Is Great Pizza in Houston Finally on the Rise?

Categories: Leftovers

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
White & Green pizza at Roberta's in Brooklyn: arugula, mozzarella, lemon.
Let's face facts: Houston isn't known as a great pizza town. We don't attract heavy-hitters like Il Cane Rosso, in Dallas. Hell, we don't even have one outstanding, nationally recognized pizza place here -- no Pizzeria Bianco like Phoenix, no Pizzeria Mozza like Los Angeles.

Last year, Greg Morago at the Chronicle predicted a rise of great pizza in Houston. "A handful of new restaurants (joining a clique of existing pizza elites) are banking on baked dough topped with tomato sauce and cheese," he wrote.

"Some of Houston's most popular chefs are turning into hip pizzaiolis as the city experiences something of a pizza renaissance."

Unfortunately, this hasn't quite happened. Yet.

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Proscuitto, arugula and parmesan at Pizaro's.
Three of the examples in Morago's article haven't quite panned out: Caffe Bello in Montrose was abruptly shuttered by owner Tony Vallone; Michael Kramer left The Tasting Room -- and the pizza oven that was supposed to turn out VPN-certified pizzas -- after only a short time; and Piola has managed to turn out some consistently disappointing pies for such a well-respected chain. Even one of my own personal favorites for which I had such high-crusted hopes -- ERA -- closed after a too-short run downtown.

That's not to say that Houston isn't on its way to creating great pizza; we're just taking our own path to get there. We grow in fits and starts in this city, often taking circuitous routes that seem to pop up out of nowhere.

It's fitting, then, that a couple of the best pizza places to come along in a very long time appeared out of the blue: Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana, which was opened only a few months ago in a quiet Memorial strip center; and Arturo Boada Cuisine, which took the place of Bistro Don Camillo in an equally quiet Memorial Villages strip center.

At Pizaro's, the Hutchinson family -- dad, Bill, is the pizzaiolo -- turns out strikingly authentic Neapolitan-style pizza with blissfully simple toppings. Pizza is pretty much all they do, and they do it incredibly well. "For my money, he and his family are making the best pizza pies in town," wrote Alison Cook in her review of the spot in this week's Houston Chronicle.

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Photo courtesy of Arturo Boada Cuisine
Carnitas pizza: taco and pizza in one, in the best possible way.
Over at Arturo Boada Cuisine -- the subject of this week's cafe review -- finding a great pizza wasn't even on my mind when I started tackling the place for reviewing purposes. I expected good pasta from Boada (who was previously at Arturo's Uptown Italiano) and I expected his signature dish -- camarones henesy en hamaca -- to be smashing.

But I wasn't expecting great pizza.

Instead, I was wowed on two separate visits by two totally different pizzas. One was a traditional margherita pizza with fine shreds of basil, creamy mozzarella and a toothsome crust. The other was a pizza that's far more representative of Boada's style of Italian-Hispanic fusion cooking: a carnitas pizza that sees that wonderful pizza dough topped with tangy shreds of pork, asadero cheese, a house-made fire-roasted salsa, chopped white onions and more of that fresh cilantro.

A squeeze of lime on top brings it all humming brightly together, and folding up a slice of the thin-crust pizza makes for the most interesting sensation of having a street taco and Italian pizza all in one.

It's the kind of pizza that screams Houston to me, and one that signals a rise -- however slow, however meandering -- is, indeed, happening. Even pizza places like Dolce Vita that were once set to tackle Houston's pizza problem single-handedly have reemerged as serious pizza purveyors after a few setbacks.

"Dolce Vita pizza is BACK," wrote food blogger Theo Shu recently on Twitter. "Crust is awesome."

Soon, Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook chimed in to agree: "Yeah, they stepped up their game at Dolce Vita. Good thing with Pizaro's going so strong."



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Location Info

Arturo Boada Cuisine

6510 Del Monte Dr., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana

14028 Memorial Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca

500 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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24 comments
JD1
JD1

This has nothing to do with this article at all but I have been searching for good ole fashioned Northeast style "white pizza" in Houston and cannot find it anywhere.  White pizza is simply pizza with no sauce at all.  Here in Houston all the white pizza has Alfredo sauce on it which I won't try sans the sauce because it scared me they find it necessary to hide the flavor of the pizza with Alfredo sauce.  Anyone know of a good plain old white pizza in town? 

Kerrypauly
Kerrypauly

I think the Napoli's on Richmond has fantastic pizza and super cheap. Check it out.

Colin
Colin

Tried Russo's New York Pizzeria twice (290 & Hwy6/1960) very disappointed. Starts great gets soggy really fast, 'saw why of DDD w/Guy F. 

JTD
JTD

I think Pizzaro's is excellent, even for take out.  My opinion may be slightly skewed by the fact that I typically, make my order, then go immediately next door to Los Tios for a frozen margarita, enjoy that,walk back next door where they slide pizza in the oven when they see me walk in, 90 seconds later it's ready and I head home and enjoy.  I have had the fino and the arugula, but I would skip the prosciutto next time, though, it wasn't great.   

obbop
obbop

Good or excellent pizza is a very subjective affair and it is foolish to proclaim anybody's opinion about this or that pizza or this or that pizza firm is "the best."

I do want to mention that "great pizza" does not necessarily require that the pizza-type be a bizarre-to-many affair with rare or odd toppings.

Some studies indicate that across the USA pepperoni is the number one chosen topping.

Many cheese-types and blends of those cheese-types alter the taste along with the sauce-type and the spices used within.

Crust types vary in many ways; from how the crust is created to how it is formed to create a base foe the pizza (thickness, etc) and the spices, if any, embedded within the crust.

Oh so MANY variables.

Regional difference exist with geographical areas tending/trending to offering the generally preferred pizza style for that area but the regional variations are generalities with the various pizza-types available pert-near everywhere.

Toppings also have regional variations.

I areas where Portuguese immigrants settled in sufficient numbers their local influence on local foodstuffs tended to be minimal but do exist to a small extent.

In northern California where Portuguese immigrants gathered awhile back local pizza joints almost universally within that area (is that an oxymoron?) offer crumbled linguicia as a pizza topping.

Sigh...........

My current humble hovel is atop the Ozark Plateau.

No linguicia topping offered 'round these here parts.

Nary a trace of the stuff anywhere though it can be ordered on-line at a rather high cost when shipping is factored in, thus beyond an Old Coot Budget (tm).

Anyway, if ever given the opportunity, try a linguicia topped pizza (crumbled is, in my Old Coot Opinion, the best though a very few pizza places on the fringe of the linguicia "area" only offer sliced linguicia; a distant second choice).

Happy hunting for "good" or "great" pizza you Houstonians (Houstonites? Houstoners?).

Pizza hunting can be fun and full of frivolity and joy and, at times, glee in large enough amounts to become giddy.

Share your findings with others.

The Web offers many opportunities to do so.

May your pizza searching be productive and pleasent.

And do not forget the take-and-bake style and the make-your-own within your shanty pizza!!!

Perhaps your own efforts may result in a new establishment, a locally owned pizza firm offering your own unique style to a drooling with desire for your creation dining public!!!

Carla Soriano
Carla Soriano

Katharine, next time you're in The Woods, check out Crust Pizza Co. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised :)

Mark Kimber
Mark Kimber

I've been to Pizaro's several times now and I am officially ready to declare it the best pizza I've ever had, bar none.  These folks know what they're doing and there's nothing else like it in town, except for Boada's, and he's not as consistent.  Houston finally has a world-class pizza joint in Pizaro's.

Stating the Obvious
Stating the Obvious

Katherin, You should try Ponzo's in midtown. They are excellent and have been there like a decade. It's NY style, so I'm not sure if your allegiances go to the think, thin or cracker varieties. They should have done the March Madness with pizza. Would have shaken it up a bit.

Jay Jerrier
Jay Jerrier

I don't know that I'd call Cane Rosso a chain...we just have the 1 spot in Deep Ellum - but thanks for mentioning us!  Houston is on our wish list - so you never know!

PaulineJ
PaulineJ

I was a little disappointed in my last Pizaro's pizza -  the margarita with halved small tomatoes on it - because the basil topping consisted of one quarter inch square of basil leaf on each slice.  Can't hardly call that a topping.  Then the pizza came before the salads and when I mentioned we didn't have salads, the young girl who brought it said "well, they DID tell you how fast these cook, right?"  When I countered that maybe they shouldn't start the 90 second bake until salads had been served and consumed for at least a few minutes she said, "yeah, they probably should."  So if you want a leisurly meal with your BYOB (no corkage fee, glasses and cork remover provided to you), order salads at the counter then when ready, go back and order the pizza. 

avulpineheart
avulpineheart

i adore pizaro's - unfortunately, i was there about a week ago and the place was empty. hoping against hope that they make it work, because it's the best pizza in houston [cue fighting words]. 

Isabel
Isabel

 Actually, I get Pizaro's to go 90% of the time.  It's perfectly fine because I've devoured it before I even make it back to work.

Matthew
Matthew

grimaldi's is excellent, if not native.

Rrestrepo
Rrestrepo

What about Bombay Pizza--true Houston fusion at its best!

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

one comment:  Pizaros is much better dining in rather than taking out

Colin
Colin

 'You getting paid by the word?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

You're [obviously] correct and now I feel like I've completely lost my marbles today. It's corrected above. Thank you!!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Agreed. And I love that naan-like crust. (Actually, I don't know if it's intentionally supposed to be naan-like, but I enjoy pretending that it is.)

Michael Enak
Michael Enak

Pizaro's pizza is of course best straight from the oven. However, we've had great success in getting their pizza to go, and then using our pizza stone in the home oven to refresh the pie. Pretty much good as new.

Mark Kimber
Mark Kimber

Agreed.  I tried take out once and it was nothing like it was piping hot and fresh from the oven.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Totally agreed. It shouldn't even offer take-out, although I know the concept of a pizza place without take-out in my old neighborhood wouldn't go over well at all.

Jay Jerrier
Jay Jerrier

No big deal - I just thought it was cool someone outside of Dallas mentioned us!

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