Friday, July 21, 2006


I'm snotty about pizza. I grew up in Philadelphia. I lived in New York. I know from pizza. Houston's not a pizza town. It just isn't. There's no indigenous Italian population to speak of, certainly not the sort of settled-off-the-boat population you can find in South Philly or Little Italy, or on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

But amazingly, there are excellent pizzas to be had here in the Bayou City.

First and foremost, there is Dolce Vita Pizzeria Enoteca on Westheimer. First off, let's just get it out of the way: Dolce Vita is a complete rip-off of Mario Batali's Otto at One Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village. It is. The menu was simply stolen from Otto (as the Chronicle's Allison Cook actually discovered), and had some trademark attorneys not whispered in the chef-owner's ear, it probably would have been called "Otto West" or something similar. But ignore all that. Who cares? How often do you get to Otto? The parking situation is bad at Dolce Vita, but believe me, it's worse at Otto. More importantly, Dolce Vita has better pizza than Otto.

This isn't reverse-snobbery, people. It's true. Everything at Otto is super-uber-wonderful, except for the pizza. Batali's concepts far exceed his cooks' grasp at Otto, if only with regard to the pizza. Their appetizers are fantastic, their wine list brilliant and reasonable (for NYC), the vibe fun and downtown-y. But the pizzas? Eh.

The pizza at Dolce Vita is simply spectacular. Thin, fresh, bubbly and oily pizzas with immaculate toppings. My siciliana pizza, with olives and fresh tomato sauce, was so fruity and perfect that my friends tore pieces of it for themselves, like feral dogs. Even wacky pizzas, like the tonno pizza (covered with canned -- yep -- canned tuna) worked beautifully.

On the other end, the home-delivery front, New York Pizzeria (a local chain) has one Platonic pie: the Prosciutto Pizza. Thin slices of prosciutto and Roma tomatoes with (just okay) mozzarella cheese and basil on an honest-to-God, chewy, yeasty crust. It ain't pretty, people. It's not supposed to be. What it is, is a brilliant alternative to the increasingly repulsive national chains like Dominos and (sadly, because they used to be different) Papa John's. They're not always consistently great -- every fourth or fifth time, they give us a sucky pizza, just to remind us how good they usually are -- but when they're on, it's a great pie.

WARNING: we've only ever ordered from New York Pizzeria's Midtown location on West Gray. When we moved to a different part of town, my wife begged and wheedled the Midtown guys -- who call her "doll" and don't even let her specify her order when our number pops up on their caller ID, because they know -- into delivering to our new digs. Which is to say, I don't have any reason to think the other locations suck, but who knows?


At 12:20 PM, Blogger Jim said...

How about Star Pizza near greenway plaza? that was always my favorite when I lived in Houston. Not typical NY style, more closely related to Chicago depp dish style, althoug you could get a regular pizza there althought I never did.


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