In search of the perfect wood-fired pizza
Overall rating on a scale of 1-10
Service 8 • Food 9 • Ambiance 9 • Price – $$
While it’s true that we have no shortage of pizza places in the Capital Region serving all types of “pizza styles”, my personal mission has been to find the area’s best wood-fired pizza. In pursuit of this goal, I recently went to Bacchus in downtown Troy across from the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Dining BFF Tina and I entered Bacchus’ cozy, basement level space on a recent Friday night. Right away we felt that the clientele, ranging from concert goers, to college students and locals, along with the comfortable yet minimalist décor, colluded to make this a hip place to hang out, enjoy a glass of wine and a meal, alone or with friends.
Tina and I decided to saddle up to the bar, but if you don’t want to there are bar tables and booths, as well as tables in the adjoining dining room spaces. Service is casual but friendly, and within seconds we had menus and our drink orders placed. Bacchus serves wine and beer only (no liquor), but I would argue that these two options are exactly what you want with your pizza. From the surprisingly eclectic wine list I ordered a glass of slightly spicy, medium-bodied Chilean Carmeniere ($7) and Tina ordered a crisp Sauvignon Blanc ($7) also from Chile. For beer fans, Bacchus offers an impressive selection of craft brews, with several specials on tap at all times.
The menu features appetizers, pastas, and of course, wood-fired pizza. If you’re carb-loading, start with the amazing Roasted Garlic Bulb with olive oil and rosemary served with fresh Focaccia ($5.95) or the Garlic Bread With Cheese ($4.95), featuring Italian herbs, Pecorino and Mozzarella cheeses. If, however, you’re like me and looking for a lighter way to start your meal, I highly recommend the Garden Salad with house-made Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette. At $2.50 it’s an absolute steal, and between us, I’d pay that for the dressing alone, it’s that good.
Appetizers out of the way, it’s now time to contemplate dinner. If you’re not in the mood for pizza (are you feeling okay?) there are some inventive pasta dishes on the menu including Rome’s Inferno, made with blackened chicken, Italian sausage and veggies in a spicy tomato sauce over Rigatoni, or Aristotle’s Veggie Delight, an abundance of fresh vegetables tossed in a lemon wine sauce over Cavatappi. All specialty pasta dishes come in lunch portions, ranging from $6.95 to $8.95 or dinner- sized portions from $11.95 to $15.95. There’s also the option to Design Your Own – you choose the pasta, the toppings and the sauce (choices include marinara, roasted garlic alfredo and lemon wine).
But onto the reason we’re all here – the pizza. As with the pasta, you have the option to Design Your Own, or choose from several specialty pizzas. These include the healthy sounding Broccoli Ultimatis (garlic, broccoli, plum tomatoes and roasted garlic alfredo sauce topped with mozzarella) and the heartier Mozza Bella (sliced meatballs, fresh mozzarella, spinach and fresh garlic with red sauce on whole wheat dough). Specialty pizzas range in price from $9.95 to $15.95.
When it comes to pizza, I find simple is better, and Tina agrees. So we designed our own large pie with red sauce, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms and roasted red peppers ($16.20). However, the anticipation got to me, so I strolled over to the wood-fired oven to oversee the cooking of our pie. This is one impressive oven; my hopes for a great pizza are now elevated.
A few short minutes later, our piping hot pizza arrived. It was a thing of beauty – the crust was lightly charred, the cheese bubbling and an aroma of garlic emanated from the entire pizza. But how would it taste? Answer: we dug and didn’t stop for a breath until we each had three slices. Hey, don’t judge, we hadn’t eaten since… lunch.
What makes the Bacchus pizza so perfect is the thin, crispy crust; it’s both chewy and crunchy, and bursting with flavor. But, as light as it is, it’s not at all insubstantial; it rose to the occasion and nicely supported the toppings. The wood-fired charring gave the crust a lovely toasty flavor that was in perfect harmony with the zippy marinara sauce and smooth, creamy fresh mozzarella. The veggie toppings were fresh, and most importantly, did not weigh down the pie. Bacchus has a winning formula here – showcasing quality ingredients and allowing them to shine as opposed to covering them up. This is not a pizza that is overloaded with heavy greasy cheese, buckets of sauce and lead-weight toppings. Bacchus offers a more sophisticated slice for those who appreciate simple and tasty done right.
I’ll end on a note of full disclosure: Bacchus is a mere few blocks from where I live, but even if it wasn’t, I’d make the trip from just about anywhere for what I think is the area’s very best wood-fired pizza.
The total cost for four glasses of wine, one garden salad and a large pizza with three toppings was $46.20, (excluding tax and tip).
Bacchus is located at 33 2nd Street in Troy. For more information call 687.0345.
Hours are Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-10pm. Friday 11:30am-midnight; Saturday 5pm-midnight and Sunday 5pm-9pm.
Christina DeMers is a freelance marketing consultant, food blogger and amateur cook who lives in Troy but eats just about anywhere.