Once again the guys from the office were pestering me to declare another “pizza day.” We always try to think of places to go that I wouldn’t necessarily visit for typical slice reviews. Getting table service is a plus, so I thought we had a pretty good plan in going to Basil Leaf in North Syracuse. Only a few months ago, Basil Leaf Pizza moved from a smaller pizza operation close to Taft Road to a full restaurant in the center of the village. Alas, when I called ahead to check their hours and verify that pizza was available, I found that it was not. The ovens don’t get fired up until dinner time.
After numerous other possibilities were suggested and shot down by one person or another, we settled on Avicolli’s Pizzeria of Liverpool. In a manner similar to Twin Trees, Avicolli’s has more than one location, but they aren’t a homogeneous chain with identical menus. This location is at 7839 Oswego Road (also known as Route 57). The building is split between a regular sit-down restaurant, and a more casual order-at-the-counter pizzeria on the other side. We chose the latter. Although we ordered at the counter, the food was brought to our table.
The menu offers a wide choice of pizza, wings, pasta, subs, salads and dinners. When we visited at lunch time, numerous NY Style and Sicilian pizzas were on display at the counter for slices. I made a mental note to return at some time in future for a sample of the Sicilian (not terribly common in these parts). The restaurant is clean and spacious, nicely decorated, and delivery is available.
We ordered two 16″ pizzas listed on the menu as New York Style Napolitana. They arrived at our table on stands, and looked a lot bigger than we were expecting. Maybe that’s because the stands elevated them close to eye level, and also because they measured nearly 18″ across. That’s OK – this group of guys can pack away the pizza with the best of them!
True Neopolitan pizza (or Pizza Napolitana) is actually well defined and tightly regulated. For one thing, it must be no more than 3mm, or about 1/8th inch thick. It is usually baked very quickly (60-90 seconds) in a very hot oven. This pizza was really more of a medium crust, running from 1/4″ to 1/2″ thickness. When I bit into it, my impression was that this was a somewhat low-gluten crust, and perhaps not entirely wheat flour. It was very white inside, had a slight biscuit quality, separated easily when I bit in, and was not chewy. In spite of these differences from a “traditional” pizza crust, it was still a reasonably good crust.
The sauce was applied in good balance to the crust and cheese, was bright red, very lightly spiced, and it had good texture. But, the taste was rather subdued. There was nothing “off” or offensive about it, it was just “subdued.” Cheese was soft, not congealed, not oily and not orange (my camera doesn’t auto-color balance very well when most of the picture is taken up by pizza!). Toppings were fresh and very plentiful. It appeared that after the pizza was completely assembled, pepper or some mix of pepper and spices was lightly sprinkled on top.
As we finished eating, I asked everyone for their numeric rating on the Pizza Geek scale. Two of them said 4.5, one 4.25. The person who gave the lower grade said, “The sauce was very bland.” Everyone else nodded in agreement, and someone added, “But the tasty toppings rescued it.” They didn’t mention anything about the crust, which I felt was also a bit bland. The excellent cheese and toppings did indeed save the day, making for a very pleasant overall experience. Still, I have to “ding” the pizza for the somewhat bland sauce and crust, bringing the official Pizza Geek rating down to 4 out of 5 slices. I can recommend it as good (not great) pizza, and a much above average place to eat it.
Summary – Pros: excellent cheese and toppings. Cons: bland sauce & crust.
What do YOU think? Have you tried pizza from Avicolli’s? Click the comment link below and tell us about it!