More than a few friends and family mentioned to me that a new pizza place recently opened in the town of Greece, NY. Admittedly, Greece is not lacking for places to get a slice, or any other type of Italian food for that matter. However, Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante is so much more than a pizza place. Owned and operated by Franca and John Cinelli and their son Tom, Cinellii’s is a family-owned, full-service establishment, specializing in New York-style brick oven pizza. They also offer made-to-order pasta dishes as well as traditional favorites such as eggplant parmesan and a variety of other Italian-American dishes.
If their last name sounds familiar, you might recall another local restaurant by the same name in Charlotte, NY. It was owned by a family cousin, but it has long since been replaced by Mr. Dominick’s. The reviews of the new Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante from friends and family have been mixed, so I decided to give it a try to find out for myself how it stacks up.
Located in a new strip plaza on Long Pond Road, just North of English Road, Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante has an unassuming exterior. You won’t find the overdone Mediterranean architecture found outside many Italian restaurants. Instead, the curb appeal is clean and even somewhat stark, featuring large glass windows.
The plaza is situated on a hill, so that you can view the various tenants rather easily from the road.
Although parking is plentiful and very convenient, actually getting into the plaza can be somewhat tricky if you aren’t familiar with the traffic pattern. Enter the plaza from the south end on Long Pond Road and swing around the lot to get to the front. Exiting from the north end of the plaza allows only one-way traffic, heading north. So, if you need to travel south on Long Pond Road when leaving, then exit from the south end and turn left.
When I walked into Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante, I was surprised that it was a sit-down eatery. I expected to see only one or two small tables and a large take-out counter. However, I instead saw a row of booths along the side wall and about a dozen square tables in the dining area. This is a real restaurant, not simply a take-out pizza shop.
Decorated in an array of colors, the dining room is bright and inviting. Most of the walls are painted in a horizontal split of pale yellow and a bright red, while the upholstery on the booths and chairs is green, red or black. The dining room was well lit, from a combination of the ceiling lights and the large front windows. The wood grain flooring flowed throughout, and the wall art provided unexpected splashes of color and an art-deco vibe.
On the wall opposite the booths, there was a long bar, with plenty of seating and a flat screen TV on the wall above, tuned to a news station. In addition to the beer and wine available for sale, my lunch companion spotted a large espresso machine in the corner, which seemed to add some authenticity to the establishment.
I also noticed that wide variety of music piped through the speakers. When we arrived, I casually listened to Frank Sinatra, which seemed quite appropriate. However, during my stay, I also heard The Beatles and several other pop bands of recent fame. It seemed like they were trying to please everyone with the music. The music in a restaurant should consistently reflect the atmosphere and theme. If you remember the music, then there is a problem with it.
As a full-service restaurant, Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante offers a full menu, including appetizers, soup, salad, pizza, pasta, calzones, subs, desserts, specialty coffee and more. Known best for their pizza, they offer both a New York-style thin crust pizza and a Sicilian-style thick crust sheet pizza. I was happy to see that they also offer whole wheat and gluten-free pasta options.
Cinellii’s boasts that they make their own sausage, using natural casing and no preservatives. It is used either in bulk or links, in everything from pizzas to pasta to subs. They offer daily specials and coupons as well. They do not yet have a catering menu on their website, although it is apparently “coming soon.”
In most restaurants, patrons are served some sort of complementary bread, which is often sliced bread with butter, rolls, bread sticks or even chips and salsa. Here, we were treated to a plate of soft, warm, buttery, garlic knots with a side of fresh, chunky marinara sauce. Honestly, these were the best bread sticks I have had in a long, long time. Soft inside and slightly browned and crusty outside, they were drizzled with rich olive oil and generously covered with fresh garlic and grated cheese. We scarfed those up right away, and later asked for a refill, which our server graciously provided.
On this rainy and unseasonably cool June Sunday afternoon, I decided to order a calzone and a cup of soup. I chose the Veggie Lover’s Calzone ($11.95) along with a cup of Pasta Faggioli ($3.95), which is soup with ditalini pasta and white beans.
I was so excited to try the vegetable calzone. I already knew that I liked their sauce, from the side of marinara served with the garlic bread. Served with another side of marinara pizza sauce, the Veggie Lover’s Calzone was filled with mozzarella cheese, green bell peppers, onions, black olives, fresh mushrooms, broccoli, fresh garlic, and fresh spinach. When I broke open the doughy dome to release the steam from the piping hot calzone, the melted mozzarella gently oozed out like lava from an erupting volcano – perfection!
I enjoyed the calzone dough as it was tender and flaky, yet very tasty and moist. Again, the side of marinara sauce was delightful – a perfect dipping sauce for my calzone. The chef certainly wasn’t stingy with the mozzarella cheese – it was plentiful and oh so good. I love it when I can use my fork to twirl some of the vegetables into the mozzarella and then dip it in the sauce. When I was about half way through eating my calzone, I noticed that my mouth was really hot. I think this was due to the abundance of peppers and onions in the calzone. My only complaint about the vegetable calzone was that it was too heavy on the peppers and onions and too light on the mushrooms, broccoli and spinach. I definitely would have liked a better balance of vegetables. Overall, though, it was cooked well and provided a larger portion than I expected.
My lunch companion ordered the Lasagna ($11.95) which included a soup or salad. She opted for the Greens and Beans. She also ordered a side of two Meatballs ($3.95) in sauce.
Her cup of Greens and Beans sure did look good. It too was served hot and was hearty. She said that she liked it and that it was very good.
Also, her side of two meatballs looked inviting. Covered with a generous sprinkle of grated cheese, they were swimming in the sauce. She reported that they were good, but a little tough. I remarked that can happen when the ground meat is over handled. Still, she did enjoy them.
The best looking dish of this meal was definitely the Lasagna which my friend ordered for her lunch. Lasagna is my usual “go to” food when I am at an Italian restaurant. Since I love to make it myself, it’s fun to compare mine to the restaurant entrée.
When she placed her order, the waitress warned here that the lasagna was “heavy on the ricotta.” When the dish arrived, I realized that she wasn’t kidding! I am a firm believer that cheese (or bacon) makes everything better, so I was enthralled with this dish when it arrived. The portion really was enough for two – she brought at least half home to enjoy later.
There was, in my eyes, a problem though. The lasagna was described on the menu as follows:
“Layers of seasoned ricotta cheese and sheets of pasta baked in our oven with marinara sauce and provolone cheese and topped with our home-made meat sauce. Substitute marinara sauce for meat sauce to make this dish vegetarian!”
Hmmm, that’s odd – no layers of meat in the lasagna? None of their home-made, crumbled sausage? Not even a meatball or two broken up and thrown in for good measure? Why wasn’t it labeled on the menu as Meatless Lasagna or Cheese Lasagna? It’s a violation of expectations not to get any meat in your lasagna, especially for those of us who might not be so diligent in reading the menu. The absence of meat would have been a huge disappointment to my lunch companion, except that she did read the menu and as a result, she ordered a side of meatballs – smart woman! (I just put all that together while I was writing this.)
She said that she enjoyed the non-meat lasagna (my words, not hers) very much. She liked the seasoned ricotta and the pasta sheets, as well as the meat sauce. I have to admit that it looked delicious, regardless of if there was meat in it or not.
We visited Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante on a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon, when not too many others braved the wet day. Upon arriving at 1:30 pm, we were the only patrons there. However, my friend had been there a few other times to get take out and she commented that each time, it was filled with diners and was very busy.
The hostess greeted me with a friendly smile and asked if I was meeting someone, probably tipped off by my quick glances around the room. She showed me to the table where my friend has left her coat for a moment. Our server, who also happened to be the hostess that day, was prompt, courteous and friendly. She explained a few items on the menu and engaged in friendly chat with us throughout the lunch. She also kept our beverage glasses refilled and graciously brought us a refill of garlic knots. She stopped by a few times to check on us and made us feel comfortable. We were very happy with the service and the hospitality of the employees.
I am happy to welcome Cinellii’s Pizza Ristorante to the neighborhood. A casual yet inviting place, it offers a variety of pizza, pasta and other specialties. Patrons have the option of eating in, taking out or getting their meal delivered locally. I enjoyed my meal and would like to stop in again to try their pizza. Why don’t you stop in and have a bit to eat? i would love to hear what you think of it.
If You Go:
Cinelli’s Pizza Ristorante
840 Long Pond Road
Rochester, NY 14612
Phone: (585) 287-5458
Fax: not available
Email: see the web form on the Contact page of their website
Twitter: not available
Business Hours: Tues-Thurs: 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm, Sun: 12pm-8pm, Closed Mondays
Cuisine: New York-style Pizza, Italian
Meals Served: Lunch, Dinner
Children’s Menu: No
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Requires Reservations: No
Table Service: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Delivery Service: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes, very limited
Parking: Free and plentiful in private lot
Valet Service: No
Bar Seating: Yes
Alcohol: Yes (wine and beer)
Coat Check: No
Date opened: January, 2015
Date visited: Sunday, June 28, 2015 (lunch)