I’ve driven past Hot Rock Pizza on Big Beaver just west of John R for a bit over a year, without giving it much thought, given its franchise appearance and its proximity to Joe Koolsky’s. But, tonight I finally took the bait of a triple whammy: they recently got a liquor license, they sent me a coupon and they make the claim (grin if you must) of having just hired “a chef from Venice who now offers Italian entrée specialties.”
To make a long story short, there were a couple positive takeaways, but I didn’t “do a full one-eighty.” The interior looks very clean and nice, but in a franchisee, suburban strip mall, invest-in-marketing-rather-than-ingredients, kind of way. Honestly, I don’t know how they can afford such a big space which was built new rather than purchased second hand at a fire sale price. Hey, they made it past their first anniversary, so maybe they know what they’re doing.
The place was very adequately staffed, and we were given personalized service. Thank you.
The thin crust pizza was good, and I want it again. Does it rival Suppino’s, Pizzeria Biga, Tomatoes a’Pizza, Crust, Cellar 849, Fresco Wood Oven Pizzeria or Tivoli*? No, but it is respectable when ordered fresh. Granted, I can’t speak to the buffet pizza or to the thicker regular crust.
*Sorry Antica, I’ve not yet tried you.
The generous portion of salmon ($12.99?) was really quite good. The menu said baked, but it seemed more of a sous vide prep to me. It would have been fine without sauce, but the sauce of capers / cherry tomatoes / olives made it quite good. The fish was served with bread sticks (not to my liking), pan fried baby potatoes (oily, but good to me), and frozen broccoli. It would not have taken much money or effort to make the broccoli great (i.e., use fresh) instead of just okay. The house cabernet was decent, and the pour was reasonably generous for $6.
I studied the salad prep area and would not recommend salads. The ingredients were fresh, but coney island-ish. Like the aforementioned broccoli, how hard would it be to get some decent arugula and dress it with a little balsamic and olive oil that is of decent quality? The owner of Fresco in Rochester Hills can’t even spell arugula, but he can make a very nice salad in 20 seconds and still reap the same profit margin as Hot Rock. (Keep up the good work D.D.!)
We also had the beef spiedini--$11.99?-- (ham rolled in a beef cutlet and then fried) with marinara sauce and with the same sides as the salmon. The marinara was good, so this makes me want to return for their pasta dishes. But, overall, the spiedini was not tender or inspired.
If you are in the area (sorry), Hot Rock is an option worth considering.
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