Flour City bound: A glutencentric gastrojaunt
Photos by kc kratt except Flour City by Christa Glennie Seychew, Fiamma by Caitlin McGrath and Fiorella courtesy of Chris Lindstrom
Make no mistake, there are dozens of gluten-free dining options in Rochester, but the aptly nicknamed Flour City also excels in the ways of wheat, especially now.
161 mi. (round trip)
Total Drive Time: 3 hrs., 2 min.
Begin your Saturday at Rochester’s Public Market, a place with a year-round schedule that’s open to vendors of all kinds. Plenty of locally raised produce is available, but so are mangoes, limes, live chickens, and more. The market dies down around 1 p.m.; it’s best to arrive by 10 a.m.
Rochester's Public Market
There are plenty of places to grab a snack here, but Flour City Bread is justly famous. Located next door to Cure restaurant (which is a Java’s Cafe pop-up during daylight hours), FCB creates bread of superior quality, in both French and Italian styles, with occasional forays into the floury traditions of other European countries. The loaves beckon from baskets behind the counter; sometimes their jaunty brown ends are all you can see from the very back of a long but understandable line. The day’s pastries are atypical of those found in the Queen City: wooden shelves inside the glass bakery case are laden with canelé, Paris-Brest, knobby brioche, and other marvelous works of flakey, buttery, edible art. A Flour City Bread jambon beurre with a cup of coffee from next door make perfect partners for strolling the market. Save the rest of your golden brown purchases for home; this schedule requires careful accounting of every square centimeter of your stomach.
Flour City Bread
After exploring the market, take some time to view the abundant number of murals in the Public Market’s neighborhood. Coating many of Rochester’s buildings with colorful works of art has been a community effort since 2011 via an organization called Wall Therapy. An online map makes it simple to experience the pieces closest to the market, of which there are many. Whether this bit of the trip creates discussion between you and your fellow traveler(s) or simply augments your Instagram account, Rochester’s massive mural project is a dazzler.
Just like Buffalo, the Flour City has a ton of new breweries. You could make a day (with the help of a designated driver) of nothing but liquid gluten tastings if you were so inclined. But, today, we’ll just squeeze in the best and the brightest: Swiftwater Brewing. Located eight minutes away from the Market by car in Rochester’s South Wedge, Swiftwater has earned a rep for crafting stellar beers. Its roster of offerings showcases more variety than most small NYS breweries (which often lean too heavily toward IPA production). Despite exemplifying the popular IPA style with a range of outstanding examples, Swiftwater also brews and serves plenty of other delicious styles, too.
Dinner can’t be relegated to a single experience, and since long pauses aid digestion, we’re sending you for a two-course, two-location gluten-forward meal you won‘t regret.
At Fiamma Centro, you’ll eat the best Neapolitan pizza you can find this side of the Hudson. The chef/owner doesn’t take kindly to substitutions or fussbudgetry, but you can understand why he, like all great artists, doesn’t want his vision, his life’s work, compromised. The butternut and pancetta pizza (pictured) is quite popular, but this is also the kind of place where sticking with a classic, like the Margherita, makes good sense.
Head back to Fiorella at the Public Market for your final bite of the day. You’ll be tempted by many of the items on the menu—the calamari is some of the best—but you’re here for pasta, so let’s get down to business. Owners Gino and Allison Ruggiero have a way with handmade pasta that will leave even the most jaded food snob speechless. You might be tempted to overlook the cacio e pepe or broccoli pesto pasta due to their seeming lack of inspiration, but any cook worth his or her salt will tell you it’s nearly impossible to hide poor technique or subpar ingredients in dishes as simple as these. Regardless of preparations, Fiorella’s pasta easily earns best in show (though the simple versions illustrate its prowess better than its fussier interpretations). Is the kitchen performing magical rituals over the flour in the pantry? Has a team of elves with fingers as dexterous as a surgeon’s been entrusted with the task of kneading? We can’t be sure, but Fiorella’s pasta will certainly make you wonder where the rest of the perfectly satisfactory noodles you’ve eaten in your lifetime went wrong.
If you’re brave, strong, and caffeinated, you’ll have no problem making the drive back to Buffalo—though rolling the windows down for some bracing night air might help.
We know a day packed with high quality gluten from end to end isn’t for everyone, but if you consider yourself a gluten glutton, a handful of very gifted artisans in the Flour City promise to make your flour-dusted dreams come true.