Every year, the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards include a wild card category that allows our panel of restaurant industry experts to opine on some sure-to-be-controversial topic in the local food scene. After making waves last year with a verdict on Houston’s best burger (R.I.P., Bernie’s Burger Bus), this year we’ve asked them to consider Houston’s best pizza.
Skip the jokes about “even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good,” a good pizza stands out from inferior specimens. The right combination of a flavorful crust, carefully chosen toppings, and proper cooking yield a pie that’s satisfying from first bite to the final slice.
The evolution of Houston's pizzerias reflects larger trends of the city's growth as a dining destination. Once solely devoted to the classic New York pie, the city now boasts a wealth of options that serve Neapolitan, Sicilian, Roman, Chicago, and Detroit styles. Truly, the city has never had better pizza quality pizza than it does now.
The list below constitutes some of the city’s most venerable pizzerias as well as newer options that have made a splash in the last couple of years. Yes, that means some places Houstonians have grown to love over a couple of generations are conspicuously absent, but that’s the price of progress.
Who will win? Find out August 6 at the Tastemaker Awards — Virtual Edition. In lieu of our live tasting event, guests will receive an exclusive Tasting Tote. And, of course, attendees have access to the star of the show: our awards ceremony hosted by Bun B and streamed on CultureMap August 6 at 7 pm.
A limited number of general admission tickets are still available. Don’t miss out.
BOH Pasta & Pizza
At this Italian restaurant in downtown’s Bravery Chef Hall, chef Ben McPherson serves Roman-style pizza al taglio both by-the-slice and as whole pies. By allowing the dough to ferment for an extended period of time, BOH’s pizza achieves a light, crispy crust that’s still sturdy enough to support a generous amount of toppings. Recently, McPherson expanded his offerings with frozen pizzas that can be baked at home.
For 40 years, this New York-style pizzeria has given Houstonians an authentic taste of the Big Apple. Whether at the original location in the Energy Corridor or its outposts in Cypress and Garden Oaks, diners have come to rely on Brother’s for its crispy crust, foldable slices, and generous toppings.
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company
Anyone who follows chef Arash Kharat on Instagram (he’s got about 12,000 followers) knows he had an interest in making pizza long before he signed on to lead the restaurant at the Sawyer Yard brewery. Buff Brew’s pies use dough made with the same yeast as its beer that’s allowed to ferment for three days, which results in a light, airy crust. Topping range from housemade pepperoni and sausage to carnitas and herbed ricotta.
At its location in The Heights, this Dallas-based pizzeria turns out Neapolitan-style pies from a wood-burning oven that heats up to 900 degrees. Italian classics like the Margherita provide a good starting point, but the real fun are the creative toppings like the Honey Bastard (soppressata, bacon marmalade, hot honey) and the creative names like the vegetarian FarmersOnly.com or the Billy Bats. Save room for a dessert pizza topped with nutella, cookie butter, or both.
A sourdough crust with a hint of sorghum give the pizzas at this ultra-popular Heights restaurant a compelling sweet and sour flavor. Pepperoni, made at sister concept Revival Market, natch, always delivers, but the kitchen really shines with seasonal ingredients that run the gamut from butternut squash to Gulf shrimp.
Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana
Don’t let the name fool you — this pizzeria with two location serves more than Italian pies. Led by brother Matt Hutchinson, his sister Nicole Bean, and her husband Brad, Pizaro’s provides diners with Neapolitan, New York, and Detroit-style pies, a deep dish, rectangular pizza with a rim of burnt Cheddar cheese along the crust. Best of all, the quality of all three is so good that the hardest decision is determining which style to order that day.
Not only does this Montrose pizzeria serve up authentic, New York-style pies, but it’s long, narrow space has the slightly cramped feeling of a restaurant in Brooklyn. The large, foldable slices are thin, crispy, and a little greasy — which makes them pretty much perfect. For the full experience, pair a slice with an order of pasta or the restaurant’s classic chicken parm.
As one might expect for a restaurant devoted to Southern European comfort food, pizza holds a significant place on the menu at Rosie Cannonball. Rosie’s pies — too crispy to be Neapolitan, too delicate to be New York — emerge from the restaurant’s wood-burning oven. While it’s not a pizza, the restaurant’s signature Focaccia di Recco that combines crispy dough with gooey cheese and salty meat would please any pizza fan.
Originally devoted to its own take on pizza by-the-slice — massive rectangular slabs topped with everything from chorizo and Italian sausage to Benton’s ham and pickled jalapenos — Vinny’s expanded its offerings with a classic New York-style pie, which is what it’s currently serving while it’s only open for delivery and to-go. Creative toppings are still a major draw as in the C.B.R. that’s topped with chicken, bacon, and ranch dressing. Pizzerias may not be known for their desserts, but the restaurant’s chocolate cake will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
Weights and Measures
Anyone compiling a bucket list of must-eat Houston dishes would be remiss not to include the carrot pizza at this Midtown staple. Supported by a light, crispy crust, the pie balances the sweetness of the roasted carrots with a little heat from duqqa, an Egyptian spice blend, with salt and creaminess coming from gruyere cheese. Similarly, the Texican, a mix of braised short rib, smoked mozzarella, and pickled jalapenos, demonstrates that barbecue flavors work well on a pie.