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Wood-fired pizza comes to Merchants neighborhood 

The space at 564 Merchants Road has seen its fair share of turnover the last few years — Luna Piena Bistro to Merchant's Pasta House, then Porcini Bar & Bistro. New owners Steve Costanza and Donna DiMarzo — who has been in the business of wood-fired pizzas for 15 years — opened Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro in November 2015 with the hope of making a fresh start in a recently renovated space.

The first big renovation was expanding the kitchen to make room for the giant wood-fired pizza oven. The oven is used to make the five different pizzas on the menu, like the Potato ($13), which is topped with a broccolini pesto base, thinly sliced russet potatoes, scallions, bacon, cheddar, jack, and mozzarella cheese, and drizzled with chive crme fraiche. The BBQ pork wings ($11) and wood-fired chicken wings ($10) are also made in the oven.

The menu is predominately American-Italian — with an assortment of entrees and pasta dishes to choose from, like the bucatini ($15), tossed with shrimp, artichoke, capers, lemon, butter, fresh herbs, and white wine. The house-made gnocchi ($15) is tossed with shiitake mushrooms and spinach in a fontinella cream sauce and finished with truffle oil.

"We're trying to offer something for everybody and also feeling out the neighborhood to see what our customers like," Costanza says. The restaurant is currently experimenting with more gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan-friendly recipes to add to the menu. Costanza and DiMarzo chose the location because of the appealing mixture of younger couples moving to the up-and-coming neighborhood and those that have been there for years.

The bar was also recently renovated and features beer and wine selections along with a cocktail list with drinks like the classic Side Car and the Corpse Reviver. Though it's a little soon to think about now, a large front patio will be open once the weather gets warmer. Merchants is currently only open for dinner service but will add lunch service in the coming months.

Merchants Wood Fired Pizza & Bistro is located at 564 Merchants Road. It is open Tuesday through Saturday. Full bar service is 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., and food service starts at 4 p.m. 288-0067. For more information visit merchantswoodfiredpizza.com.

Quick bites

The New York Wine and Culinary Center (800 South Main Street, Canandaigua) will hold a Wine and Food Flavor Pairing course on Sunday, January 17, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Participants will learn about food and wine pairing by trying six different food flavors paired with six different wine styles. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at nywcc.com.

ButaPub (315 Gregory Street) will host its first annual Stoutfest on Tuesday, January 26. Twelve different stouts will be featured and flights will be available. Chocolate and Vines will also offer chocolate pairings. No tickets are needed for the event. Visit ButaPub on Facebook for more information. Check theoldtoad.com for more information.

The Old Toad will host the first annual Cask Competition on Saturday, February 13, starting at 12 p.m. Local breweries, like Three Heads, Lost Borough, and Swiftwater, will compete to produce the best IPA. Tickets are $25 and include a sample of each of the beers, the chance to win a growler of your choice, $2 off each pint of the winning cask beer and two tickets for a raffle of brewery merchandise.

Craft beer enthusiasts, mark your calendars. The RocCity Brewfest will take place on Saturday, February 20, at the The Dome Center (2695 East Henrietta Road). There are two sessions to choose from, one from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the other from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Designated driver tickets for $5 are available as well. Visit roccitybrewfest.com for more information and to purchase tickets.

Openings

Muller's Cider House has opened next to Joe Bean Coffee at 1344 University Avenue. The bar and restaurant has more than 10 ciders on tap and an assortment of snacks, sandwiches, and salads.

The Original Mac & Cheez have opened a brick and mortar location at 77 East Main Street in Webster.

Harry G's (678 South Avenue) has opened a new bar area next door to its South Avenue location — the space was formerly occupied by Banzai Sushi. The bar will feature a selection of beer and wine.

And now for the most anticipated opening announcement of 2015-16 ... The Playhouse/Swillburger is now open at 820 South Clinton Avenue. The liquor license is currently in process, but the burgers and vintage arcade games are a go.

Closings

Bada Bing (503 South Avenue) has closed after opening just a few months ago ... bada boom.

Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to food@rochester-citynews.com.

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