Super good Italian bread pizza

This post wasn’t supposed to happen. I was too hungry to stop and take a picture. And I knew Heather was too, so I didn’t want to ask her to wait. But, it turns out that pizzas made with that leftover loaf of Italian bread on your counter are very filling! So after we gobbled through 3/4 of the pizza, we were stuffed and there were two pieces left. They were still warm enough to look delicious…so here they are! I highly recommend using up your day old bread this way (this one was a loaf of Pane Italian from Wegmans). Top it with whatever you have left over in the fridge. This half of the loaf had sauce, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, grated parmesan, peppadews, prosciutto, olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper, and basil. The other half (which we ate first, and hence is missing from this post) had sauce, tomatoes, summer squash, mushrooms, asparagus, shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper, and arugula.

Don’t forget the wine…salut!

2eat2drink-pane italian pizza-p

Osteria Rocco (Neapolitan pizza, part three)

And for the final installment of Heather’s Neapolitan pizza article written for CITIZEN magazine:

Osteria Rocco, 165 Monroe Ave., Rochester, 585-454-3510,

            Okay, so this pizza wasn’t cooked in a wood-fired oven, but was it ever good! The cooking method here is to use a brick-lined gas oven that runs at about 700 degrees. Yes, 700 degrees. That’s hot, and the nicely charred crust is evidence. This crust was a bit denser than at the other two places. It was crisp on the outside and super chewy on the inside, and we loved it!

First up was the margherita, which had crushed California tomatoes, basil leaves, and – cue the choir of angels – FRESH mozzarella. I did say we were pizza snobs, right? To me, a margherita just isn’t quite the same without the fresh mozzarella. The Rocco margherita was, therefore, my favorite.

Heather cutting the margherita!

Our chef’s choice pizza was the vongole. Its toppings consisted of clams (yes, clams!), pancetta, parsley, chili peppers, and garlic oil. This pizza had a really nice heat to it. The toppings made for a delightfully unusual flavor combination.

The vongole, fresh from the kitchen. Clams on a pizza!

The pizza at Rocco is served in the traditional Neapolitan style, which means that it comes whole, and is meant to be eaten with a knife and fork. This reminded us of our beloved Una Pizza, where the pizza is also served whole. However, Rocco helps you out by providing you with a pair of kitchen shears with which to cut your pizza into slices, if you so choose. How fun!

We had an appetizer before our pizza. Fresh homemade ricotta. It’s worth a trip all on its own!

Fresh homemade ricotta. Incredible.

We’re sure that there are many more Neapolitan-style pizzas out there for us to try, no matter where you are. If you have any recommendations, leave us a comment!

Lucca Wood-fire Bistro (Neapolitan pizza, part two)

Sorry for the delay (we’ve been a bit busy!) – here is the second installment of Heather’s Neapolitan pizza article for CITIZEN magazine:

Lucca Wood-fire Bistro, 90 W. Main St., Victor, 585-924-9009,

Like at Ember, this pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven, this one reaching temperatures of around 550 to 650 degrees. We really like this crust, which is a great blend of crunchy and chewy.

For the margherita, the toppings were sliced plum tomatoes, grated mozzarella, chopped basil, garlic, and olive oil. We liked that the basil was put on after the pizza came out of the oven, keeping it nice and fresh, and that there was lots of it! We’re kind of partial to basil.

The funghi, along with the margherita, and a couple glasses of old vine zin!

Our second pizza, chosen by the chef, was the funghi. The toppings for this pizza are garlic and oil, mozzarella and asiago cheeses, roasted red peppers, spinach, prosciutto, white and portobello mushrooms, finished with truffle oil and parmesan. Wow! What a pizza! It is rich, creamy, and decadent, and one that we will certainly go back for.

This is a wonderful time of year to visit Lucca. They have plenty of outdoor seating, and we adore sitting on the porch and watching the world go by while we enjoy our delicious meal.

Good pizza AND good dessert!

I just have to add that while we were there, we also had the chocolate chip cannolis for dessert. They were excellent! Oh, and the boys enjoyed their cheese pizza, too!

The “my father is a photographer” syndrome.

After giving it much thought and consideration, we consider Lucca Pizza to be our favorite pizza this side of the Mississippi. Tell chef/owner Matt Gervasi we sent you!

Ember Woodfire Grill (Neapolitan pizza, part one)

We were at it again! The next CITIZEN magazine is out. Check it out here, or look for a copy on a newsstand near you! Heather wrote a very nice article which I am going to break into 3 parts to post, as I have a few pictures from each location to add. Here is her intro to Pizza Bliss, featuring some of greater Rochester’s finest Neapolitan-style pizza:

Rich and I are, admittedly, pizza snobs. We favor Neapolitan-style pizza with a nice thin crust that’s chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside. Our favorite pizza in the world used to be found in the East Village of New York City at Una Pizza Napoletana. This amazing pizza was crafted in the traditional Neapolitan way, using a heavenly sourdough crust and delectably simple toppings that were brought into perfect harmony in a super-hot wood-fired oven. Unfortunately for us, Una Pizza moved to San Francisco. Thus began our search for an incredible pizza closer to home.

We’ve tried many restaurants in and around Rochester during our search for the perfect pizza, and decided to share our top three finds with you: Osteria Rocco, Lucca Wood-fire Bistro, and Ember Woodfire Grill. At each place, we ordered a margherita pizza (a traditional Neapolitan with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella), as well as asking the chef to choose a pizza for us.

I can’t elaborate much (except for the extra pictures!), other than to say…this is not your average pizza. And, I would go get some… But, back to the article….

Look for the sign on the wonderfully renovated train station!

Ember Woodfire Grill, 21 Livonia Station, Livonia, 585-346-0222,

            First of all, I have to rave about this building.  The owners took over a year to renovate this old train station before opening in December of 2009, and boy did their efforts pay off! The super-charming interior manages to be open, airy, and traditional all at the same time. The old section of the building blends seamlessly with the new addition to create a very inviting space.

            Now, to rave about the pizza! Being cooked in a 650 to 700 degree wood-fired oven, the crust came out with some nice uneven charring on the bottom and edges, in fine Neapolitan style. This crust was uniquely light and airy, which we found very pleasing, and had a fantastic blend of crispiness and chewiness.

            The margherita pizza had extremely flavorful crushed tomatoes, a nice combination of chopped and whole basil leaves, sliced mozzarella, and was topped off with a bit of olive oil and salt.

The margherita!

            For the chef’s choice, we were delighted by the steak pesto pizza. This was topped with grilled steak, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, walnut pesto, and gorgonzola. The steak was incredibly tender, and blended so well with the other toppings that the combination didn’t overpower the delicate crust in the least.

Steak pesto pizza….grilled steak, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, walnut pesto, and gorgonzola.

            All in all, a fabulous pizza experience!

Yes, we did travel to Livonia! Near the North end of Conesus Lake. It’s really not that far away.

There were many things we wanted to try on the menu, and we will be back soon to do so. They have an awesome patio….go check it out! (Article part two and three coming soon!)

Heather on the porch of a great old building we passed heading east out of Livonia.

Disney during the “value season” – a dream come true!

January 2nd through mid-February is Value Season at Walt Disney World. We’d never pulled the boys out of school for a vacation, but with junior high looming ahead of us soon, this past winter seemed like our last chance to take advantage of the value season. In addition to the rock-bottom room rates, we were able to find amazingly cheap airfare AND a special offer for a free Disney Dining Plan, making this vacation offer too good to refuse. So, the boys and I dragged Rich away from his computer (yes, he was retouching right up until the last second!) and headed for the airport just ahead of a snow storm. What perfect timing!

Waffles a la Chef Mickey, Contemporary Resort.

Some of the dining highlights of this trip were: hot dogs at Casey’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom (our first-night-at-Disney-World tradition!), brunch at Chef Mickey’s (who can resist Mickey-shaped waffles?), lunch at Hollywood Studios’ Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (great food and cool ambience), and pizza & pasta at Via Napoli (located in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion).

Pasta & pizza (and dessert!) at Via Napoli, Italy Pavilion, Epcot.

Some highlights from Epcot: Rich’s view on Test Track, hanging with Chip at the Land Pavilion, our son’s picture of Chinese lily pads, me & my crew, Spaceship Earth.

What did we learn by visiting Disney in January? We learned that the Value Season rocks! I know that winter weather in Orlando can be a little unpredictable, but ours was perfect. It was sunny with temps in the 70s during the day, the evenings cooling down just enough to make us perfectly comfortable in light jackets. Crowds were better than during our summer trips to Disney World, allowing for much more interaction with the Disney characters and shorter wait times for rides and shows. Because we snagged the free Dining Plan, we were able to eat at a few places that are normally beyond our budget, such as Chef Mickey’s and Via Napoli (and we loved them both!) We also learned that the best place to watch the Wishes fireworks show (in the Magic Kingdom) is behind Cinderella Castle, just in front of Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

Wishes Nighttime Spectacular at the Magic Kingdom, lunch at Hollywood Studios’ Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom.

Visit the Walt Disney World site to plan your vacation or to peruse their current special offers. If you’ve ever considered Disney World in the off season, but you’re just not sure – go for it! You’ll be oh so glad you did!

Our view on the way home. Can’t wait till next time!

We got Naked with chianti.

Naked Pizza that is. Yes…the name of the chain is intriguing (and innuendo inspiring), so we thought we’d give it a try. We ordered the Mediterranean pizza for Heather and I, and a plain cheese for the boys. I think the cheese pizza was gone before we actually ate ours (due to some crazy photographer taking pictures). So, I’m pretty sure they liked it! As did we. It was very flavorful and true to its Mediterranean influence with artichokes, red onion, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and black olives. We decided to pair it with a 2007 Chianti Classico that was #47 on the Wine Spectator top 100 list, from Casttello D’Albola. The wine was marvelous. Super red in color, easily drinkable, and perfect with Pizza. I suggest you get Naked soon!

The Naked Mediterranean pizza.

The 2007 Castello D'Albola Chianti Classico catching a big breath.

Chef Mark….cookin’ the birthday food.

Our good friend Chef Mark recently had his birthday, and we were fortunate enough to host his gathering. So what does a chef want for his birthday meal? To make his own pizza! Chef Russell generously offered to make some of his “secret recipe” pizza dough (thanks Russell!), Chef Mark brought over some delectable toppings, and we were off to start cookin’ the birthday meal! Since the recipe for the dough is top secret, for now I’ll suggest picking up some pre-made dough at the store. Be sure to bake it on a pizza stone for best results. Place the pizza stone in the oven prior to pre-heating, and heat your oven as high as it can go. We had ours at 550 degrees. This will create a pizza with a crisp outside and a nice tender center. Top with whatever your heart (and stomach) desires. For this particular pizza, we created a version of the margherite with tomato sauce, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and sea salt. Get creative….make your own masterpiece! Let me know what you come up with…

Chef Mark making his own birthday pizza!

The homemade sourdough margherite pizza. Yum!!