes. Some items that weren't selling, like cold subs, were dropped, but others were added. Those include a "massive" salad topped with grilled chicken, and Menezes' "Messy Meal," otherwise known to Rochesterians as a "plate." You can see the full menu here.

As I was conversing with Greg, I was waiting for my pizza. I took it home in my insulated pizza bag and my family had it for dinner.

The crust was medium thick, well browned underneath with light screen marks. The cheese, sauce and toppings were in good balance. The crust was chewy but not tough, with a firm underside. Cheese was smoothly melted, and the toppings were done right. It can be tricky, I think, to balance vegetable and meat toppings, but they pulled it off here. In short, this was Menezes' pizza, which is good, Rochester-style pizza.

Since taking over the business, Greg has faced some challenges, but he is optimistic that Menezes' has a bright future ahead. I'm inclined to agree. I believe in the principle that if you sell a better product, you'll succeed, more often than not. Menezes' is making good pizza, and I expect it to remain a mainstay of its neighborhood for a long time to come.

If you'd like to learn more about Menezes' Pizzeria, go to: and

Or just go there. Menezes' is at 445 Chili Ave. and is open Mon. - Thu. 11 am - midnight, Fri. & Sat. 11 am - 1 am. and Sun. noon - midnight. It's at 445 Chili Ave. Pnone: 585-328-3010

P.S.  Next visit, I'm getting a steak sub.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Chuck E. Cheese's (yes, really)

A reader recently asked if I'd tried Chuck E. Cheese's new pizza menu. I will confess that I hadn't been keeping up with CEC's latest developments. Shame on me.

But I did recall seeing a story that they are trying to do more to attract an older crowd, or at least make the whole experience more tolerable for parents.

So I was intrigued enough to go, with my wife and teenage daughter, last Sunday to the CEC on Hylan Drive in Henrietta.

After passing through security, we went up to the counter. We opted for the #1 (Large) deal, which, for 35 bucks, gets you one large pizza, four soft drinks (there were only three of us, but it was still cheaper that way, I think, than a la carte) and 30 minutes of unlimited games. I ordered a "Thin & Crispy" pepperoni pizza. I noticed it's not available in a medium size, which leads me to believe the crusts are pre-made. But that hardly came as a shock.

I guess this qualifies as "fast casual," since we took a number and the food was delivered to our table. It took longer than I expected, 20 minutes, maybe, but when it arrived, well, the pizza wasn't bad  I'm not saying it was all that great, but it wasn't bad.

Now I should mention here that I was quite hungry. It was about 1 p.m. and I hadn't eaten since the night before. And my expectations were low.  But I tried to take an objective view of the pizza, and I didn't have much cause for complaint.

The underside was a little crisp, with some screen marks. Not crackly, but firm, with a chewy interior. The cheese was browned and somewhere between chewy and gooey. Pepperoni was average, sauce a bit sweet.

My biggest complaint was the saltiness. I'm something of a salt fiend, but this was too much for me, at least in some areas. I (and my daughter backed me up on this) got the impression that they dusted the whole thing with garlic salt at some point, with some spots getting way too much. Not so much as to make it inedible, but please leave the garlic powder and salt to me. Still, I have to admit, not bad in general.

As to non-pizza stuff: I noticed they do carry beer and wine, although I'm not sure if imbibing would make it more or less easy to deal with a bunch of screaming kids. I stuck with Diet Pepsi (they had caffeine-free, which I appreciated). The salad bar comprised fairly standard stuff, but looked pretty good, as salad bars go. The sneeze screen was too high to block kids' expectorants, but I doubt kids will be using it much anyway.

Once we finished our pizza, we moved on to the games. Our card's clock starting running with our first game, so we had 30 minutes to get in as much as we could.

I can recall going to a CEC a long time ago when a main attraction was the animatronic band that would come out and "play" music every so many minutes. This location had some vastly scaled down version of that way in the back, a nod to their past, I guess, but most of the entertainment space was taken up by games.

Many of those were clearly aimed at little kids. I was disappointed that they didn't have an air hockey table except for one that was so small, I would've felt embarrassed to be seen using it, unless I were purposely losing to a toddler at the other end. I did have some fun on the basketball free-throw game, but most of the games were aimed at the kiddie set.

I've wondered before why some of these arcades aren't regulated as gambling parlors, because with each game you get tickets, which are redeemable for cash. After this, I think I figured out why. After getting our fill of  skill-based games, we ended up on a game where you just hit a button and it spits out tickets. Kind of like a slot machine.  We walked  away with a boatload of tickets, which got us one small bag of cotton candy, for which we had to pay an extra 20 cents.  So that's why it's not like a casino. No matter what, or how well you do, you'll never walk away with more than you came in with, monetarily.

So was it worth it?  I guess. The three of us got a reasonably good pizza, some soft drinks, and 30 minutes of games, for 35 bucks. I won't be back soon, but honestly, the pizza was OK. Maybe that's damning with faint praise, but that's about it. It was better than I expected. I'll leave it at that.

Chuck E. Cheese's
1000 Hylan Drive (Jay Scutti Plaza)
Sun. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. 11 - 10, Sat. 10 - 10
(585) 292-6380

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Roncone's reconceived

I recently ran across a news story about Roncone's, the long-time Italian restaurant on Lyell Avenue, saying that after a change of ownership, they now serve pizza. I was particularly intrigued by this as Roncone's building still displays a sign for the old Veltre's bakery, which I posted about back in 2011. Veltre's made pizza, which in the early days they would sell at local bars, probably including Roncone's.

So a few weeks ago, when my wife and I had a chance for a "date night," we headed to Roncone's for dinner. On this Friday evening at around 7:30, it was quite busy and we were told that without reservations, we were looking at maybe a 40-minute wait. That's a bit beyond my usual tolerance for waiting time, but there was ample room at the bar, so I asked if we could eat there, which was no problem.
Pizza is such a recent addition to the menu that it wasn't yet on the printed menu.There is a separate pizza station, with sliced pies out, and the pizza ovens in back. The pizza menu is printed on a chalkboard above.
My wife an I shared a medium cheese pie, and some garlic knots. The pie had a thin-to-medium crust, with a well-formed, crisp but not brittle cornicione. The crust had an enjoyably bready flavor and a chewy but not tough texture. The underside was charred here and there, with some corn meal visible, some of it a little burnt or sooty. Individual slices passed the "fold test" - no drooping when held in one hand, folded.
The toppings were simple of course, but good. Sauce had a touch of tomatoey sweetness, and the slightly browned mozzarella was nice and stretchy but not gooey. My wife declared it the best pizza she'd ever had at a restaurant, which might sound like damning by faint praise, but I know what she meant. Restaurant pizza often disappoints. This did not.
A week or two later, I returned for lunch with a couple friends. This time I got a pepperoni slice and a tomato pie slice.
Before the Utican purists jump on me, I guess this was not a traditional tomato pie, in the sense that it had sausage and peppers, in addition to the usual bread crumbs and grated cheese, plus some shredded basil. If that makes it not a tomato pie, then let's just call it pan pizza, or Sicilian, or square pizza. By any name, it was good, with a crunchy underside and an open crumb. The toppings had soaked in on top a bit, but the crust was not soggy.
The pepperoni slice was marked by the same bready, crisp crust as my prior cheese pie, with meaty slices of pepperoni.
So two successful pizza visits, but I should give a nod to Roncone's other options. As before, they still have a wide variety of Italian-American foods to offer. You can see their menu on their website, as well as more information about the head chef, Jimmy, and their background. I'll also post some additional photos on my Facebook page.
On my dinner visit, I met and chatted very briefly with the pizzaiolo, Franco. With a name like Franco he had me half-sold on their pizza already.

Roncone's, 232 Lyell Ave., Rochester
(585) 458-3090

Tue. & Wed., 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Thu. 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Some months ago, a reader informed me of a new place, Roybidoux's, on Long Pond Road. This site was formerly occupied by Alloco's, which I reviewed in February 2015. Looks to me like Alloco's might've gone out of business sometime in 2016.
I often check out new places by stopping in for a lunchtime slice, but Roybidoux's doesn't open until 4:30, so I had to wait for a convenient occasion to bring home a pie.
I got a large, with sweet (green) peppers and onions on half, beef pepperoni and sausage on the other half.
First check, the crust. Medium thick, screen marks underneath, medium brown, firm but not crisp. Some separation of the cornicione from the rest of the crust.
Toppings were fairly ample. The pepperoni was nicely crisp. The crumbly sausage was a bit dried out. I'd prefer bigger chunks of sausage. The veggies were fresh but softened, just the way I like them.
The cheese was well melted and creamy. Bonus points there. The tomato sauce was noticeable, but basic, with a good sweet/salty balance.
But back to the crust. On biting into the pizza, I found that the crust had a very fresh, bready aroma. My daughter, on the other hand, thought it seemed "raw."
I can assure you, it was not raw. I think where she's coming from is, she likes the toasty aroma and flavor of lightly charred pizza crust. As do I, but I also enjoy pizzas that smell and taste like fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. This was closer to that.
You can find out more about Roybidoux's on their website, so I won't go on at length, but they offer over 20 toppings, and 14 specialty pizzas. Of note, they do a 14-inch, 8-piece pan pizza, which I would like to try.
Beyond pizza, there are wings (11 sauces), pasta, hot subs, "huge" calzones, plates, burgers, fried seafood ... well, check out their menu. There is ample seating inside, they deliver, and you can order online.
Sorry, for all you ratings lovers, but I'm not giving this a grade. If anything, this makes me realize once again the limitations of simple ratings, alphabetic, numerical or otherwise. But I'll recap. Crust was medium thick and bready, though the underside was underwhelming. Toppings were generally good, but the sausage could've been better. Cheese was well melted. Bottom line, I would go back.

1742 Long Pond Rd., Rochester, NY 14606

Tuesday - Thursday 4:30 PM - Midnight
Friday & Saturday 4.30 PM - 1:00 AM
Sunday 4:00 PM - Midnight
Monday closed

Monday, February 5, 2018

Brooklyn Crafted Ginger Beer

Not all that long ago, Brooklyn, NY was thought of as a place where working-class stiffs spoke barely recognizable English. As in "toid" for "third."
And as a kid, I grew up hating ginger ale, because my mom always made me drink it when I was sick. After she'd stirred it enough to make it go flat. And it was always the same brand, ostensibly from the country to our north.
How things have changed. For some years now, Brooklyn has been more hip than Manhattan. It may soon be taken over in that department by Queens or even the Bronx. 
And ginger is hot, literally and figuratively.
So why not combine the two? That's what they've done at Brooklyn Crafted Ginger Beer, which makes genuine ginger beer in good old Brooklyn USA.
I recently received a review sample of four varieties of Brooklyn Crafted Ginger Beer: Traditional, Mango, Earl Grey and Lemon & Lime.
In transit, some bottles seemed to have leaked a bit, so my hands got a little sticky, but it was worth it. Each of these had a unique flavor that let the natural ginger flavor come through. I like the spicy kick of ginger, so unsurprisingly, my favorite was the Traditional. My wife is a tea drinker and loved the Earl Grey. The Mango was more fruity but not cloying, and the Lemon & Lime was like a gingery version of a well-known colorless soda pop, but more gingery than sweet.
In general, I avoid food trends, but I really do like the flavor of ginger. And these have it. I'd like to see them do a ramped-up version that packs some serious gingery heat.
All of these are made with the genuine article, and you will likely see some sediment in the bottle. I gently turned mine upside down before opening, just to evenly distribute the flavor. These are all non-alcoholic products, and are enjoyable as such, but I'm guessing they would make for good mixers if you so choose.
At the moment, it doesn't appear that this product is available at retailers in the Rochester, NY area. Visit their website for more information and updates. But if you can get your hands on some, and would like a soft drink that's a little more interesting than your typical sugary stuff, I don't think you'll be disappointed with Brooklyn Crafted Ginger Beer.

Friday, January 19, 2018

LB's, Bloomfield

I picked up a pizza the other day at LB's Pizza in East Bloomfield. It's at 10 Main Street, the former site of Hometown Pizza, which I reported on in 2011.
I spotted LB's a few months ago, but I didn't have a convenient chance to do so until a couple weeks ago.
I got a large pie,half pepperoni, half green peppers and onions.
The pepperoni was for my daughter. For myself, I'm good with plain cheese, but I've found you need toppings on the whole pie to get it to bake evenly. I'd go with pepperoncini, but my wife prefers green, a/k/a sweet peppers. That's fine with me.
What especially intrigued me about LB's was their slogan, "It's the crust!" Where pizza is concerned, I agree, it's primarily about the crust, so that drew me in.
This pie was still in the oven when I arrived, but I assured the counter person I was in no hurry, and that I didn't mind waiting until it was properly done. While I was waiting, she gave me a bit of background on LB's.I learned that LB's is a reincarnation of a family-owned pizza shop that operated in Lima for many years, but closed some 15 years ago. She also informed me that the dough and sauce are both made in-house, daily.
Once the pie came out, I rushed it home in my insulated bag. When I opened the box, I found pie with a medium-thick crust, and a medium-brown underside. The slices were firm but pliable.
I don't know if it's typical, but the cornicione was formed in a way that created a slight gap between it and the rest of the crust. I suppose if you like to dip the crust into some sauce, this would make it easier to tear off the outer crust.
My daughter found the crust to be underbaked. Given her preference for thin, NY-style pizza, I can understand that. But to me, a more apt description would be "fresh," as in freshly-baked bread. Even after a half-hour-plus car ride, this crust exuded the aroma of bread right out of the oven. It was slightly chewy but not tough, moist but not gummy. The predominant flavor and aroma were not of a charred exterior, but of an interior that was much like a just-baked loaf of bread, right out of the oven.
On top, the cheese was smooth and well melted. The pepperoni and veggies were abundant and evenly distributed, tasty if unremarkable, and the pie as a whole was evenly and well baked.
So I think your reaction to this pie would depend a good deal on what you like in terms of the crust. This was bready, firm underneath, soft inside, not crunchy or crackly, or oily, or flabby. It was like bread topped with well-melted cheese and fresh toppings, with a scent of bread that came with each bite. And that's not a bad way to describe a pizza.

LB's Pizza
10 Main St., East Bloomfield
Tue. - Sat. 11 - 9, Sun. (Summer) 3 - 8, (Winter) noon - 8

Delivery 5 p.m. - closing time, within 6-mile radius