Best of Rochester 2020: Critics' Picks 

In addition to the results from your “Best of” ballots, we’ve got CITY’s own picks for local places and activities that are worth spotlighting. Kate Stathis provides an overview of pizzerias named after “Tony,” Renée Heininger writes about outdoor activities that are conducive in the COVID era, and Leah Stacy highlights the nature wine pop-up store of Aldaskeller Wine Co.

And the Tony Goes to…

Readers came through with so many nominees for Best Pizza, we had to take a closer look. But where to start with all these great shops? I’d bet any pizzeria worth its sauce connects to a Tony somewhere, and as a direct descendant of a Tony myself, I know they deserve an award. A non-comprehensive list of winners:

Most Neighborhood Tony Captain Tony’s Pizza & Pasta Emporium, 385 North Winton Road. With just a few stools in front, the real action at this no-nonsense stop is behind the counter. These guys hustle, slinging pan-style, Chicago-style, NY-style, whole wheat pizzas, and lots of specialties. To avoid the fuss, order The Big Tony and fuhgeddaboudit.

Most Proud to Be Tony 2 Ton Tony’s Pizza, 545 Titus Avenue, Irondequoit. There is no shame here. Tony’s lineage traces back to the original Proietti’s on Goodman, and the walls are painted a bright shade of Irondequoit. Slices are huge (or "Huuuge!!!!!" as seen on the box), and the crisp, even crust is easily devoured.

Most Rochester Tony Tony’s Birdland & Pizzeria, 3860 Dewey Avenue (Northgate Plaza). Once a staple on the scene, the many Birdlands of our local fast food heyday have since flown the coop. That’s why it’s a classic move to order “Tony’s sauce,” even with the pizza.

Toniest Tony Tony D’s, 288 Exchange Boulevard. This night-on-the-town Tony is the class act of the family. A dinner destination complete with cocktails, Tony D’s boasts a menu of Italian entrees and fancy artisan pizzas. The Margherita and Bianca are mainstays, while inventive chef’s special pizzas rotate weekly – all made with fresh ingredients.


click to enlarge Brandon Opalich pours curated wine selections at an Aldaskeller Wine Co. pop-up tasting event in 2019. - PHOTO BY JASON CAMPBELL
  • Brandon Opalich pours curated wine selections at an Aldaskeller Wine Co. pop-up tasting event in 2019.

Best Outdoor Pop-Up: Aldaskeller Wine Co. at Marty’s on Park

Natural wine started gaining mainstream traction a few years ago, but no local food and beverage outlet has taken hold of the trend-turning-fixture like Aldaskeller Wine Co., a pop-up that pairs natural wines and cuisine in found (or hired) venues.

Co-founders Tim Benedict (cuisine), Brandon Opalich (wine) and Erin Francisco Opalich (operations) believe in education along with enjoyment, so every event has a bit of culinary learning built in as well. The trio spent summer 2019 popping up at Swan Dive on Alexander Street during the week, offering a la carte pairings with grilled snacks on the patio.

Beginning this past July, the Aldaskeller crew took over the charming Marty’s on Park alley - outfitted with twinkling string lights and potted plants - to present curated natural wine and snack pairings like charbroiled oysters and summer kimchi every Saturday and Sunday.


click to enlarge Visit the enchanting fairy gardens in the North Winton Village. - PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER
  • Visit the enchanting fairy gardens in the North Winton Village.
Best Neighborhood Activity in the Pandemic Era: North Winton Village Fairy Finder Scavenger Hunt

Being a good neighbor has looked a little different in 2020. For many Rochesterians, it’s meant sharing in mutual aid groups. For others, it was buying Black Lives Matter lawn signs in bulk for the whole block, or waving to graduates in makeshift parades. In the North Winton Village, neighborhood children and their families spent long summer days looking out for much smaller neighbors: fairies.

While fairy houses aren’t new to the neighborhood, their creative abodes seemed to duplicate by the day this spring, likely due in part to many residents looking for crafts to fill time at home. When the school year came to a close, Alia Evans, a non-fairy resident and mom of two school-aged children, realized that there were enough fairy friends living in the neighborhood to put a proper scavenger hunt together.

Fellow North Winton Village resident Jan Friend made collectible cards for would-be investigators to find at each fairy house. On July 10, the North Winton Village Fairy Finder Scavenger Hunt was born. Evans says that as long as the weather cooperates, the hunt continues. Maps with clues can be found in the Little Free Libraries on Amsterdam Road and Colebourne Road.



Most Underrated Quarantine Workout: Rollerblading and Roller skating

It’s no secret that COVID shook up our warm-weather workouts. Gyms? Closed. Races? Canceled. Adult sports leagues? Forget it. But it didn’t take long for Rochesterians to figure out what Roc City Roller Derby has known for years.

Putting wheels on your feet is really fun. Yeah, I’m talking about inline and roller skating. Troy Rank of East Rochester, a longtime rollerblader, spotted the shift. “It is kind of dramatic to see the difference, he said. “Before, it was an anomaly to see someone new at the skatepark, now there’s always someone new.”

As spring emerged in the early days of the pandemic, and with local rinks like Skate Luvers closed, nature called. Roller (or “quad”) skaters were all over Instagram treating flat paved surfaces like their own personal disco. Mid-summer, CIB Crew Rochester popped up online and at the local skate parks. Skating has the makings of the perfect quarantine workout. Unlike jogging with a pal, it necessitates more personal space. Also, it’s arguably much easier on the lungs — and joints — than a run, so masking up is no sweat. If you're looking to roll with a casual group, follow @roccityskate on Facebook. No bridge jumps required.


In This Guide...

  • In a year that may be the worst, we look at the best

    Perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, 2020 seems like an odd and unsettling time to be celebrating what’s “best” in our community. While there is certainly much of which to be proud about the Greater Rochester area and the people who call it home, the death of Daniel Prude and the effects of COVID-19 have made things particularly sobering here in the Flower City.

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