Here are some of the best pies in town.
by Marene Gustin
Ever since ancient Greece, humans have been smearing oil, herbs, and cheese on flat breads.
Ah, pizza. The staple of college students and pool parties. The go-to food that can be found in fast-food joints and upscale Italian restaurants. The simple Italian dish that immigrated to our shores after World War II when soldiers returning from Italy developed a hankering for it. The rest, as they say, is history. Pizza is now as ubiquitous an American food as hamburgers and tacos.
And there is no shortage of good pies in Houston. Here are some of our favorites.
Coltivare Pizza & Garden, the little Heights eatery from the guys at Revival Market, opened this year to rave reviews for their fragrant Italian food, and in particular their pizzas. Chef Ryan Pera uses focaccia dough to make the wood-fired pizzas, layering on fresh ingredients from the garden out back and meats from partner Morgan Webber’s farm. One of Pera’s best creations features Meyer lemon slices, goat cheese, and rosemary. The eatery is in a small space, open for dinner only or late lunch on the weekends, so go early.
Pepperoni’s, a Fort Bend chain owned by restaurateur Ray Salti of Sorrel Urban Bistro and Ray’s Grill, just opened a new location in Montrose, next door to BB’s Cafe. The menu here is slightly different than the Fort Bend locations. Start with the sesame bread sticks and marinara dipping sauce before choosing from a lengthy list of pizzas, pastas, subs, and salads. Besides the “Classic” and “Gourmet” pizzas, you can build your own here, and they deliver to the neighborhood. There are vegetarian options, but meat lovers need to try the loaded “All the Meats”: pepperoni, Canadian bacon, beef, and Italian sausage.
Polovena Cafe on Washington Avenue is also fairly new to the pie game, but they seem to have hit the ground running. In the former Raia’s Italian Market space, Polovena is open for lunch and dinner daily (and for Sunday brunch, when you must try the breakfast pizza topped with scrambled eggs and sausage). During the week, it’s hard to pass up the Carl Raia with Italian sausage and artichoke hearts. These are thin-crust pizzas, hot from the brick oven. You can even get gluten-free crust here.
Pizza L’Vino on Waugh Drive near the Whole Foods Market is about a year-and-a-half old and is settling in as a Montrose staple. It’s also a small space, so it’s best to order take out or have the pies delivered. (They even deliver beer and wine with your pizza!) They specialize in New York- and Chicago-style pies, which you can order by the slice. They also have gluten-free crusts—hand-tossed, deep dish, or extra thin. A good choice is the Ultra Combo topped with tomato sauce, pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, onion, green pepper, sautéed mushrooms, and Wisconsin mozzarella. It has to be extra-thin crust, because you need to fold the slice over in order to eat it so all those delicious toppings don’t slide off.
Pizzeria Solario, on Weslayan at Highland Village, also has its fans. And it’s no wonder, what with the charred-and-chewy thin crusts and the multitude of toppings. They have lunch Monday through Saturday, and dinner nightly. There are no deliveries, but they offer takeout. Best idea is to dine in—on the patio when the weather is good. Their specialty is Neapolitan-style thin-crust pies fired in a wood-burning oven. Do try the traditional non-tomato-based “pizze bianche” varieties that are not often found in Houston. The Anatra is an amazing flavor treat topped with crispy duck confit, Gorgonzola cheese, fig preserves, onion, and arugula. They also have a lovely wine list.
Antonio’s Flying Pizza and Italian Restaurant on Hillcroft Avenue has been hand-tossing the dough for 40 years now. Founder Antonio Rosa still comes in every day, and his daughters now work there as well. “Dad’s still very hands-on,” says Marilena Pickett, who helps manage the restaurant. “We feature hand-tossed, New York-style pizza. The pepperoni is our most popular, although we have a special, with everything on it, that people love. It’s very good.” Antonio’s is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.
Pizaro’s Pizza on Memorial Drive has been open about two and a half years. It’s a second career for owner Bill Hutchinson, who left the corporate rat race to make pizzas. Really, really good ones. “When I decided to do this, I went to Naples and got a certification as a Pizzaiuolo from the Verace Pizza Napoletana,” he says. “It’s like a master pie-chef certification.” He and his wife return to Naples every year, and they pride themselves on making pies the same way they’ve been made in Naples for more than a century. His favorite is the Margherita—a simple, subtle pizza. “But one of our best sellers is the Patata e Funghi topped with truffle oil, Yukon gold potatoes, mushrooms, mozzarella, rosemary, and garlic.
And we can’t talk about pizza without mentioning Carrabba’s—the original on Kirby Drive, not the chain that shares the name. Here, in a new building, there is a pizza bar where you can sit around the wood-burning oven and watch Rueben—who’s been making the pizzas here for almost three decades—roll out the house-made dough and top it with whatever you want before sliding it in the oven.
So instead of sweating over a hot stove this summer, get yourself a delicious pizza and open a bottle of chilled vino. Buon appetito!
Marene Gustin is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.
Antonio’s Flying Pizza
2920 Hillcroft St.
Houston, TX 77057
3115 Kirby Dr.
Houston, TX 77098
Coltivare Pizza & Garden
3320 White Oak Dr.
Houston, TX 77007
2710 B Montrose Blvd.
Houston, TX 77006
14028 Memorial Dr.
Houston, TX 77079
544 Waugh Dr.
Houston, TX 77019
3333 Weslayan St., Ste. 100
Houston, TX 77027
Polovina Italian Café
4500 Washington Ave., Ste. 200
Houston, TX 77007