Sunday, December 8, 2013


We met up with friends this week for dinner at Cure, which might be Rochester's hippest restaurant.  It's located in the Public Market, and here are the actual directions: "Turn onto Railroad from Main St., and proceed all the way to the Market gate (it may appear locked from a distance, but you will see that it is open as you get closer). Take a right turn into the market, and follow the parking lot lanes towards the row of buildings. You will see Cure ahead and slightly to your left."  In fact, Cure is the only thing open in the Market at night, so on a very chilly Friday, we drove through the deserted lots and past darkened stalls toward the beacon of Cure's red neon window sign.

Inside, the restaurant is cozy with a noise level that's hopping but still good for conversation, and every surface holds a tea light--seriously, every surface, even the tops of junction boxes and the bathroom sink.  It gives the entire place a nice glow.

Cure's menu is designed for sharing, and courses come out as they're ready.  I won't bury the lead--the food is amazing!  

We ordered an assortment of dishes: tomato rillette, arugula and heirloom tomato salad (special that night), oven roasted camembert with fingerlings and onion jam, wild boar meatballs, and hangar steak.  And, when I asked for a Diet Coke, I learned that Cure serves Tab (be still my heart!).

The tomato rillette is essentially a sweet and tangy tomato spread.  Served with lightly toasted baguette slices, it made a great starter.  And, its acidity played nicely off the camembert, which was all melty, rich goodness complemented by the caramelized onions of the jam.  It came with a large portion of seasoned, room temperature fingerlings.

It was a big of a surprise to see an heirloom tomato salad on a Rochester menu in December, but the tomatoes were wonderful.  Perfectly ripe and tasty, they were hiding under a mound of arugula tossed with a light vinaigrette.  Again, a good counterpoint to the camembert.

The meatballs came out next in a neat row.  They're topped with white beans, carmelized onions, bacon and croutons--a fantastic smoky/crispy accompaniment.   The meatballs were moist and dense.  They had a slight Asian note to them.

Finally, the hangar steak arrived.  Seriously, this steak was like butter!  It's presliced for sharing and served with meaty, woodsy mushrooms.  So, so good.

The portions are solid and good for sharing, but they're not overwhelming.  We cleaned every plate without feeling crazy full.  So, we ordered a couple desserts:  apple tart and flourless chocolate cake.  These weren't as inventive nor as flawlessly executed as the rest of the meal, but they were fine and made even better by the Java's coffee served alongside.

If you haven't been to Cure, yet, what are you waiting for?  Grab some friends and prepare for some outrageously good food!

Friday, September 6, 2013


Given that the all-recliner theatre of our dreams has opened in Webster, we've spent a lot more time there, and when my sister and two of her three recently visited, we made a pilgrimage to this movie mecca and needed dinner first.  The demand from the four cousins was pizza, so we set off for Proietti's.

Our table of seven split into factions: three had pizza; three had pasta; and one (guess who!) had beans and greens.  Our server was super pleasant and gracious, and she secured her tip by bringing out a lovely plate of fresh zucchini sauteed with tomatoes ... on the house.  Couple that with the soft Italian bread, and things were off to a great start.

The two pizzas were a big hit, and one was devoured completely.  The crust was thin but still had a bit of doughy "meat" to it.  The sauce had some spark and the toppings were generous.  Solid!

My daughter had chicken french of her own making:  taking the kid's menu chicken french tenders and having them served over pasta tossed with garlic and olive oil.  She loved it.

My husband went for the wild mushroom ravioli (secretly knowing that several slices of his son's pizza would be his for the taking, too).  It was richly flavored and just plain rich.  He ate half and some pizza and was a very happy man.

My greens and beans were unbelievably good:  the broth was beyond garlicky, the beans firm, the greens lovely.  Yum!!  I'd have eaten that broth over anything, honestly.

Add in one order of fettucini alfredo for my niece, and we were full and ready to settle in to our recliners for a night of entertainment.

Proietti's offers delicious Italian food at reasonable prices just down the street from the best movie theater on earth.  Home run!


The Charbroil is decidedly and intentionally anti-hip.  It celebrates old school diner food without being retro: unapologetically offering a thick menu of comfort staples served by a friendly staff who call you "Hon" regardless of your gender or age.   Enough older patrons are greeted by name to suggest they've been eating there since they were teens, but new faces are greeted with equally big smiles.  You can have breakfast at 7 am or pm; you can have big, unadorned baked potatoes with everything from hamburgers to chicken french; you can read the day's "Pie" menu which includes such classics as blueberry, lemon meringue, and everyone's favorite pie: chocolate cake (what? whatever!).  Heck, tonight when we went, we could have ordered "Salt Potoaotes," but we didn't.

For our family, Charbroil is ideally located for a quick, no-heavy-thinking dinner after picking up the kids from any number of activities--and they love it!

My son's go-to dinner choice is chocolate silver dollar pancakes with a side of bacon.  It never disappoints and it always disappears.

My daughter lights up with joy when chicken french is on the special board.  When it's not, she defaults to chicken parmesan.  Both have a based of crispy chicken breasts served over a huge portion of pasta--the chicken is really quite good: the breasts are flattened to cook evenly.  The french comes with a lemon-scented garlicky sauce; the parmesan with a basic red sauce.  Either way, my petite princess plows through it, usually leaving just enough for breakfast the next morning and just enough room for a piece of chocolate cream pie.

If I'm looking for something lighter, I'll take the broiled haddock with lemon pepper seasoning and one of the Charbroil's old fashioned baked potatoes.  The fish is consistently well-cooked, light, flaky with a seasoning that should really be called "pepper-lemon."   Like everything, the portion seems oversized for the plate, but that's not a complaint.  The potatoes are steaming hot, moist, dense.  They bring back foil wrapped memories of midwestern meals.

The Charbroil is the kind of place we so often take for granted as we zip by on our way to the latest foodie haven.  It consistently offers good food at a good price served by nice people.  Nothing wrong with that--in fact, most times, it's just right.

Good Luck

Odd that we hadn't been to Good Luck before.  Maybe because of its bring your beards and vintage shirtwaist dresses kind of vibe, maybe because of its massive central bar.  I'm not sure.  In truth, we stopped trying that hard to be alt-anything years ago.  But, on a night when we were running over to the MAG for a movie about the Replacements, we figured, "Heck, it's right across the street, and we used to be rad. Let's do it."  We were glad we did!

Good Luck is big on sharing plates.  We ordered french fries, a salad, and fried chicken--and sat back to enjoy the mix-matched warehouse ambience while we waited.

The fries came first and were almost addictively good:  salty and crisp in a classic thinly cut "frites" style.  We kept trying to stop eating them ... and failing miserably.

Then the salad.  It had a base of crispy bibb lettuce with a bright and sparky pepperoncini vinaigrette that played perfectly off the pancetta and blue cheese.  It was accented with firm chick peas.  A great palate cleanser after the fries.

Finally, the plentiful fried chicken.  It had more of a batter than a breading crust (I prefer the latter).  The chicken itself was seasoned well and was moist in a way that suggested it had been brined in buttermilk before frying.  The portion was easily shared and disappeared as quickly as it could be eaten.  The sides were not up to the high standard set by the chicken.  The corn was a bit too soft and over-cooked while the barley/lentil salad seemed too undercooked and didn't benefit from being served chilled.  I'd have gone with a well-chilled tomato-cucumber salad or a crisp corn and black bean side to offset the chicken.

We'd definitely return to Good Luck.  Its cooler-than-you rep masks a very welcoming restaurant with a winning menu.  Yum!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

La Casa

La Casa is a new entry on the Rochester scene and has "hipster vibe" written all over it.  It's in the South Wedge, in an old house, decorated with tattoo-style, graffiti painting on the outside and lots of wood beams on the inside. Plus the servers seem straight outta Brooklyn (via UR, Eastman or the RIT School of Craft).

My husband and I stopped for lunch.  La Casa's lunch menu is a bit odd in that everything involves "huevos," so we ordered off the dinner menu: enchiladas verdes (one of my all time favs) and enchiladas mole (one of his).  Chips and salsa are not free, but order them.  The salsa is smoky with a deep heat and the chips are perfectly salted.  Yum!

The enchiladas come with a side plate that includes small portions of lettuce/cabbage salad, whole black beans, refried beans, and yellow rice.  Both beans and the rice were more room temp than warm, so I'm not sure if that's the way they typically come.  The beans were tasty; the rice less so.  (We're kinda rice snobs after years of eating rice of the world in Miami--Peruvian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Cuban and others.  This didn't really pass muster.)

My enchiladas were very good.  The salsa verde was very "green" tasting (if you like verde, that makes sense)--bright, cilantro-y, acidic.  It complemented the enchiladas wonderfully.  His were okay--not enough mole so the enchiladas were a bit dry.

La Casa is not inexpensive, and to be honest, while the staff, decor and location are all far less hip, I prefer Itacate.  Their menu is both more adventurous (tongue tacos) and comforting (charros).  Still, La Casa has its charms, and soon after we were seated, the line for lunch was already out the door.  So, it'll be around for quite some time and is definitely worth a visit.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Vic and Irv's Refreshments

After a full day at Seabreeze, we were full of fresh air, sunshine, fried dough and skeeball and ready to hit the legendary Vic and Irv's Refreshments.  The restaurant is part of the so-called "hot dog row" next to the amusement park, which is now dominated by the more chain-like and upscale Bill Gray's.  If you're from Rochester, the fact that I've just described Bill Gray's as "more upscale" than Vic and Irv's should give you a sense of the ambience it offers.  Here's the story ... who cares!

If you're eating after a day at Seabreeze, ambience is not a top priority--lots of yummy fried foods are.  And, Vic and Irv's delivers.  Their fries are fresh cut, crispy, salty potato planks; their burgers fill the bun and come with huge pickle slices and grilled onions.  My husband's all the way burger was topped with their vaunted meat sauce; he added one of their homemade onion rings and some of my Beef on Weck au jus and loved it.  My sandwich was on a deliciously salty, caraway-y roll stacked with beef and smothered in grilled peppers and onions (my add)--so good!  The kids all had cheeseburgers and fries--and though the my son's stomach was a bit queasy from one too many turns on the Sea Dragon, the girls (daughter and friend) left no burger bit uneaten.  My daughter ate most of my husband's onion rings, and I dug the delicious mushrooms out of their fried hulls (it's a thing).

We'd say Vic and Irv's is an institution for good reason: a fantastic old school menu (fried bologna & onions, anyone? clam boat? egg & olive sandwich?), super friendly and efficient counter service, and wonderful cheap eats.  Get there, people!

Carmine's Family Restaurant

Someday, we'll get our stuff together ... but probably not.  Which is why we were zipping across town to a dance recital in Greece and left barely enough time to grab some wraps at Tim Horton's.  Almost four hours later (trust me, I wish I were kidding), the recital was still not over, but my kids' dances were--so we decided to try to get some real dinner before 10 pm.  We had passed Carmine's on the way to the recital, so I looked it up on my phone.  Turned out they were open for 30 more minutes.  Score!!

As a family, we absolutely love places like Carmine's.  The menu is as long as the tax code; the counter servers are crazy-friendly; drinks come with infinite refills; and a family of four can eat for about $30.

My daughter has become a fan of Chicken French (it's a ROC-thang!) and got the CF dinner special, which came with penne in red sauce and a salad for about $8.  Seriously!  My son got his standard bacon cheeseburger and fries.  I went Italian Wedding Soup, and my husband ordered wings.  And, of course, there was an ice cream finale to the meal.

Would I drive across town to go to Carmine's?  Likely not.  But, would I eat there if I were in Greece? Oh, yes!  It's a non-chain, affordable, yummy restaurant with gracious service.  Nothing wrong with that!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ristorante Lucano

Ristorante Lucano is tucked into a non-descript strip mall near a dry cleaners and a Subway, so it's easy to forget it's there--which is why it was nice when friends suggested that's where we meet for dinner.  We grabbed a table tucked away in a corner and prepared for a night of yummy Italian food and great conversation; we were not disappointed!

My husband started with crab cakes, a special that evening, ... and finished with them.  I was so caught up in chatting that I never asked for a bite and somehow he never offered.  Hmm ... So, take that as an assessment of how good they were!  His entree was the Pappardelle Alla Montanara, the traditional wide pasta tossed with sausage, mushrooms, eggplant and tomatoes in a semi-creamy sauce.  Both the pasta and the sausage are made at the restaurant, and the dish was comfort food at its finest!  The eggplant and mushrooms really soaked up the richness of the sauce, which rippled along the ribbony pasta.

I went lighter, starting with a simple green salad--bright and crisp because I wanted to go thick and heavy with my entree: Bucatini All'amatriciana.  I love bucatini, the fat and round noodles that scream "hearty" and seem to draw sauce up into them like pasta pipettes!  And, I love spicy red sauce, so throw in some pancetta and onions and I'm a very happy girl!  It had a high, bright tomato flavor balanced with a deep heat that found the perfect home in the long, tubes of bucatini.  The pancetta added just enough smoky saltiness.

It's worth noting that the pasta servings at Lucano seem to be made for two or even three!  Always plan for leftovers, which will likely bring no complaints.

Our companions ordered the Fave E Verdura--which serves the beans mashed over greens; a calamari appetizer special that was basically calamari stuffed with calamari, then deep fried, and served with red sauce; Spaghetti Allo Scoglio, which pairs the pasta with shrimp, calamari and clams; and a veal chop special.  As these descriptions suggest, the flavors at Lucano are authentic Italian--simple yet sophisticated and grown-up.

Given all that we ate, we decided to split just one dessert and have coffees: Frutti Di Bosco.  It's sort of a chantilly cream tart topped with berries and powdered sugar--a nice combination of sweet, tart, and light/fluffy.

It was one of those nights when you think--we need to eat here more often and get together with these friends more often, too.  Grazi, Ristorante Lucano!

Sakura Home

When my husband and I first started dating, we went out to a Japanese restaurant.  We may have even ridden our bikes there.  I remember that, with tip, it cost us $30, and I couldn't imagine spending that much money on a dinner for two.

I also couldn't have imagined that a quarter of a century later, we'd be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.  So, in thinking back to that night, we thought we'd head out for Japanese.  This time, we were driving, bringing two kids, and were pretty sure we'd spend more than $30.  We decided on hibachi at Sakura Home.

It was freezing outside and slightly snowing, which made the thought of sitting next to a hot hibachi table very appealing.  Sakura Home has an updated Japanese feel, brighter and more contemporary looking than Plum Garden (which is probably its main competition).  You enter directly into the bar area, which is a bit odd, but walk to the hibachi room over a cute little bridge that overlooks a small koi pond.

The crowd and servers were sparse on a Tuesday, so we got a table all to ourselves, but it also meant that our waitstaff--who was super nice--and hibachi chef were stretched a bit thin.  This left us and other tables with a lot of time chat, which was alternately annoying (we were starving!) and nice (we rarely get to do that).

Our son ordered Chicken Teriyaki off the kids' menu, as did our daughter.  They both opted for noodles instead of rice, which was an alternative I haven't seen before at a hibachi restaurant.  My husband ordered Steak with a side of Salmon; I went for Filet.  Kids' meals come with an onion broth soup or salad (which has more of a buttermilk dressing than the traditional ginger); regular meals with both plus the obligatory shrimp.

The chicken was good with a smoky, salty, sweet teriyaki sauce, and they LOVED the noodles.  My husband thought his steak was fine but really preferred the salmon, which was a huge portion for a side--as was the side of raw ginger he requested.  My filet was fantastic, soft and tender and perfectly cooked to medium-rare.  The veggies were delicious, too, and the rice was less seasoned than I typically like--remedied with extra soy and ginger.  The final verdict was really revealed by our plates, which held no leftovers.

Our chef was fine and fun but didn't put on as much of a show as we typically experience: no tossing of rice, no egg tricks, no shooting shrimp.

After dinner, I mentioned to our server that it had been my son's birthday the day before, so he got to bang the gong and was presented with a free birthday sundae complete with candle.  A nice touch!

Having now been to both hibachi places on Monroe, we prefer Plum Garden for the show but Sakura Home for the diversity of the menu and decor.  Guess we can't have everything, so we'll "settle" for a happy, hibachi-full family any day of the week (or the quarter century) :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pixley's Restaurant

Off to see Jurassic Park 3D in IMAX, which meant another search for a restaurant along Buffalo Road.  This time we tried Pixley's Restaurant.  Like a lot of what one sees on this stretch, it seems to have been there forever--an old school diner from the pre-Denny's era.  (It doesn't even have a website!)  Inside, it's spiffier, with a handpainted Hollywood in the 30s mural (why? who cares?), scarved overheads, and supercomfy booths next to huge windows.  Add in the fact that every server is supernice, and Pixley's starts ahead of the game on many fronts.

I'm happy to say the food is good in an old school diner way.  The menu is huge and supplemented with a long list of nightly specials.  I got there with the kids.  My husband was held up at work, so I initially planned just to order him a sandwich to go that he could sneak into the theatre.

So, we set in.  My son ordered the Cheeseburger and Fries off the kids menu.  My pasta queen ordered the Fettucine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken and Broccoli.  I got a bowl of the soup du jour, Lemon Chicken, and a bowl of Greens and Beans off the appetizer menu.

He loved the classic diner-style cheeseburger and the light, crispy, salty fries on the side.  It came with pickle slices, tomato, onions, and a cute decorative slice of orange.

She went nuts for the massive plate of pasta.  The Alfredo sauce was mild, which she likes, and the fettucine was a great pairing with the well-seasoned grilled chicken strips that combined a golden, garlicky, crispy exterior with a moist interior.  She was not a fan of the broccoli, though.  The entree was probably big enough for two, but it still came with two sides.  She declined both, even after told she could get a cup of soup and prompted to do so by her mother.  Which was a mistake because ...

My Lemon Chicken soup was delicious!  The creamy broth had a natural and not overpowering lemon taste with good chunks of chicken, peas, and carrots plus a nice portion of white rice.  Once she tried my soup, my daughter regretted her decision :)  I had never, ever had Greens and Beans before moving to Rochester--which is some kind of culinary crime.  Pixley's seemed to include a full can of cannelini beans!  The accompanying escarole still had a great firmness but had stewed long enough in the rich, garlic-heavy broth to pick up the full flavor.  So good!

While we were eating, my MIA husband texted, so we ordered him something off the specials menu: Chicken Carmelo (after Anthony? ah 'Cuse).  Two chicken breasts sauteed in a garlicky, creamy wine mushroom and bacon sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese--served with a side of rice pilaf and a salad.  How good is the service?  I asked them to serve it in to-go boxes just in case he didn't make it--and they did it without blinking!  But, all was well.  He made it, ate half of his, some of hers, and a bite of the boy's burger to boot.

Pixley's is from another time is all the right ways: generous homestyle diner cooking served by generous spirits.  As we finished our dinner and ran off to the movies, the place was filling with intergenerational families--grandparents with walkers, kids bouncing in booths, young people grabbing a quick bite.  Perfect!

Next Door Bar and Grill

We were at an event at the Wegman's Test Kitchen, which is a very cool space at the back of the Next Door Bar and Grill, but spent all of our time chatting and not eating.  So, when that wrapped up around 8, we thought, "Heck, we've already got great parking spaces and it's snowing, so let's just grab a quick dinner here."

If you haven't been to Next Door, it's worth a trip just for the ambience, which always strikes me as fun-loud, active and social.  Plus, we've always found the service to be above par and the menu to be full of stuff we'd never typically put together--sometimes it works, sometimes not so much, but it's inventive!

Given it was already after 8 when we sat down, we decided to split everything.  We started with Watercress Salad.  I love watercress for the same reason I love microgreens ... it's adorable and delicately crunchy.  The salad topped a lovely nest of watercress with perfectly roasted pears, added a side of blue cheese, a goodly portion of yummy seasoned pecans, and finished it with a delicious port wine vinaigrette.  It really was big enough to split and be perfectly content.  I should mention that we shared our intent to split the salad and our entree with our server, thinking we'd just plunk everything in the middle of the table and dig in.  We're not proud!  Instead, she brought out both the salad and our entree split and perfectly plated separately--loved it!!

After a night of networking, what we really wanted was a good steak.  So, we picked the Dry Aged Prime Strip Steak, medium rare.  It was served pre-sliced and drizzled with the red beet bordelaise.  See what I mean about the unexpected, would I have made a red beet bordelaise reduction?  No, I hate beets. Was it good, oh yes! Sweetly rich without being overpowering of the yummy steak.  The sides included a delicious, woody melange of roasted mushrooms, including my favs--chanterelles; a lovely potato gratin served like a mini-napolean; crispy haricot vert, love them; and a thick pat of truffle butter--which I immediately moved to the side.  Not that I wouldn't have loved to eat it, but I had my eye on a tempting dessert and deferred my gratification.  Again, as my husband observed, though we split the dinner, it seemed the exact right portion size.

Which left us with plenty of room to split the Bananas Foster Creme Brulee.  Seriously, could anything sound better for dessert around 9:30 at night :)  The bananas were crispy, brown sugar heaven; the custard was creamy and delicate with a hint of rum; and there was also nutella and crisp chocolate cookies just in case.  Add a wonderful cup of coffee and what more could one ask for?

The vibe at Next Door is hip but welcoming, on the culinary edge without being too pretentious, and there's not a time I've been there when I don't run into someone I know--which makes me think, "It really is the Next Door Bar and Grill!"

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Black & Blue

Last week, my shortest workday was about 12 hours long ... if one doesn't count the 2-3 hours I then spent at home after that working away on my laptop.  So, by Friday (as I texted my husband from another late running work event), all I wanted was a wonderfully cooked steak--and I was starving.  Which is all background to how my whole family found its way to Black and Blue last night.

I would not necessarily describe B&B as a "family" restaurant, especially on a Friday, so I was a bit surprised to see a few tables with children.  And, the menu actually works for kids; well, it worked for mine, who may not be 100% representative of the world's pre-tween set.

The meal--which had attentive but not intrusive service from start to finish--began with a loaf of warm, crusty bread--quickly devoured by the non-me three at the table.  All I wanted was a big bottle of sparkling water (I love my fizzy water!).  Looking over the appetizers, we settled on the She-Crab Soup and a Mixed Greens Salad with Cornbread Croutons.

A quick story about She-Crab Soup: when my son and daughter were preschoolers, we were at the now-departed but lovely George's on Tybee for dinner.  My husband ordered the soup (a low country staple), and my daughter ate that bowl and then a second.  A gourmet from PreK :)

B&B's She-Crab Soup was rich and creamy with a generous portion of crabmeat.  It disappeared quickly.  My salad was the perfect starter: lots of fresh, leafy greens tossed with a goodly portion of small diced tomatoes and cucumbers and a light, sparky white balsamic.  I skipped the croutons, which were scooped up by the table.

For dinner, my daughter and I decided to split the massive Porterhouse Steak, medium rare with no sauce, and three sides: garlic mashed potatoes, broccolini, and mushrooms.  The steak was cooked to perfection with a warm red center and a delicious rosemary-scented rub. There was more than enough for us to split plus give some to my husband.  By the end, all that was left was bone.  So, so yummy!  Upon first tasting the mashed potatoes, my daughter asked if any of us would want any, because otherwise, she intended to eat the whole portion--immediately.  A winner there!  I loved the roasted broccolini, which had a deep flavor and a great char.  The mushrooms were okay but needed seasoning.

My son ordered the B&B "pork and beans": a deliciously moist, grilled pork chop over a generous plate of smoky, meaty barbecue beans.  He pronounced it the best thing ever!

My husband--assured of having some pork chop and some steak--was tempted by one of the specials: Asian-rubbed grilled grouper over vegetable sir fry and raspberry-teriyaki glazed potato wedges.  The grouper was a beautiful white with great flake, and the raspberry sauce was sweet and smoky.  The stir fry apparently included brussel sprouts--which all of us dislike.  But, given the surfeit of food at the table, they weren't missed :)

Then, it was time for dessert: a ridiculously rich, flourless bittersweet chocolate torte; the apple crostada with a side of chocolate ice cream and salted caramel sauce (divided by child: apple part for her; ice cream for him); and lemon sorbet for me.  The apple crostada has a deep cinnamon taste and a lovely rustic look, filled to the brim with tender apples.  The sorbet was a large portion that nicely balanced sweet and sour.

And, if all that wasn't enough--chocolate truffles come with the check!  Safe to say, nobody left the table shy of calories or energy.  Black and Blue, it turns out, isn't just a special occasion place--it's perfect for a long family dinner filled with delicious food for sharing and lots of time for conversation.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Before the holidays, I noticed that the "For Lease" sign was down from the front of the old Monroe Diner (which was the old Pare).  Then, I noticed that the three transom windows above the restaurants front French doors held three red neon signs: "Wood" "Fired" "Pizza."  Then, I thought, OMG! But, the French doors held two other signs: "Open" "Soon."  Now, those doors hold signs reading "Now" "Open" and the front has a sign for Brick Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta.  And, so we headed over early on a Friday night--early because what pizza place is not a mad house on a Friday, especially one promising "wood fired" anything on a 20 degree January night.

Brick's interior looks nothing like either of its predecessors except for the long bar on one side and a dining space on the other.  It's warm and woody--with long or round comfy wood tables of various heights and rich colors.  The space is anchored by the namesake wood burning oven in the far corner.  When we arrived, just one other table was seated, but the line to pick up "to-go" pizzas was already out the door.  Within 15 minutes of our arrival, the place was packed, with a line waiting for tables out the door.

I came with the kids and my husband was to follow from work, so we decided to start with some wings: wood fired in a mild sauce.  My daughter didn't like the sauce; my son remembered that his tooth hurt from a newly placed expander.  So, I had 10 wings I really shouldn't be eating at all (New Year's Resolution stuff) ... so I compromised and ate 4 :)  They were deliciously grill-charred.  Yum!

Still waiting, we ordered for the table.  Brick has 20 different specialty pizzas.  I chose the Szechwan for my husband and Veggie Lover for myself.  My son got the Macaroni & Cheese pizza; my daughter the Make Your Own Pizza with Linguine and Creamy Alfredo sauce off the kids' menu.  (It's also on the regular menu in a bigger portion.)

All meals come with a family style salad that is mainly lovely crunchy lettuce with smaller portions of cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions.  It's tossed with a spiky creamy Italian dressing that's got a nice hint of herbs (including dill) and some very crunchy homemade focaccia croutons.  Good starter--especially since it comes with!  It's accompanied by warm fresh focaccia with the table's choice of spicy or traditional marinara.  We went with the spicy--not too hot but had a good kick.  The kids loved the bread and wanted to finish it all off.

Dinners came but my husband never did.  So, after trying a slice of his pizza, we boxed it up.  As my children observed: "It's like Chinese food on a pizza!"  The crisp crust was topped with Szechuan sauce (plummy and hot), chicken, carrots, green peppers, scallions, peanuts, cilantro, and a sprinkling of mozzarella.  It all really came together wonderfully--no one flavor overwhelmed the other.

I opted out of the black olives for my pie, which came on another great crust: crispy with a good bite to it, thin without being cracker-like.  It subbed basil pesto for the sauce and layered on broccoli, mushrooms, red and green peppers, onions and mozzarella.  The pesto had a great garlic base that really sparked all the veggies.  So good.

My son's pizza had the same crust and was topped with a really creamy mac and cheese with a mix-in of crispy bacon bits and topped by crunchy bread crumbs.  It was indulgent, over the top and the perfect kid's pizza.   Each slice would likely add a good 10 lbs to a grown-up.  My son ate half a 10 inch pie and then gave a piece to his sister.   (Have I mentioned that he holds his pants up with suspenders? He should eat 5 of these things!)

My daughter is the pasta queen.  Her linguine was swirled with a rich, deeply garlicky alfredo sauce.  I risked one bite ... okay, two bites--and then had to move my fork to the other side of the table.  You could live in this sauce.  Really delicious!  She ate about 2/3, saving the last bit for breakfast (I know!). However, it never made it to the fridge when we got home--went straight from the take out container to my husband's stomach.

I have a sense that Brick will last.  The food is yummy and really reasonably priced (10" pizzas are $8-12 and really could serve two with the salad); the adult Make Your Own Pasta starts at $10 with a bit extra for meats or roasted veggies.  Plus, there's a whole other side to the menu (burgers, wood fired meats and baked pastas) that we didn't even touch.  If you plan on going after 6, make a reservation or be prepared to wait ... and eat ... a lot!