Pasquale Presa knows reviews are mixed of his month-old restaurant, Pasquale’s Neighborhood Pizzeria, 130 5th St. SW, Rochester. Some have grumbled as they waited two hours for a pizza. But, then comes the za, and with it come the stellar reviews of what Presa calls “basic, simple pizza.”
A chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Presa knows good food and is ready to bring it to your table and, later this winter, to your home.
“As a culinarian, I’m all about the best food, the best ingredients,” says Italy-born and New York-raised Presa. “We’re keeping it simple.”
Since opening Nov. 18 – Presa’s birthday – the 90-seat restaurant has been busting at its brick-walled seams with people waiting for tables. Patrons are ordering as many as 475 pizzas on busy weekend nights. Pasquale’s started with two ovens, but has already removed stoves intended for pasta prep to add two additional ovens. Now those four overworked ovens are going full steam to meet demand.
Presa urges pizza lovers to stick with him and his team. He’s hired teens from his southwest Rochester neighborhood who are “singing, they’re dancing, they’re making dough. It’s the happiest place to work.” In time, Presa is confident they’ll keep pace with demand, which, for now is sometimes simply too much forthis newbie joint. As it is, Presa has had to turn off the phones for take-out orders on Saturday nights and ask church goers lined up outside the door on Sunday afternoons to be patient and await the restaurant’s imminent opening.
Presa’s dream was to bring a family-friendly, neighborhood place downtown, a slice of Italy in old, southwest Rochester. Starting out, he was a little “timid, a little scared. I didn’t know how people would react to basic, simple pizza. But now I’m like, wow, they love it! I’m just shocked. I am trying to realign myself to speed things up. I redid the menu four times!”
If you aren’t sure what to order, you have options. Seek recommendations while you’re in the counter line, or pick from among the top three selling zas coming out of Pasquale’s ovens.
No. 1 seller: the New York-style round Cheese, otherwise known as “plain.” As the menu says, why mess with perfection?
No. 2 seller: the Bianca, or “white pie,” as it’s known here. It’s adorned with olive oil, garlic, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and fresh basil.
No. 3 seller: the La Americana, a stuffed Sicilian flooded with ham, pepperoni, sausage, and mozzarella.
If you really want to be adventurous, don’t overlook another fan favorite at Pasquale’s: the La Romana, a stuffed pizza with potatoes, pepperoni, sauteed onions, sausage and mozzarella. “The potato one is flying out the door,” Presa says.