Veneto with the Rochester Pizza Guy
Since starting my own website, I’ve made an effort to try and understand where the community sits today and see who has stood the test of time. When it comes to Rochester food blogs, the real OG when it comes to consistency and dedication is the Rochester Pizza Blog and the nameless man behind the blog, the Rochester Pizza Guy. He has been writing reviews on pizza places around the city on a regular basis since 2009 and has kept a blistering pace throughout the years that I can only aspire to. I’d been admiring his work from afar for a while and found some great pizza places because of him (Fiamma and Nino’s especially) and was pleased when we started chatting online after he read about my apprenticing at Fiamma. After some stopping and starting, we finally ended up meeting for a pizza dinner recently at Veneto on East Ave.
Since we had both eaten there before, we were treating this as an opportunity to revisit their pizza and chat about blogging in Rochester and pizza in general. Splitting two of their pizzas made the most sense to us so we went with a Margherita to baseline the pizza again and one with a few more toppings in the Rustica. I’ll cover the pies in individual sections and I think I’m going to do that for pizza reviews moving forward to maintain a consistent format that makes sense and gives equal weight to each of the elements.
Both of our pies featured a relatively thin crust with a fair bit of chew and crunch cooked in Veneto’s wood fired oven. Unfortunately that is where the positives end for me. There was little to no flavor developed in the dough that comes from yeast and time and a distinct lack of salt that left the overall profile similar to that of an unsalted saltine cracker. The cornicione (outer crust) offered none of the oven spring that comes from a blisteringly hot oven and was a bit on the dense side for my tastes. Only hints of color and char were found on the under carriage even though the top side had a bit more color than I’d prefer. As the RPG (Rochester Pizza Guy) mentioned in his post, there was also some uncooked flour as well which isn’t particularly pleasant. I don’t think it is too much to ask to make the crust more than just a vessel for toppings since the crust makes up a significant amount of the pizza and in this instance that was not achieved.
Unlike what I would consider to be a classic Margherita pizza, Veneto’s “Margherita” didn’t offer fresh mozzarella cheese or basil and instead was basically just a classic cheese pizza with sauce. To be fair the menu does not mention that basil is included, but by using that term there is a certain set of criteria that pizza fans expect including a simple crushed tomato sauce and the ingredients I mentioned above. For what we were actually served, the sauce was cooked down to an overly sweet level for me with hints of dried spices and topped with aged mozzarella cheese. Nothing appalling here, but also nothing particularly enticing either.
Adding green peppers, caramelized onions and italian sausage turned the Margherita into the Rustica pizza. Usually I prefer simplicity to piling on meats and veggies, but in this case they definitely made an improvement. The sausage was pretty basic spread out in small chunks that had a similar taste and texture to frozen pizza sausage and the peppers and onions made the whole thing sweeter than I would have expected. Admittedly this was better than the Margherita since the toppings distracted from the crust, but not a pizza I’d want to revisit.
While the food we had at Veneto wasn’t inspiring, I greatly enjoyed meeting the Rochester Pizza Guy and having a meal with Rochester’s most accomplished pizza critic. Check out his post on our experience there and we saw the pizza similarly and although I don’t offer a rating with my reviews, I agree with the one he put on Veneto of a C-. I hope to sit down with him in the future for another meal and gab about the pizza scene in Rochester as it evolves!