My main mission as dining critic is to shine a light on new choices or underappreciated oases of deliciousness, wherever I may find them. ¶ While any one review may be unusable to many readers, I keep the faith that the aggregate will serve everyone. ¶ In that spirit: if you would never, ever drive to Grand Island to buy pizza at a gas station, you can stop reading now, and I hope to earn your readership anew next week. ¶ Here’s the deal: In 2011, Dave Perri started Pizza Amore as Western New York’s only wood-fired pizza trailer, serving blister-crusted pies to crowds around the region. Now he’s become Buffalo’s second food truck to add a brick-and-mortar location. ¶ The location is far from ideal. It is in a Sunoco gas station, one counter over from a Dunkin’ Donuts. There are bare tables, a couple of couches and a wide-screen television.
On Thursday nights, karaoke night, the fast-food lobby setting is saturated with the amplified voices of tween girls wrestling with Justin Bieber lyrics.
That’s when it might really start chapping your hide that you cannot walk into the next room, the Sunoco convenience store, buy one or more of the beers it sells, and start drinking. Because Pizza Amore is not a restaurant with a liquor license.
Why do I persist in telling you about it? Especially when there are other places that offer the distinctively scorched-to-the-point-of-scrumptious wood-fired flavor, resulting not from wood smoke as much as the browning action in the ferocious 750-degrees-and-up temperatures.
Most of those are fine dining restaurants, though, with exquisitely calibrated toppings applied with authentic restraint. What Pizza Amore is doing is offering the crunchy, flavorful satisfaction of wood-fired pizza crust with a Buffalo-style attitude toward toppings. The average Pizza Amore pie bears so much meat, cheese and more that it tends toward swampy in the middle.
Just the way so many Buffalonians like it.
Consider Pizza Amore’s chicken wing pizza. It’s $14 for a 16-inch large, $12 for a 12-inch medium, $7 for a 10-inch personal size. (All the other pizzas are similarly priced, $1 more maybe.) It’s a tangy, appropriately gooey blend of Frank’s hot sauce, blue cheese, shredded chicken, mozzarella and optional celery – a Buffalo blue-collar classic executed with gusto, at a fair price, on a far better-than-usual crust, a crust I’d eat by itself.
My favorite was the prosciutto and arugula ($15, $13, $8), with plentiful cured Italian pork and arugula applied after the hot pizza emerged from the oven.
The calzone pizza, with tomato sauce, ricotta, fresh spinach, mozzarella and pepperoni, got squishy in the middle with all that moisture, but surprisingly the crust held up. I couldn’t fault the taste, either.
The meatball number ($14, $12, $7), studded with chunks of meatballs made by Perri’s wife and partner Diana, milky with more ricotta, was terrific as well.
For my own health, I put the chicken bacon ranch version and its Italian cousin, chicken alfredo with broccoli (both $14, $12, $7), on my “next year maybe” list.
The brief menu includes baked sandwiches like steak or meatball ($5.95) and boneless oven-baked wings. Yes, there are three salads, all served in plastic clamshells. The “Pizza Amore” version ($5.95) was a fresh pile of spring mix amply populated with feta cheese, dried cranberries and slivered almonds.
The pizza’s the thing here, but when it comes to dessert, Perri’s crew has come up with a good one. Thin strips of dough are coiled around chocolate and marshmallow and subjected to the wood-fired furnace heat, which blisters the marshmallow, melts the chocolate and crisps the dough into crunchiness while cooking it all the way through. Drizzled with caramel sauce, the S’mores Pizza Log ($3.50) serves as a guilty pleasure for two. I have no hesitation in saying it is the best dessert I have ever eaten in a gas station.
Getting the goods for family pizza night? If you’re within a 15-minute drive, you might consider takeout as a break from the same-old corner pie. You might go to get everybody out of the house. If you go on Thursday night, I suggest you bring a carload of tweens, or earplugs, or both.
Pizza Amore: 7 plates (Out of 10)
In Grand Island gas station, a bridge
between wood-fired and Buffalo pizzas
WHERE: 2024 Grand Island Blvd., Grand Island,
HOURS: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs.,
10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., Sat.
PRICE RANGE: Salads $5.95, sandwiches $3.95-$5.95,
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.