Fusion fails at Rizzio’s

Rizzio’s Eats and Sweets, an outgrowth of Wonton House, is all about food at affordable prices.

Calzones and personal pizzas selling for $5.50 apiece are the driving force behind Rizzio’s sales in a cash-strapped college market.

A filling meal for $6 is just what the doctor (or in this case, accountant) ordered the week after you’ve battle-axed your wallet on a semester’s worth of books.

Rizzio’s owner, Jason Shi, said he had two goals when he spun off the business. "One pound, and $1 less," Shi said. That’s a pound of food for a dollar less than someone can find at the competition.

On those counts he succeeded. The bulky calzone offerings do tip the scales and they are cheaper than their closest competitor. The personal pan pizzas certainly weigh in at the larger end of their classification, possibly enough for two fully sober consumers.

"All things considered this is a pretty substantial calzone considering what we’re used to paying," Kimberly Behzadi said, who ordered the buffalo-chicken calzone.

At first glance, the combination of Italian and American-Chinese sounds absurd. It is. Thoughts of schezuan pizza and General Tso calzones instantly come to mind. Yet this fusion menu is nowhere near as adventurous as it should be. Currently, only two items fit the bill as fusion fair, the pizza wontons and the general Tso’s pizza.

One item, the chicken and broccoli pizza, is deceiving. Coming from a place that has made their mark with Chinese cuisine, I was expecting Chinese-style chicken and broccoli in pizza form. What I received was a standard cheese and tomato pie sprinkled with chopped chicken and broccoli. Not bad, but I could have ordered that combination at any joint in Oswego.

The pizza wontons consist of cheese and diced pepperoni in a crispy fried wonton wrapper. They cry out for the inclusion of some sauce to boost the flavor profile.

"They’re okay, a little dry," junior Allain Daigle said. "Mostly it’s just cheese in a wonton wrapper; more like a pierogi than anything."
Nowhere on the menu does it say a customer can pick his or her own combinations, but it would certainly be an idea to consider. A pepper chicken pizza, as well as a number of other combinations, might just be odd and delicious, traits that are sorely lacking from the current selection.

The concern by more than a few patrons has been the quality of the ingredients used, mainly the chicken. Before giving details, note the fact that you’re getting what you pay for.

The poultry is trimmed in such a way that a fair amount of gristle is left on the bird. Those tendinous tidbits find their way into your pizzas and calzones. When you’re on the receiving end of a mouth full of cartilage, it can be an unnerving experience.

Behzadi took a large bite of her calzone only to end up scandalized by the gristle she wasn’t expecting. She was so fully turned off by the ordeal that she declined to finish the feast. Behzadi compared the experience with "chewing crunchy rubber band lard."

On a second occasion, however, the chicken bacon ranch calzone was quite tasty, with a good balance of oozing mozzarella, diced bacon and slightly tangy ranch dressing.

The bottom line is this: when you can afford, and aren’t too drunk to know the difference, order from somewhere else. Still Rizzio’s has its place. It’s smart to save their food for those lean weeks of Protestant-style self-denial that come just after big purchases and job loss.

For his part, Rizzio’s Eats and Sweets owner Shi wants the establishment to live up to its name. He said he’ll roll out a menu of confections and other saccharine seductions sometime soon. The question after that is obvious. After tackling Chinese, Italian and baked goods, what’s next?